Thanks for your interest in our 30-day Burpee Challenge. I say “our” because I didn’t have any idea that so many Spartans would want to jump in on this. You guys made this happen.
I detailed the starting point for me on this a few weeks ago when I set a goal of 20,000 burpees for the rest of the year. And I think most of you came across my challenge article that was posted just before July 4.
I really appreciate it and I’m excited to be doing this within the Spartan community.
We have 114 that have expressed their interest in joining in. Everyone has been sent a link to a Facebook group where we can share our stories, give each other support and see what happens. If you didn’t get it, send me an email.
The Burpee Challenge starts Monday, July 9.
We each set a goal for a number of burpees to be completed in 30 days.
My goal, for example, is to execute 6000 burpees in 30 days, meaning I need to average 200 burpees a day to reach my goal.
Everyone is encouraged to set their own target—one that is individualized for their current fitness, needs and personal goals and situation.
Everyone will track their own progress on their own. You can use a notebook, a computer, your phone, a chalkboard.
We’d love to hear from everyone each Monday on how many burpees you’ve completed in a week.
And because this Burpee Challenge is meant to help kickstart or restart good fitness discipline, no matter how busy our lives our, I invite everyone to share photos and videos on our Facebook page when you’re sneaking in your daily dose of burpees in odd, random places (parks, work, airports, street corners, you name it).
Some more storytelling and info and answers to some of the questions that have come in.
About a year ago, I had (once again) fallen out of shape.
My excuse was that we had our second kid in February of 2017, Madeline, and bam, with the sleep deprivation and unpredictable schedule, I was no longer going to my CrossFit gym or any gym at all.
The weakness of the excuse was in a belief I held about when, where and what constituted a workout.
And this had also happened when we had our first, Milo, about four and half years ago.
I remember what happened when Milo was born. I had been training pretty well and for good reason. I had an assignment from Outside Magazine to go and do the SEALFit Kokoro Camp. Terror is a good motivator. But then Milo was born at 11:40pm. Of course, I wasn’t the most tired person in the room but I was still pretty tired. Tired enough that I lost my discipline and grabbed a donut out of a box of donuts and ate it in about nine seconds. I’m pretty sure I had at least one more.
And it all went downhill from there. It took a great deal of energy to avert the tailspin.
And so the same happened February 2017 birth of our daughter. The ensuing challenge of figuring out how to be parents of more than one kid within the envelope of poor sleep and all made the descent spectacular in its own special fiery way.
So back to a year ago: I asked my CrossFit/SGX Coach Rich Borgatti what I could do in place of going to the box. “Burpees and lunges,” he said. So that’s what I did—mostly just burpees. Ten minutes here and 20 minutes there.
About two months later I made it back to Mountain Strength CrossFit on a day they were doing Cindy, the benchmark 20-minute workout of pull-ups, push-ups and squats.
Even though I hadn’t done as much as one pull-up in months, let alone lift weights, I set a Cindy PR by two rounds. I found it hard to believe while it was happening. I was using poker chips to keep track of rounds and each time I moved a chip I tried to count the pile to be sure I wasn’t imagining it all.
The only conclusion I had was that performing a lot of burpees consistently packs a lot of punch.
But the most valuable commodity was the consistency. I found ways to keep doing them every day. There were a couple of days the best I could do was pulling the car over on my way to pick up a kid from a day care and had to keep it to five minutes. I’d just do as many as I could in five minutes. Burpees can do a lot of damage in five minutes. I’d climb back in the car gasping for air, pooling in sweat.
So this challenge is proposed as a way to build (or rebuild) discipline using the all-powerful burpee. Building a deep commitment to discipline. So deep that you aggressively get something done every day, and to work through or around obstacles if they come up.
Become the Discipline
Keep the discipline and the fitness will follow. So the focus becomes the discipline.
In fact, as Admiral William McRaven put it right in the title of his book—Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life….and Maybe the World. The book starts off with a story about the first task of the day during Navy SEAL training (BUD/S). You make your bed and make it well.
“It was my first task of the day,” McRaven writes. “It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.”
So that’s the idea behind this burpee challenge. Thank you for emailing me and wanting to join forces. Strength in numbers. Whether your goal is to do one burpee a day for 30 days or shoot for 10,000 burpees total or anything in between, this challenge is less about any set of hard rules or guidelines and more about helping each other be consistent.
What I’ve Heard From You
I sense from the emails that we represent a wide spectrum. Some are just starting out—this is a first-time foray into fitness. Others have signed up for a Spartan race and want to either ignite their training or bolster it. Others are like me—they’ve been fit in the past but some change in their life or stressful event or demanding work situation has taken them off the path and they want to get back on.
As I’ve written about previously, the core purpose of this challenge is about getting a measure of discipline in place. Can you get fitter? Or burn off some fat? Or help yourself get ready for a Spartan race or other event? Sure thing! It can be whatever you need it to be.
But committing to a burpee goal that’s right for you and then consistently doing the work to get it done—no matter what life throws at you—is the foundational idea here. (Not that you can’t customize it to whatever you want most).
With that in mind, I hope the following will help you prepare for the 30-day challenge and get it sorted out in a way that you’ll get something out of it that you’re looking for.
