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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Competing in a Month Long Burpee Challenge

By: Nina Meyer

Love flopping on the floor like a fish hundreds of times a day for a month in the name of exercise? HAVE I GOT A CHALLENGE FOR YOU.

At the beginning of this month, my wonderful gym, Crossfit Believe, decided to have a little friendly challenge.

You and two members have the month of February to do as many burpees as your frantic heart desires.

What is a burpee you ask? It’s a full body workout, starting in a standing position. You move to a plank position, drop to the ground, do a push-up, stand up again. And then jump at the top. Voila.

So each team had the full month to do as many burpees at the gym as they could. And the team with the most burpees at the end of the month? Hooray! Wins! What do we win you ask? Glory? (Not so much) Fame? (a little blurb in the gym newsletter maybe) Fortunes beyond your wildest dreams? (lol) Back massages from the last place team? (I wish) Case of Beer? (no again) Unlimited bathroom access?... Free water fountain water?!?! Aaah na, most definitely nothing.... BUT WE’D BE WINNERS that’s what we win. … And that’s everything.

So ANYWAYS, In case I didn’t make it clear, I love my gym. Every morning I get up around 5 am, wrangle my 2 year old and 1 year old through their morning routines and hurl them into the car to daycare, so that from 7 to 9 I can have my desperately essential “me time” before I go to work at 10. (ask my husband, it’s necessary). This is the time when I’m able to get together with my friends. Laugh and sweat and fail and be silly and serious and persevere through barriers. This is the time when I can push myself harder than I ever knew was possible, and be proud of what I achieve. It’s my therapy and my escape and it makes me a better person. Blah blah blah you get it. But mushy stuff aside, now that you’re acquainted with my love for barbells, let’s talk - burpee challenge.

So, in January we did a rowing challenge and that was not my jam. Sitting on a rower for hours a day is not anything I ever need to succumb to. I attempted to put in some meters, but when I saw people pulling on that chain for legitimately all of their existence, I decided I would not be standing on any championship boxes come the 31st. No thank you.

But! February's burpee challenge seemed more up my alley. BODYWEIGHT MOVEMENTS. I love burpees. I’d do great in prison. I can toss my bag of bones on the ground and hop up a ton of times. I got this! I’m killer at body weight movements. IT’S IN THE BAG. I figured if our team does 100 burpees a day each, we’ll be in first place FOR SURE. Man was I wrong. WRONG WRONG painfully, endless, boringly energetic lifetime of burpee-ing WRONG.

In case you didn’t know, Crossfit athletes (or any athletes to be honest) are com-pe-ta-tive. 100 a day aint even a warm up. We started out hot to trot. Team “Sunday Funday” lit the board up with our burpee glory on day one. And then in came the others….Oh look, Abby came back in the evening and did 400 burpees. Wait WHAT. NO. THAT’S INSANE. Why? Someone hose her down!

Alright..fine. Battle on. We stepped it up. It went from us doing 100 burpees a day each to 200 each, to 300… I think my partner Jack did 400 one day that first week. Like a champ.

But regardless, I was doing 200-300 burpees a day ON TOP OF MY NORMAL CROSSFIT WORKOUTS and I was sore. My abs were on fire, my knees hurt. OMG my knees hurt. My shoulders were screaming ‘Why”. My hips hurt, my arms were so freaking sick of me they wanted to detach, and I never wanted to do a burpee ever again, I didn’t even want to say the word burpee, it felt like vomit coming out of my mouth. BUUUURPeee. But it’s ok, there are only 4 weeks in February. This is fine.

Week 2: (ugh is it only week 2?)

Through pure willpower and a good head start, by week two we had maintained our hold of the lead. But we were struggling. Apparently everyone else was in it to win it too. What the heck. Rude. Why wouldn’t they just sit aside and let us ride the wave?

But, low and behold, there was a light that turned on in this tunnel of jumping push ups.

Subtle changes were becoming generously ample. (Just like our bootys).

Most obviously I was getting WAY better at cardio, or more specifically, my ability to breath through workouts.

My fellow burpee’ees and I were noticing we could pace better through our workouts, take smoother transitions and have more control of our breathing when winded (and therefore needed to take less breaks).

And if there were burpees during a workout, HELLO GLORY.

Cut me a slice of cake because we blasted through them.

Apparently doing hundreds of burpees a day makes 10-30 feel like NO-THING.

My burpee form improved (it did, ARIC OK. IT DID) At the beginning I was wasting energy in between hops and bops and what nots and trots.

But eventually I figured out a more fluid efficient way to go through the motion (albeit less glamorous), as I really do just collapse on the floor now before I catapult back up.

I got my pre-pregnancy abs back. Hi. My name’s Nina and I had two babies in two years thank you.

FOR THE RECORD, I do not believe that abs are ANY sort of determining factor of how fit or not fit you are. I believe that people should never focus on “glamour muscles” and I know that they have a TON to do with genetics. Blah blah blah BUT, hear me out, burpees are a killer core workout. So don’t knock it. Before I did crossfit I’d never seen anything in my body even slightly resembling an abdominal muscle so I find glory where I can. Also side note: Abs are super fun to take photos of to send to your friends first thing in the morning while they’re just trying to enjoy a damn cup of coffee and not be blasted by your partially topless selfies to make them angry/annoyed/sick of you ;D.

