In LEO/Mil

December 21, 2011

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Army Capt. Josh Holden says CrossFit replaced his bodybuilding ways and helped him help Iraqis.

My first cup of coffee in Iraq was as a brigade battle captain in Mosul with 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. As a young captain without much seniority on the brigade staff, I got stuck with the night shift. Anyone who has done shift work before knows the drudgery involved, especially in a Brigade Tactical Operations Center.

After my shift ended, I would immediately go to sleep for about six hours, then wake up to a cocktail of supplements. My workouts? Six-days a week, five of them involving only upper-body movements, with a leg day thrown in for good measure. I never wanted to breathe hard during the lift because it could reduce the amount I could bench press. I didn’t worry about breathing hard because I mixed in at least two days per week of cardio. That dwindled to zero days of cardio because I just didn’t like breathing hard on the treadmill.

This cycle went on and on, continuing through redeployment to Fort Hood, throughout my year and a half in home station where I would sneak off during lunch to get a lift in, all the way through to my next deployment to southern Iraq.

Then, something strange happened.



16 Comments on “Functional Fitness in Iraq”


wrote …

This is damn near identical to my story....good stuff brother.


wrote …

Thanks for sharing your story and serving our country! It was a fine read on a rainy afternoon looking for motivation :)


wrote …

great work captain. awesome read for this xmas and new year season. be safe and keep up the great work. from a marine this is hard to say but....go Army! :)


wrote …

Great work and a very good story to share in the Journal. Thanks.


wrote …

Awesome story!! Thank-you for your service. Happy WOD-ing!


wrote …

Danny, It took working shoulder to shoulder with the USA for me to get there, but I will happily join you in a round of "go Army!"

This is a great story, fun to read, thanks for the continued inspiration! Congrats on your accomplishments in CrossFit!

The photo bring back a lot of memories.


wrote …

happy holidays PAul :)!


wrote … travels back home and will look out for you at the next Crossfit Games.


wrote …

Great Article....!!!

All the best to you and your Goal of competing..


wrote …

That's really cool, a great example of true 'functional fitness'!


wrote …

Awesome work skipper. Stay frosty firebreather...these final days over there are going to be something else.


wrote …

love it. thanks for sharing!


wrote …


My name is CPL Garcia and I am in Afghanistan now. I am by no means an athlete but have seen how the regular army pt standard is the BARE minimum for us. This happened when I got to train with some SOF guys who were teaching a class. I am a medic with an engineering unit in Afghanistan and am under the Battalion PA. She recently sent me to a place where I need to square away the paperwork and not be a line medic. Of course the minimal equipment available, I have to work nights with none of my comrads or friends for social relief. Alone in a building doing paperwork that I would rather trade in for a convoy or some hands on medic work taking care of soldiers.

I had to respond to this comment because it hit home for me. At least I got some more time to work out and start crossfit which is what I did. Im not an athlete of the calibur that you and some of the others are. I had to modify the modifications of the WODs. But I love the atmosphere and the vibe of the community. As I sit here on Christmas Eve and read the 'journal' and plan my next workout and set goals on how to improve to be a more fit soldier and athlete, I dont feel so isolated in this crazy country. Merry Christmas, and thank you all at Crossfit!!

from a paperpusshing medic in Afghanis


wrote …

Awesome! Great read. I wasted 2 hours a day in Balad doing workouts, wish I would have found Crossfit over there. Thanks for your service.


wrote …


How about that DFAC though? As I recall it's the best in country.

Mosul will always have a place in my heart. Back in 2006-2007 I used to find yellow post it notes all over the big half shell gym stuck to the side doors and wooden boxes. They would have enigmatic exercises like "burpee" and "OHS". My lifting buddy and I (amped up from our cocktails) would joke and mock them, "Got to make sure you do all your burpees." A friend of mine asked me if I would try CrossFit with him and I laughed and said "No."

Long story short - it was what were looking for all along. We wasted our time 4 to 5 days a week doing an hour on the treadmill and then an hour of anaerobic "super sets" of compound lifts thinking we were being functional. But we were only scratching the surface. To this day we look back and agree that we didn't appreciate the fact that those post it notes we saw as trash were actually gems. It wasn't until last March that I ditched the supplements for the zone and dumped the super sets for metcons.



wrote …

Great stuff fellas. Now row faster--I hear banjo music!

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