What Are Hero WODs And Why Do We Do Them?

What Are Hero WODs?

Hero WODs are an important part of CrossFit. Officially, CrossFit describes Hero WODs in the following terms:

 “Military, law enforcement and first responder communities were amongst the earliest proponents of CrossFit. Their intensity matched with the fitness CrossFit provides is a match made in heaven. When a service member dies in the line of duty, a CrossFit Hero workout is created in their name. Hero WODs are an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of the fallen – to speak their names and honor their memories. These workouts have been a tradition of workout gyms since 2008.

First some facts:

  • CrossFit used Hero WODs since before 2008. However, they took a strong foothold in the CrossFit community in 2008.
  • They are usually very challenging and difficult. Overall, they are designed to be a little bit beyond most of the daily WODs.
  • As of 9/11/2020, wodwell.com has had 879 Hero WODs listed.
  • Some of the most famous are Murph, Kalsu, DT, 9/11 Tribute, Hotshots 19, and Chris Kyle.
  • Usually affiliates local to the fallen hero create and submit the hero WOD. They are seen as “official” CrossFit Hero WODs if they get posted on CrossFit’s main site.

Why Hero WODs are important

Obviously, first and foremost, Hero WODs pay tribute and honor to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

For a community built around fitness and hard work, a few moments of silence just isn’t enough. Our love is shown by sweating, labored breathing, throwing up, passing out, ripped hands and bleeding shins. We show love by being so physically uncomfortable we can’t help but cry. I’ve seen or experienced all of these effects during Hero WODs.

CrossFitters show love and respect a little differently than most. We use our mental and physical fortitude. We push ourselves to uncomfortable places in an attempt to say ‘thank you for your sacrifice’.

A face to the name

All benchmark WODs in CrossFit have names. Sometimes they are comical like “Burn the Bird”. The originals are known as ‘the girls’ which as imagined all have girls names, such as Annie, Fran, Diane, Grace. 

But those aren’t named or designed for real people. Hero WODs are different. Hero WODs have a face, or sometimes many faces, associated with them. They are bittersweet.

In a way it is nice to be able to honor people who have placed their own lives in danger to help and save others. On the other hand, every Hero WOD means there is someone who lost a child, sibling, parent, or friend. More importantly it means there is one less good person in the world, and the world needs as many good people as possible.

Personally I have never heard anyone complain about a Hero WOD. They might say it was hard or that they wanted to quit. But I have never heard anyone say they hated it, or anything of the sort.

Most people understand that a Hero WOD is not about you. It’s not about how fast you can complete it, or posting a picture or video on social media. It doesn’t matter how much pain you are in. It doesn’t matter how bad you want to quit, or how long it takes.  

A Hero WOD is about those who have done their time and paid their dues. These people were placed in extreme situations, often knowing that was probably going to be the last thing they did.  

Therefore, these will always be the hardest, and most sacred WODs, as they should be. The next time one is on the whiteboard, remember why we do them. Pay your respects the CrossFit way.


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