The Murph Challenge: How I Tackled It

At the beginning of the year, I was looking for a physical challenge to keep me motivated and continuing my exercise regime. At the end of March, I watched the video of a group of people doing the Murph Challenge. Even though it looked daunting, I called my oldest daughter and asked her if she would want to do it with me. She was excited, so we set up a plan and began training. I knew in order to make it through the training and the challenge I would need to read inspirational fitness quotes on a daily basis.

“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not a champion.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger, seven-time Mr. Olympia

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
— Bruce Lee, actor, and martial artist

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The Murph Challenge

Lieutenant Michael P Murphy was a Navy Seal who was killed in action on June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan. LT. Murphy was severely wounded but still fought on, allowing one member of his team (Marcus Luttrell) to escape before he was killed. For his selfless actions, LT. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 27, 2007. Thousands of men and women honor his memory by competing in The Murph Challenge on Memorial Day every year. It has become a humbling tradition that gives us an opportunity to push ourselves and persevere to honor, LT. Michael P. Murphy, a man who sacrificed everything he had for our freedom.

LT. Michael P. Murphy

The Murph Challenge consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run while wearing a 20-pound vest. Why would I want to put my body through such a test? Even though I’m in good physical condition, especially for a man my age (I will be 60 years young in August), I wasn’t close to being in the type of shape I needed to be in to complete this challenge. I could do only three pull-ups and 10 push-ups when I started. I knew I would need a big WHY to keep me going. My WHY was that I wanted to do it to honor my family members, my friends, and all the servicemen and women who paid that ultimate sacrifice fighting for our country.

 “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”
— Michael Jordan, basketball player

 “A champion is someone who gets up when they can’t.”
— Jack Dempsey, professional boxer

Why Would I Do This To Myself?

After I had my WHY, I then wrote down my goal. This was easy because The Murph Challenge is specific and given to you. My goal was to complete it as specified and not modify it. I could’ve decided to do it without the vest but I really wanted to challenge myself and prove that age is just a number.

The hardest part for me was coming up with a plan to be able to tackle this challenge. When I sat down and looked at the workout, it scared me. I had no idea how I was going to get through it. Then I read my favorite inspirational quote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I came to the conclusion that I could do small parts of the whole challenge. I had two months to train so I broke down The Murph Challenge into fractions.

Man doing push ups
200 Pushups

The Plan

I began on the first of April with a plan to do one-fourth of The Murph Challenge without wearing the 20-pound vest. I would do this workout, 25 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, and 75 squats, three times a week for two weeks.

During weeks 3 and 4, I increased my workout by attempting to do one half of The Murph Challenge. I completed this workout three times a week, but only wore the vest during one of those three workouts.

As weeks 5 and 6 rolled around, I was strong enough to complete one half of a Murph with the vest three times a week. With only two weeks to go before the challenge, I knew I had to ramp up my training.

In weeks 7 and 8, the last weeks before The Murph Challenge, I decided that I needed to do 80 percent of a Murph, without the vest, three times a week. As painful as this was, it gave me the confidence that I would need to complete the challenge. Throughout my training, I was constantly listening to motivational speeches and reading the inspirational quotes that I have included in this post.

“What hurts today makes you stronger tomorrow.”
— Jay Cutler, pro bodybuilder and four-time Mr. Olympia

 “If something stands between you and your success, move it. Never be denied.”
— Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, actor and pro wrestler

The Day Is Finally Here

Memorial Day has finally arrived and I will get to achieve the goal I had set for myself two months ago. I have to admit that I was glad the day was finally here because the training had become harder on my body. It took me longer to recover between training days. I woke up that morning and felt great. My body was strong and I knew I would endure the pain and make it through. Unfortunately, my daughter had moved back to her apartment to begin work again and we couldn’t do it together. It’s always easier to have a partner, someone to suffer with you, and motivate you. I would have to motivate myself, so I fired up some good music, inspirational speeches, and fitness quotes, and off I went.

Elderly man running

One Mile Run

I put on the vest, which felt a lot heavier than 20 pounds and opened the garage door. I was disappointed at the site and the sounds of a rainstorm. Hesitating for a minute, went over my options, determining that I only had one. I went out into the dark, rainy morning. At times, the rain was coming in sideways and I felt the sting on my face of raindrops propelled by the wind. I continued on, knowing I couldn’t turn back. My adrenaline was pumping and I moved with a brisk pace, hardly feeling the extra weight.

So Many Pull Ups

After finishing my one-mile run/walk, I had decided to do 10 sets of 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, and 30 squats. My first set was as painful as it always was. My arm and shoulder muscles felt as if they were on fire as I lifted my body off the ground. It takes a while for my old joints and muscles to get warmed up, but I knew from my training that the pain was going to go away the more sets I did.

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”
— John Wooden, basketball player and coach

“You have to think it before you can do it. The mind is what makes it all possible.”
— Kai Greene, pro bodybuilder and artist

By the time I finished the fifth set, I was feeling good. I was tired but my muscles were strong and I knew I could keep going. During the sixth and seventh set, I noticed that my grip strength was beginning to wane. Reading the inspirational quotes really helped me to stay focused and forget about the pain.

the word push
Keep Pushing

Almost Home

Finishing the eighth set was a milestone for me. I had never completed 80 percent of a Murph while wearing the 20-pound vest. Now I knew that nothing was going to stop me despite the pain in my shoulders, hands, knees, and elbows. Two more to go.

Approaching my last set, I was feeling extreme pain in my arms and shoulders but I was too close to quit. I just kept repeating my favorite quote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” over and over until I completed my last squat. I did it! Only one more mile to go.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

“When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.” 

The Last Mile

I headed out into a steady rain this time, not the downpour I endured on my first mile and was thankful it was not a normal humid Florida morning. This time I moved a lot slower than I did when I began the challenge. The weight of the vest was digging into my shoulders and felt like 100 pounds. The pain I felt in my arms and shoulders from all the pull-ups and push-ups was almost unbearable and I wanted to stop. I just kept going, putting one foot in front of the other until I saw the finish line. The inspirational quotes kept repeating in my head and gave me the strength to persevere.

man on a mountain


Finally, it was over and I had done it. I pushed through the pain and it humbled me as I thought about my reasons for taking on this challenge. The images of my family and friends were imprinted in my mind and were there with me. They were my team along with all the men and women of the Armed Forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. My victory over this challenge is dedicated to Brad Smith a colleague of mine in the DEA. Brad passed away a little over a month ago after a long courageous battle with cancer.

Final Thoughts

Taking on The Murph Challenge is no different than taking on any of life’s other challenges. Are you facing any challenges today in life you need to take on? If so, just do what I did and use the tools of success to overcome those challenges. Decide your WHY, set a goal, make your plan, and go work your plan. Break it down into its simplest form, something you know you can handle and begin. Find your team to help you overcome any obstacles. Use these inspirational quotes to help get you through the most difficult times. When you want to quit, think about why you started. Persevere and victory will be yours.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
—Steve Prefontaine

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
—Jerry Rice

Have you ever took on a challenge and beat it? If so, I would love to hear about it. Leave a reply along with your quotes, advice, tips, or links to helpful groups or sites in the comments section below. If you have any questions or requests for topics I would love to hear them. If you like this post, click on the little star and feel free to share it with others it might help. As always, my posts are based on lessons I’ve learned throughout my life. I don’t claim to be an expert or professional therapist, I just play one on TV (some of you might get that joke).

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“This Train Is Moving on, You Can Get on, You Can Get off, But the Train Keeps Moving on! We Are Going to the Top of the Mountain!”

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