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:
1 Mile Run
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.
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 1||Week 2||Week 4|
|Rep scheme:||20 Rounds of: 5-10-15||25 Rounds of: 4-8-12||25 Rounds of: 4-8-12|
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 3||Week 5|
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 6||WEEK 7||WEEK 8|
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.
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.