Eight Weeks of Murph; Why I Did It, How I Improved, and What I Learned

On May 30, 2016, Memorial Day, myself and several fellow Moovers embarked on an eight-week journey to complete Murph every week.

What is Murph? For those unfamiliar with CrossFit, Murph is the following workout:

“Murph”

1 Mile Run

100 Pull-ups

200 Push-ups

300 Air squats

1 Mile Run

Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. If you have a 20 lb. weight vest, wear it.

Why would I do such a thing? I got the original idea from Jerrod Moon at EO3 after I saw his post on Reddit. Except he’s doing it for a year… But I wanted to see if I began to get similar results. Murph has always been a daunting workout for me, as I have always put this workout on a pedestal. It has always made me nervous. I wanted to overcome that feeling and start viewing Murph as just another 30-60 minute workout.

Below are my overall results week to week. The ups and downs are marked by a change in method (chipper vs. broken sets, no vest vs. 20 lb. vest), but within a specific method, I saw improvements every single week.

murph

Screenshot from ZenPlanner member app

Below is a week-by-week synopsis of how I improved and what I learned over these eight weeks.

Weeks 1, 2, 4: Reps Partitioned as Desired

Week 1Week 2Week 4
Rep scheme:20 Rounds of: 5-10-1525 Rounds of: 4-8-1225 Rounds of: 4-8-12
First mile:6:507:156:45
Second mile:9:078:277:35
Time:35:2431:4729:30

It had been a full year, since the last Memorial Day, that I had done Murph. Although that performance was a new best time by about 6 minutes, it wasn’t a life-time PR. This one did not feel good. My alcohol consumption the day before was more than normal with the long weekend, so that definitely played a role.

Week two, I changed the strategy up a bit after a few conversations around the gym. Instead of 20 rounds of Cindy (5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats), I partitioned it into 25 sets of 4-8-12. This allowed me to barrel through the push-ups without stopping; interesting how sets of 10 push-ups over time is just over my threshold.

In Week 4, I performed my best by a long shot in this method. 29:30. I never, ever, would have guessed that I would go sub-30:00 on this workout no matter how I broke it up. There were two of us this day, and my workout partner edged my time by about 12 seconds. We definitely pushed each other on this one.

Weeks 3 and 5: Chipper Style (100 | 200 | 300), No Weight Vest

Week 3Week 5
FIRST MILE:7:206:57
SECOND MILE:9:208:07
TIME:51:2246:46

These two weeks were basically a warm-up for the weighted vest. I had never done Murph chipper-style before this, so I had no idea what to expect. Week 3 push-ups caught be by surprise, and I started out doing way to many reps in each set (10-15) and died quickly to sets of 3 about halfway through. The air squats I did not pace as well as I should have, and it cost me on the run.

Week 5, I learned my lesson a little and did smaller sets on the push-ups (sets of 7), but they still caught up to me. I improved by almost 5 minutes here, but a lot of that was on the run.

Weeks 6, 7, and 8: Chipper Style With a Weight Vest

WEEK 6WEEK 7WEEK 8
FIRST MILE:8:107:257:36
SECOND MILE:9:308:599:12
TIME:60:0853:5949:12

Week 6 was my first Murph every with a weighted vest. It hurt. The vest I used wasn’t great either, and came off twice during the pull-ups so I lost a bit of time re-adjusting.

Week 7, my time improved for the sole reason that my strategy improved. Nearly 8 minutes by simply partitioning my push-ups better (sets of 3), doing more pull-ups at a time (5-7), and going a little hard on the first run.

Finally, week 8 saw a big improvement because I knew exactly what to expect every step of the way. My squats felt sluggish so I definitely lost some time there (doing sets of 15), but otherwise I stuck to my strategy of 10 sets of 10 pull-ups, and sets of 3 push-ups with quick rests. Going under 50:00 with a vest, chipper style, to me is a huge accomplishment and felt great.

Other Results

Some are not surprising, others very surprising. Below are a few improvements that occurred in other areas. I do not attribute some of these solely to Murph, as we did just come off of a very well planned strength macrocycle as well.

