Are CrossFit’s “Hero” WODs Truly Patriotic Or Just Shameless Marketing?
Just about everybody has a friend or group of friends these days that is part of the workout phenomenon known as CrossFit. The CrossFit Games, a grueling competition of the best athletes who train under the program, has been held every summer since 2007 and are currently underway now and being broadcast on ESPN. During the Saturday afternoon broadcast, they featured a small segment about the Crossfit "Hero" WODs. For those of you that are not CrossFit enthusiasts - like myself - a WOD is a "workout of the day".
Here is a brief description of Hero WODs according to CrossfitHardcore.com.
"These CrossFit Hero WODs listed below are some of the most intense workouts that you could experience. They are intended to be performed with intense effort, in honor of our fallen Heroes. Don’t think of yourself. Instead think about the Hero that has given his all for our freedom."
This explanation is followed by a list of each workout and a brief bio of the fallen soldier that it is named after. The CrossFit FAQ page features a similar list, as does Crossfitcvi.com. None of these descriptions offer much detail as to the origin of the workouts or what criteria is used in deciding on which soldiers get a WOD named after them. In fact, the CrossFit.com page doesn't explain the origin of the Hero WODs or the purpose that they serve at all. It just lists the workouts with the same pictures and bios that are featured on most other CrossFit websites. (If you want to review the list, the aforementioned CrossFitHardcore.com definitely has the most well-done page as far as picturing the soldiers and detailing their namesake workouts.)
This idea of doing a workout in honor of fallen soldiers seems rooted in the belief that CrossFit training is quickly becoming the training program of choice for many men and women in the armed services. CrossfitIOTA.com references this opinion on the Hero WODs section of their website.
"CrossFit is quickly becoming “the training” program for our Military, Law Enforcement and Fire Fighters. Since day one CrossFit has embraced our men and women in uniform and they have chosen to honor the Heroes who gave their lives to keep us and our country safe."
The explanation for the genesis of this program is vague, and the use of quotations around "the training" is perplexing. Is it, or isn't it? It seems the truth of the matter is vague as well; and that's where the controversy comes in.
Proponents of the homage to fallen soldiers believe that regardless of whether CrossFit holds a particularly important or prominent role in the training of our armed services, paying tribute to those who lost their lives in service to the country and reminding others of their sacrifice is always a good thing.
Skeptics argue that it is a ploy by CrossFit and its sponsors to capitalize on the tragedy of these deaths by marketing increasingly strenuous workouts to its community under the names of the fallen heroes and then promoting their products as necessary additions to the WODs. Patrick McCarty provides a detailed argument on breakingmuscle.com, referencing the suspicious promotion of Progenex in correlation with Hero WODs.
Thomas E. Ricks of Foreign Policy magazine took a deeper look into the entire conversation in his article December 2014 piece entitled "The relationship between the U.S. military and the CrossFit program." The piece features studies that outline the pros and cons of the workout as viewed by the military itself as well as comparing it to other training regiments such as the Advanced Tactical Athlete Conditioning (ATAC) program and the Ranger Athlete Warrior (RAW) regimen.
His lede pretty much says it all, though.
"Is CrossFit the solution to get the military back in shape? The answer is 'yes,' 'no,' and 'it’s complicated.' "
So are these Hero WODs just a ploy for CrossFit to market themselves and their associated products to well-meaning members, or was their inception genuinely focused on honoring the sacrifice of those who fight for our country? As far as I can tell, it really doesn't matter.
Yes it would be a shame if CrossFit's Hero WODs were conceived in some boardroom at Progenex as a way to take advantage of death in the line of duty and American patriotism. Welcome to American Marketing Propaganda 101. Still, for many CrossFit-ers and those many who watch ESPN's broadcast, these workouts could be very inspirational. They serve the dual purpose of reminding us just how hard our service men and women train and the danger they put themselves in every day in the name of protection, as well as inspiring those who are trying to live a fit and healthy life to always keep pushing themselves.
Unfortunately we live in a capitalist democracy where big business has a hand in almost everything we do. Every strike out and slam dunk is sponsored. Brand names are plastered on every available surface of our sports arenas and stadiums, and even the memorials and awards given out as away to give back to the community are backed by big industry in some capacity.
Those people are going to make their money no matter what. It's up to us to see through the facade and still focus on the larger point. There are honorable soldiers dying every day. Whether they did CrossFit or not, their names and the sacrifice of their bodies for the sake of the greater good deserves to be remembered. I did not know of most of those men, but I learned faces and stories that I read while researching for this article. Now I have heard their names and stories and I have been educated; and inspired by their sacrifice.
As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter to me how these men were brought to my attention, it just matters that they were.
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