What is a Hero? The Oxford definition defines it as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

A great man once said Sacrifice is to freely give something of yourself in the name of a belief, a quest, or an idea. 

I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years and I’ve seen a growing confusion, on the part of youth as it pertains to the idea of sacrifice. The questions I often hear are ones like;   “why stand for the national anthem?”, “why sit  in silence for our dead soldiers?” or “Why does it matter to my world?”  Standing for them seems like a sacrifice that is more at home with the generations gone by.  They see it as a sacrifice that they don’t need to make. The idea of sacrifice, real sacrifice, is an idea that is quickly being forgotten 

“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.” – Crossfit.com 

Over the last five years I’ve been at our gym, I’ve seen some of the most exciting, and inspiring classes when a Hero WOD is put on the board. The class often starts with the coach reading out the name, that person’s personal story, and what they sacrificed for those, who oftentimes, didn’t even know the sacrifice had been made. The group often falls quiet in contemplation, before they begin to set up for a workout like no other. Athletes will scale what they can while trying their respective best to honour the spirit of the Hero WOD.   Most people understand that a Hero WOD is not about them. It’s not about how fast they can complete it, or posting a picture or video on social media. It doesn’t matter how much pain they are in. It doesn’t matter how bad they want to quit, or how long it takes. All that matters is the act itself.

 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.  As of 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. 

Since our gym opened its doors over a decade ago, the community has been built around fitness and hard work. However as a gym owned by a member of our armed forces, a few moments of silence has never been 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. 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.

Crossfit as a global community, and sport, has consistently shown love and respect 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 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. As we head into November, and come upon Canada’s national day of mourning let us never forget the sacrifice that has created the road we now walk or the freedom we now freely enjoy. 

See you at the gym. 

By Daniel, and Amelia, Gerecht