Finding True Gains-a closer look at Morpheus

by Becky Rogers

In June of 2020, I will be taking on one of the biggest challenges of my athletic career-chasing the overall support Fastest Known Time on the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. The current record is 52 days and a few hours.  That’s right: I will be running for 52 days straight.  At first this sounds really intimidating (ok maybe crazy?).  I get a lot of- How the hell are you going to do this? Do you have supernatural powers?  

Let me assure you, I have no super powers aside from focus. From my perspective as both a professional coach and an extreme endurance athlete, this long FKT is really a test of recovery.  The game here isn’t so much how fast I can go but how well I recover after each day of running and power hiking.  The famous “Gains” for me aren’t gross power or distance per week but recovery.  With my Pitbull-like focus, I’ve been making HUGE recovery gains over the last few years.  Essential to my conditioning is Morpheus from Joel Jamieson (https://trainwithmorpheus.com).  I’ll admit, I’m a fan of integrating what I call global strength and conditioning practices into a specialist’s program (after all, I am a former college soccer player who dabbled in wrestling, played competitive softball, races elite obstacle course and who also strives to do extreme endurance feats).  I discovered Joel years ago when my opinions on recovery and strength and conditioning seemed vastly different than the run-of-the-mill theories out there.  Fast forward to today where Joel has created a system that has something to offer all athletes, regardless if they are training for their first Ironman, Strongman competition or trying to create positive lifestyle changes to be around for their grandchildren.

The cornerstone to habit change is measurable results 

Morpheus has some of the most reliable heart rate variability (HRV) readings on the market.  Joel designed Morpheus after years of working with professional athletes and HRV. With consistent individual readings (morning HRV, heart rate average, recovery trends, sleep data, steps) each athlete is able to see how their behavior impacts recovery.  In my experience, with measurable results comes long term habit change.  Personal story:  I was able to see the effect whey protein was having on my overall daily HRV and recovery.  I discovered I am allergic to whey protein (a rare allergy).  Although changing my habits inside my diet was difficult, with the elimination of dairy from my diet, I’m recovering faster, I’m healthier and subsequently, those Personal Bests are flowing in.  

Visual representation of recovery

The definition of Athleticism is awareness of the body’s movement and wellbeing throughout a space.  Part of becoming a great athlete is understanding workload in programming.  Morpheus helps to develop athletes by showing them the estimated impact on recovery for various strength and conditioning methods.  From a coaching perspective, my job is really to guide an athlete towards increased awareness.   In this respect, Morpheus is the mecca of platforms for interfacing with clients.  The system offers a much-needed approach to performance by focusing on individual recovery.

With Morpheus, athletes can see how daily stress (programmed or life stress) impacts overall readiness.  When used properly as a tool, Morpheus has the potential to lower if not completely eliminate most injuries outside of blunt force trauma.  How much simpler is it than to see RED and NOT train?  It doesn’t get easier than this folks.

From an ultrarunner perspective, the effects of long term recovery debt can finally be identified, potentially eliminating our sport’s problem with what we call adrenal fatigue. Additionally, the 2-week window of recovery, which is erroneously used as a blanketed “rule” for ultrarunning, has been thrown out in favor of individual recovery timelines.  By using individual measurements inside of Morpheus, an athlete can hone in on exact recovery needs in terms of time and workload, eliminating both injuries and de conditioning.

The applications of Morpheus extend well past extreme athletics to the general population.  My own mother (who is nearly 70) is using Morpheus to track her daily recovery on her extensive foreign travels.  She has been able to adjust her hydration and utilizes additional recovery practices on days where Morpheus indicates she needs extra TLC.  By making these adjustments using real data, she has eliminated fatigue that foreign travel tends to bring on.  

Integration of Strength, Conditioning and Mixed sessions

My inner OCR athlete is grateful for this integration.  From an endurance athlete standpoint, strength and its effects on total programming can be confusing for many athletes and coaches alike.  Morpheus offers much needed guidance for specialists, whether they are from the power or conditioning end of the continuum.  Morpheus removes the stigma of the unknown but necessary side of a specialist’s training program.  

Distractions are out

The bane of my existence as an endurance coach is Strava segment chasing.  I’ve seen countless gifted athletes lay aside their training plans and attempt to win little electronic trophies on the online system called Strava. Guess what?  Nearly all of those athletes ended up broken within weeks of this misplaced effort. Morpheus puts the focus back on running our own race.  This leads to more productive daily training and greatly reduces injury rates.  

