ParaWOD Benchmark #5: Cindy takes a bite of me


We have reached the end of Benchmark Week at Crossfit Impavidus, and we end it on a doozy. The entire week, we have focused on speed with limited repetitions:

  1. Fran (4:46)
  2. Annie (11:11)
  3. Jeremy (5:55)
  4. Elizabeth (4:39)

But not for #5. This one goes for 20 minutes, as many rounds as possible (AMRAP).


Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Air Squats

While I had trouble finding what the record is exactly for this workout, the Internet tells me that it is somewhere in the vicinity of 38 or 39 rounds, which means that the record holder is cycling through this sequence twice nearly every minute. I figured that setting my sights on one cycle per minute would be a good place to start, since I’ve never tried this one before.

The adaptation for Cindy is straightforward, but we need to figure out a replacement for the air squats. Medicine ball crunches are my typical go-to for this adaptation since they can be done quickly.

5 Pull-ups = Pull-ups, and yes we do it strict
10 Push-ups = Push-ups with raised legs for maximum depth
15 Air Squats = medicine ball crunches (14lbs)

More importantly however, the challenge for the adaptive athlete is to be able to go from one movement to the next quickly so there is minimal downtime. Once you have spent some time getting comfortable with the movements that Crossfit requires, the transition is the element that warrants the most attention.

I solved this problem for Cindy by doing everything from the floor. We set up a stacked mat below a barbell on the rig. The bar would be the pull-up bar and I would attempt the pull-ups from a sitting position on the mat. After the pull-ups, I could easily transition to push-ups with my knees raised on the mat, and then finally pivot again to my back to do the crunches.

(Side note – one small thing I do for these types of workouts is I take off my sneakers. It prevents my feet from getting caught and stuck while I slide around from position to position.)

Here is a video that we took to demonstrate how we created a self-contained station that allows for this fast transition from one movement to another:

I finished this benchmark attempt at 17 rounds + 5 + 10, falling short of my 20 round goal but having a better understanding of the workout. I believe that the one mistake I made that held me back is that I should have used a lighter medicine ball (10lbs) because the air squat movement isn’t about moving weight, but full range of motion. By mid-rounds, I definitely felt like I was moving weight, not simply moving myself, and this movement slowed me down.

Also, my 10 year old daughter knocked out 18 full rounds, so I definitely have something to shoot for!

Great benchmark week at Crossfit Impavidus. Now, let’s do better!

Memorial Day: “MURPH” Hero WOD

Hero WOD: “Murph”


It is an annual tradition at Crossfit Nassau to do a special workout on Memorial Day. This annual workout is known to many as “Murph,” which represents two big ideas:

1) The recognition and memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. From the official Crossfit site:

This workout was one of Mike’s favorites and he’d named it “Body Armor”. From here on it will be referred to as “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.

Murphy, nicknamed “The Protector,” was awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice in Afghanistan, the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive such an honor since Vietnam. He was the leader of Operation Red Wings, the counter-insurgent mission that claimed the lives of Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Murphy himself. The mission’s only surviving member is Marcus Luttrell, who commemorated the mission in his book, “Lone Survivor,” which was made into a movie last year.

2) The second big idea is that the athletes who choose to participate in Murph get to share, in some very small way, both the memory of this fallen warrior as well as gain an idea of the warrior spirit. Doing a simple workout of course can never emulate that true embodiment, but by choosing to share in a common exercise, especially with fellow athletes, the individual can run next to the memory of a big idea, at least for a little while, allowing it to take hold of yourself so that when you think of the protectors of our nation, you think on it a little more deeply and with greater purpose.

The Workout

(You’d better pre-hydrate for this one)

For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run

Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you’ve got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it.


  • 1 mile run = do it!
  • 100 pull-ups = do it! And do it strict (bar or ring-rows), because you’re a para-athlete!
  • 200 push-ups = do it!
  • 300 squats = requires something that can be done in high volume. medicine ball crunches will do nicely (10lbs)
  • 1 mile run = do it!

The use of a whiteboard is strongly suggested, because if you partition these sets, by midway your brain is going to be scrambled trying to keep track of everything.

For myself, I am cognizant of how much time I lose during movement transitions, so this time I broke it all down into 10 sets:

10 rounds of:

  • 10 pull-ups
  • 20 push-ups
  • 30 crunches

In the end, I averaged about 3 minutes per middle round. Coupled with the mile run before (8 minutes) and after (10 minutes), my total time came to 48 minutes to complete the WOD, an improvement by about 7 minutes from the first time I attempted it 2 years ago.

Remember, the goal is to take this massive workout, figure it out, and make it work. Better yet, find some friends and do it as a team, embodying on some small level the ethos of Murph and his SEAL teammates.

5/13/15 WOD: weighted dips, get up, get down, get all around

Today’s WOD provided both a good strength adaptation as well as an easily adaptable conditioning AMRAP.

The prescribed AMRAP was as follows:

Conditioning: 20min AMRAP of…
10 air-squats
10 sit-ups
10 burpees
10 barbell rows (95,65)


For the strength component, we did weighted dips on a Matador dip station.

 The basic dip movement is one of my stronger attributes, but adding weight can be tricky. If you have hip control, a belt for adding weight is the easiest way to go:

However, if you cannot keep the belt seated on your hips, you have to get creative. We took a thick rubber band and I put it on kind of like a vest, and on that band I was able to attach the belt. Now my shoulders were controlling the weight instead of my hips.

We then added weights increasingly until I hit my 3-rep max weight. I finished at my body weight + 60lbs.


  1. air squats = wall balls (14lbs)
  2. burpees = push-ups
  3. sit-ups = medicine ball crunches (14lbs)
  4. barbell rows – this one required a little bit of adjustment. Instead of doing a standing barbell row, we placed a weight bench on top of 2 boxes, and then I did the row lying stomach down on the bench.

