This morning, I went and did a CrossFit tradition: Murph. Granted, I’m not the best athlete, and I’m not getting any younger (trust me, I’m older than I look), so I scaled it down to what I call a “half-Murph.” Rather than the full mile runs and the total number of reps, I scaled them down to 800m runs and a rep scheme of 50-100-150, rather than the one mile runs and the 100-200-300 reps that are prescribed. And in case you’re wondering, I finished in 34:53.
I’ve done this workout pretty much each Memorial Day since I joined CrossFit (except for the past couple of years due to the pandemic). I feel it’s my way of honoring what Memorial Day is about.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Murph workout, a little background is in order (those of you who are familiar can skip this paragraph). (Feel free to also check out the Wikipedia link above.) Michael Murphy, for whom the workout is named, was a Navy SEAL who died in Afghanistan. The workout that we call Murph was one he used to do before he was killed in action. Every year on Memorial Day, CrossFit affiliates honor his memory by doing the workout that he used to do.
People honor the memory of deceased servicemen in a number of ways, and this is my way of doing so. What better way to honor the deceased on Memorial Day than to perform the workout of one who gave his life.
I’ll admit that the COVID-19 crisis has had me fall into some bad habits. This morning, I decided to address one of them.
Since gyms have been shut down due to the crisis, I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to my CrossFit workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on my duff. Since I work in IT, it’s the nature of the beast and a job hazard. I woke up this morning to a sunny morning (for once — we’ve had a lot of rain, sunny days have been few and far between, and it’s directly affected my mood, not to mention my motivation), and decided to do something.
I went to the Couch to 5K website and did a little reading. I’ve toyed with the idea before, but never pulled the trigger on it. For whatever reason, this morning was different. I downloaded the C25K app to my phone, put on my shirt, shorts, and CrossFit shoes, and followed the instructions for Day 1 as I went around the block several times. Day 1 is essentially a 20 minute AMRAP (or maybe EMOM might be more accurate — I’m not sure) that alternates between 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of jogging (not including a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walk at the beginning and end). It sounds pretty easy, but I was still winded by the time I was finished.
Will I keep this up for eight weeks? We’ll see. Right now, the jury’s out. For all I know, I might wake up tomorrow morning and decide that I want to stay in bed. But hey, we all need to start somewhere. Maybe at the very least, when the COVID-19 crisis is over and I’m allowed to go back to my gym, I won’t cringe when the coaches tell me that the WOD is a 5K run.
For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, many of us scale it down. Some people reduce the length of the runs. Many others reduce the number of reps. I set a goal of running (well, okay, “running”) the entire one mile lengths for each run. I broke down the reps into ten rounds of 5 ring-rows (since I can’t do pull-ups), 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. I had every intention of doing the full twenty rounds, but when I reached round 6 and realized how much time had elapsed, I came to the realization that “twenty rounds isn’t happening!”
As you can see in the photo above, I had a nice cheering crew waiting for me as I crossed the finish line! I finished the workout in 1:04:31.
And as I write this, my hamstrings are still saying some nasty things to me!
I was hoping to maintain at least a slow jog throughout the race, but that went out the window as soon as I hit the first big hill. The course ended up being more difficult than I expected. (I’ve driven through that area dozens of times. It doesn’t seem too bad in a car! It’s a lot different when you’re on foot!) I tried to jog where I could, but mostly, I walked. I did try at least to maintain a brisk walk, although that didn’t always happen, either. One piece of advice that my CrossFit coach gave me beforehand was, “just keep moving. Don’t stop.”
I did have to stop a couple of times to retie my shoes, but aside from that, I pretty much heeded that advice. I didn’t stop!
One of my favorite moments happened in the middle of the park. A kid had a hand-drawn sign with a Super Mario Mushroom Power-Up and a caption that said “Hit sign to power up!” I don’t know how many people used that to push themselves, but for me, it worked! I touched the sign and broke into a jog — albeit briefly.
A little past the halfway point, one of my friends from the office came up alongside me, and we pretty much did a steady walk together for the remainder of the course, all the way to the finish line.
