Monday, August 4, 2008

Road to MURPH

Pictured above is US Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy. He is a hero, but he is also dead.

Mike Murphy's heroics are immortalized in not only the Medal of Honor, but the book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by teammate Marcus Luttrell.

And one more memorial to Murphy was the naming of a CrossFit workout in his honor. The rules of MUPRH are simple: Run 1 mile. Complete 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 air squats. Run 1 mile.

As some of the readership of this blog prepare for a MURPH this Fall 2008, I will make some points about training and strategy to complete MURPH:

For me, the hardest part is the guts. The meat in the sandwich. The gymnastics between the miles. I've identified what I call "MURPH Prep" in my workout journal. It is comprised of various sets of pullups, pushups, and air squats. No running.

I first toggle between how much of the "meat" I'll chew in a given WO. I've done Half MURPH, 3-Quarter MURPH, and Full MURPH Prep sessions. And before I got up to those workloads, I did what could only be named something like, 20% or 40% MURPH. I still do a lot of Halves and 3Qs with my training...which each allow me to press myself to break into a more efficient strategy.

Then I decide how my "rounds" are to be structured. I began maintaining the basic proportions of 100-200-300, and as a newbie went with 3-6-9 (that is 3 pullups, 6 pushups, and 9 air squats). This worked out well for me when I really struggled with pullup numbers. But it meant that my "recovery" time before the next batch of pullups was pretty short. And the time spent moving stations was essentially wasted.

I then bumped my numbers up to 5-10-15. I tried this many of ways: do as many rounds with 5 pullups as possible, then when 5 was no longer attainable, drop down to what I could do, but keep the Max-10-15 format. The problem with this was that I ended up finishing my balance of pushups and air squats before pullups, leaving me with a hefty balance of pullups to complete the gymnastics portion.

Another 5-10-15 strategy was to complete 5 pullups even if I dropped off the bar for a quick rest. I could stay with 5 complete reps for about 7 rounds or so...which meant 13 rounds of pullups with sets that looked like 4-1, 3-2, 3-1-1, 2-2-1, 2-1-1-1, and so on. But this strategy seemed to be easiest on the MIND to calculate and account for reps. Twenty rounds sounds like a lot now, and unfortunately seems like more during the exercise!!

I have since my first (and only official full MURPH) been playing with various techniques to complete the guts faster, based on my strengths and weaknesses. I have been experimenting with plans of 8-16-24, 7-14-21, and 6-12-18 to reduce the number of transitions between movements, thereby reducing the total time. I am still calculating the differences to see if it is better to move more quickly through with a 5-10-15 strategy, OR to take a few more rests during a 7-14-21. I know for sure it is not smart to go all the way up to a 10-20-30 plan just yet, although the time in transition is half!

I have seen and heard some wacky, yet successful tactics. I saw a man get done with his first mile and break immediately into 50 air squats. I saw another man finish up with his squats and pushups, leaving a balance of 37 pullups to complete.

I caution you against breaking from a strategy and going with an unpracticed or unstructured format. The havoc it wreaks on the mind is terribly distracting. After having completed MURPH, I highly suggest doing as many of these MURPH Prep sessions as possible, both with and without running. The pace and structure of how one completes "the guts" cannot be dictated. It must be decided upon by the participant him/herself. For only s/he knows the capabilities of their own body, and what the capabilities are regarding the numbers of reps of each movement.

We regularly ask each other: What sucks more than doing 2 miles separated by 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 air squats? Answer: Dying in Afghanistan!

Keep their memory alive. Do a MURPH.

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