mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 432

Published about 2 months ago • 10 min read

Good morning! A few issues back I wrote that I had started to compile my own list of training principles, inspired in part by posts from mountain maestro Kilian Jornet and exercise physiologist Stephen Seiler. What follows here is a working set of principles I know to be true, developed from 27 years of trial and error as both an athlete and a coach, countless hours of my own reading and research into training theory and the history of the sport, and the influence of athletes and coaches I’ve been fortunate enough to observe, spend time around, form relationships with, and ask questions of over the course of my career. These principles form my training “philosophy” and help guide my thinking (and ultimately decision making) when it comes to working with athletes and putting together training programs. (And much like my annual life lessons post, I’ll add to this list as I see fit.)

In no particular order, they are:

— Train like an athlete. It’s not enough to just be good at running—you have to be a well-rounded athlete that happens to specialize in running. A good athlete works on speed, endurance, mobility, strength, and balance throughout the year. Dedicate a chunk of your training time to addressing all of these elements and you’ll be a faster, stronger, and more resilient athlete while taking your running to the next level.

— Find joy in the drudgery. Training, especially for long-distance races, can often be a chore—“drudgery,” as the legendary Ed Whitlock called it—but, there’s joy to be found in it, too. The novelty of running and excitement about improvement can wear off quick. Learn to appreciate and find joy in the more mundane aspects of training, the repetition of routes and workouts, the time spent alone in your own head, and the delayed gratification of chasing a far-off goal.

— Listen to your body. RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) has been proven to be as reliable a monitor of intensity than any other measurable data point (pace, HR, power, lactate, etc.). It’s as simple as asking yourself, “How hard does this feel?” and being honest with yourself about the answer. Does this mean that data is bad or useless? Of course not! Identify a few key metrics to use as points of reference, monitor trends, identify discrepancies, etc., but learn to rely on your own internal gauge of effort and trust yourself to make adjustments when necessary.

— Just get yourself in the ballpark. Intensity exists on a spectrum. Too many runners, especially this day in age when we can track every metric under the sun, want to be told the exact pace to hit, or heart-rate number to target, or lactate level not to exceed for everything from recovery runs to the most intense sessions. Precision is an illusion—it all exists on a spectrum. What you focus on and where you end up on a given day depends on a variety of factors—just get yourself in the ballpark of where you need to be.

— Once you get fancy, fancy gets broken. Avoid overly complicated and/or “cute” workouts. They don’t work. The most effective sessions are fairy simple and straightforward in their construction, even if they’re not easy to execute.

— You can’t put stress in a silo. Factors outside of running such as work stress, family issues, burnout, illness, etc., will have an immeasurable impact on your ability to train consistently and race well. You can’t compartmentalize stress. Recognize and respect this fact: if stress is elevated or overwhelming in one area, do your best to reduce it or balance it out elsewhere (including training, which is also a stress on both the body and mind).

— Surround yourself with good people. Running can oftentimes be a solitary endeavor but we can’t do it well without the help and support of those who understand how important this pursuit is to us: family, friends, training partners, teammates, coaches, doctors, physios, therapists, and others. It really does take a village.

— Learn how to handle hard better. I borrowed this one from Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson. Too many runners think we train so that things will eventually feel easy, especially on race day. Spoiler: That’s not how it works. Running is hard, racing even more so. We train so that we can learn how to handle hard better.

— Small deposits add up to big gains over time. To use a baseball analogy: play “small ball” with your training: A steady stream of singles and doubles (i.e. consistent, healthy running and solid but not mind-blowing workouts and long runs) will get you further than the occasional home run (i.e. the “wow” workouts) followed by a series of strikeouts (i.e. missed days of training or a series of sub-par sessions due to injury, illness, and fatigue). Be deliberate and methodical in your approach. Sustainable progress and big breakthroughs are about showing up consistently and putting in honest work every day. (And every once in a while you might surprise yourself and knock one out of the park.)

— Rest and recovery runs are a part of training, not punishment. Rest (i.e. sleep, days off, down time, etc.) and recovery runs are a strategic part of a purposeful and effective program. Treat your rest and recovery as seriously as your toughest workouts—in fact, build them in just as you do key sessions. Remember: You’re not as good as the workouts you do, you’re only as good as you recover from them. That’s when adaptations and improvement take place.

— Keep the tank full of high-quality fuel. Just as a race car won't run efficiently on low-grade gas or go very far on an empty tank, you can't train hard, recover effectively, or race to your potential if you're not fueling your body well. Don't overcomplicate it: eat a balanced diet, and make sure you're taking in enough before, during, and after intense training sessions and races.

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Quick Splits

— I didn’t know anything about Top Chef Gregory Gourdet before reading this profile on him for Outside Run but I enjoyed learning about his journey from discovering cooking and a love of the natural world in college to all-night raves and designer drugs, culinary school to getting fired from kitchen jobs and entering rehab to work through addiction, and finally, getting sober to a becoming a two-time finalist on Top Chef and discovering a love of running (and ultras in particular). Oh yeah, eventually opening his own award-winning Haitian restaurant in Portland too. In short: Gourdet’s been on a wild ride. “He’s hyper-motivated, always looking for the next big thing, always willing to do whatever it takes to get to that point,” says his strength coach, Colin Feldtman. “But he wants to do everything all at once.”

This episode of Peter Attia’s The Drive podcast with guest Walter Green is hands down the best thing I’ve listened to of late. Green, who is 85, has lived an interesting and incredible life. I found him to be a humble and generous purveyor of wisdom about the impact of expressing gratitude, serving others, embracing mortality, and living intentionally. In the second half of this conversation he talked about the importance and power of “saying it now,” i.e., letting the people who have contributed to your life in some way know it, which is a project and a practice I plan to get to work on myself sooner than later. Anyway, this one is wonderful, a true treasure trove of sage advice and perspective that’s worth a couple hours of your time.