There were a couple of down moments yesterday. After the race, I parked in a pay lot, didn’t pay, and got towed. (I did manage to get my car back.) Also, they ran out of T-shirts in my size. I was disappointed about not getting a shirt! But nevertheless, it was a good time! It was a beautiful day out — temps were cool and comfortable, and it was sunny. And in addition to my co-workers, I saw several friends at the event. I met my co-workers at a bar after the race (it was while I was here when my car was towed). We ate and drank, and I spoke to a number of people from my office whom I usually don’t talk to!
All in all, it was a good time. I have to admit that I had fun yesterday! Has it changed how I feel about running? Well… not yet. Will I do this event again? Well… more than likely!
I just registered for my very first road race: the 2019 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge. I have never run any kind of registered road race* before. This will be my first.
(*I have, however, participated in a registered bicycle tour before. But I feel a lot more comfortable about my bike riding than I do my running.)
I will say that running and I have never really gotten along. It is not, I repeat, not one of my favorite physical activities.
I’ve been active in CrossFit since 2015. I’ve made big strides since I started. Although I still have a lot of things that I need to improve, I can do a lot of things now that I couldn’t when I first started.
And as it turns out, one of the things upon which I’ve improved is running. One particular coach tends to push me pretty hard (in a good way). Whenever a 5K run has come up in a CrossFit WOD, I’ve toyed with scaling it down to a shorter distance. It was this particular coach who said to me, “nope, you’re not scaling it. You’re running the full 5K!”
And it’s for that reason why I feel I’m capable of participating in this event.
Granted, I use air-quotes when I say “run.” It’ll probably be more like some jogging, some walking, and some stumbling. (And this event is longer than 5K; it’s actually 3.5 miles.)
If you want to get better, you need to step out of your comfort zone. I’d say that this definitely qualifies.
For reference, my best 5K time is 50:18. We’ll see how this goes. Wish me luck.
This morning, I registered for this year’s CrossFit Open, which starts tonight. This is the third time in four years that I’ve signed up for the Open. (I was unable to participate last year due to commitments and subsequent time constraints.) Thousands of participants from around the world, representing many age groups and skill levels, participate in the Open. The best of them go on to the CrossFit Games. (The Games are represented by world-class-level athletes, of which I’m not even close, so don’t expect to see me participate at a regional anytime soon!)
Why participate in the Open? For one thing, it’s an opportunity for pseudo- couch potatoes athletes like me to take part in such an amazing event. Think of it as a Little Leaguer competing on the same field as, say, Aaron Judge. For another, it’s a measure of how far I’ve come in CrossFit since I started doing it over four years ago. When I first started, I couldn’t hold a squat without falling over on my backside. Now I can hold one almost indefinitely. Granted, I still have a long way to go — I still am unable to do anything involving pulling myself up (pull-ups, rope climbs, etc.) — but I continue to keep at it. Maybe someday, I’ll get them! It’s also a measure of how you do against your peers. You’ll get an idea as to how you stack up against similar athletes.
Other reasons? Well, let me, once again (as I’ve done several times before), quote one of my favorite song lyrics by my favorite band…
“Gotta run a little faster, gotta reach for the sky, gotta come a little closer, even if I lose, I gotta try…”
“I gotta run a little faster; I gotta reach for the sky; I gotta come a little closer; even if I lose, I gotta try…”
— Kansas, “Inside Of Me”
“Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Every Saturday, my CrossFit gym invites friends to join members for workouts (“Bring A Friend Day,” as it’s called). It’s a little bit of a misnomer, as guests don’t necessarily have to be friends — as one coach likes to describe it, “bring your friends, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, enemies, ‘frenemies,’ whomever.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be by invitation; anyone interested in trying CrossFit can come to these classes — a type of “try before you buy” session, if you will.
I’ve tried to get friends to go to these sessions, with mixed success. Those who do enjoy the sessions, but I have yet to have one friend (other than my wife) try it out and join the gym. (Admittedly, there are fringe benefits for me to get someone to sign up — a month of free membership, for example.)
