On Burpees and Balance

Those who follow me on twitter will be more than well aware that I’m participating in a quintessential crossfit challenge: 100 burpees in 100 days.  The premise is simple: Every day, for 100 days, you do 1 more burpee than the previous day, working your way from 1 burpee on day one up to 100 burpees on day 100.  If you miss a day, you make it up the next day.  Simple, right?

(note: if you don’t know what a burpee is, click here.)

We all know why this is good for us: burpees are a challenging bodyweight exercise both in terms of strength and cardiovascular fitness.  Doing them fast enough can improve your anaerobic threshold while also building skills that can transfer over to other exercises: planks, press ups, box/tuck jumps and even things like handstand kicks.  So yeah, they’re great!

I hate them.

Its currently day 44.  I haven’t missed a rep – and after recently hitting a huge mental wobble in completing the challenge (read: I really wanted to quit), I thought it would be good to post up some thoughts about how I’m finding it so far.  I haven’t been training at my local box recently, meaning beyond what is posted on the website, I haven’t been exposed to other people’s experiences.  I’ve performed a few google searches, but haven’t found many accounts or diaries from ‘non-elite’ crossfitters about how they have found the challenge.  Enter this blog post.

So lets start with the good stuff:  I am undeniably getting better at burpees – and all the other things that go with them (given where I was, this isn’t difficult).  Although I am not aiming to go fast, my burpees are getting faster.  When I began I also couldn’t easily hop my feet into plank, preferring to step back.  I no longer do this.  I can jump higher, I rarely put my knees down for the pressup section.  All good things.

I also have found doing daily burpees has brought more balance to my fitness schedule.  In general, I believe in integrating physical activity as much as possible into my daily life.  I walk or run to work, I believe in functional fitness etc – but for the past few months I’ve found myself in an annoying pattern: I go to crossfit 2-3x a week, absolutely kill myself, rest inadequately and socialise too much, and then get ill.   I recover from said illness, and start the cycle all over again.  I’ve also stopped training independently – becoming unmotivated if there isn’t a coach encouraging me.

The burpee challenge forces me to do just a little, everyday, on top of my big workouts – which I’ve taken a step back from lately.  Why not just try a few 20 min jogs and yoga as opposed to finding myself doing a WOD with 300 reps of something god awful?  I love those workouts, and I’ll get back to those workouts – but I worry my baseline level of fitness needs work – and the only way to get there is by taking baby steps, everyday.  Crossfit can sometimes warp your perspective on what an ‘easy’ workout is, and what you should expect from yourself all the time.  I’m really happy the burpee challenge has given me a vehicle for those baby steps.

The downside: its really hard.  Really hard.  I’ve had 3 colds so far this year, and I’ve diligently burpeed my way through all of them.  Boredom is a big problem now.  Venue, pace, sets and even ‘outfit’ need to be changed regularly or you’ll realise that you’re not exercising so much as torturing yourself.  So many days I struggle with the pressups – my arms feeling like jelly after days and days of burpees.  They never seem to feel recovered.  On day 41 and 42 I ripped the skin off my toe doing burpees barefoot and almost had a meltdown: I had been forcing myself to do all my burpees, for time, before I ate breakfast in the morning.  My body was stiff, I wasn’t warming up, and I was making things really hard for myself.  I needed to recalibrate.

I’m feeling better today, day 44 – confident that I can finish this.  I’ve tweaked my nutrition a bit, tweaked the schedule, prioritised sleep. I’m even confident about flying into Addis Ababa – a city at 2300m and figuring out how I can do burpees safely there for 3 weeks.  The burpee challenge is a marathon – and very single part of a marathon isn’t fun, and that’s what makes it an accomplishment.

See you all at day 100.

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6 Responses to On Burpees and Balance

  1. colm says:

    Great post brie, looking forward to seeing how you are around the 70 or 80 mark.

  2. B says:

    Thanks colm! I look forward to seeing how I’m doing then as well!

  3. colin menniss says:

    Good read Brie. The challenge is not meant to be easy. And its no shame to be beaten by this challenge first time around. Day 44 I did mine like this today. 4 first thing . Studied. 10 more. Breakfast. Ten more. Showered ten more . Shaved . Last ten. All nice and easy.

  4. B says:

    Thanks Colin – taking it nice and easy now. sets of 10 or 5 throughout the day. Or on a training day I’ll incororate them into the workout. I shall not be defeated!

  5. Another excellent article, Brie. The challenge is really more mental than physical – after all you can just chip away at the burpees as singles.

    Be safe in the knowledge that there are others suffering along with you, wishing you well one burpee at a time!

  6. Paul says:

    OH MY GOD! I probably wouldn’t make it past day 5… Good Luck! Seriously keep at it! :^D

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