Follow These 4 Marine-Inspired Training Tips to Never Need a 'Plan B'
This piece is the first of a three-part series on Faye Morgan. In upcoming articles, we’ll look into her nutrition, as well as how the United States Marine Corps veteran puts together a typical day.
There is no Plan B.
That's the five-word mantra that Faye Morgan, Spartan Pro Team member and mother of four, says fuels her longevity and athletic success. It’s how Morgan — in her 40s — logs the training required to net back-to-back wins in a weekend like she did at the 2022 Spartan SoCal.
"'There is no Plan B' is a saying I picked up from Joe De Sena,” she explains.
It's also a mantra kindred to the spirit of the United States Marine Corps, where Morgan served for seven years as an officer — a stint that included two combat tours. The same motivational mantra is why Morgan routinely gets up early enough to fling herself into a 4:45 a.m. running workout.
Because when there is no fallback plan (and when you and your husband have four kids, spanning the ranks of kindergarten through eighth grade) you know a normal day is one where all hell breaks loose, and improvising, adapting, and overcoming is the consistent name of the game.
Related: U.S. Marine Corps Becomes Official Spartan Partner for 2022 Season
The myriad responsibilities involved with getting four kids to and from school/camp/sports/activities every 10 minutes increases the overall complexity that's intent on disrupting the plans, no matter how smartly they were devised.
“If I don’t get in my training by 10 a.m., it’s not going to happen,” Morgan admits.
Here, we break down the basics of how Faye Morgan trains and produces top performances in the Spartan world with no excuses, all while navigating unpredictable life variables.
United States Marine Corps Veteran Training Tips From Spartan Pro Faye Morgan
1. Get It Done
“Skipping a workout is not an option,” Morgan says.
Keeping this guideline in place demands a combination of focus, determination, and ingenuity. Getting up super early is one tactic. Another — if you're time-pressured — is to shoot center-mass and prioritize the most crucial and effective chunk of training, while letting the lower-priority stuff go.
In other words, don’t make the mistake of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Related: 11 Spartan-Approved Bodyweight Workouts You Can Do Anywhere, Any Time
If you have a two-hour workout scheduled and life makes a two-hour workout impossible, don’t shut it all down and slump away without doing anything. If all you have is 20 minutes, pick the most value-packed activity and don’t mess around with ancillary training.
2. Rely on Sound Movement Patterns
Morgan grew up in Seattle, raised by her dad — a firefighter, who also coached youth sports — and her mom, who was the athletic director at a health club.
All-around fitness was ingrained in her throughout the future Marine's childhood. Her athletic career has roots in swimming, gymnastics, running, and — later on — CrossFit. Plus, she was consistently taxed by the fitness regimen of being a United States Marine and holding her place on the Marine Corps Marathon team.
In contrast to the growing trend of kids specializing in a single sport early (consider the 7-year-old pitcher in a baseball travel league), Morgan developed a broad base of athletic movement patterns. This athletic generalization would obviously serve her well in terms of athletic longevity and finding her place in obstacle course racing.
When Morgan was running half- and full-length marathons for the Marines, she had the experience of being coached by two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner, Ed Eyestone.
Related: The 30 Best Exercises for Functional Strength and Mobility
Morgan recounts how great it was to be coached by a sub-28-minute 10K runner — one who preached a high-mileage schedule. But over time, Morgan believes that she was lucky to cross paths with Brian Mackenzie, founder of CrossFit Endurance, and the model of low-volume training fortified by powerlifting, metabolic conditioning, speed endurance, and Pose Method running technique. (This framework was in tune with her pre-built gymnastics base.)
“I learned that I didn’t have to put in 80 to 90 miles of running per week to have success in running," she says. "And, I know the approach has been key to my longevity.”
3. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
“I prioritize sleep,” Morgan says. “It’s important that I get at least eight hours a night.”
For years, stealing from sleep hours to enable additional hours of training has undermined many determined endurance athletes (those with school, jobs, and family) of the kind of performance they were hoping to achieve.
This violates the law of diminishing returns, one that has come into stark contrast in the last decade with the growing understanding of the critical value of sleep. It’s when you’re sleeping that the body (and brain) can recover and restore. Chronic sleep loss does not mix well with hard training — the two are incompatible when it comes to performance gains (not to mention maintenance).
This is true for the athlete in their 20s, but even more so for 30-somethings, and even more so for 40-somethings, and so on.
4. Train Smart and Train HARD
Morgan doesn’t mess around in her training, particularly because the countdown timer is always ticking. For example, she is not shy about cranking up her Nordic treadmill to a 40% incline and letting it rip.
Doing the hard, specific stuff — like a psycho-degree incline treadmill workout — pays off, Morgan reports, like it did recently during the 2022 Utah Trifecta Weekend.
“The Utah hills were so steep, I had to climb on my hands and knees,” she says.
That's actually the point of the toughest parts of every obstacle course race: There is no Plan B. You just push through.