Runbayou: Optimal stress

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Optimal Stress + Optimal Rest = Optimal Progress

Remember the most basic law of training? Optimal stress is the first factor in the equation and stressing your body optimally will help you get fast faster.

What does getting fast faster mean? It means stressing your body enough to cause physiologic adaptations without breaking you down so much that you can't recover in time for the next hard workout. Think of your hard workouts as controlled muscle damage. If you train hard every day, your body will not have time to recover and adapt. Yes, you may get faster by training hard all the time. But there are costs to this. Your risk of injury will increase and you may not be getting optimal performance. In other words, even if you're getting fast, you might not be getting fast faster.

The trick is optimally stress your run at your optimal pace in each workout. Intuitively, we may believe that to race fast we must train hard all the time. This is not the case.

Fortunately, there is a way to help determine what your optimal training paces should be. But first, let's take a look at some common training paces.

Training paces

In different phases of your training, you will focus on stressing different physiologic systems in your body (see periodization) and your running will be at one or more of the following paces:

bulletEasy and/or long slow distance (LSD) -  Most of your running should be at an easy pace (~1:30 slower than your marathon pace); Focus during Phase 1 and Phase 2.
bulletRepetition - Focus during Phase 3; Repetition paces are a bit faster than 5K race pace.
bulletInterval - Focus during Phase 4; Interval paces are ~5K race pace.
bulletLactate Threshold - Focus is during Phases 3, 4, & 5; Threshold pace is ~25 seconds slower than 5K race pace.
bulletMarathon- Focus during Phase 5; your goal marathon pace.
bulletRecovery - Focus between work-bouts during all phases of training; slower than easy pace!
bulletStrides - Focus at the end of long runs or cool-downs. In the course of about 20-30 seconds, slowly increase your pace, hold for a few seconds, and then gradually reduce your speed to your easy pace. Focus on form. If you're flailing, you're going too fast. The objectives of strides are to briefly and gently stretch out your muscles, practice good form at speed, and prepare you for speed work you'll be doing in the next workout.

VDOT Calculator: What's your optimal stress?

Training paces in the Runbayou program are conservative by design and are based on Coach Jack Daniels' VDOT formulas. You can get more detailed information from his book, Daniels' Running Formula.

Important notes about VDOT calculations and training paces

bulletVDOTs are calculated from past race performance
bulletThey are used to determine optimal training paces for your current level of fitness. In other words, your optimal training paces are determined by a recent race performance...not a goal race performance.
bulletDO NOT pick a goal race time, calculate a VDOT, and then use the training paces associated with the higher VDOT...that is NOT the purpose of Coach Daniels' formula
bulletVDOTs are not prediction indices; they are training indices. For example, achieving a VDOT of 50 based on a 5K race does not necessarily mean that you can run a marathon with an equivalent VDOT of 50.

To calculate your training paces

bulletUse the tables in Daniels' Running Formula
bulletUse the VDOT calculator. Many thanks go out to John Soul for writing this JAVA Script to utilize Coach Daniels' VDOT tables.
bulletYou can also find out your VDOT and determine your training paces at the following site:

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Last modified: 07/27/08