Lessons Learned Completing My First “Murph”

Even if you are not very familiar with CrossFit, you have likely heard of the Murph workout. CrossFit is known for its grueling WODs (Workout of the Day), but Murph is on another level. Murph is a Hero WOD. Hero WODs are longer, more intense, and usually named in memory of a military member. Murph is one of CrossFit’s toughest Hero WODs. The workout is in memory of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. The Murph begins with a one mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and ends with a second one mile run. The pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats can be partitioned as needed. You are supposed to wear a 20 pound weight vest for this workout. The workout is done for time, and you can expect it to take approximately one hour depending on your fitness level.

The Murph is traditionally performed on Memorial Day. This year, I thought I would get in on the fun. I do not usually do CrossFit style workouts, but during quarantine I have been having fun adding new styles of training into my routine. Plus, all you need for this workout is a pull up bar! For my workout, I did not use a 20 pound weight vest. I don’t own a weight vest and, if I’m being honest, I probably would not have used one even if I could have. Trust me, this workout is hard enough! I also used a band for assistance with my pull-ups.

I felt extremely accomplished after completing this workout and I would absolutely recommend this if you are looking for a bodyweight workout challenge! However, I definitely made some mistakes along the way. Keep on reading to learn what I did right, what I did wrong, and how to avoid my mistakes.

Fuel Properly

My primary form of exercise is weight lifting, so I am not used to fueling for longer duration cardio. And really, that is what this is. While strength training movements are involved, the Murph involves doing these exercises in such high quantities so quickly that it turns into cardio. I occasionally go out for a 20-30 minute run, but I rarely do intense cardio for an hour. I made two mistakes with my pre-workout nutrition. The first was eating too little and too far before the workout. I ate a couple of hours before beginning, and all I had to eat was half of a bagel with a little egg salad on top. Of course, you wouldn’t want to eat too soon before starting, but eating this far in advance left me feeling drained midway through the workout. Next time, I plan on eating a larger meal several hours before the workout in addition to something lighter and more easily digestible 30-60 minutes before I begin. The second mistake I made was taking a pre-workout supplement. I thought that the pre-workout might give me an edge when it came to my time, but it really just made me feel nauseous. Pre-workout is really best left for strength training.

Pace Yourself

This workout is more like a marathon than a sprint. The Murph is traditionally done for time, but I guarantee that you will end up with a better time if you pace yourself appropriately throughout the workout. I started off with a more moderately paced run, clocking in at an 11 minute mile. I could have completed that mile in 9 minutes, but that would have left me exhausted for the rest of the workout. My two workout buddies completed their first mile in eight minutes, but they were exhausted by the time they started their first pull-ups. One of the biggest mistakes I made was starting out too quickly on my first few sets of push-ups, pull-ups, and air squats. I hardly took any rest between my first two sets, and this left me feeling exhausted. As I continued the workout, I planned out my rest appropriately for the remaining sets and found the workout to be much more manageable. I recommend allotting a set amount of time for each round and rest period ahead of time. If you find that you are recovering well, you can always decrease your rest time. 

Partition Strategically

If you’re a real pro, you might try to do all reps of each exercise in a row before moving onto the next one. I would not recommend this for most people, and I certainly would not recommend this if it is your first time attempting the workout. Instead, partition the reps based on what is most appropriate for you. Personally, I chose to perform 10 rounds of 10 reps of pull ups, 20 reps of push-ups, and 30 reps of air squats. This worked well for me, however I did struggle with the 30 reps of squats. Towards the end, I began to add in a little extra rest between every 10 reps of squats. Another common split is 5 reps of pull ups, 10 reps of push-ups, and 15 reps of air squats for 20 rounds. The more you break it up, the more manageable the workout will be. 

Do Not Be Afraid to Modify

Modification is key with this workout. When was the last time you attempted 100 pull ups during a single workout? If your answer is never, you might want to modify. I used a band for my pull-ups, but other modifications include an assisted pull-up machine, lat pulldown, bodyweight rows, or kipping pull-ups. If you don’t have access to any equipment, you can always sub out the pull ups for sit ups. If you can’t do push-ups or if 200 push-ups sounds like a lot, you can easily modify them! Knee push-ups and incline push-ups are excellent options. If 300 air squats sounds like a lot, you can squat onto a chair, box, or bench to limit your range of motion and decrease the stress on your knees. If you get to the end of the workout and that last one mile run sounds impossible, you can always walk it! The Murph is done for time, but a great goal for your first Murph is to finish it, even if that means a little walking.

Final Thoughts

The Murph is a great way to challenge yourself and switch things up. This workout is extremely demanding, so I would not recommend doing something like this more than once per week. Even that much volume might be pushing it. If you’ve never done something like this before, it’s okay to ease yourself in. For your first time, don’t be afraid to cut the reps in half, modify some movements, or walk instead of run. You can build yourself up to the full workout later on. All of the movements that make up this workout are extremely valuable, foundational movements. I would not recommend this as a regular workout but if you are looking for a challenge, this is a great option.

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