When you feel nauseous in the middle of a hard workout or race and still have a long, melancholy way to go, it can be tempting to feel sorry for yourself. If such a thought ever creeps into Spartan Pro Faye Morgan’s head during mile repeats on the track, or at the halfway point of an unruly Beast, she swats it away with the mantra proffered by the legendary bow hunter, Cameron Hanes:
“Nobody cares," he says. "Work harder.”
Why Should You Have a Team-First Mentality?
Morgan — whose eight years of service in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) included two combat tours — is now a 45-year-old mother of four who continues a no-excuses lifestyle, training and racing at the highest levels. She credits her time in the Marine Corps for developing her unbreakable mentality.
“The Marines taught me that no matter how hard I worked, or how awful I felt, someone else was always out there, working harder,” she says.
Morgan also learned to check her ego at the door and think of the team first.
“If I fell short in my efforts, it meant I let the entire team down,” she says, reflecting on her experience in the Marines. “This was simply not an option, especially in a combat environment.”
This mindset is sewn into her approach to obstacle course race training and is why she has nearly 100 Spartan races (along with 18 Trifectas) to her name.
“Today, sticking to the training plan is just what has to be done — there isn't a ‘Plan B’.”
How Spartan Pro Faye Morgan Trains for Optimal Performance
Morgan trains six days a week and allows one day for active recovery or rest.
Her training days are anchored in her run training, with three specific, quality workouts.
First, her long run: Morgan’s engine-building long run ranges from 90 minutes to over three hours, depending on where she is in a training block and whether she has a Beast on the radar.
Her second day of quality-run training is max-VO2 work: long intervals — typically 800-meter to one-mile repeats — or intense, Fartlek-style workouts with short recoveries, like eight sets of three-minute hard efforts, each followed by a one-minute recovery.
The third quality run workout is an anaerobic threshold-targeted workout, typically at, or faster than, race-pace.
Performing Met-Cons for Overall Power
Morgan also integrates at least one run a week into a strength-and-power metabolic conditioning workout.
For example, Morgan will complete a circuit of 400-meter runs/15 burpees/10 pull-ups and a barbell movement. These sessions usually fall into the 30-to-60-minute zone, and may include Assault bike or rowing intervals to add “extra spice.”
For these high-intensity sessions, Morgan draws on her rich athletic history, including competing as a gymnast in grade school.
Morgans metabolic conditioning workouts are similar to the HITT (high-intensity tactical training) programs used in the USMC. HITT is a program that equates combat fitness to combat readiness. Using an array of movements (from barbell back squats to ammo can rows), HITT comprehensively targets athletic capacities like speed, power, strength, agility, stamina, and endurance.
“I love getting upside down, so I’ll include handstand walks, handstand push-ups, and other gymnastics work,” she says. “I’ll do toes-to-bar and chest-bar pull-ups, anything that makes me look like a total idiot at my local gym.”
Morgan credits this grit mindset to her experience in the Marine Corps.
“My time in the service was transformative for me,” she says. “The Marine Corps was the perfect place for me to train with abandon and grit, with no one batting an eye.”
In fact, Morgan adds, the intensity of effort was not only encouraged, it was expected.
“And I loved it,” she says.
Again, Morgan loved how the focus was on the team, not the individual. There was no individual success if the team failed. If she was leading a company “hump” — going 10 miles or further with 50-pound packs — it wasn’t a success unless the whole team made the standard.
“It didn’t matter if I was feeling strong in the front if my weakest and slowest Marine fell back, that would be my failure," she explains. "I would have failed the team. It was a collaborative effort requiring individual courage.”
Getting the Work Done
Indeed, Morgan – with no Plan B to fall back on – is not shy about when and where she gets her Plan A work done.
“I’m that mom that you see foam rolling at her kids’ practice, doing band work, corrective exercises, or even a quick 15-minute bodyweight workout on the sidelines if I didn’t get everything in earlier that day,” she says.
Prioritizing Recovery Is Key
For Morgan, recovery days are less of a day off from training and more of a critical maintenance component that allows her to digest the week’s rigorous training and prepare her for another hard week of work. She prefers low-impact aerobic work — like a light bike ride or swim — complemented by mobility exercises and foam rolling.
Recovery is also a part of her big-picture ebb-and-flow.
“There are times in the year where my programming is not centered around a race,” she says. “This is when I give my body time to reset and recover. It helps me ensure that when I start a block of hard training, I am both physically and mentally ready to hit it hard because I have allowed my body the time to recover.”
The Importance of Gratitude
Along with her reliance on a dedicated, grounded work ethic, another source of motivation for Morgan — both in her training and the depths of a tough race — is channeled from her combat service in the Marine Corps.
“Gratitude,” she says. “Gratitude for my time in the service and those I served with allows me to continue to push hard. Not just for me, but for something bigger. I want to express my gratitude and give back by being a good example for others. To my kids, the athletes I train with, and the friends with whom I race. I find that next gear because I have an able body that is capable of pushing.
“I train with the mindset that our individual efforts on this earth matter,” she added. “Living a healthy, active lifestyle and pushing to be my best is what I expect of myself and what I owe to the greater good, just as I owed it to the Marines with whom I served.
"When I was in the Marines, it was about doing the best I could to serve our country, and now every day that I have the opportunity to dig a little deeper and push myself physically, spiritually, and mentally, I do it. The USMC ethos of honor, courage, and commitment stays with me to this day.”