I have spoken about the gym community that I have become a part of in the past, but have hesitated to speak the word “CrossFit” out of fear for what response I will get. Usually, when I mention that I do CrossFit, I am met with a condescending eye roll and a sarcastic remark about being in a cult. I usually laugh along and shrug it off — at this point, I have recognized that trying to argue the true purpose of CrossFit is futile against anyone who has never experienced it.

In this article, though, I am not being cautious. I am not talking about the “gym I go to off campus,” because shrinking the community I am a part of to this size is insulting to the things it has given me, and the people who make up this community. With the recent events in Paris and other parts in the world, there is no place I would rather be on Thanksgiving than at home with my family and the members of CrossFit Burlington. 

I performed the “Murph” workout for the first time on May 25, 2015. That Memorial Day, I rolled out of bed at 7 a.m., pulled on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and went downstairs. Less than one hour later I found myself standing outside CrossFit Burlington with approximately 50 individuals, about to take off on our first of two miles. The rain had just stopped, and because I had never done this workout before, I optimistically looked forward to it. However, those who had done the workout before were incredibly nervous, making me realize I had no idea what I was getting into. The timer sounded, and we all took off down the street. Exactly 62 minutes and 51 seconds later, I found myself on my back in a pool of my own sweat, gasping for air, thinking about how this workout was barely a fraction of the difficulties that soldiers face on a daily basis.

“Murph” is a CrossFit workout dedicated to Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Lt. Murphy’s story is well known by many, partially due to the book and later movie “Lone Survivor,” and because he is one of the many war heroes that CrossFit gyms across the country pay tribute to in a small way. The workout, which was Lt. Murphy’s favorite, is a grueling one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another one-mile run — all while wearing a 20-pound weight-vest.

Every Memorial Day, CrossFit gyms across the country perform the “Murph” to celebrate this war hero. The workout is a symbol of our appreciation for what he and others have done for our country. Some boxes — CrossFit gyms — even do Hero Week and perform a different workout dedicated to a fallen soldier for seven days in a row. Some boxes perform “Murph” six months after Memorial Day on Thanksgiving morning. 

There is a mutual understanding, while we sweat through workouts like “Murph,” that what we are doing is not for us. What we are doing is the smallest token of appreciation for fallen heroes like Lt. Murphy, for those who are on active or inactive duty, for the individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and for the families and friends of all of those who have served our country. I am proud to be part of the CrossFit community for reasons like these.

This Thanksgiving morning, while I remain at school in Michigan, I know my brother and sister will be getting out of bed in Vermont and making their way to CrossFit Burlington to line up once more to complete the “Murph” workout. It will probably be snowing, just like it was last Thanksgiving. Even so, Ali, Tommy and the other members of the CrossFit Burlington community will not care, because as soon as they hear “three, two, one, go!” the snow will be the last thing on their minds.

Grace Carey can be reached at gecarey@umich.edu.

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