Memorial Day is now just days away, and that means Murph! Many of you reading have completed Murph before and so you know that this is just another CrossFit workout – a little on the longer side but nothing that can’t be done if we’re smart about scaling and preparing our bodies for the effort. More on that later. The first thing I’d like to do is remind us all what this is about.
The reason we do the “Murph” workout every Memorial Day is because Michael Murphy very honorably represents all of our fallen heroes that have died in service to the United States. Lieutenant Murphy died while knowingly exposing himself to direct enemy gunfire so that he could find a radio signal to call for help and get his team out of a dire situation, one that would be fatal for himself and two teammates, but it eventually saved the life of “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell. Because of his heroic and selfless actions, Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military honor.
When we workout and remember Murph, we also remember all of the other brave soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen that have laid down their lives in less publicized battles but fought and died just as valiantly. In our Hero Month this year, we will have completed 12 hero workouts that honor other military heroes – including one from the Italian army as well as one of the original CrossFit hero WOD “Michael,” named for LT Michael McGreevy who was killed in the rescue mission attempting to get Murph and his squad out of harm’s way.
Finally, we have made a tradition of sharing this essay that was written by Andy Stumpf in 2018 in memory of one of his Navy SEAL teammates. It’s a powerful reminder of what Memorial Day is really about.
How to get ready for Murph. Guess what – if you’ve been doing CrossFit consistently, you are ready! We run, we do pull-ups, and push-ups, and squats. We do long workouts, with high reps. And we have been doing a lot of workouts, especially during Hero Month and on Saturdays in April and May, that are very “Murphy”. And yet the workout still seems physically daunting because of the way it’s laid out. But that’s the point! It’s supposed to be hard, and it will be. You are physically prepared now, there is nothing more that you can do other than to come into the gym on Monday feeling rested and ready. Our 9am workout planned for this Saturday will be a 30-minute circuit of slow cardio movements to just get the blood flowing, and then a nice cooldown. If you’d like to get in and do your own thing for a little bit, Coach Jess is also OK with that. Just be smart and don’t crush yourself on Saturday if a solid Murph performance is important to you.
To prepare mentally, what we need is a plan. Step one of the plan is to determine how you will attack the workout, including how to modify the workout in a smart way. The goal is to complete Murph in 40 to 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, the amount of repetitive movement that you have stressed your body with will be too much, and move into a dangerous overtraining situation. So, modifying the workout will be focused on reducing the overall volume of work. One simple way to do that is to establish a time cap for the pull-up/push-up/squat portion of the workout. Run one mile, then do as much work as possible in the gym in 20 minutes, and then run your second mile. Boom, you got your appropriate dose of Murph in! The next time you attempt the workout you can try to get more reps in that 20-minute window, and that will be a new PR!
Of course, the other way that many of us will modify the workout is to scale one or more movements to make them easier. Good options for pull-ups would be banded pull-ups or ring rows, at a difficulty level that allows for at least 5 consecutive reps relatively easily. Push-ups can be scaled to incline push-ups with your hands on a box that allows for 10 consecutive reps easily. One round of 5 modified pull-ups, 10 modified push-ups, and 15 squats should be completed within 2 minutes or less.
When the clock stops and the high-fives and war stories commence, it’s easy to get right back into Memorial Day festivities, and we should absolutely make time for that. However, with a long and intense workout like Murph, we should also discuss some positive steps we can take for recovery.
First, what to do: HYDRATE! Memorial Day is such a fun time because the weather is always nice and HOT – it’s the unofficial beginning of summer! So make sure you’re pumping the water and electrolytes through the whole weekend, during and after the workout. It’s the single best thing you can do for recovery.
And then, what not to do… dehydrate. Murph is notorious for producing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, or “rhabdo”, which is essentially a failure of your muscle cells to repair due to acute overtraining, and instead they release protein into your bloodstream, resulting in kidney damage. Think, going “zero to hero” with way too many pull-ups in one session, to the point where you can’t pull any more but you’re still trying. If I’m being very specific here it’s because I’ve been there, and it makes for a less-than-awesome week and potentially a hospital visit. So when your coach gives you a scaling protocol for Murph that is within your physical capacity and not beyond, this is for your safety. And, one thing that can drastically amplify the effects of rhabdo is dehydration. Crushing your body with a hard workout and then continuing to stress it out with alcohol is not a smart move in general, so let’s be smart on both fronts: train hard but safely, and stay on the positive side of hydration during your post-Murph festivities.
Can’t wait to get together and honor Michael Murphy and all of our fallen heroes with a great workout and some food and fellowship afterwards. We’ll be starting a workout heat at 9am and another at 10:30am, and then hanging out for some burgers and dogs afterward. Even if you’re not going to do the workout, I hope you can come celebrate Memorial Day with us!