CrossFit Accolade and Commonwealth CrossFit Celebrate Black History Month With Hero WOD “Oleta”

February 27, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame
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CrossFit Accolade and Commonwealth CrossFit, two affiliates in the suburbs of Boston, celebrated Black History Month in a special way. Its members completed a new Hero WOD, Oleta, while supporting an initiative from The Phoenix

One big thing: Larry Thomas, the owner of CrossFit Accolade and Commonwealth Crossfit, designed Oleta with Harry Palley of HWPO. This workout is dedicated to U.S. Army Major Oleta Crain (September 8, 1913 – November 7, 2007). 

  • Major Crain enlisted in the United States Army during World War II and made a lasting impact on the service. She was one of only three Black women in a group of 300 that entered officer training during WWII. She went on to become the only Black female officer to complete officer training and be retained after the end of the war. 
  • Major Crain had to endure segregation after enlisting in the U.S. Army, to the point that she stayed in a separate room instead of in the barracks with other women. However, she used her position to initiate change and ensure that her troops were treated fairly. 
  • According to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, she specifically persuaded the commandant to cease segregation tactics designed to bar members of her troop from using the pool.

Major Crain remained on active duty until 1963, and she completed several tours of duty around the world. Once she left the military, she began working for the U.S. Department of Labor, where she advocated for other women’s employment rights until her retirement in 1998. She was later inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

The WOD: Oleta is a workout that must be completed for time. It features 10 rounds of nine hang power cleans (95/65), eight push press (95/65), and 13 air squats. 

  • The rep numbers represent Major Crain’s birth date. There are 30 total reps per round, so completing 10 rounds equals 300 reps. This represents the 300 female officers. 

From Larry Thomas: “The Phoenix has a Black Alliance employee resource group, which I’m a part of. One of that group’s recent initiatives was creating a social media campaign for Black History Month to highlight changemakers in the black community. On a planning call, someone suggested doing a workout as a way to bring the community in on the effort. My eyes lit up! 

  • “As someone who programs for their affiliates, I thought this was a great idea and something I could use my advantage to contribute to this campaign. I took it a step further and thought, ‘What if we could memorialize this workout by making it a hero WOD and tying the greater CrossFit community in?’ We don’t have many black hero WODs as it stands and this could be a unique opportunity.”

Bringing the WOD to life: Coming up with an effective Hero WOD that properly honors its namesake is nothing simple, even for the experienced programmers involved. Oleta is a fitting example. 

Thomas came up with three skeleton workouts after hours of research, but he didn’t have a perfect Hero WOD. He ultimately reached out to Palley, who helped him come up with the best option. 

  • “Programming is an art and I wanted to express that,” Thomas said. “Through my research, I gathered some facts like her birthday, the time she served in the military, and the fact that she was one of only 300 women to enter officer training during WWII.” 
  • “I ran the numbers forwards, backwards, and every which way trying to come up with a rep scheme that made sense to highlight these details. … I didn’t want to just throw something together, and I didn’t want to do Oleta any disservice.”

Get involved: CrossFit Accolade debuted the hero WOD earlier in February, but this was not the only opportunity to take part. The goal is for other CrossFit enthusiasts to complete the 10 rounds, either together or alone, while sharing Major Crain’s story for years to come.

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