What’s interesting is those who don’t try it and outright refuse my offer to join me. (As I tell people, joining me in these sessions pretty much guarantees that I will work out on Saturday!) I tried to tell one friend that I thought CrossFit might benefit her. Not only did she outright refuse to take me up on it, I got the impression that she was actually scared to try it. She would not even keep an open mind about it; she just said, “I will NOT do it. Don’t ever ask me about it again.” End of conversation.
My question: why???
I would never twist anyone’s arm into trying it (well, okay, maybe friends with whom I know I can get away with it), but what I don’t completely understand is why people fear it. I get why people won’t do things like go bungee-jumping (disclosure: I am deathly acrophobic), eating exotic foods (I’ll try almost anything, although I draw the line at anything that has more than four legs, shellfish excluded — Andrew Zimmern I’m not!), or do something on a dare. But why are people afraid to try CrossFit?
I think part of it is that it’s human nature to fear what you don’t know. People will see these images of CrossFit (I often post what I do on Facebook) and immediately get the impression that they’re expected to be able to lift large amounts of weights, be pushed to do double-unders, or be able to do pull-ups right off the bat. The fear of “gymtimidation” comes into play. People who fear it are likely afraid of being embarrassed or injured.
First, one of the selling points of CrossFit is that anyone can do it. I’ve seen people as old as eighty (and even more!) in the gym. I once saw a guy who had the use of only one arm in a workout (it was interesting watching him on a rower and an Assault bike). I’ve seen newbies who struggle with weightlifting form. Even I have my own struggles; I can’t (yet) do any moves that involve pulling myself up (pull-ups, muscle-ups, rope climbs, etc.), I have trouble with movements that involve squatting (I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees), and I’m not exactly the fastest runner (for me, there’s almost no difference between a jog, a sprint, or a fast walk). Heck, even some warmups can sometime leave me out of breath.
However, one of CrossFit’s selling points is that it is scalable. You are never asked to do anything you are not capable of doing. If you have trouble with pull-ups (like I do), you can do barbell pull-ups or ring rows. Unable to do a certain type of weightlifting movement? Don’t worry about the weight; instead, use a lighter weight, an empty bar, or even a PVC pipe, and practice your technique. Whatever movement gives you trouble, there is always a way to scale it that will allow you to perform it to your capabilities.
I’m sure the fear of being injured comes into play. As I just said, you’ll never be pushed to do what you’re not capable of doing. But one of the selling points for me is that CrossFit emphasizes technique. If you are not sure about how to do a movement, coaches will teach you how. If your form has issues, coaches will tweak it so it is better. Technique is key to anything: the better your form, the less chance you’ll be injured.
I also think the intensity is a factor. CrossFit can get very intense. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot that’s enjoyable about working your tail off to the point where you’re gasping for breath and end up lying on the floor. That’s something that can scare people off. However, how hard you work out is up to you. Intensity is what you make of it. But why is it so intense?
I think it’s because the majority of people who take CrossFit seriously want to improve. People push themselves because they want to get better at what they do. Did a deadlift weight of 305 pounds? Next time, I’m going to try 315. Run 5,000 meters in under ten minutes? Next time, shoot for nine. CrossFit is about making yourself better. While you are not asked to do anything you can’t do, you are asked to challenge yourself and push the limits of what you can do. Even my own gym’s motto is “(Be)tter” (as in, “be better”). I wrote before that you have to get uncomfortable in order to improve. Making yourself better involves going out of your comfort zone. How much discomfort — intensity — you decide to put into it is up to you.
Finally, there’s the phenomenon that Planet Fitness refers to as “gymtimidation.” People are embarrassed by their lesser skill level and are often intimidated by performing in front of other people who are in much better shape. This attitude does not exist in CrossFit. Everyone — even the elite athletes — roots for everyone else to succeed. I remember one time watching the CrossFit Games on TV and hearing the commentator say, “CrossFit is probably the only sport in which the person who comes in last gets the loudest cheers.” Even in events where athletes are finished, they will often go back out into the field to cheer on and encourage those who are still working through the event. Here’s a secret: everyone, at some point in their lives, was a beginner at something. Someone once said that one of the worst phrases ever coined was “do it right the first time.” It’s almost never done right the first time. Fear of embarrassment should never be a factor in trying something new.
