Do the latest fitness books have the information you need to be a better athlete or are they junk? TRAIN finds out.

Reviewer: Paul Goat Allen is a powerlifter and professional book critic, who loves nothing more than a heavy read.


The good, the bad…the vomit

After more than 20 years working as a full-time book critic, it finally happened. I read a book that literally made me puke.

Hero workouts of the day (WODs) – intense sessions named in honor of military members, federal agents and first responders who have given their lives in service – have been a CrossFit phenomenon for a while now.

I’ll bet you either know someone who has competed in the Murph Challenge (a grueling workout named after Navy SEAL Michael Murphy, who died in a mission in Afghanistan) or have participated in a few yourself.


the hero workout


The Hero Workouts by Carter Henry is essentially a list of 100 in-depth biographies of fallen soldiers and warriors, followed by an insanely challenging WOD to honor the particular hero. The workout that compelled me to tango with the toilet was called the PK, named for Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel, who died in 2013.

It’s deceptively simple: 10 back squats with 225lb, 10 deadlifts with 275lb and then sprint 400-meters. Repeat five times, with two minutes between cycles.

Although I consider myself to be in good shape, the PK wrecked me. The next time I attempt this particular WOD, my goal will be to finish without the peristaltic pyrotechnics.


The sticking point

The one big criticism of The Hero Workouts, however, is there is very little in the way of expert commentary or instruction. For example, the workouts are meant to be tough – it’s about putting in maximum effort and never giving up after all – but nowhere in this book is there anything about modifying the workouts for those who aren’t quite ready to complete intense WODs.

Insight from a qualified coach would have made this a more comprehensive read, as well as increasing appeal to a wider audience.


The workouts are extremely challenging, but it’s the heart-rendering stories behind the workouts that will undoubtedly resonate with readers. And, ultimately, that’s the big takeaway – the emotional and existential impact of reading the biographies of these heroes.

Author Carter Henry’s words in the introduction can ultimately act as a metaphor for life itself: “Attack these workouts, read about the person you are honoring, and give them your greatest effort.”


The final verdict


the hero workout


Three things you can take away from the book…

1. Take time before each workout to consider how grateful you are.
2. Attack every workout as if it could be your last, because it may very well be.
3. Carefully consider your intent and e ort. If you’re not giving 100%, what are you even doing?


The Hero Workouts

Carter Henry. Hatherleigh Press, $15, (278p) ISBN 978-1-57826-658-6