the morning shakeout | issue 433

Good morning! Are you absorbing your training or merely tolerating it? This is a question that I believe every athlete should ask themselves once a week. Here's why:

If you’re ABSORBING your training then you’re doing a good job balancing the demands of runs, workouts, strength sessions, etc., with the appropriate amount of rest and recovery: making sure your easy days are truly easy, staying on top of nutrition, managing outside stresses, and taking care of your body. Energy levels and mood are generally pretty good, things are “clicking,” and you’re setting yourself up to be a happy, healthy athlete that’s able to make sustainable progress.

If you’re merely TOLERATING it then you’re checking the boxes but not doing what you need to do outside the training schedule to make meaningful progress. Signs include: feeling like you’re “forcing it” most days, constantly pushing through pain, not getting enough sleep, doing a poor job fueling, and not taking appropriate downtime after a training cycle. You’re constantly stressed and fatigued, performance has completely crumbled (or at best plateaued), and there’s a general lack of enjoyment in the process.

So how can you flip the switch from just tolerating your training to actually absorbing it?

Here are few tips:

— Treat rest and recovery as a part of your training program—not separate from it. Build these elements in just as you do key workouts.

— Prioritize sleep and nutrition. These are the glue that hold a training program together over the long term.

— Slow down. Dialing back the intensity a bit—on your workouts as well as easy days—can go a long way toward making your training sustainable and productive.

— Do a little less. If stress is high in other areas of life, and there's not much you can do to immediately bring it down, reduce the training stress a bit by backing off your overall workload, dialing back the volume and/or intensity, and/or taking some races off your schedule. Stress management is a key piece of the absorption puzzle.

— Find a friend(s). If you’re not looking forward to another grueling solo session, try and find a friend(s) to share the workload with, even if you end up doing a different workout than the one you had planned that day. You’ll actually end up getting more out of it than forcing yourself to do whatever is on your schedule that day.

Bottom line: It’s not just about “doing the work” every day. You also have to set yourself up to truly absorb it so that you can reap the full benefits.

Quick Splits

— A big thank you to my longtime partner Trackmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2024). If you’re 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—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!

— Speaking of being better, check out Eddie Vedder and Post Malone teaming up to sing “Better Man” recently at the EB Research Partnership, a charity that Vedder and his wife Jill co-founded. The performance didn’t knock my socks off but there’s a pretty cool moment 3:47 into this one that put a big smile on my face. (Hat tip to my buddy Brendan Leonard of semi-rad fame for sending this to me over the weekend.)

— Find some time later this week to read this excellent piece from Dennis Young about the athletes who have finished DFL (Dead F*cking Last, if you weren’t aware) at the last several U,S, Olympic Trials Marathons. Many of their perspectives are interesting, some of their commonly shared traits (i.e. injuries, illnesses, or pregnancies) are unsurprising, and a few of their stories are pretty freaking wild. The one thing many of them don’t have that many DNFs do, however? Regret. “Long-term, I knew I would regret [dropping out],” said Matt Rand, the last-place men’s finisher at this year’s Trials in Orlando. “I don’t want to cheat the experience. It’s a special feeling to cross the finish line.”

— I was recently a guest on Relay’s Coach’s Corner podcast with hosts Stefanie Flippin and Peter Bromka (who I ran against in college and have now been coaching for the past year-and-a-half). Over the course of an hour or so we talked about the importance of the coach-athlete relationship, building trust and taking risks, absorbing training versus merely tolerating it, evaluating new training methods and trends, why creativity is an important part of coaching, and much more. I really enjoyed this one and could have easily gone another hour if we had the time. Search for “Relay” wherever you get your podcasts or stream it at this handy link.

— From the archives (Issue 120, 8 years ago today): Embracing inconvenience. “We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest,” Tim Wu writes for The New York Times. “The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity.” Or, in the words of JFK, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

— Last month I asked you, loyal readers of this newsletter, to submit your fueling and hydration questions for my partners at Precision Fuel & Hydration to answer and boy did they deliver! Check out this link where you'll find a gold mine of great questions and detailed answers from PF&H’s experts about navigating the contradicting views and latest trends in fueling and hydration advice, changing your fueling strategy based on how much you sweat, adjusting your fueling and hydration strategies for different seasons, how to determine your carbohydrate needs, pulling yourself out of a bonk, the importance of fat for runners, fueling for recovery, and much more.

One lucky winner—Randy S.—was chosen at random to win a $100 PF&H gift card. Here’s his question, along with a detailed answer from PF&H sports scientist Emily Arrell:

I'm an ultrarunner and I'm curious about strategies for pulling myself out of a bonk or how to adjust nutrition if I feel like I've fallen behind during a race? Is it best to knock back 2-3 gels at once or just shorten the duration between gels or some other strategy? Thanks!

It can take days to recover completely from a major ‘bonk’, but if you do feel yourself falling behind, then there are a few adjustments you can make in an effort to turn things around:

— As you said, consuming some simple carbs (e.g. gels or chews) to increase your blood glucose levels is the main thing you can do. It’ll take ~15-20 minutes to process a gel though, so don’t expect an instant energy boost. Consuming 2-3 gels in a few minutes is tough on the stomach and can lead to GI discomfort, so instead increasing the quantity in smaller, more frequent doses is likely the best approach.

— Stay hydrated. Ensure you’re keeping adequately hydrated by consuming both fluid and sodium to replace a big enough proportion of your sweat losses. Dehydration impacts absorption of fuel in the gut, so appropriately hydrating is crucial to getting necessary carbs on board.

— Slow down. Slowing your pace to conserve energy is important if you’re starting to feel depleted. Continue to move, but with a lower intensity while you refuel and hydrate, until you start feeling better again.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so ideally you’d be fueling sufficiently to meet energy demands by starting exercise with topped up glycogen stores and taking in carbohydrate during exercise to prevent depletion.

(If you’re interested in trying Precision Fuel & Hydration products for yourself, check out this link and save 15% off your first order.)

Workout of the Week: Tempo Plus

If you look at the training schedules of top runners throughout history it’s more likely than not that you’ll find regular bouts of tempo running in there. Why? Quite simply: They work. Tempo runs, which involve maintaining a steady effort for a prolonged period of time (e.g. 5-8 miles at 1/2 marathon effort or 10-14 miles at marathon effort), give you a lot of bang for your aerobic buck. It’s hard—but not too hard—running that helps build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The Tempo Plus workout is the leveling up of a standard tempo run by pairing it with a short set of faster intervals afterward. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“Let the silence do the work.”

—Cal Fussman, master interviewer and NYT best-selling author, who I first heard give this advice on an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. It’s a line that’s shaped my own approach to podcasting and conversations in general (e.g. giving the other person the space to think/speak and not trying to fill every long pause with an interjection or hurried question) but that’s also been just as applicable and effective in many other areas of life (e.g. when coaching, not trying to correct every little mistake an athlete might be making in the moment—sometimes you just need to stay quiet and let them figure things out for themselves; when feeling bored, not trying to fill the empty space with something to distract me; or when I make a mistake, just sitting with it for a little while before I take action).

That's it for Issue 433. If you found any part of this email to be informative, inspiring, or even remotely interesting, please forward it to a friend (or five!) and encourage them to subscribe at this link so that it lands in their inbox next Tuesday.

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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