• Cass Lau

Why Benchmark a Memorial WOD?

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

In the world of CrossFit, war heroes are remembered through the execution of a (usually) gruelling workout. These workouts are often made into "benchmark WODs", which would be performed at significant days of the year. For example, on Memorial Day (or month), the global fitness community does "MURPH", a concoction of heavy volume bodyweight workouts sandwiched by two 1-mile runs, except that they aren't bodyweight and you have to wear a vest.

(WOD: workout of the day. may mot necessarily be done in the same day but "WOD" has become the generic synonym for "workout", the CrossFit equivalent for "pampers" to "diapers".)

The CrossFit mainsite describes it as follows: "In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.

This workout was one of Mike's favorites and he'd named it "Body Armor". From here on it will be referred to as "Murph" in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is."

These WODs could be benchmark workouts, i.e. a WOD that will allow one to compare his or her progress against others and against your past/future self. Benchmark WODs do not necessarily have to be hero workouts, and could be the classic "Girl WODs" or something fashioned by your box coach to serve as a standard to track your progress. Repeated workouts can often serve as benchmarks-- IF you track your progress (more reps, faster time, heavier weights? etc.)

Today, I did "BELLE", an Actualize original, named after an athlete who left us a year ago. CK designed this workout to commemorate her life, and the little but joyous moments she spent with us.

I never really spoke much about this, having had news of her passing hit us too suddenly and we quickly organized a memorial WOD where we invited her family members to join us as well. So caught up in the operations of this, I had clean forgotten to process my thoughts.

Anabelle, or Belle, as we knew her, came in for fundamentals class (now BASE) with CK, doing the class out of the regular class hours. I remembered how her dad used to send her to the box, and sit on the benches as he waited for her to complete the session, then send her home. Seeing how caring he was made me miss my dad and appreciate him that much more.

I knew Belle as a bubbly girl, who would have impeccable eyelashes and pedicured nails, simply because her job as an air stewardess required her to. She'd push hard in classes, and ask endless questions in her persistence to get better at her olympic lifts. When she could, she would come in for extra training just to get better. She truly exemplified what it meant to pursue virtuosity.

After box parties, while everyone was headed home, she would stay around to clean up, and offer people whatever food was around. I remembered her as incredibly helpful and an athlete who would take initiative to serve others above herself.

Life is delicate, and it's precious. And I am blessed to have known this one.



19 Burpees

96 Wallballs @ 9/6kg

8 Ground-to-Overhead @ 61/43kg

1-km run/row

video credits: @hannah

A WOD like this should not be done with a heavy heart, but with the company of the community and a single-minded focus on the movements. Chipping away at the big sets of reps would serve as a reminder that the only way to get over tough times is to get through it.

So back to the question, why benchmark a memorial WOD?

Why indeed? Why not leave a named workout as it is?

When a person passes, it is usually the ones closest who will remember the person, and when they pass, the memory will fade too. Yet a memorial WOD immortalizes one's resilience, energy, and life into a workout - it is the legacy that those living can create for the ones who have passed on.

A memorial WOD helps us to remember those that matter to us. Because every life we've encountered is worth it.

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