Although people have their reasons why they don’t want to try CrossFit, fear should not be one of them. CrossFit can be a fun and exciting way to keep fit. Give it a try. Who knows? You might just get hooked — like I did!
And if any of my local friends are interested in hitting a Saturday “Bring A Friend” WOD, hit me up!
A few of us in the office were discussing plans for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. I mentioned that I was doing this thing on Monday called Memorial Day Murph (those of you who CrossFit know what I’m talking about). I tried to describe the workout, and I couldn’t remember the movements and rep scheme, so I looked it up. In doing so, I came across this article that talks about “surviving” Memorial Day Murph.
First, I want to talk a little about the article. Doing Murph as prescribed (“Rx’ed,” in CrossFit parlance) is not for the faint of heart (literally — it’s a pretty intense cardio workout). I generally make it a point to make sure I’m hydrated (I do this, anyway) and to make sure that I’ve had something to eat before I attack it. I also make sure that I scale. I am not in the class of Mat Fraser, and likely never will be. (When I was a kid, I had a dream of playing for the Yankees, too. You probably can tell where that went. But I digress.) I have yet to run a full mile; I have enough trouble running a fraction of that. I don’t remember how I scaled it last year; I might have done something like an 800m run (admittedly, I usually end up walking a good chunk of it), ring-rows instead of pull-ups (I still can’t do a pull-up to save my life — I’m working on it), and a reduced number of push-ups and squats. Nevertheless, even scaled down, it still makes for a pretty serious workout. But I will say that if a longtime self-admitted couch potato like me can do it, so can you.
I also want to talk about the spirit of “Murph.” Murph is what CrossFitters refer to as a “hero WOD” — that is, a WOD (Workout Of the Day) that is named for and to honor a hero — in this case, Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. (Memorial Day Murph was even made into a fundraiser.) Hero WODs tend to be intense — moreso than the typical CrossFit WOD. Every Memorial Day, CrossFitters around the country do Murph in the spirit and honor of this fine man who died for his country. It is a way for CrossFit athletes to honor this hero, but it’s also a reminder as to what Memorial Day is about.
And, of course, Memorial Day is known as the unofficial start of summer, and is usually accompanied by barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, and beer. My CrossFit gym is no different; Memorial Day Murph is followed by a cookout, along with plenty of camaraderie. Our gym members are a close-knit group, and I’m sure other CrossFit gyms are similar.
So, I’ll be spending my upcoming Memorial Day holiday hanging out with a bunch of CrossFit athletes while trying not to exhaust myself from a regimen of running, pull-ups (likely ring-rows for me), push-ups, and squats. And a good time will be had by all.
The other day, a thought popped into my head for no reason (that happens occasionally — doesn’t it happen to you?): “I feel like hanging out with my CrossFit family.” I don’t know why I started thinking about it, but I was thinking about the great times I’ve had hanging out with my CrossFit friends outside of the gym — bowling night, playing poker to raise money for charity, going out to dinner, and so on. I’ve been a member of my CrossFit gym for over three years (and counting) now, and I’ve made a lot of great friends in the process. Who would’ve thought that I, a longtime self-admitted couch potato, would happily be spending his free time hanging with a bunch of athletes at a gym?
Ever since I started doing CrossFit, I’ve heard a lot of people refer to “their CrossFit family.” This term, much less, concept, is nothing new. Among all my activities, I’ve heard references to “my music family,” “band family,” “SQL family,” and so on. As it’s been often said, “family” is more than flesh and blood; it’s about people to whom you’ve gotten close and learned to trust. We as social animals thrive on these relationships.
The fact that I’ve managed to stick to a fitness program for more than three years is a huge deal, and I believe that the support system — all these friends I’ve made — is a big part of that. A support system of friends can make almost anything pleasurable. I’ve met a lot of great people in CrossFit, and one of the big things is that these people make me want to go to the gym. When you have great friends and a solid support system around you, anything is possible.