Burpee Challenge: Reflections and reboot

The idea of my burpee challenge is pretty old. I began training for it back in August, and finally started the project in September. In the very first week, I missed a day, and–without posting here–figured I’d restart the one-week challenge.

I managed three weeks on the terms of getting a total of 300 burpees per week (50 burpees per day for six days). I missed the occasional day, but then did two sets the next day. Once, I even managed a long, drawn-out set of a hundred.

I got stronger. I began to enjoy the middle few burpees–after warming up, before beginning to be exhausted–and started wondering what I would do after the challenge. After all, this doesn’t seem like something that would turn into a lifestyle.

Then, last week got crazy and I missed three days. I kept the running tally of the burpees I still had to do, but realized I wasn’t going to catch up.

So, because the challenge is six weeks of six days, I’m starting again. I’m not giving up, yet. There is something to be gained from the burpees, and I’m enjoying the feeling of strength I get from them.

So, here we go again…

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The burpee project begins!

I decided that September would start the burpee project. For a while, I was pretty consistent with fifty burpees a day — at least every other day — but told myself that I was just warming up.

At some point, however, it seems logical that the experiment had to begin. And, with September starting on a Sunday, that seemed like a happy coincidence. The burpee experiment starts in September.

Here it is:

  • 50 burpees per day
  • 6 days a week
  • (Or the equivalent)
  • 6 weeks

What’s an equivalent?

To give myself some flexibility, the basic goal is 300 burpees per week. I’ll count a week as successful if I do three days at 100 burpees each. Or even if I do 300 burpees in one day (not today, thank you!).

The idea here is that I am afraid I’ll miss a day and then lose motivation because I “screwed everything up.” So, this gives me the chance to fix my mistakes.

Starting data

I should have timed myself doing 50 burpees. I haven’t, but now that I’m writing, that seems like the kind of data that would be interesting to keep track of. I do know that I was 106.9 kg at the beginning of this week and that I’m both eating and drinking less than usual at the moment. It’s a little unfortunate, because it will be hard to know if the burpees or the reduced calorie intake has the most impact.

Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing the data at the end.

The burpee experiment

I have an infatuation with burpees. Along with pull-ups and rope climbing, they’re the exercise that has the most mystique. In fact, maybe I like them most because I can actually do at least a few burpees at a time. (I can do a single pull-up, I cannot climb a rope… the kids play on the one I hung in the tree outside.)

A month or so ago, I watched this video.

You can guess what happened.

Naturally I didn’t think I was up for kicking into fifty burpees a day right away. I’m getting older and I’m very afraid of hurting myself. But I did go right out and do a total of fifty burpees in who knows how many sets.

And I felt it the next day, just like I expected to.

So I took a day off. And I started writing down when I did the burpees.

It felt good to see the list grow and occasionally calculate how many I’d done in total.

Being on vacation, burpees were a great exercise to feel like I was getting something done without checking out from the family for an hour for a long run (with the consequence that I now have to break back into running).

My goal: Do fifty burpees six times a week for six weeks, starting in September. I’ve had goals like this before, but we’ll see.

A headstand is also a burpee

This post could be titled “Burpee challenge, modified” and is inspired — like the whole burpee challenge thing, by a post on lifehacker. In this case, it was a post about getting a hundred burpees done.

How things are now

I still do burpees most days. Following my initial math, I worked up to sets of ten, by managing to get twenty done in two minutes.

The thing is, it’s not as fun as it once was, and I’m not seeing improvement. I get at least one burpee done (the old minimum) at least six days a week. And on one day, I managed seven sets of nine — in competition with my daughter who takes some liberties with form.

Still, I’m feeling more and more like I’m plateauing. The number of burpees I can do is not going up. I’m not getting more pull-ups done in a single set. And, adding burpees to my runs (the kill-two-birds-with-one-trip-outside strategy) means that I seldom run much more than a kilometer without a ‘break.’ (To be honest, the running feels like a break.)

How I want things to be

I don’t have a clear answer. I want to get back to feeling like I’m getting stronger, to being proud of my workouts, rather than just getting them out of the way.

I genuinely want to feel stronger.

A good fitness memory

Here’s a thing we did not long ago that made all of this seem a little more worthwhile: getting the kids outside (one of my biggest summer priorities) we found an oak tree that had a lot of branches that we could reach. Of course, we climbed it.

I haven’t spent much time in a tree in a while — though that is a long-term goal — and was surprised to see how effortless it seemed to about using my arms and shoulders to support a lot of my weight. I wasn’t doing insane rock-climbing stuff, and there was still a lot of weight on my legs.

None of those caveats, though, takes away from the feeling I had — not much more than two meters in the air — of being somehow stronger than I was used to being. And being strong enough to help my kids climb.

I loved that.

You can bet we’ve been back to that tree — and others, though that’s the one that seems to need my arms the most — often, as much for my benefit as for theirs.

So, here’s what I guess I want: to continue doing workouts that impress me (without injury, I might add!) and to have more of those moments of relative strength.

The way forward

I don’t know what the way forward is. Often, I make these posts after I’ve come up with an idea I want to try. Instead, I wanted to make a record of how things stand right now.

There is one change I’m making now, as I look at how to continue this fitness adventure. And, unfortunately, it revolves around an experience I had in which I felt less strong: headstands.

There was a time when my sister and I had a competition to see who could do the longest headstands. I could count to twelve and back down while standing pretty reliably on my head (not, I should add, my hands). It was one of those things that made me feel strong.

And then back hurt and I got into planks, and from planks into burpees.

Then, recently, my daughter has become interested in headstands, handstands, cartwheels, the like. And she asked me if I could still do a headstand (she’d seen them)… and it was hard. I got my legs in the air, but not with the confidence I’d had before.

So, I guess I’m going back to doing headstands. And that’s okay. I’ve just rationalized that I’ll try to substitute headstands for burpees on those days when I’ve realized I haven’t done enough burpees.

Maybe I’ll join my daughter in her handstand/cartwheel goals.

 

Burpees

Yesterday, I did something that I’ve been talking (to myself) about doing for a while: I added exercises to my run. Six times in my usual 7km run, I stopped and did 5 burpees.

burpees1

I don’t know why I picked them over any other exercise, except that they have the reputation of being super hard, and I was ready to have my butt kicked. Even more, I was ready to push myself into being seen being different. And they’re certainly different.

How was it?

First, let me say that I might have forgotten about them, except that I certainly feel the workout still. And I kinda like that.

Next, in addition to the fact that, although I felt self-conscious for the last set, my shyness decreased with each set, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty. It’s a funny thing to say, but for such a (self-perceived) nature-loving, Earth embracing hippy, I don’t get dirty very often. And, doing the burpees, I had to… and I liked it.

The last thing I wanted to mention as I reflect on them is that it was a fun change to start seeing the run as the ‘recovery’ part of the workout. I mean, after just five of them, I was so out of breath that I was glad to be running again. And that’s not how I usually thing about running.

When will I do them again?

My new short-term goal is to add a fourth, short run to my running week and to try and get the thirty burpees in just four sets…

If I do or don’t, I have to say that I’m feeling more active now, and I’m enjoying that level of activity.