Police Officer Doing 365 Days of Murph for First Responders’ Mental Health Awareness
Washington, DC area police officer Jimmy Lubonski thought he was in good shape back in April of 2020. He was bodybuilding, had about five percent body fat and clocked it at a lean 185 pounds, cut from days on end at the gym.
However he got a rude awakening one day on the job when he was in pursuit of a suspect.
“I got into a foot chase with a suspect that lasted about a half mile,” said the 32-year-old. “And then we went down and we were struggling on the ground and I noticed I was out of breath. And that had not happened to me since I was 15, 16 years old. So I was like, ‘Wow, these beach muscles are not functional, at all.’”
Lubonski, who has been a cop for a decade, said it was a big eye opener for him and he said a couple guys on his squad did CrossFit and they had said before that he would love it. However he was still a skeptic at that moment.
“I was like, ‘No way I’m not going to put myself through pain like that, I work out by myself.’ And then the (foot chase) happened and I was like ‘Wow, there is something to being functionally fit as opposed to having muscles that just look good.’”
Then Lubonski went online and started looking at all the old CrossFit videos and demonstrations to try and figure out how to do the movements, watching hours of YouTube, teaching himself how to do “sub-par” CrossFit in his garage given gyms at that time were closed due to COVID. Lubonski said at that point, CrossFit seemed like the perfect fit.
“Minimal equipment, and I need to stay fit for work and I obviously see problems with my performance, so CrossFit seemed like a super good fit to do in my garage with 250 pounds of bumper plates, two dumbbells and a pull-up bar.”
Once gyms opened back up last year, Lubonski reached out to the owner of CrossFit Kent Island in Stevensville, MD (where he is now a part-time coach) and hesitantly headed off to the box. He said working out in his garage at home, and then transitioning into a group setting, was a bit of a mindset shift, however he finally took the leap in June of 2020.
“I was probably a little bit insecure to be completely honest with you so I would go to open gym and kind of program my own workouts not wanting to jump into the class, and then probably about two weeks in and I got a little bit more comfortable and a wheelhouse workout showed up for me with lots of gymnastics, and there was a guy there who was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you do this workout?’ And I thought, ‘Okay, today is the day.’ And it was awesome. I got a bit of a taste of other people cheering you on and suffering together with other people and I was hooked.”
“There is something to being functionally fit as opposed to having muscles that just look good.”Jimmy Lubonski
Lubonski then got his Level 1 Certification in June of 2021, utilizing all the time he had spent online watching videos and reading CrossFit materials. Then last Memorial Day, Lubonski said he was in a bad spot mentally, struggling with post traumatic stress disorder given his line of work.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on and I was super depressed and didn’t really understand what was going on, and just really in a bad headspace.”
Then Lubosnki watched the video about the famous workout Murph, before attempting it for the first time last Memorial Day (May 31, 2021). LT. Michael P. Murphy (May 7, 1976 – June 28, 2005) was a US Navy (SEAL) and the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wings, which was tasked with finding a key anti-coalition militia commander in Afghanistan.
After getting into the objective area, the SEALs were spotted by goat herders who were initially detained and then released. It is believed the goat herders immediately reported the SEALs’ presence to Taliban fighters and all men except one were killed in action, with Murphy credited as putting his own life in danger to help the others.
Lubonski said he was incredibly moved by the story, and had a renewed sense of purpose almost instantaneously.
“I got really motivated and it kind of took me out of my head for the moment, and I said, ‘For the next 45 minutes I am absolutely going to fucking drop the hammer and turn my mind off and just go dark and suffer in this workout to honor Mike Murphy.’ And I remember sitting on the ground after that and my head was completely clear. I was happy and I was around my fellow gym goers and everyone cheering everyone on, and just feeling happy for the first time in a very long time.’”
Lubonski then showed up the next day and did Murph again, and then just kept going. He then started documenting the experience on TikTok and soon one of his videos went viral and he had veterans, first responders, police officers reaching out to him saying he had inspired them to make changes in their lives too.
Soon Lubonski had thousands of first responders who had reached out to him, saying his self challenge had helped them get back on track. At that point Lubonski knew he was committed to the full year, and there would be no stopping.
Approaching Memorial Day, Lubonski said there have definitely been ups and downs, one of them being right after he did his CrossFit Level 1, and had to endure sitting in squat therapy. He said he had no idea how he was going to do Murph given his legs were on a whole other level of sore.
“And that day I had a first responder reach out to me and say, ‘I started working out everyday and doing my own mini Murph and I’ve lost 30 pounds and never been happier. And thank you so much.’”
Lubonski said that was all he needed.
“I was like, ‘Throw the vest on.’”
He is also giving back, raising money for first responders to sponsor a month of CrossFit to an affiliate through Black Flag Performance, and said the goal is to help raise awareness for mental health when it comes to first responders, and has some advice for any first responders out there who may be suffering.
“You are not alone, and a lot of people go through this, whether they want to admit it or not. And one of the best outlets is CrossFit, and going through suffering with people in your community on a physical level and letting go of whatever is going on in your head at the time.”