Ok folks, we’re in the home stretch- Memorial Day is just about here and the time honored CrossFit tradition of performing “Murph”, the best known of all the Hero WODs, named after Lt. Michael Murphy.
For those of you just joining us- Murph is a long and arduous workout, designed by a Navy SEAL to better prepare for the rigors of combat. It consists of:
1 Mile Run
300 Air Squats
1 Mile Run
That’s a LOT! The workout takes most people 30+ minutes, with times around an hour not uncommon. Prepare to grind away for some time, and make sure you have taken steps to put yourself in a good position come “go time.” Hopefully you’ve followed some of our tips for prepping for Murph and are ready for the volume (especially the push-ups) and are acclimated to a vest if you are planning to use one. If you live in a hot climate, try your best to do the workout early when the sun is still rising and the heat is bearable. Hydrate and have water on hand. Make sure your best gym frenemy is directly across from you and that you stare deep into their eyes the whole time.
Murph is long, so approach the workout with that in mind. Start slow- use the first run as an active warm-up. Most gyms run fairly big heats, and unless your name ends in Dottir, you do NOT want to be the first person to finish the run. Settle into a pace and pre-plan breaks for water or chalk. If you just wing it, you will get to a point where you start resting way too much or taking a break to get water or chalk every round and your time will suffer. This is a mental toughness workout more than anything, and the more “moments of choice” you can take off your plate the better- force yourself to work and keep working. Once you get near the end of the bodyweight movements, push hard to get out the door. You don’t want to be first back from the run, but you do want to be first out the door- everyone’s second run is gonna suck, so carve out as much time as you can.
Breaking up the Bodyweight
While Diabolical CrossFit Games Director (™) Dave Castro had athletes perform Murph “unpartitioned” during the ‘15 Games, most people/gyms allow the bodyweight section of the workout to be broken up as desired. (Castro wasn’t actually being mean, a partitioned Murph would have been impossible to follow for spectators/TV viewers at the time.) For most people, the obvious way to break things up is “Cindy Style”:
That keeps you pretty fresh and moving consistently throughout, but involves 60 distinct transitions- I’ve known a few people who like less transition time and bigger sets, AKA “Big Cindy Style”:
BIG CINDY STYLE
You better be an efficient kipper and have good push-ups for that version, but if you have the gas tank, go for it. For many people push-ups become the limiting factor, and for that I suggest “Broke-Ass Cindy Style”:
BROKE-ASS CINDY STYLE
That lets you sandwich the pushups around other movements, so you only have to do small sets. It involves even more transitions, so you need to hustle between movements- you should basically try and just not move from right under the pull-up bar if possible. I tend to start with classic Cindy-style and then transition to Broke-Ass Cindy when my push-ups start fading.
While a lot of what I’ve discussed is tied to getting a “good” time, it bears mentioning that Murph is a Hero WOD, where the emphasis is more on finishing the workout and using it for reflection & perspective is the real goal. So, if you are on the bubble of being able to do Murph as prescribed, give it a shot and don’t worry about your time. Time is secondary to completion and the larger themes of the day.
That said, I think it is totally OK and in fact advisable for beginners to scale Murph. For some, that may mean movement scales- usually changing out the pull-ups for ring rows or jumping pull-ups and elevating the push-ups to knees, a box, or a bar. Volume can also be an issue. At my gym, Lumos Fitness Collective, we highly encourage people not to do a full volume Murph their first time. For instance, there’s Half Murph:
50 Pull-ups/Ring Rows/Jumping Pull-ups
100 Push-ups/Elevated Push-ups
150 Air Squats
Half Murph can actually be a much more potent workout for a lot of people- the reduced volume means you can keep a far more aggressive pace and really gas it at the end (vs the normal near-delirious stumble at the end of regular Murph.) The reduced volume keeps people from feeling too torn up afterwards and avoids other potential intensity related issues that rhyme with flabdo.
Murph is an amazing community day at most gyms and can be a great opportunity to share some of the CrossFit ethos (community, supportiveness, sacrifice) with friends and family. I encourage people to invite their loved ones and have them do Quarter Murph:
25 Pull-ups/Ring Rows/JPU
50 Push-ups/Elevated Push-ups
75 Air Squats
For a beginner that’s an appropriate but challenging workout, and I think its an awesome way to welcome new people into our community.
Some may argue that “you can’t scale Hero WODs!” I disagree- I never knew Lt. Murphy, but he sounds like he was an amazing guy who cared a ton about his country, CrossFit, and his teammates. I can’t imagine he’d want less people vs. more to know about his story, to try the workout he created, to fall in love with CrossFit, and to think deeply and meaningfully about the nature of his and many others’ sacrifices for the ideals they hold most dear.
I hope you’re as excited for Memorial Day as we are at btwb, and I hope it brings meaning, value, and reflection to you and your community. I also hope your hands don’t rip on the pull-ups and that you eat lots of hamburgers afterwards.
Murph well, my friends.