Until yesterday, I was a Murph virgin. After three Memorial Days of being a CrossFitter at CrossFit 405, that somehow seemed like an impossibility. Never mind that it was only two days in three years that I’d missed the Murph opportunity—after hearing everyone else’s stories of valiant CrossFitting effort in remembrance of a Hero on their day off, it seemed like I had missed something big.

As it turns out, in leaving Norman on Memorial Day and being absent for CrossFit 405’s Murph WODs, I did miss something.

I missed the opportunity to change my attitude about CrossFit… and maybe about life.

The whole point of Hero WODs (theoretically) is to remember and honor those who have fallen in service to our country. In a small way, we put ourselves in their shoes and feel what it’s like to suffer and yet force ourselves to keep fighting.

But as with any tradition that holds meaning, sometimes we forget the main focus and get caught up in other aspects of the event. In the days leading up to Murph, from our safe place in Oklahoma, we think about things like this:

  • How gnarly our callouses/tears will look after the workout
  • If we’ll beat our time from the previous year
  • What we can post about Murph on Facebook
  • Etc., etc. … i.e., stuff that doesn’t matter.

Before my first Murph at 405 South, I thought about stuff like that, too:

  • Why is it 100 pull-ups? Can’t we do 100 push-ups instead? I can kip pull-ups; let’s do 200 of those instead. That seems fair.
  • I better clip my callouses beforehand.
  • Is this really a good idea? What if I get rhabdo of the lats? I’m getting married in a week—what will that look like in a strapless dress?
  • Angie’s doing this in a vest? Why? Isn’t this torturous enough?
  • Was I supposed to wear something red, white, and blue?
  • Maybe I should do 25 squats at a time, get them out of the way… I really hate air squats, after all.

Just before I left my house for the workout, my parents and I were discussing who Murph was named after, and what he did. So while I was thinking of all the usual, “CrossFit probs” mentioned above, I also had Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s story at the back of my mind.

Then at the box, after much anticipation, nervous stretching, and a warm-ups full of classic CrossFit 405 antics, the all-too-familiar timer rang. We started Murph.

Here were some of my thoughts during those 42 minutes of Murph:

  • Okay, running is good… glad it’s not a million degrees outside…
  • I shouldn’t try and keep up with Scott. This is my first time. That’ll just hurt. You’re just trying to finish with some self-respect, Chandler.
  • Why is he turning left? Stephen, why did Scott turn left?! Why are you turning left? …I’m going to run my usual route.
  • I should not have shaved my armpits this morning.
  • I should not have dry-shaved my armpits this morning.

And that’s when my thoughts started to change.

  • Chandler, what do you think Lt. Murphy had to deal with? I’m sure his body armor and open fire were a lot worse than your armpit rash. Shut up.
  • Is 5 pull-ups worth chalking up for?
    • One pull-up, two, three—yes, yes it is.
  • So many lines to mark through on my whiteboard…
  • I finished 5 rounds! A whole section of my whiteboard!
  • I wonder who else is dying…
  • Dang, Coy is a rock star. Angie must be on steroids.
  • I need someone to tell me to keep going. Now. I might just lay here for a second.

Again, my mindset shifted. That somehow seemed like an unfair thought to have. After all…

Did Murphy wait for someone to cheer him on before he ran into the line of fire? Just keep going. It’s all movements you can do.

  • Chelsi just ran out the door. I still have 3 more rounds. Dammit, Chelsi.
  • It doesn’t matter, just finish.
  • So proud of Chelsi.
  • *Running* I should have checked my time before I left…Who am I kidding? I can’t go any faster.
  • Why is my body made of lead?
  • Great, I think I’m going to throw up. How horribly inconvenient.

Enemy fire is inconvenient, too.

It was getting harder and harder to complain.

  • It’s so hot…
  • Is it hotter than the desert, Chandler? Do you think it’d be hotter in ACUs?

And then, like all workouts, it finally ended. I crossed the garage door threshold at CrossFit 405 South and didn’t die. Didn’t even throw up, though I thought I might.

 

You’re probably familiar with a lot of these trains of thought—I’d say 90% of them are average “CrossFit Wonderings.” But Murph made me examine my thought chatter—and even my verbal chatter with my fellow boxmates.

As I thought about Lt. Michael Murphy’s story in comparison to my thoughts, I realized a few things.

Why Complain?

When I wanted to complain about the heat, or the rep scheme (like we all do, almost every day), I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this—what’s the point of complaining?” I realized that complaining doesn’t help. It doesn’t make the workout any shorter or easier. If anything, it makes it more difficult because I go into it with a negative attitude. And it certainly doesn’t help my boxmates by encouraging them to complain, too.

Be an Encourager

When I hit that point where I really needed encouragement, I learned two things:

  1. Sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader.
  2. If you need encouragement, someone else probably does, too.

So I told myself to keep going. I pretended Ryan was yelling at me. And then I yelled at some of my friends, just in case.

The Value in Competition

When I noticed my friend finishing ahead of me (in a WOD that’s so much running), I realized this: Competition is great. But if it doesn’t drive you toward something positive, it’s worthless. I can compare myself to my boxmates, but in the end, I need competition to push me try harder, and to drive me to encourage others. In watching other athletes so closely, I have the opportunity to acknowledge and rejoice in their accomplishments. And that’s so much better than jealousy.

Complaining, exhibit b.

The simplest lesson: What do I really have to complain about? Or any of us? You attend a CrossFit gym with amazing people, strategically awesome programming, and free Happy Hour. You don’t live in the desert. Your body can do this. And you’re not under enemy fire.

So that’s what I learned from my first Murph at CrossFit 405.

Stop complaining, be an encourager, and use your competition in a positive way.

That’s something I’d like to challenge all of us to take notice of this week during the WODs. How much are we complaining? Yes, it’s fun to bitch and moan about the crap we put ourselves through every day during class. It’s practically part of CrossFit initiation; a commiserative bonding experience to whine about the weight or the rep scheme. But stop and ask yourself if your situation is really worth complaining about.

Memorial Day is over, but we don’t have to forget about Murph. Your muscles are still singing, after all. Let those twinges of pain remind you to be grateful. Praise your competition. Cheer for someone else when you’re losing steam—it may cost you a valuable breath, but the effort is more than worth it in the long run.

 

 

-Chandler Neal