4 Workout Routines Inspired by Selfless Service and Sacrifice

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Aidan Parker)

Many veterans and fitness enthusiasts have probably heard of the "Hero WOD," or Workout of the Day. They're so named because they're exercises that honor a fallen hero, friend or other loved one with a grueling physical workout done in their memory.

When you think about it, focusing on the toughest workouts can become a form of meditation, and when they're done in tribute to someone important, it becomes a great way to remember that person. It's no surprise that these kinds of memorials are catching on around the country.

Hero WODs aren't limited to the memorial for single people, though. Different groups within the military and first-responder communities have their own culture and customs, which means they have their own unique memorials. Here are a few you might want to try this Memorial Day.

1. The Murph

"The Murph" is probably the most well-known Hero WOD, named for and created by U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy. It was his favorite workout, and his compatriots began The Murph Challenge, an annual Memorial Day fundraiser for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation after he was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.

The Murph consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and then another one-mile run, all while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest or plate carrier. It's a simple workout, but it's harder than it seems. In the video above, even Murph's fellow SEALs talk about how challenging it is. So prepare yourself accordingly.

2. The 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb

At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of any given Sept. 11, regular gym goers might see firefighters walk into their local fitness club and make a beeline for the StairMaster. It's not limited to gyms, however. Anywhere there are public flights of stairs, the yellow-clad members of the Thin Red Line might make an appearance.

Firefighters climb the stairs at a Georgia Planet Fitness on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. (Chelsea Renee Farmer via Facebook)

If that time of the morning sounds familiar, that's because it's the time the first plane struck the twin towers that day. Firefighters around the country don their full gear and climb 110 flights of stairs to remember the 343 firefighters who died trying to rescue New Yorkers that day.

3. EOD 137 Memorial Workout

The Explosives Ordnance Disposal community has a memorial workout of its own, and it's just as grueling as the Murph. The EOD Memorial Workout is done every year by bomb squads in every branch of the U.S. military to honor their own who have died in the line of duty between the Sept. 11 attacks and the current year.

(U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Aidan Parker)

In 2021, the workout was called the EOD 136. By the time the next workout came, it was called the EOD 137. Hopefully, the number won't change in the coming years. Here's the rundown:

  • 66 front squats
  • 66 kettlebell swings
  • 16 partner over burpees
  • 30-second plank
  • 400-meter run
  • 66 hang power cleans
  • 66 single-arm kettlebell presses
  • 16 partner over burpees
  • 30-second plank
  • 400-meter run
  • 66 chest to bar pull-ups
  • 66 box jumps
  • 16 partner over burpees
  • 30-second plank
  • 400-meter run
  • 66 push-ups
  • 66 Pendlay barbell rows
  • 16 partner over burpees
  • 30-second plank
  • 400-meter run

4. The Chad 1000x

SEAL Chad Wilkinson served in the Navy for 21 years but died by suicide on Oct. 29, 2018. Sara Wilkinson relayed the story of finding Chad in their garage, doing 1,000 step-ups while wearing a backpack to train for climbing South America's tallest mountain.

Almost two months after Chad's death, his friend, Dave Castro, led a workout with three others, wearing 45-pound backpacks, doing step-ups in Castro's CrossFit gym. He posted the workout on Instagram as a simple tribute to his friend, but it soon caught on as a Hero Workout.

To remember Chad while raising awareness of veteran suicide, Sara Wilkinson and GORUCK created the Veterans Day Hero WOD Chad 1000x, where people don extra weight in the form of a vest, plate carrier or backpack and recreate Chad's 1,000 step-ups.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on LinkedIn.

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