1 mile run time, -11 seconds to 5:54

Back squat, +5 lbs. to 285

Deadlift, +20 lbs. to 365

400 meter run, -7 seconds to :56

Bench Press, +5 lbs. to 225

Split Jerk, +15 lbs. to 235

General Synopsis and Conclusion

When partitioning your reps, if you fatigue at all on the push-ups, then 25 sets of 4|8|12 is definitely the way to go over Cindy-style of 20 sets of 5|10|15. It really allowed me to keep a solid pace throughout. I really don’t think I could go much faster here than I did in week 4 except maybe push harder on the runs.

PUSH the last run. Too many people treat the last mile run as a victory lap. If you really want to improve your time, push this segment. At this point, the legs are jello for sure, but if you can suck it up, it’s over relatively quickly.

Take care of your hands. They will get torn up, especially with a weight vest on.

Overall, this workout went from intimidating as hell to just another Sunday exercise. Mentally, I overcame what I set out to do, and my overall fitness improved quite a bit. Will I still get butterflies when I do it again next Memorial Day? Yeah, probably.

Sit Better, Perform Better

We all need to sit better. By that I mean sit in a way that requires muscle activity, instead of leaning into furniture and/or slouching to conserve energy. Correct posture while seated places proper forces on our body, specifically our abdomen, and helps engage an inactive core.

Here’s how:

1
2
3
4
5
sit better
1

Sit near the front of your chair.

2

Create a neutral pelvis

3

De-hump the upper back

4

Sit differently.

5

Sit less!

  1. Sit near the front of your chair (prevents slouching into furniture)
  2. Untuck the pelvis (create a neutral pelvis by rolling your pelvis forward)
  3. De-hump the upper back (keep the ribcage down, pull your chin straight back to the wall behind you, and lift the crown of your head up to the ceiling)
  4. Sit differently (ex: on your knees, on a yoga ball, in a “v” on the floor)
  5. Sit less (find creative ways to sit less during your day)

The Postpartum Mom’s Guide to Diastasis Recti

What is it?

Diastasis Recti is an unnatural distancing of the right and left halves of the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is a muscle separated by fascia into compartments leaving the left separate from the right1)Bowman, Katy. Diastasis Recti: A Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation. Propriometrics Press, 2016. Print.. In other words, diastasis recti is an unatural separation of the left and right abdominals and commonly occurs during pregnancy.

diastasis recti diagram

Image credit: healthyhabitshappymoms.com

When is it natural vs unnatural?

When a woman is pregnant, a distancing of the rectus abdominis is natural. The connective tissues soften due to hormones and the abdomen experiences the internal force from the uterus. A normal width of the linea alba is between 15mm (1.5 cm) and 22mm (2.2cm)2)Beer, G.M., Schuster, A., Seifert , B., Manestar,M. Mihic-Probst, D., & Weber, S. A. (2009). The normal width of the linea alba in nulliparous women. Clinical Anatomy, 22(6), 706-711. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19637295>.

The integrity of the core is lost and functional strength of the abdomen is reduced with diastasis recti. These weak points in the core can cause other problems including low back pain and pelvic instability that can lead to pelvic pain. For the postpartum mom, her pelvic floor (the bottom of the core) can often have weak points as well from the increased pressure during pregnancy and from a vaginal birth.

The Dreaded “Take it Easy Until 6 Weeks” Postpartum

nichelle gurule

If you’re a mother, you know that waiting 6 weeks to do approved activities seems like forever. The best advice I ever received was to “take it easy and allow your body to heal. You have your whole life to get back into shape.” While this can be frustrating for some, particularly athletes, the advice is solid. That being said, both “taking it easy” does not mean “do nothing.” Some activity can be achieved in the first 6 weeks postpartum3)Byrne, Helene. Exercise After Pregnancy: How to look and feel your best. 2001.Print..

GASP! It’s true!

First: work on your posture. Correct poor quality positions you find yourself in throughout the day. How you sit, how you nurse, how you stand, and more.

Next: work on your core.

sit ups, push ups and plank, should be approached with caution!

