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BoxLife Magazine

Murph—Why We Do It

By William Imbo

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May 25, 2017

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, CrossFitters in affiliates across the world perform the Hero workout, ‘Murph’. It is a workout that has become synonymous with CrossFit, not just for its brutal toughness, but for what it represents. ‘Murph’ is not simply another workout we do in a class to increase our fitness before moving on to whatever else we have going on in the day. It is a workout designed to honor and remember the men and women of the armed forces that have lost their lives in defense of our freedom. And as is the case with every Hero workout, it has a story of courage and sacrifice behind it.

‘Murph’ is named after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. He was 29-years-old. After graduating from Penn State University in 1998, Murphy rejected offers to attend law school and instead accepted a commission in the United States Navy and became a SEAL in July 2002. For a man whose nickname was ‘The Protector’, the decision made perfect sense. In fact, when Murphy was in the 8th grade, he was suspended from school for fighting with bullies that were trying to shove a special needs child into a locker. And Gary Williams, author of “Seal of Honor,” a biography of Murphy, recounts a story where Murphy protected a homeless man who was collecting cans from a gang of thugs.

In early 2005 Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan. In June of that year, Murphy was leading a four-man reconnaissance team in Kunar province as part of a counter-insurgent mission (the other men in Murphy’s team were Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell). During the mission the team encountered a group of local goat herders.

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A discussion was held among the four SEALs regarding the rules of engagement and what they should do with the herders, who were being held at gunpoint. Eventually the men decided to release them, but not soon after the SEALs were surrounded and ambushed by an overwhelming Taliban force. Murphy, who was trying to reach HQ via satellite phone, willingly exposed himself to enemy fire by stepping into a clearing where he might get a signal to make the call. Murphy was shot in the back, but still managed to calmly complete the call for reinforcements and return to his position to continue the fight with his men. HQ sent an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to rescue the team, but while attempting to set down in rugged terrain, the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 men on board.

Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were all killed in action. Luttrell was the only survivor and was eventually rescued after several days of wandering the mountain and being protected by the people of an Afghan village.

The actions and story of the SEALs on June 28th, 2005 are portrayed in the film ‘Lone Survivor’

Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage and sacrifice that day. All three of his men were awarded the Navy’s second-highest honor, the Navy Cross, for their actions. The men who were killed in the rescue attempt were also honored. These included Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor and Lt. Michael McGreevy, who were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars for Valor and Purple Hearts. CrossFit HQ’s Russell Berger, who served in the 1st Ranger Battalion, writes of these men: “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.”

In honor of Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor, killed June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan:
JT
21, 15 and 9 reps for time of:
Handstand push-ups
Ring dips
Push-ups
First posted July 6, 2005.

In honor of Lt. Michael McGreevy, killed June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan:
Michael
3 rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
50 back extensions
50 sit-ups
First posted July 15, 2005.

These HERO workouts are symbolic gestures of respect for all the fallen soliders and service men and women who defend our freedom. CrossFit affiliates around the world, regardless of ethnicity or nation, honor their courage by pushing themselves to the limit in these (intentionally) brutal workouts. It is a way to remember these men and women—to ensure that they are never forgotten. Every Memorial Day weekend, we remember Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy.

In honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, killed June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan:
Murph
1-mile run
100 pull-ups
200 push-ups
300 squats
1-mile run
Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you’ve got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it.

First posted Aug. 18, 2005.

This workout was actually created by Murphy himself, and he originally titled it ‘Body Armor’—hence the 20lb. vest. This is not an easy workout. It is high volume, and requires the respect it deserves. While you may be understandably fired up to attack it with vigor straight from the get-go, we’d like to offer you a few tips to ensure that you give ‘Murph’ your best effort and don’t burn out too early.

-Use a rep scheme
You can partition the pull-ups, push-ups and squats as needed, so take advantage of that by using smart rep schemes to keep your muscles as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Here are a few you can use:

5-10-15
20 rounds of
5 pull-ups
10 push-ups
15 squats

This is essentially 20 rounds of the benchmark WOD Cindy, and is probably the most commonly employed as it is the easiest to remember and a lot of athletes have had success with it in the past.

5-5-5-15
20 rounds of
5 push-ups
5 pull-ups
5 push-ups
15 squats
Advised for those who struggle with push-ups.

5-5-5-10-5
20 rounds of
5 pullups
5 squats
5 pushups
10 squats
5 pushups

-Mobilize
Stretch everything. This is a full body workout, and your wrists, chest, shoulders, calves, hamstrings, quads and hips are going to be taxed. So make sure you are as limber as you can be heading into the workout.

Hydrate
Given that this is one of the longest workouts in history, don’t be afraid to stop and reach for the water bottle when you need to (especially for those that will be completing the run in humid and hot climates). The goal is to complete the workout—you don’t want to bring on rhabdomyolysis in the process.

-Don’t use a vest until you have built up a solid level of fitness
While the prescribed version of ‘Murph’ is meant to be done with a weight vest, it is recommended that only competitive athletes use it. If you cannot complete ‘Murph’ under one hour without a weight vest, you shouldn’t be using one yet.

-Pace yourself
In addition to employing a rep scheme strategy, try to incorporate a few seconds of rest between sets. In addition, during the mile runs remain calm and remember to breathe and exhale in rhythm.

-Remember why you’re doing the workout
Recognize that this isn’t your typical class WOD. This workout is meant to remember those who have died for our freedom, so try to keep that in your head when you feel like giving up.

-Post workout recovery
Mobilize, get plenty of fluids in you and some healthy snacks to replenish all the lost nutrients (like some nuts, banana and/or protein shake).

Average times for this workout can range from 47 minutes to 57 minutes. Depending on whether your running route has hills, try to break 1 hour if possible.
The fastest Murph times are from 40 minutes to 45 minutes.

A message from Dan Murphy, Michael’s father, to those participating in the Murph Challenge this year. The Murph Challenge is the Official Forged® annual fundraiser, benefiting the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. It is also one of the primary means of funding for the Foundation on an annual basis.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy Citation

FOR SERVICE AS SET FORTH IN THE FOLLOWING
CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005.
While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

William Imbo

About William Imbo

William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel. View all posts by William Imbo →

3 Responses to Murph—Why We Do It

  1. Paul LoGiudice says:

    Please make a correction, Michael Murphy graduated from Penn State University in 1998, not University of Pennsylvania. They are two different Universities. Thank you, and keep up the great work, love reading the articles!

  2. Dan LaDore says:

    I will be forever grateful for what these men did, and gave for all of us. I am not sure I always understand how they can be so selfless, they set the example for us all to try to follow. I will always be so thankful for the sacrifice they made, and continue to make, just so we can have our freedom.
    Thank you.

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