Murph (1-mile run/ 100 pull-ups/ 200 push-ups/ 300 squats/ 1-mile run, wearing a 25lb vest) is one of the most physically (and mentally) challenging workouts that CrossFitters can expect to encounter all year. We asked Coach Iz for his advice on preparing for this famously tough Hero WOD. Here are some of his tips for getting through Murph in one piece.
Start Preparing Now
The first thing I would recommend is starting your prep early. A 30 to 45-day prep cycle will best help you prepare for the challenge. The prep period should include variations of the WOD at different lengths of time and intensities. You should incorporate variations of pull-ups, push-ups, air squats, and running 2-4 times per week in different combinations. The further out you are from the date, the more time you have to experiment with fueling, pacing, rep schemes, breathing, transition times, rest, and recovery.
During this cycle you should practice virtuosity—your last rep should look exactly like your first rep (including your running technique). Excellent movement is mastered through excellent practice. The best time to start practicing excellent movement was yesterday, the second best time is now.
Rehearse Fueling and Hydration
For fueling and hydration, you must practice this in advance. Generally speaking, I would recommend you begin hydrating 2-3 days prior to the event. Aim for half of your body’s weight in ounces of water spread throughout the day. (Divide the number of ounces by waking hours in a day.) You can also consider adding in electrolytes to ensure that you are properly assimilating all the extra water.
With regard to eating, timing will vary somewhat, but I recommend having a meal with some extra low-glycemic carbs (e.g. vegetables and whole grains) about 2-3 hours before the event. You definitely don’t want to be overly fully—you should be semi-fasted as you start the workout. If you plan to use caffeine, I would practice this in advance.
Strategize Your Reps
There are several rep schemes that I have seen and or have experimented with. Here are a few you may want to try:
If you are an aerobic beast, you can try going through without partitioning the gymnastics.
If you are not quite at that level but you are proficient at larger sets, you can partition the gymnastics in 4 sets of 25 pull-Up/ 50 push-ups/ 75 air squats.
If you fall in the moderately high volume gymnastic category, you can try 5 sets of 20 pull-ups/ 40 push-ups/ 60 air squats.
However, most people will opt for the old Cindy approach: 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups/ 10 push-ups/ 15 air squats.
I have fairly decent gymnastics and my personal favorite rep scheme is 20 Rounds of 5 pull-ups/5 push-ups/ 15 air squats/ 5 push-ups. I like using this rep scheme because it breaks up the push-ups, which are the most challenging movement for me.
Again, just like fueling, any rep scheme should be practiced.
Pick a Pace
For pacing, I recommend working at 90% of your maximal aerobic pace. Regardless of your partitioning strategy, avoid red-lining and performing sets until failure. Your first run should be controlled and measured; you should be intentionally running slower than your fastest mile time. Your second mile will depend on your training.
For the gymnastics portion of the WOD, it’s very individualized, but you should know how many seconds between reps and sets are necessary and keep yourself accountable. To improve transition times, try to have a tight set-up. The ideal set-up has everything within 2-3 steps of each other. Keep water, chalk and a towel handy just in case.
When you start racking up the volume, rest and recovery will become important tools for increasing performance. Try to get 8 hours of restful sleep per night leading up to the event. The day after a practice WOD or a full Murph WOD should be a back-off or rest day. Allow your body to adapt to the stimulus before adding more stress.
Build volume gradually over the course of the prep cycle. Incorporate 1 or 2 active recovery days during which you focus on preparing your mind and body for the next workout. Stretching, self-myofascial release, deep breathing, meditation, visualization, journaling, massage, contrast showers, salt baths, steam/sauna, or any other healing activities are encouraged on these days.
Post Murph, I recommend 20 minutes of light pedaling on the air bike to encourage blood flow and recovery.
Sunglasses might come in handy, and hand protection might be necessary. You should have some kind of hand protection built into your practice just in case.
Wear your normal running shoes and clothes made of comfortable, sweat-wicking material.
If you are using a vest, I highly encourage wearing a t-shirt underneath it to avoid chafing.
The only supplementation I would recommend is possibly some amino acids, but this should be practiced.
I highly discourage a pre-workout for Murph!
Putting in the extra practice will improve your mindset and confidence going in. A good prep cycle will give you more insight into your limitations. Having that insight will allow you enough time to develop and implement the right strategy to improve your performance.