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Burpees — unbeatable for fitness and my best habit — the series

Get to know me and you get to know I do burpees — over 80,000 so far, daily, without missing a day in over six years.

I started doing them daily with a friend and they quickly became one of my top daily habits — my first daily habit I simply started from scratch and never stopped doing.

burpee form animation

Why burpees?

Top thirteen reasons to make burpees part of your daily routine

  1. They put me in the best shape of my life
    1. Over 40 years old
    2. After a lifetime of athleticism including playing Ultimate Frisbee at the Nationals and Worlds level
  2. Zero cost
  3. Zero equipment
  4. Negligible risk of injury
  5. Can learn to do them in seconds
  6. Documented by fitness experts as single best exercise
  7. Under five minutes per day
  8. Can do them anywhere, any time, in any weather
  9. Don’t interfere with any other workouts
  10. Can work at any level — just do as many or as few as you want
  11. Many variations can work specific parts of body
  12. They make you feel great
  13. Teach discipline, dedication, drive, and focus

If you know of any other exercise with these advantages, please tell me. In the meantime, I don’t see how you can beat daily burpees.

Since our behavior defines so much of our identities to others — that’s what they see of us — our habits form the foundations of our identities. So twice-daily exercise like burpees, which get your blood pumping and lungs working, keep you fit, force discipline, and motivate eating healthy (for me at least, who wants to eat junk after exercising?), influence how the world sees you a lot, despite taking only a few minutes a day.

Since behavior affects how we feel, burpees help create a baseline of health, confidence, calmness, capability, and so on. It’s hard to start each burpee set, but it’s harder to feel listless, lazy, or depressed after. They jump-start my physical and emotional state every time. There is nothing like a tool you can rely on to do that that needs no equipment, works in any weather, has almost no risk of injury, and, … you can click through the posts to see the other benefits.

This series covers many of my different views on burpees and my habit of doing them. My goal is to help others create habits that help them become the person they want. In my case, burpees help with fitness, health, calm, confidence, being capable, discipline, dedication, responsibility, motivation, and others.

Click on the links on the left to read on.

Burpees -- the one year review

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today, December 21, 2012, marks the 365th day of my exercise regiment of daily burpees. They began with me talking to a friend about exercise, then deciding to do ten a day for thirty days, then expanded to a consistent long-term daily routine.

I now do two sets of twenty per day — one just after getting up and one just before going to bed — and four stretches before the morning set. Do I claim doing only burpees is the best exercise I could? No. But you’ll be hard pressed to find an exercise with such great characteristics:

  • No equipment needed
  • No gym needed
  • No other people needed
  • Simple
  • Free
  • Negligible risk of injury
  • Can be done in any weather at any time
  • Builds heart and lungs
  • Works several major muscle groups

Besides, I don’t only do burpees. I also stretch. This year I played ultimate frisbee twice a week for a few months. I run when the weather inspires me. I row sometimes. And I do random other things, like walking a few miles sometimes or walking up stairs to nineteenth floor offices. Even if I did only do burpees, the New York Times reported on a fitness expert suggesting burpees as the best single exercise.

What’s a burpee?

My burpees

burpee form animation

Here’s what my burpees look like, which means with a push-up in the middle and a jump at the end.My style of burpees My style of burpees

Easier burpees

If you want to do some and haven’t done them before you can start with ones without the push-ups or jumping. Or you can do push-ups with your knees on the ground. Easier burpees Easier burpees You know, I shouldn’t call them easier burpees. One burpee without push-ups or jumping may be easier than one with them, but you can always just do more of them to make a work out burn as many calories.

I think the ones I do work more muscle groups — in particular the push-ups doing something with your arms and chest. Still, if anything gives out first, my legs do in the jump when I have a high target to reach for when I jump.

Daily routine

They have become one of my core daily routine elements, like brushing my teeth. I plan to do them until my body gives out doing them.

Things you do daily help define you. What does this one say about me? Most of all, it says I value health, physical activity, and consistency. Since I check in on doing it with my friend it says I value my friendship with him, friendship in general, and accountability. I value convenience and not making excuses.

Ten burpees will get most people winded. I did sixteen in a minute the first I timed myself in January so I presume my total burpee exercise started at under one minute per day, rising to maybe three minutes per day now.

Emotions

These are the emotions my routine starts and finishes my day with. Can you think of anything better? Other exercises and routines may do better, but the ease of doing these and garnering the following emotions every day makes them attractive.

Doing them at all makes me feel friendly and healthy.

Having started the program and continuing it makes me feel responsible.

The physical effort makes me feel accomplished and exhausted.

Feeling healthy makes me not crave unhealthy food, which makes me feel free. Being able to eat and drink whatever I want, knowing my health is covered, makes me feel more free.

Sharing the exercises with others is fun.

Sharing them publicly makes me feel accountable.

Successfully maintaining the program makes me feel accomplished and capable to do other projects, especially challenging long-term ones.

Knowing no matter what my mood, stretching and burpees will improve it makes me feel resilient, calm, and stable.

Not needing equipment, weather, or a gym makes me feel independent.

Not accepting excuses makes me feel capable and optimistic. Learning not to come up with excuses makes me feel confident.

I can’t think of punishing or painful emotions or feelings burpees bring me. Before I do them I often feel like I don’t want to do them — maybe feelings of futility and laziness — but once I do the first one I always finish the set, which creates many of the above emotions and overrides the punishing and painful ones.

Application to the rest of life

I can’t tell you how much it helps to know intellectually that I have something so simple and mechanical that can overcome and override punishing and painful feelings. If I feel lethargic or in some way bad, I can do my burpees and I feel revitalized. I long ago realized I could manage my emotions in general and knew exercise helped, but until burpees didn’t have something so accessible and effective — more so, even, than running or walking.