Our challenge starts Monday July 9 and goes for 30 days. August 7th is the 30th day.
Goal Number. Set a goal for the number of burpees you want to execute between July 9 and August 7. Starting July 9, every burpee you do counts toward your total.
Thoughts on Setting a Burpee Goal. My suggestion is to set a burpee goal that is reachable, something you know that is within your present capacities, but makes you a little nervous to commit to.
That’s exactly what the 6000 burpee goal does for me. I know I can do it without hurting myself or driving myself into the ground of exhaustion, but averaging 200 burpees a day for 30 days sends a fight-or-flight signal to my stomach where 100 million neurons light up with so-called butterflies.
There’s a certain transformative power when you set the goal that makes you a little nervous: You make better decisions in your life so you don’t screw it up. You don’t stay up late. You tend to avoid making bad food and drink choices. You start organizing yourself so you don’t waste your time in distraction and apply that time well so you can get the job done.
If you’re just starting out in fitness, first it’s recommended to get cleared by a doctor before starting any fitness program. Second, set a cautious goal. Don’t be like the guy who is deeply out of shape that watches the Hawaii Ironman on TV and decides to sign up for an Ironman triathlon four months way. It’s a recipe for disaster.
This may mean setting a goal of five burpees a day for 30 days for 150 burpees. And I’ll bet that by the end of it you’ll have seen some real benefits and be hungry to step it up a notch.
Record Keeping. Here’s the technology I’ve selected to keep track of my burpees. It cost 25-cents and I already had the Bic pen.
You can keep track of your burpee workouts in whatever fashion you like. I talked to my colleagues about maybe setting up some sort of online tracking spreadsheet, but we decided the simplest and most Spartan route was to let everyone track their own daily, weekly and grand totals and ask them to share it if and when they want on our Facebook page.
The Facebook page is so we can be accountable to one another and have some team spirit. I’ll encourage everyone to post at the beginning—what your goal is—and once at the end of each week—how many burpees you’ve knocked out. But you can post more or less than that.
Although this is a group exercise, the goal is to help build improved self-discipline and self-reliance when it comes to exercise.
Burpee form. Quite a few questions on what the standards are for the burpee and whether or not they can be modified. There won’t be any CrossFit judges roaming around saying “no rep.”
Notice that he emphasizes slowing it down to get the most out of all that a burpee has to offer.
This video by CrossFit is also a good primer with a list of standards to consider.
Modifying burpees. By all means, if you’re injured or new to exercise and a regular burpee is out of reach, customize it. Some ideas:
- Omit the push-up.
- Rather than burpees do basic air squats. Air squats, well-executed, have tremendous benefits for the beginner to the advanced.
3. There are others that can be found on the internet. Search until you see something that works for you.
Suggestion: Play Around With Pacing. This comes from Jason Jaksetic. He’s a big fan of playing with different tempos.
Can You Mix in Other Exercises? Absolutely. Burpees and pull-ups. Burpees and runs. Burpees and kettlebell swings. Whatever you want. Just count and report the burpees.
Can You Break it up in to Multiple Workouts? You do whatever you want. All at once, in sets, breaking it up into six workouts per day. Whatever. Let’s say your goal for the day is 100 burpees in one day. You can break it up into multiple workouts however you want. Start the morning off with 20. Do 30 at mid-morning. Do a primary burpee workout at 3pm of 5 x 10. Be creative and make it fit into your life.
Can You Have Rest Days? You can organize this however works best for you. Spread them out so you do them daily. Or three times a week. Or if you miss a day double them up.
It’s all about your keeping your 30-day goal in mind and finding ways to get there that work for you.
Photos, Stories, Videos. I want to encourage everyone to share any good stories they have in our FB group. If you were driving down a road on your way to run an errand, like get groceries, and notice a park and pull off and knock out burpees, take a picture of the spot and let us know how you worked it into your day. Or maybe you went to the rooftop of your office building. Or in your kitchen.
Even the mundane will be interesting to me. Here’s a picture of the spot in the grass where I did 150 burpees on the 4th of July.
Once I was doing burpees in in a small section of the Rosemary Kennedy Greenway, just across the street from Spartan HQ here in downtown Boston. Someone in a passing car yelled, “Up! Down! Up! Down!” OK, so this isn’t that entertaining of a story because that’s all there is to it. I didn’t even think to tell my wife about it as I’m sure her eyes would have glazed with boredom.
But if something like that happens to you, I know I’ll find it interesting because we’re in this together. So post it!
By the way, here’s a great article by Jason on how to break free of the mindset that you need a gym or a program or a power meter or whatever to exercise.
Share Your Workout Ideas. I personally get stuck doing the same thing over and over. I like 10 sets of burpees on the minute every minute for 10 minutes.
If this burpee challenge is anything, it’s meant to be an exercise in freeing up our minds in how we make our busy lives work for us rather than against us.
This burpee challenge is also meant to exert a certain pressure to help us see time differently. Rather than get caught up in some distraction that lays to waste 10 minutes for no good reason, we can take that 10 minutes and do something valuable with it.
I’m looking forward to discovering some cool stuff with this in mind and sharing it with others to help friends, family and those we’ve met get a foothold in a different mindset and way of life.
Thanks for being part of this and good luck! See you in the Facebook group!
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