mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 427

Published 4 months ago • 8 min read

Good morning! I have a lot to share with you this week. Let’s get right to it.

Quick Splits

— My new favorite newsletter is called Check Engine Light, written by Robert Wilson, an internationally renowned coach and educator who has worked with a wide range of athletes, military special forces teams, executives, and other performance-minded people, and I’ve been going through the back issues for a few weeks now. I can’t even remember how I discovered it but I think I saw my friend and recent podcast guest Stu McMillan share an excerpt in his Instagram stories a while back and down the rabbit hole I went. Anyway, there’s so much good stuff in here around the science and time-tested tools of performance longevity (i.e. “the ability to do our very best at any given endeavor for as long as possible”). As Wilson wrote in his intro post, “The Check Engine Light started as an analogy I used to help get my clients whether operators, athletes, or executives to think in a systematic way about taking care of themselves with the long game in mind.” A good place to dive in is with this post, “Staying in the Black,” which aims to help bring more of a practical understanding to HRV (heart rate variability) data and the role it can play in our overall performance plan. HRV is fast becoming all the rage these days in endurance sports as a marker of “readiness” and many athletes don’t look beyond whether their chosen app tells them if they’re in the “black” or in the “red” before getting on with their day. What I like about Wilson’s writing approach is that it’s more inquisitive than prescriptive, meaning his main goal is to get you to think critically about a particular topic or methodology. In his post about HRV, Wilson makes the analogy between managing a bank account and understanding what’s happening when your HRV goes up or down. There are deposits and there are withdrawals, he explains, but not all withdrawals signify that you’re suddenly in a hole. “Some withdrawals are obviously appropriate when we look at the balance sheet,” he writes. “For example, one of the largest expenses for most of us is our monthly car payment. When that $500-$700 nut gets cracked every month you don't have a coronary over the bank statement do you? Probably not. You expected it. The money that was in the account was spent. Similarly, when there's a decline in HRV the question should be: Do I understand why this happened?” That question is the critical one a lot of athletes ignore, whether it’s HRV or some other metric, mostly because coming to an understanding of why something is usually requires more work. They don’t want to think, they just want to be told, “If my watch says X,” it means I do this (e.g. run, do a hard workout, go a little longer, etc.), but “if it says Y,” it means I do that (e.g. take a rest day(s), dial back the effort, cut the volume, etc.). The problem is that we are not programmable robots—we are living, thinking, complicated creatures and my concern with the rapid influx and advancement of monitoring technology—whether it’s HRV, real-time pace via GPS, heart rate, lactate, cadence, sleep scores, readiness readings, you name it—is that as the accuracy and ubiquitousness of these tools and data they provide us improve, our collective ability as humans to think for ourselves and understand why we’re doing what we’re doing will only continue to erode.

— When an Olympian and 2:09 marathoner like Stephen Scullion says most runners would benefit from forgetting about things like complicated workouts and fancy heart-rate zones and altitude camps and just getting back to doing the basics really well in their training, most runners should probably listen. “I think there’s a bit of a lost art in just covering the basics really well,” he says in his latest video for YouTube. “And you’re looking for all these fancy heart rates to run at, or going to altitude or warm-weather training camps, and sometimes you’ve got everything you need right where you are. Get your gym done, follow some of those basics, if there’s a skill that you used to be able to do in the past that you can’t do anymore—so like me, that tempo run—bring it back, start to work on it, look at how you got to that really good place once upon a time, and then follow those steps [to] get it back. So if I want to be able to run 4:45-4:50 per mile around the park, and I can only run sort of 5-minute pace now, when you go back to 2020, you look at week one, you were also 5 minutes, but by week five, week six, it was down to 4:45. You have to earn that back.” (Ed. note: The pace is relative here. The principle is universal.)

— Speaking of principles, after sharing Kilian Jornet’s training philosophy in last week’s issue, and ruminating over “30 years of thinking about and studying endurance training distilled down to 12 lines” in this Tweet from renowned exercise physiologist Stephen Seiler, I’ve started to compile my own list of training principles I know to be true that I’ll share here sometime in the next few weeks. (Spoiler: Most of them look pretty similar to what these two guys have already put out.) What I love about both of these compilations is how straightforward and uncomplicated they are. I highlight this fact because now more than ever there are coaches, athletes, and influencers that would lead you believe there’s some kind of magic training formula or complicated system they’ve contrived that will take your performance to the next level when the reality is that success at running, any other endurance sport, or myriad other pursuits in life comes down to, as Stephen Scullion alludes to in the video I linked to above, doing the basics really, really, really well over and over and over again. My favorite item from Seiler’s list was the last one: “If the training PROCESS balances deliberate efforts, deserved recovery, & daily smiles, the results will follow.”