This mechanical way to manage your emotions with merely modest willpower applies to all areas of life. Once you know you can do it for some emotions, you know you can do it with all emotions.

When I had some multiple-month gut-wrenching challenges earlier this year I made sure not to give up the burpees. I knew that the routine would keep me resilient, calm, and stable, and it did.

Consistency

I haven’t missed a burpee this year. I don’t expect to miss any more. If you communicate with me, feel free to ask how my burpees went that morning, because I will have done them.

I’ve done them alone, with people, in public, indoors, outdoors, drunk, sober, hungry, full, early, late, happy, frustrated, and every way you can imagine feeling and being every day for a year. I’ve done them in New York City, Hollywood, North Korea, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines.

I haven’t done them sick. This year hasn’t seen even had a headache to stop me. Are the burpees contributing to my health? I imagine so. Lack of exercise would probably make me unhealthy so, as most of my exercise, I think they must. I’ve fallen asleep before doing burpees, then woken back up (there tends to be alcohol involved with falling asleep first, which also leads to waking up to have to go to the bathroom) and done my evening set at 4am. I don’t ask myself if I want to do them or think about how maybe I can skip this one set or something like that. I just do my burpees. The mental effort I save not dwelling of if I should do them or not actually feels greater than the calories I burn doing them.

Benefits of consistency

By making them a routine, I’ve taken choice out of the equation, so I just do them. My friend’s advice

If you miss one day you can miss two. If you miss two it’s all over.

has kept me consistent. My success with burpees has led me to apply that principle to many places — notably stretching and finally starting to floss daily without exception. Now I can’t imagine going to sleep without flossing — I’ve become too accustomed to clean teeth to skip.

I wouldn’t have expected to learn how much such a solid routine of something so challenging helps. I don’t pretend twenty burpees is anything grueling, but they’re serious exercise. Ten will get you winded.

Since your mind and body make excuses to avoid doing them, you learn just to do things. You don’t necessarily ignore those excuses. You just don’t succumb to them. You don’t need willpower. You develop the mental skills to do what you consciously want over the inevitable and incessant objections and distractions of your lazier parts. Anyone knows the value of that.

Progress

I started with ten a day, any time. My friend and I increased the number a few times in the first thirty days as well as one doubling when we added an extra set per day.

In the eleven months since I increased a burpee per set every now and then. I also added stretches. By November 3 I had been doing sixteen every morning and fifteen every evening with four stretches before the morning set for a few months. Periodically I would do more if I ate or drank more empty calories than usual.

On November 4th I took my dad out for his birthday and had a rich, cheesy meal. That night I did twenty burpees and then continued to do two sets of twenty burpees a day from then on, my biggest jump — from 31 to 40 per day — since doubling last January.

I expect to stay at two sets of twenty per day for a long time. I might increase if I feel like it, but this number works well for me.

Numbers

I’ve done about nine to ten thousand burpees this year. If I remember right, that roughly follows a year of 500,000 meters on the rowing machine. This year I believe I have a guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon, so I’ll have a few years of consistent exercise.

I don’t try to persuade anyone, but people around me do burpees with me — from my mother and stepfather, approaching 70 years old, to my nieces and nephews, down to five years old. Friends have done them too.

I think I’ll do a hundred burpee day soon (EDIT: done!). They keep me warm in these cold, unheated Shanghai buildings. If I like it I’ll do more hundred burpee days. One year down. A few dozen years to go.

Video: the first and last word on improving yourself

[This post is part of series on the Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity (SIDCHA), burpees, and cold showers. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click to view the SIDCHA series, the burpee series, and the cold shower series where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Yesterday’s webinar, on sidchas, my most comprehensive treatment to date:

How to begin a workout routine to last: start with joy

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

This post covers how I’m putting myself in better shape with minimal effort, but don’t be distracted. That’s a secondary point, a side effect.

This post is about joy, fun, and friendship. And how I create them with the Method.

The seed

Over dinner with a friend I mentioned how I read a New York Times article about fitness experts speculating on a “single best exercise.” Readers here know I like rowing, but they didn’t mention it.

They first mentioned burpees. Tomorrow I’ll describe burpees and quote that article — for now, the relevant point is they are a great workout needing no equipment. That’s all I needed to know to start a habit to improve my life.

My point today is to illustrate how to start a habit you want to maintain. Many people view exercises as something they don’t like or as boring chores. I love every exercise I do. I make exercises work that way by finding what I enjoy first, then doing it, not by forcing myself to do something I don’t like, no matter how helpful.

Taking root

The next day my friend emailed me

Great to see you. Just started burpees – can’t do 6 and my form stinks. I have been relatively focused on yoga lately so my form bothers me. Not that you need to know, but I will tell you when I get to ten, well-postured ones.

Blossoming

I wrote him back

Well, you get credit for ten more because reading your email got me to do ten this morning I wouldn’t have.

I just had an idea. We’re both going to do ten burpees each morning for thirty days. We’ll email the other after we do them.

Are you in, brother?

He wrote back

Done.  I am in.  Reporting back on Jan 21.

I wrote back

Awesome!

But we’re checking in every day. Email, text, call, whatever. It’s more fun this way. We’re in it together.

I could have easily lay in bed for a long time this morning doing nothing, but I thought about burpees, jumped out, and did ten of them. Now I’m energized and I’m about to finish my book and figure out how to upload it to the web.

So that’s day two.

We’ve texted or emailed every day since. One day he switched to doing as many as possible in sixty seconds. I made a rule for myself that I have to do my burpees before reading any emails. Now I’m up to thirteen each day. I’ve reduced my rowing, but overall increased my working out. He’s doing fifteen a day as I write, but I won’t be surprised if he increases.

The other day, out with Dave, with whom I swam across the Hudson River, we talked burpees and ended up doing a few outside the bar we were in. I mentioned them to my mom, who ran her first marathon at 66, and she started doing them.

