mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 435

Published about 1 month ago • 8 min read

Good morning! I was supposed to be supporting my athlete Devon Yanko for the second half of a 6-day ultramarathon event that wraps up this morning in Palm Springs but there was an unexpected change of plans on Friday (and a few more changes of plans after that, but that’s her story to tell) and I ended up spending the weekend at home. This did open up a little more writing time yesterday, however, and as a result this issue is a bit deeper than it was when I pre-prepared it a few days ago. Let’s dive right in.

Quick Splits

— Josh Kerr of Great Britain is a two-time world champion and over the past few years he’s established himself as one of the most consistently solid racers on the circuit. And even when he doesn’t win (a rarity these days), he hardly ever has a real stinker of a race. The secret to his success? “I don’t do crazy workouts or crazy mileage,” he recently told Athletics Weekly. “I just don’t miss days.”

— Devin Kelly, whose work I’ve shared here numerous times (and who you may remember from Episode 119 of the podcast), has a new essay out for Longreads and it’s great. “Stumbling Can Be Lovely” explores his journey of learning how to ride a bike at the age of 32 and, as I expected, it’s about so much more than just keeping the pedals turning (though that’s probably a good metaphor for what I took away from it). “So, I am here to tell you that it works sometimes, this learning thing, this unending thing we call a life until it ends. Yes, let me tell you; it does,” he writes. “Over the past few months, on so many mornings, I have turned into Engineers’ Gate in Central Park. On those mornings, it is before dawn, maybe 5:30. There is hardly anyone there. And I shift down the gears until I feel what I want to feel, which is not quite pain yet, not quite suffering, but something approaching it: my happy place, my little canvas of expression. And I pedal. And I breathe. I am who I am: injured thing, moving thing, learning thing. And for an instant, I feel beautiful. I feel reminded that I learned this new part of myself, that I didn’t know it before, that I am capable of such change. If you asked me months or years ago, I would have come up with some joke, something self-deprecating, something rooted in the self to tell you why I didn’t feel capable of expanding myself. I would have said I don’t know how to ride a bike; I never learned.”

— There’s so much good stuff in this short interview with Northern Arizona University head coach Mike Smith after Nico Young won both the 3000m and 5000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend in Boston. It’s a must-watch for coaches at any level. The two points to pay attention to in particular are when he talks about having the strength to access your speed at the end of races (my college coach, Karen Boen, drilled this into my head from 2000-2004, constantly reminding me that “from strength comes speed”) and also not worrying about whether you’ll win or lose or run a desired time, but rather what you can control from the time the gun goes off until you cross the finish line. “When you’re not confident, or you’re really nervous,” he explains, “you’re oftentimes thinking about what’s gonna happen instead of what you’re gonna do.”

— My friend Peter Abraham has been serving on the board of HOKA Northern Arizona Elite for the past 10 years and he just wrote this insightful blog post of what he’s learned along the way. I’ve always admired how NAZ Elite handles its business, i.e., like that of a professional sports team, and I really believe their model is one the rest of the sport would benefit from trying to emulate. They’re so thoughtful and intentional with everything that they do, from the resources they provide the athletes, to how they engage with fans, to the value and return on investment they consistently bring to their partners. “For most organizations I deal with, at any level, I want to know two things: 1. what they do, and 2. how they do it. Put more simply, “Why should I buy your product?” In the case of a professional running team, I’m thinking about this with respect to three key stakeholders: 1. Athletes, 2. Fans, and 3. Sponsors. Each of these groups deserves an answer to that question,” he writes. “Athletes need a reason to compete for NAZ Elite at a time when there are more pro running teams than at any other time in recent memory. There’s On Athletic Club, Team Boss, Bowerman Track Club, Brooks Beasts, Hanson’s Brooks, Puma Elite Running, Tinman Elite, Dark Sky and more. Fans also want to know what’s in it for them. Why should they follow our team and not one of the many others? It’s not a zero sum game — people could follow many pro running teams and athletes — but all of us have only so much time to devote to following sports. Lastly, our sponsors, led by Hoka, want to create and monetize a community with us. Does our fanbase align with theirs? Does our mission & purpose match up with those of our sponsors? Is Hoka the right partner for us or just a running shoe brand that writes us a check? After 10 years with the team, I can answer that having an operating principle and viewpoint has definitely helped build a stronger relationship with each of these stakeholders.”

