I’m sure you remember this image of Hawkeye the dog lying faithfully in front of the coffin of his owner, Petty Officer Jon T. Tumilson. Tumilson, a Navy SEAL, was one of 30 Americans killed when an rocket-propelled grenade hit their helicopter in Afghanistan last August.
The Blaze was one of the first national news outlets to feature that story, and it will be no surprise that the post was the No. 1 story on The Blaze for all of last year.
Fast forward to today, and Tumilson is being honored by the widespread CrossFit community with what is known as a Hero WOD.
Let me give you a little background. CrossFit is an intense fitness program that has exploded over the past decade. The group’s slogan, “Forging elite fitness,” will give you some sense that the program is not for those with casual fitness goals.
I’ve been doing CrossFit workouts pretty diligently for over two years. My brother owns a CrossFit facility (the CrossFit term is “box”) in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. A number of the guys on Glenn Beck’s security team also do CrossFit. So while I don’t claim to be an expert, I am bringing a little background to this post. Further down, you can see an 18-minute segment we did on GBTV on CrossFit Hero workouts.
Here is CrossFit’s own summary of what they are about.
And the Wikipedia version is here.
It’s driven by the maxim that “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement” is the path to fitness. This is the CrossFit 100-word definition of “world-class fitness”:
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.
Every evening, a new workout is posted on the CrossFit website. You do that workout the next day. It’s called a WOD – workout of the day. In CrossFit, the regular pattern is that you workout for three days, then take a rest day. The three days of workouts will all be different and very often one will be much harder than the others. Very often, the hardest workout will be a Hero WOD.
A Hero WOD is a workout named in honor of someone who died in the line of duty serving our country. Most often, it will be someone who was serving in the military. Sometimes, it will be a police officer or a firefighter. Many of you who follow Beck are familiar with Glenn’s friend Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor (soon to be a major motion picture). There is a Hero WOD named after Luttrell’s friend Michael Murphy.
The “Murph” workout is pretty straightforward. You run one mile. Then you do 100 pull-ups. Then you do 200 push-ups. Then 300 squats. Then you run another mile. If you are really dedicated, you do all of that wearing a 20-pound vest or body armor.
The ethos of a Hero WOD is that you don’t quit. The story of the Hero is present in your mind. They didn’t quit. Why would you?
Along with the description of the workout, CrossFit posts a picture of the Hero and a description of their story.
This brings us back to today.
For July 4th, the CrossFit main site workout is a Hero WOD in honor of Jon “JT” Tumilson.
This workout may sound tough. It is probably even tougher than it sounds! Two key words in the description — “for time.” Speed is very important in CrossFit. The goal in many CrossFit workouts is to do the task at hand as fast as possible.
If you looked at the individual elements here it might not sound awful. Can you run 200 meters — half a lap on a regular track? No problem, right? Hold on. Could you squat down and pick up two 60-pound dumbbells? Okay – I lost some of you there. But a good number might say…sure that doesn’t sound too bad. A “burpee” might be a strange term but the move is pretty simple. Squat down, kick your legs out and drop your body to the ground. Get back up and jump a little to prove you can conquer gravity.
But burpees are notorious in CrossFit for, in technical terms, sucking big time. And when you string these three elements together, we have a recipe for a metabolic nightmare. Eight rounds will be punishing. The comments section shows that many people are finishing this workout in the 15-25 minute range.
Major key point — I’m not asking you to jump in and do this workout!
If you are not already in pretty good shape, it would be unwise to hit this workout cold.
Some of you are still reading even though you think this sounds insane. Let me say this — CrossFit workouts can be “scaled” to various levels of fitness. When we do a CrossFit workout exactly as it is prescribed — we call that “RX.” As prescribed. But there are scaled workout suggestions. You can see some samples here. And it’s probably best to find your closest CrossFit box (there are about 3,500 of them) where they will be happy to get you started sensibly. The CrossFit guide on how to start is here.
CrossFit is very much about community. We most often do workouts in groups — pushing and encouraging each other all the way. And one of the great things about Hero WODs is the reading the comments — like some of the ones already posted today:
Notice in this next series that a commenter has a key note about the workout description:
“Boe” wanted to make sure everyone knows what happened to the helicopter.
Often friends or family members of the Hero will post a comment:
A few months ago, when we were doing the Friday “For the Record” show on GBTV, we did a segment on CrossFit Hero WODs.
I interviewed Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) about his experience with CrossFit.
Congressman Sullivan has written about CrossFit here.
A Tulsa World profile begins this way:
John Sullivan is grimacing, staring at the massive weighted barbell.
He wants to stop, lie down, possibly puke. But he must squat, pick up the 135-pound weighted bar and lift it clean above his head, at least two more times, before he can move on to the pull-ups. And then back to the rowing station, to repeat the whole sequence over. Two more rounds.
In the segment, I talk to Sullivan and also Anthony Lucic from CrossFit Queens (he served six years in the Marine Corps doing two tours in Iraq) — a great pair to explain the power of the Hero WOD:
I should note that CrossFit has made John Sullivan very strong — but it doesn’t make you impervious at the ballot box! After a decade in Congress he was defeated in the recent Republican primary. I’m sure if it had been a tie and then decided by pull-ups –Sullivan would have had it locked up!
I’ve made a lot of progress over the last two and a half years. When I started, it was difficult to do a pull-up or deadlift 200 pounds. Before a recent injury, I was able to deadlift 400 pounds and do at least 25 pull-ups without stopping (I’m way behind Sullivan in this category!). I’ve worked out at cool CrossFit boxes all around the world. Mainly in Pittsburgh, Manhattan, Dallas and Tampa/Clearwater. But I’ve also gone from high in the Rockies to the outskirts of Budapest. Austria, too. At the hotel gym in Jerusalem last summer during Restoring Courage, the staff trainers couldn’t stop asking me about the workouts.
Regardless of location or language, there is an instant kinship among those who CrossFit.
I have Finnish heritage, so I often wear this “SISU” shirt inspired by CrossFit athlelete Mikko Salo:
Here is the Wikipedia definition of the term:
Sisu is a Finnish term loosely translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language. Sisu has been described as being integral to understanding Finnish culture. The literal meaning is equivalent in English to “having guts”, and the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However sisu is defined by a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is sisu.
That sort of defines the CrossFit spirit for me. Along with this shirt inspired by CrossFit champ Rich Froning.
I’m not sure if this post will entice some of you to try CrossFit — I mainly just wanted you to know how the CrossFit community honors those who have sacrificed for our country.
I know that CrossFit has deepened my own awareness and made me a better person.