— Are you going to try to break a personal best sometime this spring? (Or even a new age-group PB if you’re a Masters (40+) athlete?) My longtime partners at Tracksmith would like to reward you for your efforts. Here’s the deal: Pro runners are often offered bonuses for their breakthrough performances—amateur runners, however, don’t get such recognition. Tracksmith wants to change that. If you run, jump, throw, put or vault your way to a new personal best before the end of April (in a standard running distance or track-and-field event), you’ll be eligible to receive a one-time $100 credit toward your next Tracksmith purchase. And if you’re like me and over 40, they’re respecting Masters’ PBs in 5-year age bands (40-44, 45-59, 50-54, etc.). Last year I ran 4:30 flat for the full mile at the age of 40 and I want to better that in 2024. Learn more here and start getting to work on bettering your best!

— I can’t seem to find many full race replays from the U.S. Indoor Championships that took place over the weekend in Albuquerque, but here’s Femke Bol breaking her own world-record in the 400m at the Dutch Indoor Championships on Sunday. I love how aggressively she attacks the first lap to get herself on the rail at the bell. Bol’s in complete control the second time around as she’s able to hold her form while everyone else’s legs are visibly buckling with every stride.

+ Elle Purrier-St. Pierre won the 3000m pretty handily at the U.S. Indoor Championships on Saturday, while Nikki Hiltz captured their third-straight 1500m title on Sunday. We’re going to have to wait a few more months for it to come together but the matchup between Purrier-St. Pierre and Hiltz at the Olympic Trials should make for a pretty spectacular showdown.

+ Here’s Cole Hocker’s last lap in the men’s 1500m final. The race was won far before the bell as Hocker wound it up over the final 3 laps to finish well over a second up on runner-up Hobbs Kessler, who ran a tactically stupid race to claim second in a crowded sprint. (To Kessler’s credit, however, he did finish top-two, qualifying for his first world team on the track.)

— From the archives (Issue 119, 6 years ago today): Falling in love with running for life. “Like in any relationship, a healthy running life is based on honesty,” Jonathan Beverly writes for Motiv Running. “Honesty about where we’re starting, how much we are able to give to the relationship at this time, and what goals are possible.” (Beverly’s book, Run Strong, Stay Hungry, was one of my 8 recommended reads of 2017.)

— Ben Gibbard, the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, is a dedicated runner that trains for and races ultras in his spare time. The other day I went down a rabbit hole and listened to numerous versions of the song, “Black Sun,” a deeply personal tune that tells the sad story of the dissolution of Ben’s first marriage. The great thing about music, however, is that it doesn’t have to tell your story in order for it to be relatable. This song is principally about loss and listening to it over and over and over again got me to think about the various types of loss I’ve experienced in my life: people, moments, opportunities, friendships, even possessions and races. The second verse and beginning of the chorus, in particular, are words I’ve been thinking a lot about of late:

There is an answer in a question

And there is hope within despair

And there is beauty in a failure,

And there are depths beyond compare

There is a role of a lifetime

And there's a song yet to be sung

And there's a dumpster in the driveway

Of all the plans that came undone

How could something so fair

Be so cruel

Anyway, my two favorite versions of it are this acoustic version, performed 8 years ago in San Diego, and this one from around the same time period, stripped down even more and sang alongside a piano. They’re slower and more contemplative than the studio version—just incredible pieces of art, open to your own interpretation.

— Coaches—and I know there are a lot of you reading this!—tell me if this experience sounds familiar: When you sit down to write out training schedules for your team, or are prepping for a conversation with one your athletes, you find yourself sifting through some combination of handwritten notes, spreadsheets, Strava, emails, and text threads to get all the information you need. (Note: I know this because it was me 6-½ years ago!) Stop the insanity and check out Final Surge. It’s an online platform made for coaches, whether you work with individuals or teams, in-person or remote. Moving my entire coaching operation under the Final Surge roof in 2017 streamlined my workflow and made the day-to-day business of analyzing workouts, planning training, and communicating with my athletes so much easier and more effective. I built out my workout library and never looked back. Plus, it’s been a far better experience for my athletes, who can see what they need to do, track their progress, and provide feedback all in one place. Well, I’m thrilled to officially be partnering with Final Surge in 2024 and helping more coaches transform how they plan training, analyze data, and communicate with their athletes and teams. This is a platform that I use literally every day and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (Head over to this page to learn more about what you can do with Final Surge and take advantage of a free 14-day coaching trial and/or use the code MORNINGSHAKEOUT when you check out to take 10% off your first purchase. Any questions? Just reply to this email and send ‘em my way!)

Workout of the Week: Hammer Intervals

Most interval sessions are pretty straightforward in their construction: X number of [fill in the blank] intervals @ Y pace with Z recovery between repetitions. There’s nothing wrong with these types of workouts. They’re easy to understand and effective at producing a desired adaptation. Hammer intervals, made popular by coach Scott Simmons of the American Distance Project, throw a slight twist into the mix: every third or fourth repetition (whatever cadence you choose, really), you “hammer” it (i.e. run it quite a bit harder) before returning to the prescribed pace. The catch? You don’t get any more recovery time after the hammers than you do the other intervals in the session. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“None of this is overnight. It’s all about focusing, dedication, discipline, and routine—doing the same thing, not just the running, but the same workouts, the same regimen—and it takes a long time.

—Steve Jones, former marathon world-record holder and my favorite runner of all-time, with some sage advice in Episode 81 of the morning shakeout podcast

That's it for Issue 432. If you enjoyed it, please share it with someone else who might find it interesting and encourage them to subscribe at this link.

Thanks for reading,


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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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