The Hero WOD Why

Randy Simmons. Travis Manion. Roberto Marchini. Michael P. Murphy.

Randy Simmons was a 51-year-old SWAT Team member for LAPD. He was responding to a call with other officers at a home where there were already lives lost. Simmons was shot and killed in the line of duty in response to that call. A note from his tribute website reads as follows, “He was more than the sum of his duties. Simmons’ life beyond the badge and gun was dedicated to the service of others. He loved children, and bought the poor kids of South-Central L.A. presents on his own birthday.”

Travis Manion was a U.S. Marine who was killed on April 29, 2007, by sniper fire while saving one of his wounded teammates. He was 26 years old. He was survived by his mom, dad, and sister. Based in Camp Pendleton, but serving in Iraq at the time of his death, Manion was a man of honor. An excerpt from his Foundation’s website reads, “He woke up every day and asked himself, ‘How can I be better today?’ He knew that tomorrow may bring things that he didn’t like or events beyond his control, but what he could control, was his dedication to the moment and commitment to be better, as a wrestler, as a friend, as a son, and as a Marine.”

Roberto Marchini was 28 years old when he died in the line of duty. A member of the Italian Army, he died during a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan’s Bakwa district on July 12, 2011. Marchini served in the 8th Airborne Combat Engineer Regiment, Folgore Brigade. He was an aficionado of CrossFit and his favorite movements were double unders, cleans, and push-ups. He was survived by numerous friends and family members.

Michael P. Murphy was a Lieutenant from New York. He died on June 28, 2005. He was 29. This Navy Seal was awarded the U.S. Military’s highest medal of decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan. Murphy, along with three other SEALs, were in the midst of an enemy attack – and after pursuit in both directions, Murph, in a moment of self-sacrifice, made his way to the top of a mountain to call for backup for his men. His last words before he was shot and put to rest were, “Thank you.” His story was depicted in a movie called, “Lone Survivor.” It’s worth the watch.

If you do CrossFit, you might recognize these names, but you may think of them moreso in regards to the movements that come with them. Randy is 75 snatches for time. Manion is 7 rounds of a 400m run and 29 back squats. Havana (Marchini’s Hero WOD) is a 25-minute AMRAP of 150 double unders, 50 push-ups, and 15 power cleans. Murph (Mike Murphy’s Hero WOD) is a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, a mile run. The Hero WODs in CrossFit are notoriously…or fondly, depending on how you look at it….difficult, both physically and mentally. And big, significant sidenote – they can AND should be scaled to be difficult for each individual human’s respective fitness level, limitations, and needs. Everything is modifiable.

But why do we do them? Why do they matter? From where I stand, the why is what really matters. We see the word Hero WOD – and the immediate reaction can oft be one of “OH NO!!!” or “Ugggggghhh,” or “Whhhyyyy do we have to do this?!” Well, I’ll tell ya why – it’s because we GET to. We get to, because they can’t. We have the opportunity to put ourselves through tests and challenges, to become fitter, stronger, and realize what our bodies are capable of – like they USED to be able to do, but they no longer can. This is our tribute. This is our way to honor. It’s also our way to celebrate, as working out should, the way that our bodies can move, to share the struggle, and to overcome.

Every single time a Hero workout pops up, I look up the face (and often, the story) of the human who it was written for. I try to keep the thought of their memory and their face in my head during the workout – when I want to stop, when I don’t want to keep going. And I remember that I CAN keep going, and it’s an honor to get to.

Each of these workouts are FOR someone, and what a way to honor them – doing something that is hard as hell, but damn, does it make us better off mentally and physically. One of my favorite quotes from the movie, “Lone Survivor” is spoken by Marcus Luttrell (the actual lone survivor of the group) – “I can never forget, but no matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.” I love this sentiment. This mentality that after darkness comes light, and I also love thinking about it in regard to a passing of the baton of sorts – when we get to do these Hero WODs, we get to continue the fight for these men and women who laid their lives on the line serving, fighting for good, and sacrificing it all. We get to keep going for them.

A Hero WOD? I’ll take it. Any and every time it pops up. With the expectation of a challenge? You bet. With dread or doom or a “no thanks?” Never. It’s an honor to take the baton and keep going.

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