Every year, CrossFitters, general fitness fans, and everyday folks take some time and effort on Memorial Day to complete a Murph, a grueling workout that commemorates Lt. Michael Murphy. This year, on Veterans Day, there's another Hero WOD (CrossFit's name for routines named to honor fallen service members) well worth your time: 'Chad', a simple workout with an even more important mission.
The parameters of the workout are as basic as could be: complete 1,000 box step-ups wearing a ruck pack (weighted pack). The inspiration came from Navy SEAL Chad Wilkinson, who died by suicide in 2018 after a 21-year career in the service. Wilkinson experienced the effects of numerous deployments, several TBIs, blast wave injuries, and PTSD.
To honor Chad's memory, the WOD has taken on greater meaning in the form of the CHAD 1000X initiative, a fundraising effort to support organizations dedicated to veteran mental health spearheaded by Gold Star spouse Sara Wilkinson and sponsor GORUCK. While the tragically high rate of veteran suicide has decreased in recent years, vets still have a much higher rate of suicide than non-veteran U.S. adults, at 31.6 per 100,000 people to 16.8 per 100,000, according to the most recent statistic from the VA.
Like other Hero WODs, 'Chad' the workout was inspired by the real-life training its namesake undertook in life. "Chad did this workout specifically to train for climbing mountains," Sara Wilkinson told Men's Health. But there's more to the initiative than just repeating the Hero's footsteps.
"Because he died by suicide I see step-ups to be a poetic representation of mental health," Wilkinson continued. "They are not technical but at some point in the 1,000 you are going to really hurt, question and maybe doubt yourself while alone in your thoughts. It's a reminder to keep going, keep pushing and as Chad used to say 'uncomfortable can't last forever.'"
In that spirit, the workout itself is designed to be as accessible as possible for anyone who wants to give it a try. There are three tiers of load and box height, from beginner ("Slick") to Expert. You can also take on all the reps solo, or join a partner or full team to dole out the step-ups amongst the group.
"It's heartwarming to hear people say his name and share his story but my intention is not a self serving mission," Wilkinson said of the initiative. "Chad is one of many veterans lost to suicide. Watching people come together (from all over the world) on or around Veterans Day provides a visual reminder that our veterans are not alone in their struggle and in turn neither are the families left behind."