Most postpartum moms want their pre-pregnancy tummies back yesterday. Unfortunately, our society has done a fantastic job of perpetuating the idea that toned and chiseled abs come from crunches, sit ups, v-ups, and plank. The reality is that toned abs come from varied movements and low body fat percentages. Performing the above-mentioned exercises places unnecessary and improper forces on the core and often do more damage, especially if performed when you have a diastasis recti. Movements that pull from the midline such as isolated oblique work and movements that create a lot of outward force on the midline such as a sit ups, push ups and plank, should be approached with caution!

When we talk about regaining that core integrity, change your mindset from how you look, to how you function. Poor core integrity results in various degrees and regions of pain and instability. The increased risk of injuries from a weak core is why you want to focus on your deficiencies to become functionally strong.

Okay, Now You Get it… but Where do you Begin?

To start regaining your core we need to begin with what muscles are involved, as the core is often misunderstood to be just the abdomen. The core is a four-sided cylinder and consists of the diaphragm (top), pelvic floor (bottom), deep muscles of the abdomen (front), and deep muscles of the back muscles (back). If one of these regions is weak due to an internal or external force, the entire core is weakened. This creates an issue with the entire body because the core links the top of our body to the bottom, including our arms and legs. Research has shown that having greater core stability is related to lower injuries.

core diagram

For more information, and a great description on the core, check out the article “[d]o you know what your core really is and what it does?” by Jeff Kuhland4)Kuhland, Jeff. Breaking Muscle. Do you know what your core really is and what is does? <http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/do-you-know-what-your-core-really-is-and-what-it-does>..

How Posture Plays a Role

Posture plays a huge role in how we begin to heal our bodies. How we position ourselves throughout the day makes a huge impact on applied forces through the body, specifically the core, which can create unnecessary strain.

Many people want a quick fix to a problem that did not occur overnight. For a majority of people, the unnatural distancing is a result of different forces on the linea alba, which through postural corrections and attention to abdominal stressors, we can reduce. While for many the diastasis recti occurs from pregnancy, it is essential to assess why the distancing remains for each individual.

Is your neck jutted forward or tucked reading your screen?

Make sure your ribs and pelvis are positioned properly. These postural changes you can begin from day one postpartum. If you are reading this and do not have diastasis recti, work on your posture anyway!

posture

If your ribcage is up and forward there is an increased pull on the linea alba. If the pelvis is positioned out of “neutral” there can also be an unnecessary tug on the linea alba. Katy Bowman compares the linea albas resilience to stretching a pair of socks. You can stretch socks back and forth and they return to form until held too long, too often, and in the wrong direction causing them to be tossed. Too much stress on the linea alba and there is a breaking point where deformation occurs and the stretch and release back to the original form is not longer possible.

Posture is key. How are you sitting right now? Is your ribcage up? Is your neck jutted forward or tucked reading your screen? Is your back slouching or with an increased curve? Pay attention, these sustained positions over time have a huge effect on our core. Diastasis recti is a core problem, and will remain with improper posture, and if incorrect exercises performed.

Why Should You Care?

Making steps to decrease the distance of your diastasis recti is important because the body requires a fully functioning core for proper movement. As stated above, the core is considered a cylinder, which is required to resist forces in all directions. If one of those walls is not able to resist these forces due to the unnatural distancing, the core cannot function the way it needs to and can cause pain in another region of the body. Nearly every movement we do as humans, will have some form of core activation, and as one might be able to conclude, if everything we do involves the core and it is not working as it should be, problems can and will arise.

You can find more information about Dr. Nichelle Gurule, a postpartum chiropractor and personal trainer, at gaiawomenshealth.com.

References   [ + ]

1.Bowman, Katy. Diastasis Recti: A Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation. Propriometrics Press, 2016. Print.
2.Beer, G.M., Schuster, A., Seifert , B., Manestar,M. Mihic-Probst, D., & Weber, S. A. (2009). The normal width of the linea alba in nulliparous women. Clinical Anatomy, 22(6), 706-711. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19637295>
3.Byrne, Helene. Exercise After Pregnancy: How to look and feel your best. 2001.Print.
4.Kuhland, Jeff. Breaking Muscle. Do you know what your core really is and what is does? <http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/do-you-know-what-your-core-really-is-and-what-it-does>.