I don’t know if they’ll make this exercise a habit, but by sharing them they know I enjoy exercise, they’ll know to share such things with me and make them more a part of our relationship. I made exercise, fitness, and joy a bigger part of my world. Zero cost. Zero gym membership. I changed my world.

People know if they share exercise with me, they’ll share fun and joy. If they share laziness and junk food, they won’t. Guess what people will share with me? Guess what type of person I’ll have in my life?

Results

As far as I’m concerned, only one result matters.

  • I’m enjoying doing a hobby with a friend

Side effects

  • Reducing fat from my stomach
  • Bigger shoulder and chest muscles
  • Jumping out of bed to start the day productively
  • Improving form, balance, strength all over body
  • Feeling great about my body
  • Zero cost
  • Less than one minute per day exercising yet effective. About three minutes including setting up and cooling down
  • Something fun to share with friends
  • Discipline, drive, focus
  • Expectation of more success

The side effects read like goals many people have for their exercise regiments, but make no mistake — they are side effects. My emotional response — the joy of doing something with a friend — is the main result.

My body reflects the things I enjoy and do. I enjoy discipline, drive, activity, and friendship. I have the body of someone who puts those values into practice. I don’t enjoy sloth, lethargy, complacency, and the like. My body doesn’t reflect those values.

By the way, the fat I’m losing from my stomach I’ve had since I was a baby, including when I ran marathons and played ultimate. I don’t know if I can ascribe all the fat loss to the burpees because I’m still rowing and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Why it works

Readers familiar with the Model and Method will recognize I used the Method by starting my change by focusing on what emotions I wanted to achieve, then adjusting my environment (by telling friends and family about it) and behavior (by doing the burpees) to create the emotions I wanted.

As part of the Method, I point out I also created accountability — with the friend I’m doing the burpees with, with the people I told the burpees about, and with public statements like this. Anyone who reads this, any time they see me can ask me if I did my burpees that day.

The Method works.

Who knew a one-minute-a-day workout could do so much?

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

So what are these burpees I raved about yesterday?

First, from the New York Times article that got me started with them:

Ask a dozen physiologists which exercise is best, and you’ll get a dozen wildly divergent replies. “Trying to choose” a single best exercise is “like trying to condense the entire field” of exercise science, said Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

But when pressed, he suggested one of the foundations of old-fashioned calisthenics: the burpee, in which you drop to the ground, kick your feet out behind you, pull your feet back in and leap up as high as you can. “It builds muscles. It builds endurance.” He paused. “But it’s hard to imagine most people enjoying” an all-burpees program, “or sticking with it for long.”

And sticking with an exercise is key, even if you don’t spend a lot of time working out. The health benefits of activity follow a breathtakingly steep curve. “The majority of the mortality-related benefits” from exercising are due to the first 30 minutes of exercise, said Timothy Church, M.D., who holds the John S. McIlhenny endowed chair in health wisdom at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.

I bolded the burpee parts. Yesterday I pointed out how to stick with doing burpees long-term (make them fun!). I’ll probably increase my number in time, but I’m in no hurry. As of now, I expect to do them until I can’t do them anymore. It’s one minute out of my day.

Also, my friend and I are doing burpees with push-ups.

Wikipedia describes the basic burpee:

The burpee is a full body exercise used in strength training and as aerobic exercise. It is performed in four steps, and was originally known as a “four-count Burpee”:

  1. Begin in a standing position.
  2. Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground. (count 1)
  3. Extend your feet back in one quick motion to assume the front plank position. (count 2)Return to the squat position in one quick motion. (count 3)
  4. Return to an upright standing position. (count 4)

I do a push-up between steps 2 and 3. Here’s a video.

I had never heard of burpees before. They’re named after a guy named Burpee, who went to my alma mater according to Wikipedia

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exercise was named in the 1930s for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the Burpee test. He earned a PhD in Applied Physiology from Columbia University in 1940 and created the “Burpee” exercise as part of his PhD thesis.

Here’s another burpee video. If it doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

A couple other blog posts on burpees — a guy planning to do 100 in a row and a site called “workout of the day”‘s page on how to do them, with links to more videos. The first video there does a great job of showing great form.

More on burpees

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

A few words on burpees and working out to follow up the past two days’ posts (yesterday, the day before)

Having read that some people consider burpees one of the best single exercises, I was happy to try them out.

I haven’t tried to optimize my workouts, to build as much muscle as possible, to reduce fat as much as possible, or any big or specific goal like that.

I only exercise because I enjoy exercising, the feeling of exhaustion afterward, and the feeling of calm confidence I have long-term when I’m in shape. Also, I feel terrible when out of shape, so there’s carrot and stick.

Some people have commented ten burpees isn’t that much. I’m up to thirteen as I’m writing now and they don’t exhaust me, but they’re enough to enjoy and to improve my physique. They do leave me winded. If I increase to more, all the better.

I’m glad to have found even this minimal amount improves my body.

Also, doing them every day adds discipline, another bonus.

Being in shape can be easy, fun, and friendly. You just have to make it that way.

Burpee six-month review

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

I refer to burpees so much I’m making a page to consolidate my burpee references (EDIT: now tomorrow’s post).

As I’m writing this, I only have three posts specifically on burpees (four when I post this, more evidence on how sharing what you love fills your life with sharing, love, and stuff you love), but I link to it a lot.

Also, enough people I meet in person hear about burpees that it makes sense to link to this page from my New? Start here link at the top.

In a nutshell, I do two sets of burpees every day. Not most days. Not once a day when I feel like it and twice a day most times. Not I try to do them.

I started them with a friend of mine. In fact, having started with a friend grounded the exercise routine in friendship. That is, at its foundation, my doing burpees is doing something friendly, even though we don’t see each other in person that often. We don’t email every day — a couple times a week now. My last email from him came two days ago, for example.