— A good life lesson is to not take yourself so seriously (or at least have an ability to laugh at yourself from time to time), which is why I appreciated this playful piece Emily Bressler recently wrote for McSweeney’s entitled, “You Should Try Running, According to Me, Your Friend Who Won’t Shut Up About Running.” There’s at least some part of it that will make you laugh at yourself, your friends, or just the absurd quirkiness of this exercise/sport/lifestyle we all love so much. “Actually, I feel passionately that running is both exercise and a sport,” she writes. “It’s also a way of life. Ask me to explain it sometime. Or don’t. I still will.”

— A year or so ago my friend Dinée Dorame recommended the band Mt. Joy to me and I haven’t been able to get enough of them since. They’re an indie group from Philly that writes great songs and sounds awesome when they perform. True to their name, they bring me much joy. Their most recent album, “Orange Blood,” is one I listen to on the regular when I’m doing crap around the house or out on a long drive. (“Leave the record on, singing every song like, ‘Ohh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, Ohh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh…’”) For the uninitiated, a good place to start is this fantastic cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” and/or this three-song acoustic set from 2018 featuring a few of their original tunes.

— I’m sharing two pieces from the archives this week, both of which originally appeared in Issue 114, 6 years ago today:

+ Eliud Kipchoge speaking (and later answering questions) about what it takes to be successful in front of a packed room at the Oxford Union. This man, whether he’s chasing the clock in Monza or telling stories from behind a podium, just has an incredible presence about him that’s hard to accurately put into words. Watch him in enough situations and you’ll know what I mean. Kipchoge is well-spoken and articulate. And he speaks much like he competes: with a humble intensity that commands your respect and attention, a quality you can’t help but admire and want to emulate yourself. If you don’t have 50 minutes to watch this bit now, bookmark it for later in the week. It’s well worth your time. “Discipline is not a one-time event,” Kipchoge explains. “Self discipline is like building your muscle. It’s like going to the gym. You cannot go to the gym today and build your muscle. You should get a program and go slowly by slowly—that’s the way to build your muscle. And that’s the way you can cultivate your self discipline. Remember, only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions. That’s a fact.

+ Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air, on interviewing. “People think when you interview that you talk a lot. Actually, I listen a lot. I talk very little. Listening sounds like it should be easy, but it’s not, because while I’m listening, I’m also thinking ahead…But [then] it’s my turn to talk and there can’t be dead air while I’m thinking about what I want to say. There’s a lot going on.” (Ed. note: When I shared this article six years ago the morning shakeout podcast was only two episodes old. I’ve never met Terry Gross but her interviewing style—i.e., listen well and let the subject speak—informed my own approach more than anyone else.)

— A big thank you to my longtime partners at New Balance for their continued support of my work in 2024. I’m super proud of this partnership, one which is built around our shared values of quality, consistency, and performance. This Boston-based brand has been making incredible products for well over 100 years and I’ve personally been running in their shoes for over 20 now. We half-joke in our house that the Fresh Foam X 1080v13 is the “unofficial official” shoe of the morning shakeout—it’s the trainer I wear for 75% of my training runs and it’s been the workhorse of my stable for four years now. It’s the most comfortable AND reliable shoe I’ve ever run in and holds up to the miles week in and week out. It’s lightweight but sturdily built, plush enough underfoot to provide plenty of protection as the miles add up but responsive enough that you can wear it at a wide range of speeds. The Fresh Foam X 1080v13 is available at your favorite run specialty retail store or on (men’s sizes here, women’s sizes here).

Workout of the Week: The Tempo Sandwich

I've always believed that to run your best half-marathon you should be in really good 10K shape—and if you're in ripping 10K shape, you should be able to run a really good half-marathon. There's a lot of overlap in the type of work required for success in both, specifically when it comes to longer intervals and tempo runs. This workout, which is designed to be repeated a few times over the course of a training block, combines these two essential training elements and can be manipulated any number of ways depending on what you want to get out of it. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“Things usually work out when you just race.”

— Grant Fisher when asked if he would chase the indoor 2-mile world record in a recent interview with (and inadvertently providing sage advice for overly numbers-obsessed runners everywhere)

That's it for Issue 427. If you enjoyed it and want to support my work, please forward this email to a few friends and/or share the web version far and wide. (And if you’re reading this newsletter for the first time, you can sign up to receive it for yourself at this link.)

Thanks for reading,


P.S. My friend and athlete Peter Bromka is leading a series of virtual workshops leading up to Boston 2024. I'll be helping him kick things off on January 24 with a discussion about goal-setting and how to set yourself up for success while training through the winter months. For more information and/or to sign up, check out this link.

Support the morning shakeout directly on Patreon and help keep my work sustainable for years to come.

mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

Discover what’s possible through the lens of running with training tips, workouts, and other bits of goodness from coach Mario Fraioli. Every Tuesday morning, Mario shares his unapologetically subjective take on things that interest, inform, inspire, or entertain him in some way.

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