Hero Workouts

I get a lot of fantastic emails these days. Gone are the days when I dreaded scrolling through an inbox filled mostly with spam; now I look forward to it. Thanks to This is Fit, I get feedback, questions, offers to network, and lots of great stories.604021_175351332670548_709320863_n

They’re all inspiring, but recently, one email stood out among the rest.

Kevin Forde and I grew up in the same small town. (We didn’t know each other. He’s a lot, um, *cough* younger than me.)

Kevin is a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and is currently in Saudi Arabia. We are connected because of Facebook. He messaged me one day about the CrossFit-type workouts they do.

People tell me about their workouts all the time, and because I am constantly on the prowl for new exercise ideas, I usually assume it’s something I’ve heard before. This time was no different.

“Oh, you do some CrossFit workouts? That’s cool,” I replied.

I like CrossFit. I know what it’s about.

Turns out, these aren’t just CrossFit workouts. These are Hero Workouts.

The Hero workouts are a series of high-intensity CrossFit-based routines designed to honor agents who have fallen in deployed environments,” Special Agent Forde wrote.


OH. Wow. He had my attention. He offered to send me the workouts. Humbled, I replied, “Please do.”

Sample Workout #1 – “Hero: Special Agent Thomas”
-Medicine Ball Thrusts x 10 (face wall, two hand thrust straight up, catch, squat and repeat)
-Push-Ups x 10
-Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk x 40 meters (20 out / 20 back – half of body weight)
*Complete this circuit 10 times.  

The document didn’t contain only Hero Workouts. Each Hero Workout was named for a fallen comrade, and described his or her rank, assigned duties, how s/he died, and posthumous awards. There are even photos.

For privacy reasons, I will not be sharing their personal details.

I asked him to tell me about the origin of the idea.

“Whose idea? Great question because nobody knows. Other units from other services have done the same thing for countless years and the military, being the culture it is, just honors its fallen in ways such as this. I believe a very basic version of this started off with one of our units out in Nevada, but over time, it grew into what it is today.”
SA Forde and his unit decided to make the idea their own as well.
“For my unit specifically, the “idea” was first written down and implemented from our unit in Vegas five or six years ago or so, but has been tweaked numerous times over and has spread to our units all over the world. There are a ton of CrossFit fans in the military, so it was a natural transition.”
Sample Workout #2 – “Hero: Special Agent Lee”
-Run 400m
-5 Squats/5 Push-ups/5 Butterfly Sit-ups
-10 Squats/10 Push-ups/10 Butterfly Sit-ups
-15 Squats/15 Push-ups/15 Butterfly Sit-ups
-Run 400m
-15 Squats/15 Push-ups/15 Butterfly Sit-ups
-10 Squats/10 Push-ups/10 Butterfly Sit-ups
-5 Squats/5 Push-ups/5 Butterfly Sit-ups
-Run 400m

“It is primarily for those who were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, but there are also a couple workouts that honor fallen comrades from many years ago.

They don’t just do these workouts on their own time, for their own reasons. It’s become part of their regular fitness regimen.
“The OSI Academy does [Hero Workouts] twice a week with the new agent trainees as part of their physical fitness routine, but in the field, schedules permitting, we do them once a week before our regularly scheduled physical training activities.”
It made my heart pound to look at the photos of the fallen airmen and women, and read their stories and the workouts designed in their honor.
For all our talk of setting goals, finding our motivation, and utilizing practical tips and tricks  and mind games to stick with our exercise programs, these servicemen and servicewomen have hit upon the motherlode of incentives: Because We Can.

They are going to exercise; it’s part of their job. It’s not optional. But with a typical workout, it’s easy to bitch and moan, whine and complain that you have to do push-ups AGAIN, or run 400m AGAIN.

Now, imagine doing it to honor the fallen. To do what they can never do again.

I’m as guilty as anyone of whining over unimportant things – a messy kitchen, bills to pay, finding time to exercise. I know the challenge is mental and emotional.
But perhaps our focus is on the wrong things.
A messy kitchen means I have food to eat, and a place to cook.
Bills to pay means I have utilities that work, cars that run, and a place to live.
And if finding time to exercise is whine-worthy, I think I need a slap upside the head. Others should be so lucky.
Creating and doing workouts to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice is such a powerful way to remember them. But they take it even further.
“Before and after – for motivational and remembrance purposes – one of us will say a few words about the person whose Hero Workout we’re doing.
Quite a few of us who have been doing this job for a while either personally knew these heroes, or had only one, maybe two degrees of separation. We are a very small unit, and when something like this happens, it hits hard because we’re one big family.  This is just one of many ways the command remembers those who gave all.”
After my father died, I made a promise to myself to remember there is always something larger at stake. Life is precious, and we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.
I was engulfed in grief at the time. And naturally, as the weight of that grief eventually lifted, I again found myself fretting over silly things like piles of laundry that never end and that rude clerk at the corner store.
It was a relief, though. Bitching about everyday annoyances is a luxury.
There’s a middle ground. And these soldiers have found it. They must go on, and focus on the duties ahead, but they can – and they do – honor those who’ve been lost each time they do a Hero Workout.
Sample Workout #3 – “Hero: Special Agent Nathan”
– Push-ups until failure (AMRAP)
– Sprint 50 yards
*Repeat two-move circuit until 200 push-ups have been completed (400 for advanced)
*Do no more than 75 push-ups per cycle (Laura’s Note: Hahahaha ok, no problem)
I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m tempted to whine about 30 more seconds of burpees, I’m going to remind myself that I’m doing what others cannot, and for that, I should be so, so grateful.
I’m inspired by these Hero Workouts. I’m going to design a few workouts to honor those I’ve lost. I know my father, for example, would hate to think of us moping around missing him. He was ridiculously strong, and had endless energy. Naming a workout after him is actually brilliantly appropriate.
Sample Workout #4 – “Hero: Special Agent Matthew”
– 400m run at 75-80% effort
– 15 Kettlebell Swings
– 10 Pull-Ups
– 10 Push-Ups
* Complete circuit 6 times
Perhaps you’ve lost someone, too, and you might consider creating a Hero Workout.


In fact, here’s my challenge to you:
  • Create a Hero Workout – simply combine any 2-5 exercises, name the # of sets and reps and include any specific instructions.
  • Most of SA Forde’s unit’s Hero Workouts take anywhere from 12 to 30 minutes. Your Hero Workout can be as long or short as you’d like.
  • Name it after the person you’re honoring.
  • Include any words of tribute you’d like to share.
  • Post it in the comments section, or email it to me at laura@thisisfitworkouts.com, and I will create Thursday Throwdown workout challenges with them! Or maybe even Quickie Workouts!
Many thanks to SA Kevin Forde for sharing these Hero Workouts and this inspiring story! We thank you for your service! And we, too, honor those we’ve lost.
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