Hero WODs are some of CrossFit’s most arduous workouts, and they serve as a fitting memorial for CrossFitters killed in the line of duty. As we observe Memorial Day weekend, we thought it would be good to give everyone some background on how Hero WODs started, and why CrossFitters all over the world push themselves through the pain and struggle to honor the fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.

Visiting my best friend, Russel White, in Arlington back in 2014. RIP, brother.

The First Hero WOD Honoring Lt. Michael Murphy

On June 28, 2005, four Navy SEALs on a reconnaissance mission in the Kunar province of Afghanistan were ambushed by an overwhelming Taliban force. Team leader Lt. Michael Murphy, unable to call for help from his location, walked into the center of enemy fire, where his satellite phone might work. He punched in the numbers to HQ and calmly requested reinforcements.

Even after being knocked to his knees from a gunshot wound to his back, Murphy calmly sat back up, steadied himself and continued the call, knowing that it was the only way he might save his men. Once the call for reinforcements had been completed, he returned to the fight with an MH-47 Chinook helicopter on the way. Outrunning its escort of attack helicopters, the Chinook rushed into the battle for a daring daylight rescue. Attempting to set down in tremendously rugged terrain filled with hostile militia, the Chinook was hit by a rocketpropelled grenade. The eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard were killed, leaving Murphy and his men to continue the fight. When the battle ended, Murphy and all but one of his men had been mortally wounded. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day. Among those killed in the rescue attempt were Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor and Lt. Michael McGreevy. Both SEALs were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars for Valor and Purple Hearts. These men were fathers, husbands and sons. They were brothers to their fellow SEALs. They were also CrossFitters. In their actions, these men embodied the values and spirit of true heroes, and to immortalize their courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, the CrossFit Hero workouts were created.

“Murph” was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his gallantry on June 28, 2005. Only one other serviceman has received the award while serving in Afghanistan.

A Community Honors the Fallen

To the average CrossFitter, Hero workouts are symbolic gestures of respect for our fallen. CrossFitters from all over the world, regardless of country or allegiance, throw themselves wholeheartedly at these intentionally gut-wrenching workouts that serve as a tribute to our lost protectors. CrossFit established this tradition as a way to immortalize the fallen and remind ourselves that, even in their untimely deaths, these fellow CrossFitters were committed to the safety and freedom of the rest of us.

Every Hero workout has a special person behind it, and CrossFitters around the world struggle through the WODs in tribute to the deceased protectors. These workouts are just another expression of this sense of brotherhood, and they are uniquely suited to a unique community.

Lest We Forget

For those of us who undertake these physical tests, the psychological effects of performing a Hero workout are tremendous. It’s easy to treat these prescriptions as any workout of the day, but for those who take the time to learn about the heroes they honor, the WODs can become as spiritual and emotionally demanding as they are physically grueling. When keeping the stories behind the real-life heroes in mind, slowing down during a Hero workout becomes harder to justify. When the pain of pushing harder becomes too great, I am reminded of the sacrifice these men made for my freedom, and my struggle becomes laughable. And when I compare my temporary suffering to the lifelong sorrow felt by the grieving families of these men, dropping the bar becomes an embarrassment to my country. The Hero workout is more than a test of physical ability. It bridges the gap between the body and the mind, emotion and experience, and gives us the chance to do more than just remember our soldiers. It gives us the chance to sweat, bleed, suffer and grieve for our fallen heroes one rep at a time.

My Hero WODs List

Below is a list of some other hero WODS besides the ones above that speak personally to me. You will see the first one, White, coming up soon!

Murph Tips and Scaling Options

Now that you have a background of the origination on hero WODs I wanted to provide some tips and other things to keep in mind for Murph this Monday.

Pace, Pace, Pace

This is a LONG WOD. Don’t come off sprinting the first mile or your first 5 rounds of movements. The name of the game will be to keep a steady pace that is sustainable throughout the entire workout. It will be tempting to come out of the gate strong, but trust me on this one!

Hydrate Like Hell!

It’s Florida, summer is coming and we will have a LOT of work to get through. Come hydrated, bring a water bottle and take small quick breaks to hydrate throughout the workout.

Think Small Chunks

If you think about the rep portion of the WOD in terms of smaller, bite size chunks, it is less overwhelming. I know, for some people, they break the sets down into 2 – 4 – 6. Other common options are 5 – 10 – 15. This helps it feel more doable when you aren’t thinking about the culmination.

Scaling is NOT a Bad Thing

Our biggest priority is safety and quality. Just because this is a hero WOD, don’t feel pressured. Some common scaling options are:

  • Pull-ups: banded pull-ups, jumping pull-ups or ring rows
  • Push-ups: incline push-ups, abmat push-ups

Also, if you are newer to CrossFit, completing Murph in its entirety is an extremely daunting task. Below is a great breakdown of some rep scaling options that you can try OR you can partner up with a friend to split the reps!

Mind Over Matter

When you are only 30 pull-ups, 60 push-ups and 90 squats into this workout are tired and winded, it is EASY to feel overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on whats LEFT focus on the single rep at hand. A “one-rep at a time” mentality will really help you push through this workout.

Recovery

I know that it is Memorial Day weekend, which typically includes some of our favorite “all American” foods and beverages, but remember that you just put your body through a TON of work. Coming to the workout hung-over or getting wasted after completing Murph is a HORRIBLE idea and, honestly, unsafe. Hydration and replenishing your body should be a top priority for the remainder of the day Monday!

*References: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Berger_Fallen.pdf

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