Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 36 - Marco Nicoli - RUN THE DATA - Part 3 of 3

So, I want to dig into that a little bit, where you're saying you you dug into a particular metric, and it kind of indicated to you what the issue was. How do you know about that correlation between that particular metric, and he probably has these tight muscles?
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 36 - Marco Nicoli - RUN THE DATA - Part 3 of 3

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JESSE: So, I want to dig into that a little bit, where you're saying you you dug into a particular metric, and it kind of indicated to you what the issue was. How do you know about that correlation between that particular metric, and he probably has these tight muscles? Where does that link came into play? MARCO: It was an organic discovery for me. I looked at his data, and I decided, I sat down and I spent eight hours in front of my screen. And I, as you know, I like charts. I created a whole bunch of charts. And I tried essentially, in data, you want to find a chart that plateaus, right? You want to find at some point performance no longer improves when you expect it to improve. So, you start charting things, and you know, power and speed, power and stride length. And then I noticed stride length didn’t improve and then that gave me ideas. So, you kind of organically dig deeper and you find something and then you kind of latch on like a dog, and you don't let it go and you kind of dissect the data that pertains to that particular metric as much as possible. And in this case, I started looking at, well what are the factors that affect stride length? Okay, that could be power, does it correlate with power? And no, it doesn't. With speed? No, it doesn't. And then power per unit of time, that's when I really kind of the light bulb went off. And I said, well, his right hand should increase because if you push harder off the ground, you should move farther. And then I started doing some thinking about what could it be? Does he overstride? But then there's other data such as G force impact forces that weren't increasing. So, I know he wasn't over striding on the front end, right. And so I asked him are you tight when you do this? How can you move? How's your movement? And we did some testing for hip flexors and ?? 01:41> and the results were, like they're kind of tight. Let's start stretching. So, it wasn't a great insight that I had all of a sudden. It was, let's dig in and find out until we find a solution. And it was a great experience, to be honest with you. I mean, it was basically what I really enjoyed doing on the computer. The data actually all paid off. JESSE: I feel like that whole scenario is basically like data science gone right is where you just keep digging and digging and go into the granular. And we're talking about this before we got going about marketing in particular, but just how we have enough data, and you figure out what to do with it, it can tell you things that you wouldn't be able to see intuitively without just almost a coincidence of like, say you're watching a video of him or something and thought about like, once you have all that data, it's-- MARCO: And especially nowadays, where you're no longer geographically constrained. I mean, this is an athlete that lives in Italy, I've never met him. I've never had a video of him running. You know, this would have been if you run with someone you can probably see hey, you know what you do a track workout, your stride, kind of doesn't look right. But without seeing that, without having access to the physical presence of the athlete, the data is really quite amazing in what it can give you. I never really expected it to be quite as powerful as it's turning out to be. And especially in something like running where on the bike you have three points of contact, right, you have your pedals. So, there's only so much you can do with the data in terms of biomechanics. But the biomechanics is almost free to do whatever it wants on the run because you spend so much time in the air that we're finding, and I think other people are doing much more impressive work than I am. We're finding so many correlations and so many things that can be diagnosed with this running in terms of diagnosis as in form corrections, that it really is revolutionizing how run training is happening. JESSE: So, it kind of brings me to the point and I think the old school method is certainly the method I grew up with was that there is not a right way to run. Although I disagree with it nowadays, for the most part. There are notable exceptions. Have you seen videos of like Tim Dawn, running? MARCO: Yes, JESSE: Yeah, it's not pretty. At least it didn’t use to be. MARCO: The visual cues, I think is what people were focused on is you know, your arms and your knees have to drive a certain way. The data doesn't really care about what you look like when you run, it's essentially you're looking at the stick figure in run power because the stride pod at least has three accelerometers in the X, Y & Z cardinal directions essentially. So, you can break down your power. Let's say you put out 300 watts and 200 of those are in horizontal power, the rest are in vertical and oscillatory power, lateral power. What that tells you is I don't care what you look like, you were wasting a third of your power in flopping around and bouncing around. So, let's, you know when we look at form, I'm not talking about how you look, I'm talking about how you can become the most efficient. There is the one metric that I'm sure you read more of than you want to do in my articles, The Running Effectiveness. That is essentially, what you want to do, you want to get the most horsepower, devoted to moving forward that you can become the most effective runner. And that is actually all that we care about. Whatever you do, if you can move your upper body or flop your arms around, or do whatever it is you want to do, as long as your watts turn into speed, I don't think anybody should care about it. I think we spent a lot of effort and a lot of time trying to force people to conform to a specific upper body movement. And for people that for whom it's not natural, I think that's actually a waste of energy and you're actually forcing them to waste more energy to try and look good when you really, all you want to do is make them go faster. JESSE: Right. Yeah, I like to pick on Tim because I actually saw-- I got to see him race in person in 2010 at ?? 