WarriorWOD Supports Veterans Suffering From PTSD With ‘1 Got Your 6’ Event
From June 16-30, WarriorWOD will host a virtual competition, “I Got Your 6.” This event tasks teams of two with completing three military-themed workouts, and it raises crucial money that helps support veterans suffering from PTSD.
The details: I Got Your 6 features three workouts highlighting three of the special forces branches. “ODA” (Operational Detachment Alpha) represents the US Army Special Forces, “Raiders” represents the Marine Corps special operations forces, and “Frogmen” represents the Navy SEALs. There are only three workouts, so the Air Force PJs (pararescuemen) are not represented this year.
- “I Got Your 6” will have male/male and female/female team options across the RX and Minimal Equipment divisions. The RX division will have barbells, fan bikes (Echo/Assault), wall balls, dumbbells, boxes, and jump ropes as the required equipment.
- The partner workouts will play out in an “I go, you go” fashion as one athlete works at a time. The only exception is ODA, which has synchronized burpees over the barbell every two minutes.
- The cost of entry for “I Got Your 6” is $100 per team of two athletes, and it includes a shirt for each competitor. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to support veterans suffering from PTSD.
The reason for the special forces theme is that these operators face the same mental health issues as everyone else in the military. WarriorWOD wanted to shine a light on that community and the things its members go through on a daily basis.
That being said, the participants don’t need to be fit enough to pass a special forces school in order to participate in “I Got Your 6.” They just need to be willing to put in some work alongside a teammate while thinking about those that have gone through extremely difficult situations.
- “We wanted to make it challenging, regardless of which division you’re in,” Palmer said. “If you’re a CrossFitter, and you have the capacity to work at the RX level, we want to make sure that you are getting the same stimulus as if I was grandma with one dumbbell. I mean, everything in between the stimulus is what we wanted, not necessarily the challenge.”
One big thing: The heart of the WarriorWOD program is the exercise as an RX (prescription) program. This consists of three pillars – exercise, nutrition, and mentorship.
- The program pays for six months of fitness, whether it’s at a traditional gym, a CrossFit box, or something else entirely. Some program members have also used jiu-jitsu as their chosen fitness path.
- The program also covers six months of work with a nutrition coach. The veteran has weekly meetings to discuss goals, macro numbers, and healthy eating.
- The mentorship comes from the Battle Buddy that joins the veteran every step of the way. The Battle Buddy, also a veteran, serves as someone that can provide guidance and accountability while meeting those in the program on common ground.
- All things added up, the Exercise as an RX program costs about $1,000 per veteran. WarriorWOD raised $6,000 in 2022 and put six veterans through the program. The Institute of Clinical Excellence also stepped up and donated enough money to put 20 veterans through the program.
Phil Palmer, WarriorWOD President and Executive Director: “On a conservative estimate, 40 veterans are no longer with us per day [due to suicide]. And the reason is that instead of facing their demons or continuing to deal with their PTSD, they would rather either take their lives quickly through suicide or numb themselves to death through substance abuse than deal with it one more second.”
- “When we go way downriver, it started with PTSD, and it started with a point in time. Where if we could have just injected something – whether it’s what I’m doing, or where it’s horseback riding or hunting, or we have Warrior Surf down here, which is an amazing organization. It’s through these kinds of activities, these holistic approaches, that we’re able to really make an impact.”
A multi-faceted approach: There is no denying that fitness can have a positive impact on people, which is why it’s at the heart of WarriorWOD’s program. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, research indicates that exercise can help the brain better cope with stress and lead to a decreased chance of depression.
Addressing the nutrition side is equally important, especially for those in the military where the options lean more toward comfort food instead of balanced meals. These food options make the service members “feel good” while they are in uncomfortable places, but they also create deficiencies in specific areas.
- “Most of the veterans in our program have very different degrees of obesity as well,” Palmer said. “And that’s just out of ignorance. Man, like, when I was in the military, I ate whatever I wanted when I wanted because I knew I had like a 15-mile hike coming up. I mean, we were always moving. So nutrition was never a thing.”
- “But there’s research that has indicated that [there is a] 30 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms just by eating an unprocessed, healthy diet. I think that that’s important as well. Food is medicine as well, and making sure that you’re eating the right stuff.”
A personal touch: Putting an emphasis on supporting veterans suffering from PTSD is important. However, Palmer did not create WarriorWOD just out of the blue. He went through his own struggles that put him on this path.
Palmer served in the Marine Corps for eight years, and he sustained an injury while deployed in Iraq in the early 2000s. This was not a terrible injury on a physical level, but he still came back to the United States with some personal issues that were not visible.
- “I finally started seeing the VA [after leaving the Marine Corps in 2013] – I am not a doctor, so in no way am I gonna say right, wrong, indifferent. I can tell you my journey. The antidepressants that they put me on, the therapies that they tried to provide me did not work. It numbed me socially, occupationally. Some of the thoughts and recurring dreams and stuff get kind of numb as well, but socially and occupationally, I was numb.”
- “On a whim, I was like, ‘Ah, it’s been about two years since I’ve actually worked out. I need to start working out again.’ There happened to be a CrossFit gym less than a mile away. I can literally run there to warm up, run back to cool down. So I started that, and within a year, completely off antidepressants, completely off therapy.”
Palmer quickly learned that he was not the only one to have this experience. He heard numerous stories from veterans, people that struggled with addiction issues, and those that have had suicidal ideations. They all used exercise as their path to a better quality of life.
- Fast-forward to June 2021 and the decision was made to start WarriorWOD. The program has only grown from that point as Palmer has seen a staggering amount of progress from those participating.
- “So when a veteran starts our program, they do what’s called the PCL-5, which – the VA uses it – it’s a mental health assessment. 20 different symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, right? And there’s a severity ranking that you subjectively mark down based on what you feel.”
- “Every single month, they fill out the same form. They may not realize it’s the PCL-5, it’s part of their monthly check-in. I saw an 18 percent decrease in symptoms over six months.”
The bottom line: WarriorWOD is relatively new considering that Palmer founded it in 2021 with a trusted Board of Directors. However, the Exercise as an RX program has made a major impact on those that have put their lives on the line while serving the country.
Now, members of the CrossFit community can show their support by taking part in the virtual I Got Your 6 workout series. They can also make donations directly to WarriorWOD if they do not have the ability or opportunity to compete but still want to get involved.