On this site, we’ve covered a number of different CrossFit named workouts, to include some of the most iconic Hero WODs of all time. As harrowing as the stories of legends like Staff Seargeant Timothy P. Davis (DT) and Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Murph) are, there is just something about Senior Chief Petty Officer Chad Wilkinson’s story that hits me hard.
The production CrossFit.com put together with Wilkinson’s widow, Sara, really highlights what the workout is all about.
We’ll discuss more of Wilkison’s story and legacy later on in this article, but for now, let’s get to the workout his tragedy created. The Chad CrossFit workout, also known as Chad 1000x.
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What is Chad 1000x
Wilkinson was a Navy SEAL and prided himself on being ready for any type of assignment, regardless of the various conditions or challenges that were associated with them. In order to be prepared for difficult mountain treks (as well as his more “casual” hobby of climbing some of world’s most epic mountains, such Kilimanjaro), he began doing yuge sets of weighted box step-ups in his garage. This one “simple” movement has formed the basis for the Chad CrossFit workout/Chad 1000x.
I didn’t think it was so “simple”!
Chad 1000x is interesting in that involves elements of CrossFit (the almost comically large rep scheme of the box step-up movement) as well as elements of rucking (the inclusion of the ruck sack and the constant “ascent” that the step-ups create).
As such, it should come as no surprise that CrossFit and GORUCK have great interest in the workout. Both promote Chad 1000x, hosting veteran-assistance and awareness events on and around Veteran’s Day each year.
What does Chad 1000x look like?
Like most Hero WODs, the Chad CrossFit workout is not for the faint of heart, at least in it’s “Rx” form. Although the step-up height is more than reasonable (especially for men who generally have to deal with at least 24-inch step-ups), 1000 reps is 1000 reps. Also, doing anything with a 45-pound ruck is challenging, even for those who have completed a rucking workout or two in their time!
For those who are unaccumstomed to rucking or who do not regularly embark on rucking ventures, a ruck sack may not be available (that or they don’t trust their kid’s Jansport to hold up with 45 pounds of iron inside!) Wanting to stay in the spirit of doing “weighted” step-ups, a standard (20 pounds for men, 14 pounds for women) weighted vest is substituted for the ruck. When this substitution is made, Chad 1000x looks like this:
Admittedly, before September 13, 2023, I had only ever attempted the Chad CrossFit workout on one occasion. Truth be told, it was one of the more heavily-scaled versions of the WOD as I completed 1000 unweighted step-ups.
Although this version is, for all intents and purposes, “scaled” relative to the Rx version of the WOD, I can assure you that it is incredibly challenging in its own right. If you don’t have access to any type of weighted implement that you can support for an extended period of time (performing Chad 1000x with a barbell or…shudder…performing it as a Farmer’s Carry WOD, isn’t recommended), give 1000 unweighted step-ups a try!
What are Good Chad 1000x times? Good Chad 1000x times by age?
Due to its popularity, there is a lot of data out there on the Chad CrossFit workout. As of August 2023, over 3,300 people have submitted their times to the good people at beyondthewhiteboard.com, proving an extremely large sample size to draw some conclusions from.
As far as the Rx version of Chad 1000x, you’re in the elite of the elite if you go sub-41 (for men) or sub-38 (for women). Around 57 minutes (men and women) is good for the top 25th percentile while the median time reported is right around 65 minutes.
One thing to note, according to my time of exactly 75 minutes (from my Chad 1000x experience on September 13, 2023), I’m in the bottom ~27% of male participants. Interestingly enough, only a few months ago, I was in top ~ 13% of male participants in CrossFit Open Workout 23.1, top ~8% in 23.2, and somewhere in the top 10-25 percent void in 23.3. Tony Facchini, who has participated in the last 2 CrossFit Games, finished (with a 50-pound wreck bag) at just under 66 minutes.
So Tony, the CrossFit Games athlete, just barely made the 50th percentile. As such…take the data from beyondthewhiteboard.com (at least with this specific workout) with somewhat of a grain of salt.
In our analysis of good Murph times to beat, we also looked at good times to beat for each respective age group, we have used the same multiplier to formulate age-group standards for Chad 1000x. If you’d like to get a much better idea of the process we used to develop these age-group multipliers, please see the full methods presented in that article!