Holy cow! I just checked the emails that started it all and our six month point was two days ago — yesterday New York City time (I’m in Shanghai now). What a coincidence that I happen to review burpees today. Now I’m changing the title and making sure to email my friend about this post.

Anyway, I do burpees for structure and discipline. When you do something daily, without fail, you enable so much more in life. I can’t tell you the value it brings to have a major part of your life taken care of. People stress about weight, dieting, exercise, and so on so much in my society. A complete waste of their time and attention, if you ask me. My mind is free for so much other stuff. Seriously, the most emotion I expend about my weight is looking at my abs in the mirror after I work out. And that emotion is generally appreciation and satisfaction.

I want to underscore what a fixed daily routine give — that is, structure and discipline — because you could easily lose it when I talk about numbers of sets and so on. Structure and discipline give me freedom and motivation. Freedom because structure removes the brain work of choosing — I found something that works in every way (results, time, cost, etc) and see no reason to change. Motivation because I know I can and will succeed in my goals — modest enough to achieve but big enough to make the results meaningful. Starting my day with freedom, motivation (not forgetting friendship) grounds my life in some of my greatest values, which, in turn, infuse nearly everything else in my life. I expect to succeed in other areas because I see how I’m succeeding in this area.

Back to the routine. We started at 10 burpees per day. I’m slowly ramping up by adding another every now and then with one big bump when I added a second set in the evening. I think my friend started the second set first and I followed his lead. He was also doing three sets a day for a while. Now he’s biking to work too. I don’t know how much he did that before the burpees. I also added four stretches before my morning set.

I don’t try to increase my number of burpees that quickly because I plan to do them until my body gives out. So when I increase, I’m increasing forever. Sometimes I do extra burpees if I feel like it or for various reasons. Actually, here are my main reasons

  • If I sense I’m slacking on the set, doing them slowly, I’ll add an extra at the end
  • If I’ve eaten a lot of unhealthy food or drank a lot, I’ll sometimes do an extra set

Odd, I thought I had more reasons. I guess I just end up doing extra burpees or extra sets more than I thought. I also sometimes do a set of mountain climbers (I started at around 20, now I do 40 or 50 per set) if I feel I’ve eaten more energy than I used that day or the day before.

So as of today, my burpee routine includes

  • Four stretches in the morning
  • Sixteen burpees in the morning
  • Fifteen burpees in the evening
  • Occasionally 40 mountain climbers.

This morning I did seventeen because I’m in a small hotel room with a low ceiling and found myself doing them slowly.

Anyway, for the curious, the time commitment is around five minutes a day, which is mostly stretching, which doesn’t take much energy. Each burpee set takes 60 seconds plus or minus a couple seconds. In return my abs look pretty good — not six-pack, but when I point out the fat on them to people, every one says that’s just skin. I think I hold myself to more exact standards.

Also for the curious, my total cost on exercising for six months has been exactly $0.00 and I’ll go toe-to-toe comparing my health to anyone else’s for achieving basic healthiness and cost- and time-effectiveness.

I also walk up stairs a fair amount and walk places. I count that as part of how I live my life, not exercise, but I think even walking up four flights to my apartment gives me more exercise than a sizable fraction of my country’s citizens.

But then I don’t do burpees for exercise — I just get fitness as a side benefit. I do them for friendliness, structure, and discipline, which all add more to my life. I guess if I didn’t do burpees, I’d find some other way to exercise, like rowing, which I’ve decreased significantly, but I can’t do while traveling anyway.

Frankly, I don’t see physical fitness as a goal in itself anyway. I see your body’s condition as the physical manifestation of how you live your life. I don’t see any problem with people being fat. If they choose to live in a way they want, fatness results, and they find reward and happiness in it, I support them. I may not share their values and our paths may diverge, but I

People constantly talk about genetic dispositions to obesity and metabolisms. Maybe they look at skinny me and think it comes easy. I can’t compare how my body would change without exercise. I haven’t been chubby since high school, when I started making sport and exercise a fundamental part of my life, however modest and I’m not willing to stop exercising to find out if my body would put on fat. I know it does because I’ve used belly fat to motivate me to exercise, basically since high school. If I got too much, I’d increase my exercise and cut some sweets and alcohol.

But I’d ask anyone who says their genetics keep them from staying in shape to do burpees every day for six months and see if they didn’t find their bodies (and minds) changing. But then again, I wouldn’t suggest anyone to do anything because I told them. I would only recommend people doing what they love, or brings them joy.

In my case, as I mentioned, my routine creates friendship, freedom, and motivation, which create love and joy. Pretty good for a couple minutes a day.

120 burpees yesterday! 10,000 burpees at 2x20 per day!

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

While writing yesterday’s post on accepting my friend Dave’s challenge to do one hundred burpees in thirty-seven minutes I ate a banana for energy and mentally prepared.

Then I turned on my stopwatch, started it, and did ten burpees. At three-and-a-half minutes I did ten more. At seven minutes ten more. By the end I felt good enough to do them faster. After my hundredth burpee I stopped the clock at just under twenty-nine minutes.

Coincidentally, Dave happened to text me right in the middle to answer my question from before that yes, he did do push-ups too. How did he happen to text in that half-hour?

I know doing something someone already did is easier than doing it first, which made my doing it faster easier. I also found sets of ten easier than I expected. That is, I found my eightieth, ninetieth, and hundredth burpees — the last in sets of ten — easier than my eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth in sets of twenty. I would guess doing burpees to exhaustion will make them more effective than spreading them out.

So the friendship aspect of my burpees continues. If you check my early burpee posts you’ll see I started doing them as an act of friendship more than as an exercise tool. Sure, they keep me in shape, but that’s a side effect of cultivating friendships with people who improve my life and support my goals and passions.