VO2 max intervals are fun…really

I know, workouts can get old after a while. With the Morpheus platform, an athlete can match zones vs running blind.  This builds a visual map of the workout creating a video game effect.  Suddenly, that hard VO2 max hill workout is fun instead of just a chore.

Adjusted heart rate zones vs the standard zone fixed calculations 

Did you know that your conditioning zones aren’t actually fixed?  The leading heart rate training books on the market will have you believe otherwise but they are wrong.  Morpheus eliminates the hard work for you and adjusts your daily zones automatically off of your individual data, daily HRV, and current recovery percentage. I’m all about eliminating waste in my training, aren’t you?!

World Class support

Morpheus includes recovery workouts and interaction with Joel Jamieson, the world’s leading recovery-based strength and conditioning coach.  For those on Facebook, Joel has set up a user group to help answer questions.  App upgrades are nearly monthly which often takes into account user reviews from the Morpheus FB group. As if this wasn’t enough, upgrades to hardware is consistent.  One of the recent upgrades was the M3 strap which records data without any additional device.  I’ve used the M3 successfully for up to 50 mile runs.  And the M3 strap works great for those Mixed Domain workouts that necessitate hands free such as heavy carries for mile intervals.  

With all the good, there are a few places I’d love to see the system grow:

Extreme outliers are still outliers

The system is currently constructed around the average user.  For those high-level athletes or fairly typical ultra endurance athletes with extreme volume category (like 15+ hrs a week), the recovery recalculation during the day may not be as reliable as for most users.  With analysis and upgrades to Morpheus’ algorithms, the future of this platform inside of user groups such as ultrarunning is bright.  

Tech heavy

While the morning reading takes only 3 minutes, to track all your workouts, you’ll be wearing a heart rate strap or the Morpheus band.  For athletes above 15 hrs a week, this gets old. I know I’m looking forward to some manual entry capabilities! Additionally, morning reading requires having both your phone and M band available.  In tune with good sleep habits, many athletes who are finally leaving their electronic devices out of the bedroom are now forced to bring them back in.  But until we all start having trackers implanted, this is a necessary evil and a small price to pay for the valuable data.

Lack of integration of female cycles in tracking

In the future, it would be great if Morpheus combined tracking of female hormone cycles with the rest of the data stream to create one platform for all the info. This would benefit coaches and athletes alike.  For now, 51% of the population who are Morpheus users will need to use other platforms along with Morpheus (like FitrWoman) to decode and help adjust training, recovery and nutrition around normal female cycles.  As a coach who specializes in female athletes, I can tell you that there is a HUGE difference in strength and conditioning for female vs male athletes. I look forward to seeing Morpheus grow in this area. 

So how am I using Morpheus to prepare and carry out a 2650 mile World Record?

For me, everything starts with the morning HRV reading during training. After I get my HRV and my total estimated recovery, I can make adjustments to my planned workload and/or add in recovery sessions. I’ve used trends in data to identifying recovery hurdles-a major allergen for me, sleep amount and quality, caffeine use and certain training sessions.  I also use my Morpheus data post races to determine which kind of workouts I can do and how much recovery I really need. This has helped me avoid 100% of the normal overuse injuries facing running athletes. During the PCT event, I will use my morning readings to adjustment workload in terms of time on feet per day, sleep and intensity (speed per mile).

All the above is possible by using Morpheus to train with in the years prior to the PCT FKT.  I’ve sometimes gone multiple weeks (up to 3) without a total rest day.  By using the data collected from these in-house experiments, I’ve been able to create a range of workloads that I know my body will respond to in a positive manner without actually resting because after all, there will be zero chance of a Netflix marathon on the PCT run!  

As a coach and athlete, I can not emphasize enough the importance of measuring your training and response patterns.  The bottom line-Morpheus is a invaluable tool that enables athletes and the general public to measure their personal health stats and act on those numbers to create positive change in not just athlete performance but total health.

One thought on “Finding True Gains-a closer look at Morpheus”

  1. Very nice piece Becky. I have followed your posts on Joel’s Facebook page and you are definitely an outlier! Your workload is exceptional and your recovery times miraculous! Hopefully, others will gravitate over to Morpheus given Joel’s research and your story of proof of the recipe. I will stay tuned for you Netflix reality show 😉

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