05:56>. But yeah, he has a lot of at least it time, again this is almost a decade ago now. He has a lot of upper body movement and this rotational movement, which you don't often see as being productive in most people. But he's still, he runs like a madman. I'm pretty sure he won that race. MARCO: He said the Ironman World record in Brazil, was it last year? You know, so he's pretty quick. JESSE: Yeah, I was like-- So, I always feel like, as soon as I'm like there is a right way to run that you see somebody that does it like Tim that does not run with I’ll say conventional kind of aesthetics, but still just kicks everybody's ass. MARCO: You know, I mean, in the end, it's kind of like a car. It doesn't matter what it looks like, how much horsepower it has, if it doesn't convert it into acceleration and speed, it doesn't really matter. And then running, if you can put the watts down on the ground and turn them into meters per second, have at it. Do whatever, however you want to do it. Just turn those watts into meters per second and we're going to be fine. JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, I want to shift a little bit. I think you were saying earlier before we got going that you come from a finance background. Is that why you're so like quantitatively minded? MARCO: I think I've always been quantitatively minded beforehand. I mean, I took the long routes to adulthood. I mean, I went to college, and I was a physics, an astrophysics double major. Then I got my degree in environmental science. Then I went for a master's in conservation biology, and then I got my master’s in finance. And then I was a trader and I selected mortgage bonds because they were the most complex instruments out there. So, I've always liked numbers. I just, they give me some kind of a calm feeling that hey, you know what, if I can wait through these numbers, everything's gonna be okay. I was never the most social, socially outward person so I wasn't a marketer. I was the backroom guy that only was brought out when you needed to get the answer to some hard questions. But numbers are numbers, and I just love to make numbers into solutions. And I found that once I started training, I started understanding a few things. And then I got some education and I realized that, hey, you know what? The numbers can really help me. I can turn them into performance, I can turn them into positive things, and they never talked back and they never argue with you. And they're almost always right. JESSE: Yeah, that's kind of the nice thing that I say I'll agree with about numbers is that the numbers are what they are. It's not a matter of negotiating. It's simply a matter of trying to understand and have them kind of reveal what they're trying to tell you, rather than there's much more nuance to interacting with a person versus figuring out what the numbers are. I mean, that's-- So, I did calculus through high school and after high school, I said, okay, I'm done with math. And-- MARCO: Nope. JESSE: No, for whatever reason, no. Somehow I ended up with a math major. And it was just like oh, I’ll take calc two, and I'll take calc three. And for me, it was a matter of, I like solving problems. And going through these math classes, you're learning how to solve problems and create the solutions and build these logical worlds. And it has nothing to do with like, the soft skills of you know, that interpersonal skills that-- It doesn't come, I think as easily to either of us, as it does to some other people, then you really have to work on that. So, at least to me, it's almost, I think you kind of mentioned this, like almost more comforting just to like work with the numbers, deal with the things that are very, almost straightforward versus how do I deal with this person and all of their emotional baggage and what they're dealing with today and whether they're hungry and-- MARCO: There's no ambition with the numbers like you said before, they are what they are. So, there's no reason to get mad at them. It's just, it's a little more relaxing because it allows you to take a step back and be more clinical about whatever the situation may be, and you just focus on it. Not to mention that math is pervasive. I mean, it's called the universal language for a reason because whether I was in physics, in finance, in conservation biology or in environmental science, math was the common thread. And as you know, I'm sure everybody has heard that, but you never believe it until you experience it. I mean, my oldest is in college now and she's asking why she has to take calc three and four. And the answer is always the same because you're always going to need them. No matter what you end up doing in life, math is always going to be the underlying current. Even you know, we're talking earlier about marketing, there's math involved in marketing. JESSE: Oh, yeah. MARCO: Most people, they go into marketing want to avoid math altogether. But nowadays with data analytics, and the amount of data and big data that we have, math is pretty pervasive in everything in anything we do. So, I mean, it's a good thing and it can be a bad thing at times, it can drive you bananas but more often than not it solves the problem. JESSE: Yeah. So, I'm kind of wondering, I mean, you have a whole journey. I think I asked you an email a long time ago before you wrote the articles although, I’ve forgotten. I mean, you grew up in Italy playing soccer, and then you went through all these progressions you just gave us, physics and then your two different masters in finance and here you are coaching. Do you have any form of ADD or like how do you continue on this kind of odd progression to where you are now? MARCO: You know, in Italy, when I was growing up back in the 80s, there was no ADD, it was just overactive children. So, I have no doubt that I would be diagnosed with ADD were I to turn into a child now and go back through the school. But I think it's just, I've always been told by my teachers and even my grandparents, always