“Murph”: Reflections

Most of the articles and blog posts I have written over the past couple years have been advocacy writings: I’ve considered a topic and advocated for/ elaborated on a certain position with respect to that topic. I’m going to try something different this time. In this month’s blog post, I invite you to join me as I reflect on my personal experiences performing the “Murph” WOD.

“Murph” is a HERO workout named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a fallen United States Navy officer and Medal of Honor recipient whose character and example embody the fundamental virtues of discipline, duty, courage, and selflessness. (Lt. Murphy was killed in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.) The workout consists of a 1 mile run, followed by 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 air squats, all to be completed before a final 1 mile run. Furthermore, the workout was written to be performed with a weighted vest—to represent body armor. Each year, the workout is performed as a Memorial Day tribute to both Lt. Murphy and the rest of our American service members who have given their last full measure of devotion for the cause of freedom at home and abroad.

Participating in the “Murph” Challenge and performing the workout are honors in and of themselves, but “Murph” has a special place in my own heart for many more reasons. “Murph” was actually one of the first CrossFit workouts I saw Games athletes perform, and this was the impetus for my fascination with competitive fitness. I was a law student, at the time, preparing to graduate and trying to find ways to keep myself physically engaged while I was not otherwise occupied with academic tasks or legal work. (I also happened to be contemplating a career in the Marine Corps.) Watching some of the most physically prepared fitness athletes in the world struggle through a training challenge Lt. Murphy performed regularly was the perfect catalyst for my athletic and coaching ambitions.

Not long after watching the replay of the 2015 Games “Murph”, I attempted the workout at the Boston College Rec Center—by myself, without a vest, without experience, and without any actual idea what I was getting myself into. I broke the reps up into what I thought would be a manageable rep scheme: 5 rounds of 20 pullups, 40 pushups, 60 air squats; but, just after starting my first set of 20 (strict) pullups, I was cashed. I did complete the workout—eventually—but no training experience has every humbled as much as my first “Murph”.

Since that occasion, I have had the privilege of performing “Murph” in a variety of contexts: with clients, by myself, with coaches, at other gyms, at home, with and without a vest, etc. Regardless of the context, however, it is always a rigorous battle (mentally and physically), and that seems entirely appropriate for the occasion. The 2020 COVID-19 crisis caused a few programming barriers this year, but I still had the opportunity to perform a slightly modified version of the workout: because I did not have access to a pullup bar, I performed Australian pull ups with a barbell secured to a squat rack and my feet elevated on two stacked 45 lb. Rogue HG bumper plates. I did wear a 20 lb. weighted vest, as well.

I am pleased to say that, a day after coaching many of my clients through a Zoom “Murph”, I was able to complete the workout in under 57 minutes, with my girlfriend fighting through her first “Murph” right next to me and my parents cheering us on from six feet away. The heat from the sun was far from ideal, but it was nothing a cool post-“Murph” mimosa could not cure. All things considered, being able to perform the workout this year—in any capacity—is something I’m extremely grateful I had the chance to do.
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