Week 3:

Well we’ve been dethroned from the lead. I’ve still maintained at least 100 every day, most days 200. But the very aptly named “Team South” has erupted from the depths of H-word and blasted through like 6000 burpees, in a day! (I'm exaggerating, BUT FOR REAL, what energy drinks did they snort.) Jack had to go to a ten year long bachelor party hiatus and my wonderful sister (third partner) Eva, got hit with the influenza stick. I’m pretending I’m carrying the team….Or at least in my head I am. I mean In theory. But it’s fine, we’re fine. I’m not dying.

Positive side of this fall from grace! We’re still in the top 3. I’ve built an alliance with Karissa from Team Karissa (I can't remember her team name) to take down Team South AND Karissa and I have created a new product called the SUPER LASER BURPEE COUNTER which is going to make us - a million dollars- . (It’s a sweatband that shoots laser beams around your head, so everytime your hands break the lazer line, it counts a burpee. It’s amazing. You’ll buy one. We’re going on SHARK TANK)

What I’m saying is common hatred of burpees and specifically keeping count of endless burpees has magically brought us all together, in pure burpee hating gym camaraderie and I’ve made new life-long sweaty friendships. AWW.

Well some of us… Others are a little bit aggressive with their screams of NO REP across the room because I didn’t clap my hands at the top of my burpee, Violet. YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLAP IN THIS CHALLENGE. (Violet is a darling small child who is apparently VERY COMPETITIVE, and a firm stickler for traditional burpee form.)

Week 4:

Well…. life caught up and a month is a long time. I’d love to say we finished strong TOOK BACK THE LEAD and did 500 burpees a day each in the end, high fiving in between every rep! But alas, we fell even further down the ranks. Influenza jumped from Eva to my toddler and it was more like, 20 burpees a day each, because we had to at least do some. We came to an unspoken mutual agreement that top 5 is totally good enough. In fact 4th place sounded great. And in the end we were proud of our place of honor. Besides. Team “Burpees into the afterlife” decided to break a personal goal of 10,000 burpees and we just decided to sit back and let them take that win. In the end we did a grand total of (drum roll) Seven Thousand and eight Burpees!!! Placing us firmly in 4th Place. TADAAAAA. I have never been happier to be 4th place in my life.

Top 5 were as follows:

Burpeed Into Afterlife - 10,001

Burpees 4 life (formerly referred to as “team karissa”) - 8,625

Team South - 8,005

Sunday Funday - 7,008

Tandras Britches - 3,500

SO HERE’S What I learned:

I had a lot of time to experiment with different things throughout this month:

Burpee-ing without shoes on? Nope. Bad idea. Don’t do it. Slick socks make your burpee more challenging and therefore use more energy, it also hurts your toes. A lightweight shoe with good grip is your best bet.

Burpee on a soft mat? Nope, too smooshy, slows you down and therefore takes more energy. To prevent or deal with sore knees, wear knee sleeves. For extra padding on your knees when they’re feeling more than beat up, try wearing sweatpants and bunching the sweat pants up over your knees. Sooooo nice, like a day spa for burpee knees.

Burpee jumping or stepping out? Stepping in and out is good for slow and steady but I honestly am not a fan for something like this challenge. I feel like it requires more energy and wears me out faster. I preferred to do fast sets of ten - jumping in and out, then take a break and stretch, do sit ups or some other movement until I recovered and then do ten fast again, on and on and on... for literally ever.

Wide legs or straight behind you? Wide all the way. Less distance traveled jumping out and in makes a big difference in the long run.

Stay hydrated. A good way to get a killer cramp is to do long strenuous cardio without a good bottle of water next to you. I personally liked making my own sports water with:

1 pinch salt.

½ lemon/ lime or grapefruit - squeezed

1 cup cold water

2 drops Double Helix Water (optional)

Counting Burpees? Ugh, this is the worst. Hundreds of burpees are incredibly hard to keep count of. You absolutely have to have a way to track them. My favorite was to just have a white board with a dry erase marker to write down every set I finished. Or write down what you’re at when someone comes over and talks to you. Write it down in pen, keep track on your phone, put out a bunch of rocks to move, doesn’t matter. Just find something. When you’re in the hundreds you don’t want someone to come up and ask you about the WOD and now you can’t remember if you're at 362 or 342 and life itself might as well be over.

Another thing I discovered about this is it’s important to stick to what part of the burpee you’re counting on. I personally believe that the burpee should be counted at the jump, as that’s when it’s complete. But you don’t want to start counting during the pushup and then again at the jump, you risk double counting or losing count.

And finally the burpee flop. Don’t be scared of the floor. The floor is your friend. Allow yourself to fall on the floor. The more you negative yourself down the more work you’re doing. Trust falls all day.

That’s it. That’s what I learned in a month of burpees. I hope you enjoyed the read and learned something my friends!

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