NORFOLK, Va. — Von Heidelberg's Thursday morning workout felt a lot different than her normal gym routine.
"Anyone that is a veteran, or serving, I feel a closeness," Heidelberg said.
At a packed 9 a.m. class at CrossFit 757, Heidelberg threw on a weighted vest and stepped onto a 20-inch training box over and over again.
One foot after the other, for 1,000 repetitions.
"It's a tough workout! Quite honestly, I was smiling because I'm honored to be working out. When it gets bad, I kind of think about people who have lost limbs, who can't move the way they used to, or not here due to mental sickness," Heidelberg said.
This Veterans Day and weekend, CrossFit gyms across Hampton Roads are completing the same workout, titled "Chad": a hero workout honoring the life of Navy SEAL Chad Wilkinson, who took his life on October 29, 2018 while stationed in Virginia Beach.
It's a workout with only one movement: 1,000 box step-ups with a weighted vest or rucksack. The workout takes roughly an hour to complete.
"It's a lot, your mind quits before your body does. It's tough physically, but your mind wants to quit first," Heidelberg said.
13News Now reached out to CrossFit facilities across the seven cities, and many responded that the workout was either programmed on Veterans Day itself or for Saturday morning.
The goal of the workout is to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.
"There's that old school eat your feelings type feeling, but we've come full circle," CrossFit 757 trainer Ashley Galletta said.
"This workout was created because Chad used to do these really grueling hikes, all over the world. What he would do to prepare for those hikes, is grab a box, and start stepping. This is to honor what he would all the time just to prepare. Long, long grueling weight steps, over and over and over again. It's challenging physically, but also mentally to get through that quantity," Three Ships CrossFit co-owner Britney Smith said.
Wilkinson's wife, Sara Wilkinson, has since started a fundraiser for the "CHAD 1000X" workout, where all proceeds go toward mental health initiatives for veterans.
Smith says Wilkinson is well known in the local CrossFit community and has helped many pursue Level 1 and Level 2 CrossFit training certifications.
Sara Wilkinson shared the following statement on the CHAD 1000X website:
This is a silent disease where symptoms, triggers and warnings are often recognized too late. Chad is not alone, this is a silent epidemic with the enemy sneaking quietly into our homes and it has to stop. We want to use Chad’s life and legacy to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Our hope is to remove mental health stigmas, and encourage people to reach out, one step at a time, no matter who you are.
According to the website, the event raised more than $100,000 with more than 4,500 people registered.
"Right around 500, 600 reps you start to question things, but you have to go back and think why you're doing this," Smith said.
People interested in learning more about the effort can visit the CHAD 1000X website.