Island fitness group to hold Memorial Day challenge

Josh Thorn started CrossFit Vashon two years ago

CrossFit Vashon, in conjunction with many other CrossFit affiliates around the country, will hold a special Memorial Day fitness challenge event in honor of Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, a SEAL team member who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.

Islander Josh Thorn, a Harbor School and Vashon High School alumnus, returned to the area three years ago after being away at college and then traveling. Working initially as a paramedic, Thorn joined a CrossFit gym (or “box,” as they are referred to in the CrossFit community) in West Seattle to stay fit.

“I really liked the fact that there was this sport side to this training methodology,” Thorn said of his attraction to the highly specialized workouts. CrossFit and its affiliates hold regular competitions as well as large, annual “games” sponsored by Reebok.

CrossFit was created by Greg Glassman, who as a teenaged, competitive gymnast, discovered that adding other types of training to his regimen — such as weight lifting and cycling — made him stronger than his teammates and competitors. It inspired his “jack of all trades, master of none” philosophy and approach to fitness that he later used to create the CrossFit methodology, which is focused on enhancing cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. After establishing his own gym in Santa Cruz, California, in 1995, Glassman was asked to train members of the local police department.

All in a day’s workout … (Brian Lee photo)

All in a day’s workout … (Brian Lee photo)

Glassman’s intent in creating the methodology’s workouts was, as stated on the CrossFit community website “the box,” to simulate the feelings athletes and fighters feel during real competition. Some members of law enforcement are on record as stating that the workouts leave them feeling the same way they feel after a foot pursuit and fight with a suspect. And it is this aspect of CrossFit that also reportedly attracts members and former members of the military to its ranks.

Lt. Murphy was one such enthusiast.

Murphy was a CrossFit devotee, and had a favorite workout. After he was killed, CrossFit changed the name of the workout from “body armor” to the “Murph” in his honor.

Now, every Memorial Day, CrossFit affiliates hold “Murph” challenge workouts in his memory, and to raise money for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Scholarship Foundation.

Thorn ultimately decided that what he liked so much about this fitness methodology, namely community, support, health and wellness, would be a good fit for Vashon and he started CrossFit Vashon two years ago in the garage space behind Giraffe and Spider’s.

Thorn Coaching his Vashon gang. (Brian Lee photo)

Thorn Coaching his Vashon gang. (Brian Lee photo)

“We did the challenge last Memorial Day and had about 20 to 30 people participating,” he said. “It’s a great way to gather the community around fun and challenging fitness ideas. Everyone is welcome to give it a try.”

Likening the event to another island fitness “challenge,” the Passport to Pain bicycle ride, Thorn added that the “Murph” is “not a normal workout.”

A full “Murph” starts with a one-mile run and is followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and ends with another mile run. Veteran CrossFitters often perform the challenge wearing a 20 pound weighted vest.

Only 100 pull ups? Vashon CrossFitters will take on the “Murph” this Memorial Day. (Brian Lee Photo)

Only 100 pull ups? Vashon CrossFitters will take on the “Murph” this Memorial Day. (Brian Lee Photo)

“It’s grueling and long, but people have fun and enjoy tackling it as a slightly audacious fitness challenge,” Thorn said.

Thorn noted that people of all fitness levels and abilities are welcome to participate, and not necessarily expected to complete the challenge in its entirety. Anyone interested in participating in the Memorial Day event should contact Thorn via