The movements are all doable on their own, but the most difficult aspect for a wheelchair athlete is getting from one station to another. Getting in and out of a chair is one challenge that every para-athlete needs to work on. Getting up and down off of a bench is quite another, because the risk of falling is always present. However, this is all the more reason for the para-athlete to practice this movement, to be able to do it quickly, efficiently, and most important, safely.

Hero WOD: Michael; April 24, 2015

April 24 is a special day, because each year my Crossfit Gym schedules a Hero WOD called Michael:

3 rounds for time:

  • Run 800 meters
  • 50 Back Extensions
  • 50 Sit-ups

This is my favorite Hero WOD. It is the first one I ever attempted 3 years ago, and it has special meaning for me because the soldier for which it was named after, Michael McGreevy, is survived by his wife Laura McGreevy, who is a Crossfit Nassau member.

McGreevy’s life should be remembered for many reasons, but one of which is the fact that he was one of the fallen soldiers who died on the Chinook whose mission was to extract the SEALS of Operation Redwing, which is remembered by Marcus Luttrell’s book, “Lone Survivor,” and the movie by the same name.

I love this workout.

The only significant adaptation required for me is the back extensions, also called “good mornings.”


  • 800 meters
  • 50 medicine ball crunches (10lbs)
  • 50 push-ups

The first time I attempted this workout, my time was over 50 minutes. This time, I finished at 27:05.

This is a great workout for wheelchair-bound athletes, and an excellent test for measuring improvement.

April 20, 2015 WOD: Press/pull superset, rowing, push-ups, crawling

Today’s WOD was the following:

Strength: superset the following…
A1. Shoulder Press – Men 4-5 reps, Women 6-8 reps
A2. Pull Ups- 5 sets@2012; 2-3 (weighted if you can)

Conditioning: one round for time…
-50 cal row
-40 HR Pushups
-30m farmer’s walk – 2pd/h
-20 Deadlift – Heavy (70-80% 1RM based on experience)
-10 burpee + big barrier jump

Phase 1

Shoulder press requires no modification. You can do this either with a barbell or with dumbbells/kettlebell.  The goal in this today’s workout was lighter weight, fast explosiveness on the way up, and 2 second decline during the negative portion on the way down. I worked to a weight of 95 lbs for these sets.

Pull-ups do not require modification as long as you have access to a reachable bar or rings. The goal in today’s was to make it difficult by using slow, deliberate motions, and adding weight if possible. I personally opted to use rings with a strict false grip (which you can see in the logo) because I am always trying to strengthen my false grip and explosive power in order to contribute to muscle-ups.

Phase 2

Instead of making this a one round for time, we adjusted it so that it was an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) within 12 minutes.


  1. 50 cal row to 20 cal row
  2. 40 hand release push-ups to 30 hand release push-ups
  3. Deadlift eliminated
  4. burpee + barrier jump to crawl + barrier climb

The last one, the crawl + barrier climb, is a lot more difficult than you might imagine, especially if you are beyond pre-teen years. Actually moving your body when you’re carrying dead weight gets very fatiguing very quickly, and puts a lot of stress on the wrists and shoulders. Which makes it a great workout because it is one of the few things that elevates the heart rate and keeps it in the zone. We set up a mat about 10 yards long with a stacked mat in the middle. Getting from one end to the other is tough enough, but then having to actually climb up and over an elevated obstacle takes it over the top. Needless to say, this can be a pretty important life skill for wheelchair bound athletes in case they ever find themselves without one.

(It also helps to have a gym and coaches who remove all sense of personal embarrassment you might feel dragging yourself across the floor. In the beginning, I didn’t like the crawl because, well, I was crawling. But then my coach said, “I’m the coach, so you have to trust in what I’m asking you to do. And if anybody else in the gym has an issue with that, I’ll throw them out.”)

I completed a full 2 rounds within the 12 minutes.

April 13, 2015 WOD: modifying an entire workout

Today’s WOD was comprised of 2 segments:

Dynamic Effort
A1. Box Squat 31X1; 5 x 2 (speed, speed, speed)
A2. Max Height Rebound Vertical Jump 3 reps; 5 sets

Conditioning: 3 rounds @ 90% effort
-1 min burpee broad jumps
-1 min db/kb thrusters – 25/15#
-1 min box jumps – 20/14″
rest 3 min actively and then repeat

This type of workout is always going to be problematic for para-athletes because nearly every single movement is prohibitive. Instead, focus on what the workout’s goal is.

Part 1

Replace box squat with shoulder press. In today’s workout, we first worked on explosiveness, and then moved to a max effort. For my own records, I finished with a max effort of 115 lbs for 2 reps for the shoulder press.

Part 2

Replace the three prescribed movements with 3 adaptable movements that allow lots of reps in short periods of time. The challenge for the wheelchair athlete however is that there is no rest time in between the 3 movements (only the 3 minutes of rest after the 3rd movement).

I replaced the 3 prescribed movements with these:

  1. Wall balls
  2. Elevated push-ups
  3. Medicine ball crunches

The workout was as much about getting from one movement to the next as quickly as possible as it was about the reps. This is also the kind of workout that might require some repetition in order to get the positioning of all of the equipment in the right place. For example, after you finish the wall balls, where do you drop the medicine ball so that when you get to the crunches, you can easily grab it? Where do you put the mat so that you can go straight from the chair to the mat and start push-ups? How do you position your body so that you can drop straight out of your chair into a natural position for the next movement?

I have found that thinking about these things before, during, and after the workout are beneficial because one of the big challenges for the para-athlete is to get the heart rate elevated and to stay elevated during the workout. If there is too much downtime in between sets, it becomes difficult to stay in that ideal zone.