Incidentally, for these ten-thousand burpees at 2×20 daily or fifteen-thousand or so overall, my total cost remains exactly zero dollars. My number of injuries remains exactly zero. My days missed for rain, snow, equipment failure, and so on remains exactly zero.

The rest of the day and today

I felt pretty good the rest of the day. Dave texted me that his burpee muscles felt sore. Before going to sleep I didn’t feel I could count the extra morning sets toward my evening set so I did my usual twenty before going to bed.

Today I feel sore too, but it’s time to do my burpees, so I’ll post this and do twenty more.

Video: I recorded my burpee sidchas

I’ve meant to post a video of my burpee sidchas. Someone writing a book on high intensity interval training asked me for a video, so I finally recorded my morning and evening burpee sidchas. Maybe my burpee sidcha will show up in a book.

I don’t claim they’re glamorous but I haven’t missed a burpee in over four years. I do them every day. I started with ten burpees a day in December 2011, before I created the term sidcha. I add to the routines when what was challenging becomes easy. Ten burpees seems like nothing now.

I turn 45 in a few months, if that matters.

By the way, if you want to start a burpee sidcha, I recommend finding how many is challenging by doing as many as you can without pushing too hard. Subtract two. Then do that number every day forever, increasing when you can do a given number too easily.

I predict it will become one of your most valuable activities.

Mornings

  • 26 burpees, the last two with my thumbs touching for the push-ups
  • Stretch hamstring for 60 breaths
  • Pike — lift my heels as high as I can for 12 breaths
  • 10 times raise my hips on my back with my legs straight up
  • 20 crunches with my legs straight up
  • 20 crunches while my feet are on the ground
  • 30 bicycle kicks
  • L-sit attempt for 13 breaths
  • 21 reverse rows (gloves because the counter edge is sharp; can’t find a place for a pull-up bar in my apartment)

Evenings

My camera stopped before I did. I do 21 reverse rows total, so it almost got it all.

  • 26 burpees, the last two with my thumbs touching for the push-ups
  • Hamstring stretch for 60 breaths
  • L-sit attempt for 13 breaths (so far, a true L-sit for about 1 second, but getting there. Lifting one leg at a time now)
  • Plank for thirty breaths (I try to get my elbows about under my eyes)
  • 12 side plank lifts on each side
  • 21 reverse rows (gloves because the counter edge is sharp; can’t find a place for a pull-up bar in my apartment)

Burpees -- the Two Year Review!

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today marks two years of daily burpees!

Challenging healthy daily habits

If you want a stable foundation on which to build a life of health, resilience, discipline, focus, and drive, you will find no better tool than daily exercise. You don’t have to do burpees, but you won’t easily match their combination of challenging yet injury-free cardiovascular workout without needing equipment, weather, money, or time. If you don’t have such a daily healthy challenge and you read personal development literature, you’re retarded. I mean that literally. You are retarding the growth you’re reading this stuff for. No amount of reading will match the physical activity of a daily challenge. Or you don’t care about your development and you’re retarding your growth in other areas if you’re reading this stuff.

Challenging healthy daily habits set a lower limit to your emotional and physical health.

I have not missed a single burpee since I started. I feel as healthy as ever in my life. I don’t have a six-pack, but I have flat abs and little fat around my middle, where fat appears after a few meals of more energy than usual.

While sometimes I refer to burpees as exercise, I think of them more as a part of regular life, like brushing my teeth, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, preferring fresh fruits and vegetables to processed “food,” and saying “please” and “thank you.” If the only way I raise my heart rate is with burpees, I haven’t been exercising enough.

Funny the anniversary comes in the middle of my thirty days of cold showers, another challenging healthy daily habit that helps in similar ways, and now I recommend, though I don’t plan to do them daily forever. I’m thinking about doing them at least once weekly, occasionally doing them for longer when I feel like it.

Two days ago I also ran into a guy who does fifty burpees, though I don’t think as regularly. I’m thinking about increasing my reps. I moved up to two sets of twenty over a year ago, so maybe I’ll increase to twenty-one soon.

Since I’m away from home and my regular schedule and routine are off, the other day when I got home I couldn’t remember for sure that I had done burpees that morning. Without thinking twice about it, I did an extra set that evening. I probably did sixty that day, but I’m not sure. Same with any time I lose count — I restart counting at whatever last number I remember. That’s the point of a daily challenging exercise — you learn to do what you want, even when you feel discouraged.

Daily burpees make you emotionally, physically, and mentally strong and healthy. I started to wonder if they build more emotional or physical strength, then realized I was separating things I do better not separating. They all go together.

Find something better or Do your burpees!

Three years of burpees

Yesterday began my fourth year of burpees.

I’ve written about them at length, so I’ll keep it brief today. A few sets of burpees are good fitness exercise. A few years of burpees is a solid foundation for a healthy life. Here are the top things they create for me.

Sticking with them for a long time without missing any creates discipline, which is a foundation I can build other habits and behaviors I want in my life. I meant to make only burpees my base exercise. While increasing from ten per day to two sets of twenty-six per day, I couldn’t help but include inverted rows to work my back and sit-ups to work my abs. My one-minute workout has increased to maybe five minutes of exercise.

Building up from a foundation I mastered, simple as it is, empowers me. My body, at forty-three, is as fit as it’s ever been and has less fat than ever, which I like. And it’s so easy. Just one simple exercise daily. I increased it but you don’t have to, although I bet you will. That’s empowerment. You know you can do things you never thought you could. You do them. Next thing you know you have a six-pack. Same with cutting food I don’t like from my diet. Once I took up burpees daily, choosing to start habits I wanted or stop habits I didn’t was easy.

The ability to change habits enables you to change yourself as much as you want.

