If you’re a seasoned CrossFit® athlete, you’ve probably memorized all the Girls, Hero WODS, and evil (and brilliant) open workout creations of Dave Castro that have morphed their way into CrossFit history. All of these famous workouts exist to do one thing: to test how far into the pain cave, the black hole, the hurt that we’re willing to go. But of all the benchmark workouts that have marked history for their darkness (13.5, anyone?), Murph tops the podium for being both the hardest and most famous.
But ‘Murph’ is more than just a tough endurance workout. It’s also classified as a CrossFit Hero WOD. A little background: this specific brutal WOD is named after Navy SEAL Officer Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan and received the Medal of Honor for his heroics in Operation Red Wings. The workout was Murphy’s favorite, and he performed it while wearing heavy body armor while deployed. It’s since been named in his honor and now, CrossFit boxes around the U.S. host a Murph every Memorial Day.
Before you go headlong into this hammer of an endurance WOD, remember that Murph demands a smart strategy and a level-headed approach. So we reached out to 10 CrossFit trainers to give their best tips for getting through Murph this Memorial Day.
Show Up! – Cavan Valance, CF-L2, Coach at WillyB CrossFit
“Whether this is your ever first CrossFit workout or you’ve been doing CrossFit for years but haven’t participated in Murph… do this workout! Showing up will change you and the way you see things: the community, the effort, the cheers and the deeper meaning of a HERO WOD all come to fruition. Murph epitomizes what CrossFit is.”
Don’t Go To Failure – Ben Sweeney, CF-L2, NASM, CES, PES Coach at Brick NYC
“If it’s your first year doing it, whether you’re doing it scaled or Rx your only goal should be to finish. Because the best part of Murph is that you get to do it every year, and set a new goal each time. In order to get through this workout, I suggest knowing how many pull-ups and push-ups you can do in a set without tiring out or hitting failure. Because once you go to failure with pull ups and push ups you’ll need to rest A LOT before you can start back up. Remember: it’s okay to break it up right from the beginning.”
Pace The Run – Matthew LeBaron, CF-L1, Coach At Brick NYC
“Sprinting the first mile is the silliest thing you can do to start out Murph. Instead, tempo your first mile, feel it out, get the nerves out. It’s easy to just do the pace everyone else is doing. But don’t do that. Instead, I recommend starting with a 65-70% effort, then increasing your pace by 5% every 400 meters. Here’s what that would look like:
0m to 400m: 65-70%
400m to 800m: 70-75%
800m to 1200m: 75-80%
1200m to 1600m: 80-85%
Going into the second mile, you’re going to be so pumped that you’re done with the body weight movements, but again I recommend starting off conservative and then increasing pace. Here’s what that might look like:
0m to 400m: Feel it out, get your legs moving and focus on landing in your midfoot. Aim for around 65-70% effort
400m to 800m: Increase the pace. You want your breathing to stay steady but if you’re able to chat with the CrossFitter next to you, you’re not going fast enough.
800m to 1200m: Now pick it up. Focus on the beat your feet makes, increasing from your last 400m.
1200m to 1600m: It’s GO TIME! Increase your pace 100m. Ignore the voice in your head and remember that this is not about you, its about honoring a hero. When the finish line is in sight go with everything you’ve got.”
Create A Game Plan… And Stick To It – Jared Stein, CF-L2, Owner of WillyB CrossFit
“Murph is a longer workout than many CrossFit WODS, and it has a lot of volume. So my number one tip to get through this workout is to create a game plan for the bodyweight movements and stick to it. If you’re new to CrossFit, I advise 20 rounds of Cindy (5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups, 15 Air Squats) because this particular rep scheme helps keep muscle failure at bay, and your arms get a nice break while you squat.”
Train Accordingly The Week Leading Up To Murph – Nicole Berger, CF-L1, Coach at CrossFit Union Square
“Something everyone taking on Murph for their first time in May should know is that this is a very mentally and physically fatiguing and challenging workout that requires intelligent training in the week leading up to it. That means not doing high volume pull-ups or push-ups, or any other movements that will cause you to be sore for these movements. Set yourself up for success because this is a very rewarding workout to finish (whether it’s scales, Rx, or weighted), so train smart and you’ll be able to enjoy this hero workout. Oh, and when it starts to hurt… remember why you are doing it!”
Don’t Go Out Too Fast – Allison Warner, CF-L1, Coach at ICE NYC
“You can’t win the workout on the first mile but you can definitely lose it.”
Come Mentally Prepared – Arielle Childs, Coach at BRICK New York
“The most important thing you need to bring with you to Murph is mental tenacity. Yes, it is a long and gruesome workout that requires you to chip through it step by step an rep by rep… but it is mostly mental. Bring your A (mental) game by having a plan. Know ahead of time if you’re going to partition the workout and how. And visualize how you want to finish that last run: that last mile is when you need to shut off the voice in your head and bring it home. You got this!”
Pace Mile #1 – Izzy Levy, CF-L2, Owner of ICE NYC
“Memorial day Murph was my first ever CrossFit WOD. I seemed easy enough so I went out hot…. My second mile probably took me over half an hour. That’s why if it’s your first time running Murph, I recommend starting conservatively. If you know you can run a 9 minute mile, aim for 10 minute 1st mile. If you know you can run a 6 minute mile, aim for a 7 minute 1st mile. This is a 35 to 55 minute workout, so don’t worry about tacking on a minute for the first run, that’s not where you’ll win this workout.”
Just Keep Moving During The Push-Ups… – Lindsey Cormack, CF-L1, Coach at Bowery CrossFit
“For Murph, the best mental motto is “just keep moving”. This is a 600 rep workout, and things are going to get dicey, especially at the push ups, but if you chip away at it one, two, or three push-ups at a time you’ll get the work done. I recommend coming up with a reasonable plan. 40 sets of 5, 50 sets of 4, or quick 3’s right from the beginning. This will help you keep a consistent pace instead of starting with a huge set of 20 and then having to break it into doubles and singles with rest in between.”
If Rx Is Your Goal, Train Accordingly – Beau Whitman, CF-L1, CrossFit EVF
“If doing this workout Rx is your goal, you’re going to need to work for and towards it. It comes down to practice and strength, so in the weeks and months leading up to Murph, work on your push-ups and pull-ups! And if you’re going to do it with a weight vest, keep adding weight one pound at a time until you can handle it. That way when Murph comes you’ll know how many pull-ups and push-ups you can consistently hit in a given set. And you’ll be physically and mentally prepared to do so!”
Featured image: @ice.nyc on Instagram
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.