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The Heroes of CrossFit: Keeping the community going

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Susan Harrington
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Hero WOD, every CrossFitter knows the term, and every CrossFitter knows that for the next 24 hours after you've completed it, you're smoked - complete muscle exhaustion. But all cramps and bruises aside, you will finish it.

A WOD is the CrossFit workout of the day, programmed in blocks to improve all around fitness, incorporating strength training, endurance and intensity. A Hero WOD takes it to the next level. They are exceptionally intense, grueling and often lengthy workouts that will push your body to its utmost limit, and each WOD is named for a specific individual who was killed in the line of duty, policemen, firefighters and service members alike. For many die-hard CrossFitters, particularly for those in the line of service, these Hero WODs embody what we do and why we do it. When suffering through one of these workouts, we remember their sacrifice, their families suffering, and honor those who gave their all.

Being in the military we are expected to maintain our fitness, but so often this commitment is overlooked and pushed to the side until it's time for our physical fitness assessment. We watch people fail and continue failing, not understanding or accepting their lifestyle needs to change. On the other side of the spectrum, we see the elite athletes of the military, the Navy Seals, Air Force pararescuemen, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, Marines, Army Rangers, the list goes on, who have been doing cross functional workouts for years, but never needed a special name for it. To them, it's just fitness, a way of life, and a necessary one at that with the jobs they do.

Often these jobs to which they commit their lives, do not allow our brothers and sisters to come home. The CrossFit community keeps their memory alive and instills their commitment to health and fitness in us. Each time a Hero WOD is posted on the CrossFit website, a short detail of who they are and what they did allows us a glimpse into their inspiring lives. Each time we perform a Hero WOD, we honor them with our pain.

WODs like Murph, a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, then another one mile run, are performed by CrossFit boxes (gyms), throughout the world on Memorial Day in memory of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2005. These workouts and these men instill in us a sense of community, bringing us closer to the guy or gal next to you working their tail off to finish with pride.

It doesn't stop there, Michael, Jason, JT, Daniel, Griff, Erin, Horman, Ralph, Tom, Glen, Tully, Jared, Brian, just to name a few, all named for one individual's sacrifice, and all reminders of these great Americans who are our inspiration.

While CrossFit may not be for everyone, it still continues to grow within our military community. In just three and a half years, I've watched three CrossFit affiliates open up on three separate bases. I'm convinced all three have thrived because of the community CrossFit brings and the results people see. These heroes, even long after they are gone, are bringing people together and changing lives.

So often I see Facebook posts, comments and stories about what CrossFit's done for an individual's fitness and lifestyle and the drastic improvements they've seen. I love seeing these; it's awesome to watch people improving their fitness, changing the way they eat, the way they live.

It's difficult to have the motivation to complete five rounds of a circuit workout that brings you to muscle failure. It's easy to quit. Yet, honoring the fallen gives you the strength to give that extra drive to finish what you started. Remembering the struggles they went through, the ultimate sacrifice they gave, gives me the motivation to continue. My struggle and pain is trivial compared to what they gave, trivial to the pain their family feels each day they are gone. You will not quit. We all complete each and every round, we won't cheat ourselves and we won't cheat them. When the person next to you is going through the same pain you know you'll push though, and at the end you can laugh together about the struggle. CrossFit is all about community, connecting with people, and encouraging one another both in and out of the gym. It's about pushing yourself mentally and physically beyond your limits, constantly striving to be better - it's why we keep coming back for more.

I honestly believe these brave soldiers, firefighters, policemen, Airmen, Marines and Sailors would be proud to know their sacrifice is remembered in this unique way. And I'm proud to be a part of this community that encourages a grueling mental and physical challenge in remembrance of another.

They gave all, so in turn; we give our best through blood, sweat and tears, together honoring those who've sacrificed so much ... for us.

For a complete list of all the CrossFit Hero WODs, click here:

[Editor's note: CrossFit Undisclosed, here in Southwest Asia completes a Hero WOD on the anniversary of the day each Hero was killed, for more information check out:]