Finally, doing burpees when you don’t want to or are hard—like after a marathon, when you haven’t eaten in a day, etc—and when no one is around develops integrity. I don’t know how to describe integrity. It’s what you do when no one is looking. It’s doing what you believe is right. You can wait for challenges to befall you to find out if you have integrity if you want to leave things to chance, or you can train it in yourself and know what you’ll do when times call for it. I’m sure you can tell, I choose the latter.

More benefits of burpees

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Ten days ago I wrote about running around eight miles for my first run in about three months after hurting my ankle — “Soreness and exhaustion feel great!“. Three days later I ran a nine-and-a-half mile run.

Even having run marathons before, I consider those runs long and big jumps from no running. I’m surprised I did them. I keep asking myself what kept me in shape enough to do them.

The best I can think of is burpees.

Besides burpees, what else can I think of that contributed?

Walking a lot this summer: I decided to stop taking the subway for walks shorter than to about Times Square (when I’m not in a hurry), about a mile-and-a-half. I’ve probably averaged walking about a mile a day, with many three or four mile days. Still, walking barely gets your heart pumping and the longer distances come from multiple walks with breaks between. I don’t think walking contributed much.

Running before hurting my ankle: I had worked up some distance before running, but I don’t see that conditioning lasting three months. Three months is a long time for fitness to atrophy.

Experience running distance: This helps mentally. I think I have a good sense for telling if I’m going to hurt myself from running too far, my ankle injury notwithstanding. Experience means I probably run with good form. I also think I know how to motivate myself through fatigue. Since running long distances doesn’t burn you out like lifting weights or burpees, maintaining motivation for hours contributes a lot. I think a lot of people could work up from never having run to four- or five-mile runs within their first ten runs, but something filled their minds with garbage like that running inherently damages your knees or other ways of thinking they can’t do it.

Running slowly: my main measure of speed is how many people pass me. About four or five people passed me in my lap of Central Park on my second run. Fifteen years ago I would run seven-and-a-half-minute miles for that distance and run many laps of Central Park without anyone passing me. From the clock at Columbus Circle I estimate I ran close to nine-minute-miles, including a couple stops. Running slowly definitely contributed.

Shoes: These Vivo Barefoot shoes get me running without landing on my heels. They’re basically moccasins with no padding so I land on the balls of my feet, which leads to no overall pain like what most people call traditional running shoes cause, which is why I’ll never wear them again. These don’t do that. They’re also the lightest shoes I’ve run in. So the shoes contribute by removing pain and weight from my feet. I recommend shoes like these for everyone.

Still, all of those things don’t add up to nine-and-a-half miles on my second run.

I can’t help but conclude twenty twice-daily burpees gave me at least half that distance. I guess that includes the discipline and determination that goes with never skipping them, even if they only take me a few minutes per day.

(EDIT: I wrote this post nine days ago but scheduled it for today. Since then I ran two five-mile runs and a sixteen-mile run too.)

Another reason to share your passions

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today’s post combines a few key things that result from and help create a great life.

  • Having good friends who challenge you
  • Sharing your passions
  • Exercising regularly
  • Accountability gets things done

My friend Dave — the guy I swam across the Hudson River with — was back briefly from Tanzania, where he’s doing development work. I don’t have to tell you, the guy lives an amazing life.

I told him I had been doing forty burpees a day since November 4 last year and that by my calculations I would do my ten-thousandth burpee since then on July 18 and I planned to write about it here.

The next day he texted me:

Your burpee quest got me thinking… just did 100 burpees w/ jumps in 37 minutes. Wanna beat my record? 🙂

Now that’s a friend! He listens, cares about what you do, takes it on, and challenges you. I should mention that in my first month of burpees about a year and a half ago I told him I was doing ten a day. We were drinking at a bar. He said he didn’t think ten was that much so we went outside and did ten burpees on the sidewalk to see. He did them just fine.

Anyway, I wrote him back

Awesome! … It will be my pleasure to attempt beating it. Just to make sure, you did push ups too, right?

Since readers know I love accountability because it gets things done, I decided to post here that I would take on the challenge today before starting it. You can find out tomorrow if I made it.

Incidentally, I had been meaning to do a one-hundred-burpee day for a while. I never got around to doing it. Just like I had been wondering if I could swim across the Hudson until Dave said “let’s do it.” If you don’t have people like Dave in your life, find some.

Also incidentally, ten thousand burpees since November 4 would mean something above fifteen thousand burpees total since starting. I’ve been developing an idea that anyone who does ten thousand burpees in any time limit has to be physically fit. If they do them quickly, like in a few months, the burpees alone will make them fit. If they do them slowly, like over a few years, the dedication will lead them to do other things that help make them fit.

You call exercise torture? I call it glory.

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Emotionally, I don’t want to do burpees nearly every single time I do them. As you probably know, I do twenty twice-daily. (Here is my overview post on burpees.)

Starting is never easy.

Never.

If you think you have a harder time starting to exercise than others, I think you’re wrong. I don’t think anybody has it easy. Just some people developed skills to overcome the emotional challenges we all feel.

Rationally, I want to do them, but my emotions oppose my rational thoughts.

I use willpower to start my set. (Here is the first post on my series on willpower.)

I have to work mentally to start nearly every set.

I use my self-talk to put my mind in the mode of believing I want to do them by talking to myself about them in terms of friendship and how good I’ll feel after. (Here is a post on the most effective exercise I know to become aware of your self-talk in order to improve it.)

The self-talk never fully gets my mind believing I like the burpees until I start them. As far as I can tell, thoughts alone don’t create belief. I need to act and feel the reward from those thoughts for them to become belief.

I use empathy gaps to trick myself into a situation where I’ll do the exercise. (Here is the first post on my series on empathy gaps.)

I start to do one burpee. By the time I’ve gotten started, I feel like I might as well finish the rest. Yes, I will myself to do 5% and coast the remaining 95%.

That’s how much harder the mental part is than the physical part — at least twenty times harder for this exercise.

