CrossFit Trainer Jeff Yan is no newcomer to fitness, and he’s been a part of NYC’s functional fitness scene for going on ten years. Around a year ago, Yan — who trains out of CrossFit Concrete Jungle — decided to start tackling as many Hero WODs as possible.
As listed on CrossFit’s FAQ, Hero WODs are workouts named in honor of service men and women — mostly military and first responders — who gave their lives in the line of duty. The workouts are famed for tending to be particularly long, heavy, or otherwise taxing, and some — like “Murph” — have become fitness rites of passage in and of themselves.
Yan’s not the first to start working his way down the list of all Hero WODs — which number into the hundreds — but he’s certainly completed the most of anyone we’ve ever talked to. We caught up with Yan to talk about the journey, his changing motivation, and how focusing on Hero WODs as his primary workouts has impacted his fitness.
1. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing?
I’m trying to complete as many hero WODs as possible, as close to RX as possible. If I can do them all, great, but I’m aware that I might not, due to limitations in my strength, available equipment, or injury. I’m also hoping to finish them as soon as possible too, but I didn’t set any hard time frame because I wanted this to be a journey, not an obsession.
2. What inspired you to do this?
When I first started doing CrossFit around 10 years ago, because it was comparably underground, it attracted the most highly motivated fitness enthusiasts who actively sought to separate themselves from what the mainstream was doing. Nowadays, CrossFit’s popularity has skyrocketed to the point where it seems like everyone and their grandmothers are doing it, thereby raising the bar for casual fitness. Checking off these hero WODs has been a way for me to return to my CrossFit roots while staying connected to the ever-growing and ever-evolving community.
Of course, inspiration is also drawn from the namesakes themselves. Admittedly, at the beginning, for me it wasn’t about the heroes at all, but when you do enough of these workouts, you can’t forget the fact that they’re more than just a collection of movements. Each of these WODs is a commemoration to a life cut short while in the service of others. Their stories are worth learning, remembering, and honoring, and they enrich the experience.
Short answer: I originally only planned to do one Hero WOD on a whim, and it just escalated from there.
3. Which have you done so far? Which ones do you have yet to do that you’d like to tackle?
By the time this is published I’ll probably have done over a hundred. I’m looking forward to trying “Robbie.” Ones I’ve done:
4. Of the Hero WOD’s you’ve done, which has been the:
Keeping in mind that I still have yet to attempt several of the heaviest workouts, “Ship” and “Walsh” were challenging for me. I expect some of the remaining WODs to exceed those two in difficulty.
I was extremely frustrated with “Thompson.”
5. How do you think doing all these Hero WODs has impacted your overall fitness?
I haven’t taken any measurements, so this would be purely subjective and based off my feelings. Working at lower intensity and higher volume has probably been restorative, allowing more time for some of my nagging training injuries to gradually heal up. Unfortunately, it’s come at a cost to my maximal lifting and power, since I’ve had less time for dedicated strength work. From a body composition standpoint, I’ve stripped body fat and increased definition, according to comments from colleagues who have had to endure me being shirtless at the box.
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