How To Become a Better American in 39 minutes

A room full of patriots in pain. | Photo by Studio 306

A room full of patriots in pain. | Photo by Studio 306

I'm not a loudly patriotic person.

For example, things you'll never see me do: cover my vehicle with images of an American flag and a crying eagle; end a ranting Facebook post with something along the lines of "if you don't like this country, then LEAVE!"; sing Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" at karaoke night.

Things you will see me do: sneer at people who talk and don't take of their damn hats during the national anthem at sporting events (and when a veteran raises the flag? GAH! The best! Show some respect!); shed a tear while enjoying our incredible national parks; sing literally every other Toby Keith song except for "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" at karaoke night. I love Toby Keith (I'm only a little embarrassed about that. I also love Metallica and the Beach Boys, so it all evens out, right?), even though I hate that one song and his stupid chain of bars. 

Memorial Day, to me, has always meant the day we kick-off summer.

I haven't given much thought to why it's a national holiday. I mean, I have, but not really. Although my grandpa served in WWII and my dad was in the Air National Guard, I didn't grow up in a big military family. I have a handful of friends (and by handful, basically one) who joined the military after high school. Number of people I've known who died in combat? Zero.

But this year, I did care about Memorial Day.

It started in a place I can't believe is even a part of my life. 

I joined TwinTown Fitness two years ago. It's a CrossFit gym, where the focus is on "functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity." Basically, you do quick and dirty workouts that combine weightlifting, cardio and agility. That sounds great and I actually enjoy exercising, but to me, the CrossFit culture was always kind of a turn-off. For example, five seconds into this video, I was super impressed, but felt incredibly alienated. No thanks.


TwinTown Fitness: good branding, right? | Photo by Studio 306

TwinTown Fitness: good branding, right? | Photo by Studio 306

However, after being coerced by my significant other to just try a few TwinTown classes, I realized CrossFit doesn't have to mean your practicing to be the next Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. TwinTown is full of nice, normal people... some of whom happen to be really, really, really fit. However, I've learned from personal experience that fit looks different on everyone. Most of us are just teaching each other that badass comes in all shapes, sizes and ages. And while I am not guzzling the CrossFit KoolAid (or coconut water, as it were), I kinda fell in love with the people, the gym and the way I now have an actual butt

My handsome Murph companions. | Photo by Studio 306

My handsome Murph companions. | Photo by Studio 306

In CrossFit, a lot of workouts are given anthropomorphic names-- like Helen, Fran and Molly (JK, there is no Molly yet, but if there was, it'd end with a 800 meter light jog to brunch!). Murph is one of CrossFit's Hero workouts, meaning it's named after a soldier who died in combat. The workout looks like this:

  • 1 mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • 1 mile run

Traditionally, CrossFit gyms around the country do Murph on Memorial Day as an homage to Lt Michael P. Murphy, a Navy Seal that died in combat on June 28, 2005. The story is incredible, so how 'bout you read it instead of me giving you the janky Cliffs Notes. What's more, many gyms like mine raise money for the Murph Foundation. It's good all around. 

Except... everyone who talked about tackling Murph made it sound awful. Like running a Death Valley marathon that you'd never even trained for while wearing Crocs. There was an energy in the air that was very much like Game of Thrones' winter is coming. But exchange the word winter with Murph. 


I wasn't interested in doing Murph at all. But then the husband signed up and asked if I wanted to. Then he read me Murph's story. And then I was like, well, it's really the least I can do.

I hadn't planned on doing the full-on Murph shebang. First of all, I can't do 100 pull-ups (maybe three?). 200 push-ups? Nope. But I can do slight variations of both, so I committed to a 3/4-Murph, meaning I'd do the full one-mile, then 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups and 200 squats. My hubby said the workout should take me about 45 minutes. Since I'd never done this before, I thought that might be about right. 

We arrived at the gym for a few minutes early, looking on as the last group was wrapping up their Murph. While a few folks looked determined, many others looked defeated or at least kinda like they regretting doing the damn thing. Not exactly getting me pumped up for what was to come. 

I set up my station, stretched a bit, then heard the 90 second warning for my heat. I thought about this Murph guy. Really thought about him, the actual person. A man I'd never even seen a photo of, whose family I don't know, whose story I'd literally just heard for the first time hours prior. That guy is a hero and he's dead. Meanwhile, all I've got on the docket today is exercising for maybe 45 minutes, then barbecuing with some friends. 

The bell rang, and I started on my one mile row (I'm not running these days because my ankles quit on me).

Next, the 50 pull-ups (ring rows). Then, 100 push-ups and 150 squats.

Only 199 more to go! | Photo by Studio 306

Only 199 more to go! | Photo by Studio 306

I was flying! Then, it was back to the rower for my final mile. I did 3/4-Murph in 29 minutes. 

29 minutes. That's not even close to 45 minutes!

I realized my timing issue about halfway into my final row. I thought about Murph. At 29, he essentially offered up his life in the hopes of saving three other soldiers. And here I am, just exercising for fun in a gym. I'm not even that tired. I should just do the whole damn thing. 

I look like I'm crossing my fingers. Maybe I was. | Photo by Studio 306

I look like I'm crossing my fingers. Maybe I was. | Photo by Studio 306

I ended my row, then went back to my rings. 50 more ring rows, 100 more push-ups and 150 more squats. Thirty-nine minutes and thirty-two seconds. Definitely some roof left to challenge myself a little more next year. 

And next year, I will plan on it, god willing. Because in 39 minutes I learned more about Memorial Day than I did in 32 years. 

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Thanks for the awesome photos, Studio 306!

Oh hey, did you know going to CrossFit basically scares the shit out of me every single time I go? Hey Eleanor! A few notable moments: the time I started going to CrossFit, plus the time I actually climbed a rope! PS Did you know my friend Hannah started her own CrossFit gym? And what about the time Mel J quit CrossFit, kicking and screaming, and it changed her life for the better?