When I finish I’m exhausted but glad I did it. Proud even. As many times as I’ve done them, each new set makes me proud and feeling good.

I overindulge in feeling the emotional reward. I enjoy breathing heavy. I look at myself in the mirror and remember I was chubby as a kid.

I share my joy of doing the exercise with others (like writing this post) to create public accountability, to attract people who share my goals and will help me, and to repel people who won’t. (Here’s a post on the value of overindulging and sharing reward.)

Your body benefits from the physical effort — where you burn the calories.

Your mind benefits from the mental effort, probably ultimately more valuable in life.

The need to overcome this resistance and develop your willpower to create that drive and the results to your body, is why I say the body physically manifests your thoughts. (I wrote more on that idea here.)

I have no complaints about my body. Think of how confidence in your body affects your relationships. I eat and drink what I want when I want. Think of how that freedom affects my daily behavior. My physical and mental exercise helps in every part of my life that requires effort and vice versa.

I call this process discipline — mental and physical discipline.

Why do I value discipline? Because it brings freedom. The pleasure of eating whatever I want, however valuable, is nothing compared to the reward of the freedom to think or do whatever I want. (Here are the words of a master on discipline and freedom).

What I think about when I exercise

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Nearly everyone wishes they exercised more, or at least realizes doing so would make them healthier in mind and body.

So why don’t people exercise more? I can’t speak for everyone, but I think their motivation plays a role. American culture, for example, values convenience and saving you work, which results in a lot of sloth. Few activities after high school require most Americans to burn calories.

I’ve been trying to pay attention to my thoughts while exercising for a while. I’d like to say exercise is pure fun like I remember ultimate frisbee being in college, but a lot of the time it’s hard. After often feels great. It’s weird that exhaustion — not normally an emotion you think of liking — ends up so important in what make exercise feel so good.

Normally I prefer not to write so much “I… I… I…” but I feel like these thoughts are mostly universal.

Before

I have two main ways I feel before exercising.

Inspired! — Rare but awesome

One is when I feel inspired, like when the weather is so beautiful I just want to run. Or something makes me feel like rowing. Then everything is effortless. I think about the cool breezes in Central Park if I’m going to run there. The people I’ll see. The colors of the leaves on the trees. How good I’ll feel afterward.

That’s rare, though those feelings sustain me other times when I don’t feel so inspired, knowing I’m capable of those feelings.

More common: lazy but willing

Other times I feel a mix of laziness, not wanting to start exercising, anxiety at feeling bad if I don’t exercise, and some internal nagging to do it.

Rare: anxiety (or even foreboding for high level competition)

The period requires motivation to start. When I played sports this wasn’t a problem, except in high-level competitions. Sometimes I’d feel excited and want as much playing time as I could. Sometimes I’d feel foreboding and fear of failure.

I haven’t felt foreboding or even serious anxiety in a long time. As discouraging as those emotions sound, I miss situations like those. I still walked on the field despite those feelings. Whatever my fears, I had confidence in my abilities to rise to the level of competition. Sometimes I failed, but enough times I rose above to make it worth it. And, of course, for most of my career, I was steadily improving.

During

When I’m feeling inspired, exercise feels like flying, like freedom. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I enjoy it. I can’t help but think about running in Central Park on a beautiful spring day or throwing a Frisbee with friends (which, for ultimate players, is nothing like throwing a one on the beach or with a dog).

Things aren’t so rosy when I’m not inspired. My mind runs through one of several loops, all repetitive. These loops make up the bulk of what I think about while exercising, at least by time and what I associate with exercise. Luckily the feelings of exhaustion and appreciation of health and fitness afterward (see below) motivate me in times I’m not working out.

How much done, how much to go

I bet most people’s minds run through a pattern like this — how much have I done and how much do I have left to do.

Counting laps

When I run a lap of Central Park, which is six miles, I know roughly where the mile marks are. So I know 1/6th of the way, 1/3, 1/2, and so on. I’m always doing fractions and percentages in my head: “two miles done, that’s one-third. Coming up on three miles, that’s one-sixth more, which is 0.1666…” I don’t know why I get stuck doing all those silly fractions and decimals. Why does grade school math get stuck in my head?

Do I write this to show my geekiness? No, I just think everyone must have similar repetitive thoughts they normally wouldn’t share or even notice they have but seeing them might make them feel more human about something otherwise the might feel funny about.

Also, the street lamps of Central Park have number that show what street you’re on. Since everyone knows there are twenty streets per mile, you can calculate how much farther. I finish at Columbus Circle on 59th Street, so I know at street light 7902 (79th Street’s second lamp) I have about a mile left.

Counting reps

When I do burpees I count explicit numbers and look for major points. Like now that I’m doing twenty burpee sets, I notice 4, which is 1/5th of the way done, and 5, which is 1/4th of the way. 1/3rd of the way is 6 2/3 burpees. Then I notice my 10th, which is halfway there. 15 is 3/4s, 16 is 80%, and so on.

I can tell you how each burpee feels. At the risk of boring people, I’ll write some detail. I have a feeling everyone has similar patterns. If you never notice them, I think your workouts will get boring. If you expose them I think you’ll give yourself a chance to let your thoughts evolve.

  • The first is just a warm-up. My form is usually off. But doing it gets me started. I know as long as I do it, I’ll do the remaining nineteen.
  • The next four go quickly. I hardly notice them.
  • Around number 6 or 7 I realize I’m one-third through. The easy ones are done. Next come the ones requiring effort.
  • Doing 8 through 10 — the halfway point — my body starts to slow down.
  • 10 through 15 aren’t much harder, but I start having to put serious effort in.
  • Since 15 is three-quarters, I feel like I’m almost done. But five burpees are still a decent amount and I’m starting to have to work hard. My breathing is heavy.
  • 17 and 18 start to get hard enough that if I’m tired I might pause after landing without meaning to. When I’m about to jump for the 18th I get annoyed because at 18 I feel like I should only have to jump twice more, but I have three. The funny thing is I think this almost every time.
  • 19 takes the most work but I’m almost done, so it’s not that bad.
  • On 20 sometimes I stumble or can barely jump. That’s rare, like if I’m full or drunk or it’s 4am. Usually I put a lot into it and can get high.