stay curious. Always try and find something new. And I find it interesting and exciting. I mean, the idea of just not learning anything on a daily basis kind of scares me to be honest with you. So, I really look forward to getting on the computer and kind of looking at data and just seeing what can I discover, what can I figure out today? And it just keeps your mind active and keeps life interesting. JESSE: Yeah. How many athletes are you working with now? MARCO: Right now, I only have about 15. JESSE: Okay, that’s a pretty manageable number. MARCO: Yes. And I tend to grow fairly slowly over time. I make changes very quickly, but then I try and pace myself in growing because I want to provide the level of service that I think is appropriate. And as you can see with some of the data analysis, it takes time. So, I'm looking at the lot of-- JESSE: Yeah, I mean, I think you said you sat down and like looked at the data on that one athlete for like eight hours. And that’s a whole day dedicated to one person, one problem when you have everybody else you have to contend with as well. MARCO: Absolutely. Going back to the ADD, that eight hours I think felt like 15 minutes. Because I sat down in the morning and then I got called for dinner and I was like, wait, what happened to the day? But I think that's the exciting thing. You know you're doing something you like when you kinda get lost in your daily activities, as opposed to looking at the clock hoping for that five o'clock hour to arrive. JESSE: Yeah, right. Before we go, so I asked everybody this question, because kind of a universal since we're coming up on the end of the year, I know I'm gonna have to come up with a new question for next year. But for now, you're getting the same question I asked everybody. I like to ask after a hard workout or a race, kind of your thought there, doesn't matter. What food would you choose for recovery if you could only choose one food for the rest of your life? MARCO: Whoo, that's both a tough one and an easy one. I mean, I'm an Italian and I love to eat. So, a plate of pasta ?? 14:12> is what would be my go-to if I had to do one, that would have to be it. I know it's not very original, but it's what I would go for. JESSE: And that's okay. That's the big thing is like I love to hear what people like to eat. Because I get all kinds of responses. I get like, I'll call my PC answers which aren’t wrong. None of these are wrong answers. But you know, things that are healthy for you and you'd expect people to say this is why I eat. I get other people like, I have a beer or I have pizza and it's interesting to see where people focus on for recovery, whether it's physical, whether it's mental, whether it's both. MARCO: Well, I think that's the biggest weakness in a lot of people's training approaches is the recovery part. People focus very, very hard and work very, very hard in their training. But then and for a lot of people, it's a necessity, it's not a luxury they have is “ey, I workout in the morning, then I gotta go to work, and I gotta grab breakfast on my way to the office.” But I find that when you focus on that recovery and you know, try and get that three to one or four to one protein to carb ratio within the first 30 minutes, and then continue with your carb ingestion with eight to 12 hours after your workout for a long workout gets you ready for the next workout, it really helps. I mean I tend to be as you know, a data geek, I tend to log everything that I eat. And I tend to plan hey, you know what, I know I need X amount of protein today but your body can only absorb X amount in one sitting, so I plan out all my meals throughout the day. You can get a little crazy, but there are tangible benefits to doing so. And I think a lot of people, a lot of athletes especially would benefit with a little bit of extra planning on their recovery and feeding. JESSE: Yeah, and I think that comes out almost every time I talked to a registered dietitian or nutritionist, anybody that comes on that like that's what they do. We’re always talking about and I’m especially bad at this is the planning part where you need to plan out and set it you know, because I’m running two businesses and I do a podcast, and I have family life and all these things. Gotta take the dog for a walk because he's staring over at me. I have to do all these things food almost becomes on the back burner even though it should be right up front as a priority. So, that's part of the reason I love to ask people that question. MARCO: It's a great question and I think it gives you a lot of insight on how focused they are on their training. Because there are some athletes that have everything scheduled and they make all their meals on the weekend, and they have it you know, times down to the second and to the gram. And then there's other people that you know, take more of a not nonchalant. But hey, you know what, this is fun. This is supposed to be fun, and I can't just plan every minute of my life going through it. But you know, wouldn't it be nice if we all could have a private chef that you know, has it all timed out and serves our food to us when we need it. JESSE: Yeah, that used to be by goal, but now I'm like, I'll call myself retired, but since I don't have as many like high-performance goals, I'm like, do I really ever need a private chef? I'll probably skip on that one. But-- MARCO: Yeah, I don't know. I wouldn't take it. JESSE: Right. Marco, if people want to find you, where can they find you, learn more about what you're doing, and get in touch with you if they want to see about having you coach them? MARCO: Sure. My website is, and you can find all the information and reach out to me. I always like to talk to clients, or even prospects or even athletes that are not looking for coaching, but they just want to have a conversation and ask some questions. As you can tell I love to talk about this stuff. So, I'm always happy to talk to athletes and answer their questions whether they're interested in coaching or not. JESSE: Sounds good. Thanks for coming on today, Marco. MARCO: Thank you very much for having me. It was great talking to you. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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