Millions of Americans will be taking the opportunity to barbecue with friends today. Others will be observing the solemn occasion with a visit to a national site honoring fallen warriors. For those in the fitness world, Memorial Day is often kicked off with a challenging workout of the day called “Murph.”
The Murph Hero WOD, (as these daily workout programs are dubbed), was created by CrossFit and pays tribute to Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroism in Afghanistan. His story and that of his four man Operation Red Wings team was turned into Lone Survivor, a bestselling book and 2013 movie.
This day and workout have special resonance for the members of CrossFit Coronado, owner and veteran Clint Russell shares. Located between two Navy bases in the San Diego area, including the one where sailors qualify and train to become SEALs, “The military makes up the bulk or our membership. As such, everyone here knows someone that has given their life in the service of our country.” Before getting into the workout, he says, “We have someone read the Medal of Honor citation for Lt. Murphy, and then play the national anthem.”
Murph at Home
You don’t need to be a SEAL, service member or CrossFit enthusiast to do your own Murph WOD. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your house, Russell notes. The workout is comprised of these components, said to be the late SEAL’s favorite workout:
- 1 Mile Run
- 100 Pull-ups
- 200 Push ups
- 300 Squats
- 1 Mile Run
A 20-pound weight vest is included for more advanced users. Naturally, this isn’t a workout for beginners — even without the vest — and anyone starting a fitness program should consult with their physician first. However, this WOD (and CrossFit workouts in general) can be modified to a user’s ability.
“This is a lot of volume for people,” Russell cautions. “If you haven’t been training at high intensity regularly, go for half, or an amount appropriate for your ability level,” he advises. “We want people to work hard, but not at the expense of hurting yourself.” You can also substitute exercises to fit your needs.
Runs and Modifications
Starting with the runs, a home-based Murph WOD could use a treadmill instead of the streets or a track. This can especially benefit parents with young children. No treadmill? No problem: “You could also do a shuttle run in your driveway,” Russell suggests. A yard potentially works for that too.
The CrossFit owner suggests alternatives for non-runners: “You can sub rowing or biking. If those aren’t an option, jumping rope would work.” If you opt for that choice, do it on a cushioned workout mat so you reduce the impact on your body.
If you are considering a new treadmill or exercise bike for your home, plan its placement carefully to avoid disrupting work, sleep or study for other household members, and to stand in a safe location.
Calisthenics and Modifications
Some fitness buffs have pull-up bars at home. There are models that don’t require hardware to install, but rest on door frames. Others would love to do pull-ups, but lack the upper body strength to complete them. Russell offers the following modifications and alternatives: “Bands that you can hook to the pull-up bar for assistance are great. If that doesn’t work, rows with a weight, or object around the house, such as a backpack will do.” Shape.com offers additional pull-up alternatives you can do with bands or free weights at home.
Squats can be performed with or without weights on just about any stable flooring type. Form is important though, so a full length wall mirror is helpful for monitoring your movements. Pushups can also be done on most surfaces, though many like a mat to protect their hands and feet or knees. Self.com suggests these easier pushup modifications for those starting out – or for when you’re on those last exhausting repetitions. The easiest is done with a wall.
“Make sure you eat a solid low-fat breakfast with some complex carbs and protein two-plus hours before,” Russell advises. You also want to have hydration handy for your workout, he recommends, which means having a nearby secure perch for your bottle so you’re not having to stop your WOD to clean up spills.
Part of your preparation should also include a dynamic warm up before to prepare your body. The CrossFit owner suggests this one:
- Run two minutes
- Complete 10 lunges with twist and reach
- Complete 10 air squats
- Complete three 20-second pull-up bar hangs.
You’re probably going to be sore after this workout, even if you modify it and even if you’ve been working out regularly. Recovery has several components, Russell points out. “The main thing is drink water, and move around slowly throughout the day. Sitting and doing nothing will make it worse. Movement will flush all the waste out of the muscles.”
You can also use hydrotherapy to relieve muscle soreness if you have a whirlpool tub, spa or even a handheld massaging showerhead available at home. Steam rooms and showers have some potential workout recovery benefits, according to Healthline and other medically-reviewed publications. Saunas may help too, but to a lesser extent, according to Medical News Today. Both spaces have potential health risks as well, and shouldn’t be used without first consulting a medical professional.
If Murph is a workout you want to take on next year at home or at a CrossFit studio near you, you can prepare with a free 44-day Murph Challenge Training Program, created and hosted by The Murph Challenge and Lt. Michael P. Murphy Foundation. If you want to learn more about the fallen SEAL, his WOD and the scholarships his foundation supports, you can read more here.