— I’ve never watched the Vlogbrothers on YouTube but my dear friend Brad sent me this video the other day in which John Green, one of the brothers, goes to London to watch his football (err, soccer) team, AFC Wimbledon, take on Milton Keynes. Now, despite its global popularity I just don’t care much for soccer, but this video isn’t so much about soccer as it is about love, and community, and the things in life that fill your cup. It’s worth 5 minutes of your time this week. “I don’t need you to love football, I only need you to love something that brings you together with others whose love is pointing in the same direction,” he says. “For me, that’s football, but for you, it could be crochet, or Jane Austen, or distance running, but to be bound up with others, and friends, and strangers alike is the human condition, and to be in community is—for me, anyway—to be more fully alive.”

— From the archives (Issue 18, 8 years ago this week): I really enjoyed this article by reporter and author Charles Duhigg explaining how the “Five Whys” method helped him and his wife get to the root cause of why they weren’t able to eat dinner with their kids at night.

What is the “Five Whys” method? It’s “a process of continually asking questions until you get to the root cause of every activity performed,” according to The Harvard Business Review. In the Duhigg’s specific case, they discovered that an inefficient morning routine threw off the rest of the day, which made it difficult to have dinner as a family at the same time.

Duhigg’s piece is a good reminder that asking the right questions is a necessary first step toward solving any problem. “Whys” are certainly a good place to start (ask any reporter!), but some well-timed “whats” and “hows” can go a long way in putting you on the path to finding better solutions to problems—especially those with multiple root causes.

“Productivity isn’t about running faster or pushing yourself harder, but rather, about working smarter and paying a bit more attention to what is really going on,” Duhigg writes. Substitute “productive training” for “productivity” in this line and the same holds true for athletes and coaches. How many runners, after a breakthrough race (or more often, after a disappointing race(s)), decide they’re going to take it to the next level (or break out of their funk) by running faster workouts and/or piling on miles? I see this all the time—and often with adverse results, injury or some combination of the two! Pay closer attention to what’s going on in your training (or your athletes’ training), ask the right questions so you can uncover the root cause(s) that might be affecting performance (positively or negatively), and make the right decisions based on what you learn.

— The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been one of my favorite bands since junior high school and “Under the Bridge” has been one of my favorite songs for just as long. I’m not sure how I hadn’t seen this acoustic version of the tune until last week but holy hell is it incredible: Anthony Keidis and John Frusciante belting it out along the water in Amsterdam, September 1991. No mics, just Keidis, Frusciante, and an acoustic guitar. Raw, unique, beautiful. 11/10 my favorite rendition.

— A big thank you to my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2024). Last week I got a pair of the new Turnover Half Tights and I fell in love with them right away. Formerly called the Reggie Half Tight, this updated version is everything that was great about the prior model plus three extra pockets to store fuel for long runs and races (or whatever else you might want to stuff in there). The zip pocket is bigger and better positioned than before and can easily fit a phone, keys, or a credit card. The material is the same and fit is identical from what I can tell. I do appreciate the new removable internal drawstring that allows you to adjust the waistband to your desired snugness. I’m not going to be doing any long races anytime soon but these have already proven their mettle for long runs and workouts. Great option as we head into spring here in the coming weeks. If you buy the new Turnover Half Tights, or anything else on for that matter, and you’re doing so for the first time, use the code MarioNEW to save $15 on your order of $75 or more. If you’re already a Tracksmith customer, use the code MarioGIVE and you can get free shipping on your next order (and 5% of your purchase will go to support the Friendly House in Worcester, Massachusetts, an organization that is near and dear to me).

Workout of the Week: Pardon the (Uphill) Interruption

Tempo run or short hill repeats for your next workout? Trick question. The answer is both! I like to combine different training elements from time to time to keep workouts interesting and help us get a little something extra out of them. In this workout, we’ll “interrupt” a typical 4-6 mile tempo run with some 20-30 second hill repeats at a hard effort. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“Fitness is feeling like you are dying at a much faster pace than you used to feel like you were dying at.”

—Sabrina B. Little in her excellent new book, The Examined Run, which was recently published (and that I highly recommend!)

That's it for Issue 435. Please forward this email to someone who might enjoy it, share the web link far and wide, or reply to me directly at your own risk. (And if you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time and want to receive it for yourself first thing every Tuesday morning, you can subscribe right here.)

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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