CFE Week of 122015 – Long Intervals

Single Sport Endurance Workout

Choose ONE of the following Sports…

Swim (TUES): 200m repeats, Rest/Swim 100m easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Bike (TUES): 2K repeats, Rest/Spin 1K easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Run (TUES): 1000m Repeats, Rest/Jog 600m easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Row (TUES): 1000m Repeats, Rest/Row 600m easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Ruck (TUES): 1000m Repeats, Rest/Walk 600m easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

*Recommended range 3 – 6
*Perform sets based off pace, mechanics and goals


Multi-Sport Endurance Workout

Swim (TUES): 200m repeats, Rest/Swim 100m easy, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Learn New Skills. Get Outside. Test Your Fitness.

progress takes place outside OF YOUR comfort zone

CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movement performed at high intensity. Many CrossFit athletes think that all the answers to their previous fitness hurdles can be cured within the confines of their beloved box. Contrary to this belief, and within CrossFit’s very definition, we need to get outside the box and change up our routine every now and then. What we are able to gain by performing high intensity workouts within those 4 beautiful walls is, and will always be, the base of a CrossFit athlete’s fitness regimen. It works. It has been proven to work time and time again, but too many get locked into only working out there.

As with anything else, even when our workouts are constantly varied, we will eventually plateau. We may think the answer is to just hit it harder. Push that threshold and the gainz goblin will go away. When was the last time you took a step back and enjoy the level of fitness that you have already gained? I am not suggesting taking a long hiatus from the box. I am suggesting that you take the time to explore and see just how far you have come. Have you always hated running? Go for long jog. Have you been skiing in the last 10 years? Perhaps it’s time you hit the slopes. You will find that it is not as hard nor as miserable as you remember. Take a long bike ride, go snowshoeing, try out parkour, or go rock climbing. Everything is a test of your fitness.

My point is do not get stuck in the rut of only performing “constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity” solely within your CrossFit box. Get outside, see what you can achieve and where it has gotten you in other activities. Who knows, you may just like it. And I really would not be surprised if your plateau goes away and those PR’s start coming back.

CFE Week of 121315 – Tempo

Single Sport Endurance Workout

Choose ONE of the following Sports…

Swim (SUN): 1000m Tempo starting at 80% of 1000m TT descending pace every 250m

Bike (SUN): 20K Tempo starting at 80% of 15K TT descending pace every 5K (3.1miles)

Run (SUN): 10K Tempo starting at 80% of 8K TT descending pace every 2.5K (1.5miles)

Row (SUN): 8K Tempo starting at 80% of 5K TT descending pace every 2K

Ruck (SUN): 10K Tempo starting at 80% of 8K TT descending pace every 2.5K (1.5miles)

*Warm up appropriately
*Descend = get faster as you go!


Multi-Sport Endurance Workout

Run (SAT): 10K Tempo starting at 80% of 8K TT descending pace every 2.5K (1.5miles)

Swim (SUN): 1000m Tempo starting at 80% of 1000m TT descending pace every 200m

CFE Week of 120615

Single Sport Endurance Workout

Choose ONE of the following Sports…

Swim (TUES): 75m Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Bike (TUES): :75 Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Run (TUES): :75 Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Row (TUES): :75 Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Ruck (TUES): :75 Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

*Recommended range 5 – 12 repeats
*Keep splits within 25-50m


Multi-Sport Endurance Workout

Run (WED): :75 Repeats, Rest :75, perform until pace or form deteriorates

 

CFE Week of 112915

Single Sport Endurance Workout

Choose ONE of the following Sports…

Swim (TUES): 300m Repeats, Rest 3:00, 200m Repeats, Rest 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Bike (TUES): 1.5 Mile Repeats, Rest/spin 3:00, 1 Mile Repeats, Rest/spin 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Run (TUES): 1200m Repeats, Rest 3:00, 800m Repeats, Rest 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Row (TUES): 1200m Repeats, Rest 3:00, 800m Repeats, Rest 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates

Ruck (TUES): 1200m Repeats, Rest 3:00, 800m Repeats, Rest 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates

*Recommended repeat range 1 – 5 per interval distance
*Keep splits within 4-6sec on 1200m, 3-5sec on 800m


Multi-Sport Endurance Workout

Swim (WED): 300m Repeats, Rest 3:00, 200m Repeats, Rest 3:00, perform until pace or form deteriorates