Explaining VDOT, and Why You Need to Know
Brian Rosetti is the Founder of VDOT O2, a platform that uses the scientific approach of renowned running coach and exercise physiologist, Dr. Jack Daniels, to help runners -of all experience levels- to improve. Through personalized coaching, pacing and workout effort suggestions, this best-in-class system has the power to transform the way any runner approaches training.
By Kara Dudley
What is the VDOT system?
Dr. Jack Daniels is a former Olympian and a world-famous running coach, but first and foremost he’s a scientific researcher. Through that scientific lens, in the 1970s Jack developed a revolutionary system and approach to training. After countless research studies on runners, he discovered what he believes to be the best way to train in order to improve endurance running and overall fitness. After developing this methodology based on his research, Jack wrote the book Daniels’ Running Formula to tell the world about it. Hundreds of thousands of copies sold worldwide since, Jack has become a famous coach and worked with athletes at the collegiate, professional and Olympic running level.
“Simply put, VDOT is a measure of your current running ability.”
Rosetti says, “think of VDOT as your VO2 Max, but more in a more holistic way. It measures the combination of an athlete’s VO2 Max, their running economy and their ‘race mentality’, by taking a (relatively recent) race performance to compute their VDOT score.”
Meet Brian Rosetti, Founder of VDOT O2
Brian Rosetti is the founder of VDOT O2. This platform individualizes training for runners through specific pace suggestions based on that runner’s personal level of fitness at any given time. To get that process started, VDOT O2 has a great calculator available on their website where you can find out what your current VDOT score is. All you have to do is plug in a recent race time or time trial of any distance and it will give you a score – typically a number between 30-85. Download the calculator on Apple’s or Google’s app store now:
The calculator will also provide your optimal training paces for the different types of runs that runners are called to complete during training cycles, and predicted race times for other race distances at the physiological equivalent level of running. Brian says that this is a great metric that athletes can use for goal setting as well. It makes the training process more productive and effective in that you’re getting more out of your workouts when you’re training at the correct paces designed for your own level of fitness. It also helps prevent injury by unnecessarily overtraining.
“It makes the training process more productive and effective in that you’re getting more out of your workouts when you’re training at the correct paces designed for your own level of fitness.”
Based on extensive lab research, if you have an accurate VDOT score, the expectation is that if you’re pretty consistent and doing the right training at the right paces, you should see incremental fitness improvements every 4-6 weeks. As you intentionally introduce new stressors, you should see physiological adaptation resulting in VDOT score improvement. Brian recommends updating your score every 4-6 weeks. One option to ensure accuracy is going to the track for a 1 mile time trial or enter yourself into a 5k race to lock in this updated score. All aboard the pain train!
Runners can utilize the VDOT O2 platform with either their own training plan or by working with a coach, while still ensuring that they are training at their current fitness level. The team built the VDOT formula into a calendar application that allows athletes to sync and log their workouts from Garmin and Strava. Coaches can publish training plans to one athlete or an entire group. The entire idea is meant to simplify the process for coaches and to encourage athletes to focus on coaching and pacing.
In His Own Experience
When Brian started to use the VDOT system for his own training, he described the feeling as, “It’s as if it knows who you are. There’s an element of surprise and regret that you didn’t do it sooner. It makes sense and it feels right. There’s a higher level of purpose in your training, and I think that’s what people love about it. There really is a method to this madness when you buy in and that’s what get’s people hooked on it. Without the guidance of pacing, training can feel a bit random but with VDOT there’s a sense of intention and control behind it and as a result, you become a much more confident runner.”
VDOT 02 is available on the web and as an app. Millions of users have started using VDOT since its launch in 2005, and it has become extremely popular amongst coaches and runners all over the world.
Why the Focus on Pacing?
Brian says, “When you think of VDOT training you have to ask yourself – ‘What is the purpose of this workout?’ And then go from there.” Check out some of the different types of runs that the VDOT system uses and their individual purposes:
Easy – To strengthen your heart, your muscles, or for recovery
Threshold – To build endurance
Repetition – To improve speed
Interval – To build anaerobic power (VO2 Max intervals)
Once you’ve gotten your VDOT score and pace suggestions for these different types of runs, Brian suggests that -ideally- it’s time to find a coach. For someone who is a little bit more experienced, the runner can look for someone to write a plan for their specific goals that can then be uploaded to the platform. Some of VDOT’s most advanced athletes decide to write and upload their own training plans. VDOT also helps match athletes with coaches. Brian says their goal is to get more people into coaching and maximize performance.
BKLYN MILE x VDOT O2
VDOT O2 has been providing customized training programs for the BKLYN MILE since the event’s inception in 2016. “The system really works well for any distance from 800 meters up to the marathon. Some people will use it for 50kms, but it’s not quite geared for ultra distances on unpredictable terrain.” Brian says that you have to prepare for the mile just as you would the marathon, meaning that you will still have to do a variety of runs: easy, threshold, interval, and repetition running.
“For the mile race, you will spend more time doing repetition running than you would for the marathon. Repetition running is what’s closest to your mile race pace, so you will want to do a lot of practicing at that pace. You won’t just go out and repeat that full mile at race pace in training, you’ll do it in shorter repetitions with big breaks in between so you can get a lot of training in. Over time you’ll gain more speed and improve your VDOT score. On the flip side, you’ll also need to get in some threshold running too. Contrary to what you might think, you need the endurance for the mile too. You can’t just keep doing repetitions because you might get hurt as you’d be focusing on just one area of your fitness. It’s important to look at the full picture and see how the different types of training all come together to support you.”
With different race waves catering to the beginner to the most advanced competitive runner, the 2021 BKLYN MILE will be run on Sunday, August 8. You can sign up for the BKLYN MILE here. If you’re curious about training with the VDOT 02 system, signing up for the Brooklyn Mile and testing it out is a great place to get started.