Unstoppable: Marcus Hayward Touts Family and Fitness for Getting Him Through Injury

February 14, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Amanda Sangiacomo (@manders_media)
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Marcus Hayward lost his left leg during his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. But all he could think about was getting back to his family and fitness. 

Hayward joined the military as a specialized search dog handler, and on his third deployment his ATV hit a pressure plate improvised explosive device, also known as an IED. He sustained injuries to his eye, face, left hand, along with the loss of his left leg. 

After numerous surgeries and regaining function in his hand, Hayward went back to the gym and started to build back his strength. He started out doing bodybuilding movements such as bench press, pull ups, etc. and didn’t find his way back to CrossFit for some time. 

  • “I was obsessed, the doctors told my wife (my girlfriend back then) and my mom if he wasn’t in such good shape some of the injuries I had sustained I might not have made it. So I definitely credit my faith, but then also CrossFit and just being in shape helped save my life,” said Hayward. 
  • “I didn’t dabble in CrossFit as much because I was still learning the ins and outs of walking with a prosthetic, but by the time I got to Florida and was in PTA school, about three years post injury, four years post injury, I was absolutely a lot more confident. But even walking into a CrossFit gym things were dumbed down.”
  • “I think that CrossFit is such a functional component of life, like if you can pick something up and move it a distance that helps to kind of translate to everyday life, like picking up your kids. So that transition back into working out was probably the best thing for me honestly, outside of my family.”

Thirteen years later and Hayward has a wife, two children, and a whole lot of fitness under his belt. At 38 he says he has no plans of slowing down and CrossFit is just a part of his lifestyle and currently works as a high school teacher in Lake Worth, Florida. 

He recently competed at the 2023 TYR Wodapalooza competition on an all adaptive team in the scaled division as opposed to any of the adaptive divisions. While he did start with the inaugural adaptive division at Wodapalooza in 2015, he’s since been competing as a regular athlete. 

  • “The last few years I’ve done scaled individual, scaled teams and my whole goal with that is if you get enough scale teams that are adaptive athletes into the regular divisions maybe they’ll say ‘Hey, let’s give these guys like their own team’,” he said. 

Separately, Hayward says he’s holding off on doing the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open as an adaptive athlete until the division standards change. 

Hayward acknowledged that CrossFit has done a “good job” at mapping out the divisions thus far but he’s hoping for more. 

  • “Looking at the landscape of how the divisions are broken up you have upper extremity, lower extremity, neuromuscular, wheelchair. They did a good job identifying certain things, but then there still needs to be a little bit more defining of it.,” said Hayward. 

For those who are able-bodied the adaptive athlete classifications for the Open have caused a bit of confusion and differs from the classification process for WZA. In prior years, adaptive athletes only had to complete a self-assessment and didn’t need to be vetted unless they made a qualifying spot for the Games. 

This year, it is a much more thorough vetting process that includes a number of assessments right up front. In addition, the qualifications for the neuromuscular division have tightened and been reclassified as the Multi Extremity division. 

Hayward has big goals for the future including making it to the Granite Games and the West Coast Classic. He describes himself as someone who likes to have fun and has always kept a positive outlook. 

  • “I’ve always looked at it very optimistically. Unfortunately, I’m missing my leg, there are people out there missing 2,3,4 (limbs) that are doing just as I am and super efficient, so no ‘woe is me’ it’s kind of just pick up and go.”

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