Again, these times are also likely a bit…off due to some of the reasons (which could be purely anecdotal) mentioned above.
Tips for Chad 1000x
With scaling options galore, Chad 1000x is a workout that everyone can participate in. However, in order to make the most of the experience, keep a few items in mind as your prepping for the event and when you’re in the midst of it.
Practice your box step-ups
The box-step up is a somewhat obscure variation of the much more popular box jump, plyo box movement. It didn’t make an appearance in the CrossFit Open until 2019 (in Open Workout 19.3 when a big set of 50 was required with a 50-pound dumbbell) and it kinda made an appearance in 2020 (in 20.4 when one could opt for box jumps or box step-ups).
In a year-plus of following Mat Fraser’s HWPO programming, I can recall doing box step-ups, like, twice…?
As it is, for such a “simple” movement, the box step-up can be pretty difficult to perform, especially when dexterity and focus start to wane. As such, work in a few sets of step-ups every week as you prep for Chad 1000x to better get the “feel” of the movement.
…preferably with a ruck
Rucking is awesome and, even if you haven’t taken the plunge and ventured out on a march, you may have some across it in some form or another. With the inclusion of so many ruck events in high-level CrossFit events in recent years, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to do some ruck-weighted workouts in the (near) future!
You may as well get used to it!
If you haven’t slipped on a ruck to this point, you may want to get used to the feel of one prior to busting out 1000 step-ups in one. Even if you prefer to complete more “traditional” ruck marches to get used to the weight, this will pay dividends when you’re making that first ascent, actually (somewhat) comfortable moving under heavy load.
Break up your sets
It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to fitness or Laura Horvath. 1000 reps of anything is going to be daunting. By far, the best way to make it through Chad 1000x is to set manageable targets to strive for to best break up the workout.
Whether this looks like 100 sets of 10, 20 sets of 50, or some type of irregular rep scheme, think of each set as a “mini-workout”. It’s a lot easier to aim for a “20” number as opposed to a “1000” number.
Mark your progress
The “bad” news about breaking up your sets is…you still gotta complete all 1000 step-ups.
Whether you use a dry-erase board, pen and paper, or you just like chalking your progress on the ground, make sure you’re keeping track of your progress. I don’t care who you are; there’s no way that you’re not gonna lose count of your progress at some point in your journey without some type of counting system. You don’t want to have to start back at zero ~24 minutes into the workout!
Attack from different angles
If you’re lucky enough to make it to one of the designated Chad 1000x events and are completing the workout in a large group, it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep your motivation and spirits high throughout the WOD. However, if you’re completing it in the loneliness of your basement or garage, it can be a lot more difficult to keep putting those feet up onto that box.
As innocuous as it may sound, changing your angle (moving from one side of the box to the other) can greatly change your outlook as you literally change your perspective. When you start to feel a bit “bored” with the workout, move to the other side of the box and start stepping; I guarantee your motivation will immediately rise by 20 percentage points!
Who was Chad?
Chad Wilkinson was a decorated sailor, serving 21 years in the U.S. Navy. For the majority of his time in service, Wilkinson was a SEAL and in his final years, was a member of the famous SEAL Team 6.
As previously mentioned, Wilkinson regularly completed the Chad 1000x workout (or some variation of it) in order to prepare himself for the toughest and most dangerous assignments. Unfortunately, on October 29, 2018, after years of accumulated trauma from living through these events, Wilkinson took his own life.
How does Chad’s legacy live on today?
In the years following Wilkinson’s tragic passing, his spouse, Sara Wilkinson, has partnered with CrossFit (Wilkinson was a friend with CrossFit’s Head of Education and Sport Dave Castro) and GORUCK to raise awareness for veteran mental health and well-being. Thousands of people complete the Chad 1000x workout on November 11 every year to keep Wilkinson’s memory alive and to raise money to support Veteran Mental Health Initiatives through The Step up Foundation.
As much as grinding through the Chad CrossFit workout is akin to persevering through any of the thousands of other hero workouts, when you complete Chad 1000x on Veteran’s Day, you’re fighting for every veteran struggling with mental health issues. Keep their sacrifices (as well as Wilkinson’s) in mind on step 1, 637, and 1000 of Chad 1000x this year.