Walk a mile. Do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats. Then walk another mile. This is Murphy.
Arguably CrossFit's most famous (or infamous) WOD, Murph is the ultimate test of cardio endurance, bodyweight strength, and sheer mental toughness. For many die-hard gym goers, it's impossible to do 100 pull-ups alone, let alone run a mile after 300 squats. And at the elite level, when athletes wear a 20-pound weight vest throughout their workout and complete each calisthenics set in sequence, Murph demands the highest level of fitness.
“It's a really tough workout,” says Dan Wells, CPT (NCSA), CrossFit Level 2 instructor, owner/trainer at CrossFit Horsepower in Los Angeles and 2015 CrossFit Games competitor a 10k race, but tougher.”
Murph also appeals to a slightly wider audience than most CrossFit workouts. "I like that it's accessible to everyone, so to speak," says Wells. "All you need is a bar to hang on." With running and calisthenics, the advantage shifts away from tank-sized weightlifters and towards lighter, more patient athletes who do bodyweight exercises with sparing movement and a minimum of mental stress can get through.
"You can see that in the decathlon," says Dr. Michael Joyner, MD, an avid endurance athlete and endurance training specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "Strong competitive athletes like sprinters and throwers just fall apart in the 1500 meter dash, while leaner, stronger athletes thrive."
Like all of CrossFit's so-called Hero WODs, which are named in honor of US soldiers who died in action, Murph is named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 and posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Murphy's story was portrayed in Mark Wahlberg's film Lone Survivor.) Murphy often completed the training in body armor—hence the 20-pound vest and the training's original name, "Body Armor."
SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy of Patchogue, New York poses in Afghanistan. Murphy was killed by enemy forces on June 18, 2005 during a reconnaissance mission, Operation Red Wing, while leading a four-man team tasked with retrieving a key Taliban leader in mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan find. (Photo: Getty Images)
Carrying on those roots, Murph has become something of a Memorial Day tradition for CrossFit, with masochists gathering in their boxes to greet the American armed forces with the grueling endurance workout, followed by (presumably paleo) barbecues. A quick Google search for "Memorial Day Murph" brings up events across the US as well as the official Murph Challenge, which was started by Murphy's parents to raise money for a scholarship fund on his behalf.
And while Murph is hardly a stroll through the park, his red, white, and blue roots seem to give him staying power.
"It's an amazing celebration of the armed forces and the people who died for our country," says Wells. "It's my oldest son's birthday and he can finally do push-ups and pull-ups. So I'm going to put on a 30 pound vest, and my son and I are going to do it together."