It’s silly information to process, but that’s what runs through my head. Useless, repetitive information. It makes you wonder why we evolved this type of thought to ask. I can’t see how it gave our ancestors advantages over other species.

How my body feels

I also keep track of how tired I am, how much harder I can push, and how I feel relative to other times at the same point. Sometimes I like to exercise for relaxation while exercising. Usually I prefer to exert while exercising to feel more relaxed afterward.

As a result, almost every time I exercise I have an internal conversation varying between telling myself to stop, to keep going, to dig in deep, to pass that person, to let that person pass me, to feel awesome about being out, to feel terrible at not being in the shape I could be, to paying attention to my form, and so on. On my rare inspired runs I have a spring in my step and cruise. All other times I’m pushing and giving in to fatigue and all these other things.

When I get close to the end, I feel my fatigue less and start saying things like, “No need to save up, I can push harder.” When I can see the end of my run I remember my coaches who had us sprint all the way through our sprints. Oh, and I remember one time not sprinting to catch a disc and having someone lay out and block it in a game my girlfriend at the time was watching. Man, that happened almost twenty years ago. It’s amazing how you remember a mistake like that. To this day it motivates me to sprint through the ends of my runs.

After

When I exercise to exhaustion I feel great afterward. Exhaustion from exercise feels better than almost anything. I particularly like finishing a run after a hot day in Central Park. I don’t know why it feels so good. When the temperature goes above 80 you sweat a lot. Above 90 and you don’t stop sweating for hours after a run. But it feels so satisfying.

I’ve had times after a run I drink a liter of water nonstop. That feels amazing, although also eerily surprising, wondering where it all goes.

I also feel great at having gotten myself out since I usually had to overcome laziness to get out. So the pleasure of exhaustion augments the achievement of overcoming lethargy, knowing I’m that much better at overcoming internal challenges next time.

I can’t viscerally remember feelings after ultimate practices, but I know those practices were harder than anything I do today. A big workout today doesn’t even measure up to the warm up before practice formally began. And those practices were three days a week, plus weekend tournaments.

I think about how little physical activity I have these days compared to then, and how I don’t think I should feel so proud about such minimal exercise today since it’s so little compared to my past. But then I compare myself to an average American and I feel great. Plus a little Schadenfreude, if I’m candid.

Also after I like to indulge in the exhaustion — feeling it in my lungs, legs, arms, … all over. Looking forward to feeling sore the next day.

Also after, I enjoy the feeling of having a healthy body. Not getting winded doing simple things. Being able to climb nineteen flights of stairs sometimes. Being able to run a lap of Central Park when I feel like it. Liking how I look in the mirror. Not feeling shame in a bathing suit or running in just shorts.

I have to say, one of the every day long-term benefits of keeping in shape is appreciating the health and fitness of your body.

Overall

The above doesn’t capture all the thoughts and feelings that exercise brings. It’s something everyone experiences. I think many people experience drudgery when exercising. It can have that, but I’ve found the few inspired times can make up for it.

Overall, exercise in teams can be amazing, but harder to coordinate. Exercise solo runs more of a gamut of emotions, involving needing to motivate before, and rewarding emotions after.

The most important parts of any exercise or diet

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Somehow in all my ultimate frisbee, rowing, burpee, running, and healthy food talk, I forgot to mention the most important parts of any exercise or diet regiment — freedom!

  1. You can eat anything you want any time you want. I know I do. I can always do more burpees or run another lap of Central Park to make up for it if I have too many empty calories.
  2. You lose craving for things you don’t want. In my case, processed foods look less and less appetizing. Fresh fruits and vegetables look more and more appetizing. I eat fewer empty calories. Meanwhile I love what I do eat and eat a lot of it.

Seriously, what could you want more from eating and drinking than the freedom to eat and drink what you want when you want? Once you’ve covered that part of life, meaning it brings you effortless joy and reward, you have more mental resources to tackle the rest of life.

I can’t imagine what life must be like for people who still enjoy unhealthy food, haven’t learned the pleasure and reward of fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t know how to exercise regularly, and whose relationships with food and their bodies bring guilt, shame, and pity.

I felt miserable this morning. Then I got out of it.

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

How do you handle miserable days?

I think today started like many people’s does. I don’t know how most people handle down days, but I’ll share a typical case that I think could apply universally.

People sometimes tell me I always seem in a good mood. I have to point to Marshall Goldsmith, his trademark phrase “Be happy now,” and his practices that back it up as having inspired me to realize how much you can take control of your emotions.

It’s not that I want to feel happy all the time, although I prefer happiness to unhappiness. It’s that I prefer consciously choosing how I live. When you’re miserable you feel out of control about doing anything you want to.

So what do I do when I feel miserable?

First, why did I feel bad?

Why I felt bad

The main thing was last night I lost a ring I had wanted to buy for two years after finding a jewelry store in Bangkok that became my favorite. I finally returned on my way back from Shanghai. Then last night, on my walk from my place to my friend’s, it fell off. I don’t know where. I retraced my steps, but it was dark and I don’t know where it could have fallen off. I walked about a mile, which is far to look carefully for something as small as a ring in the dark, and many people could have seen it and taken it.

Once I realized I couldn’t do anything about it last night, I realized the best I could do was enjoy myself, so I ended up having fun and staying out late.

I woke up about 8am. Normally after staying out so late I’d sleep in, but I had the idea to retrace my steps in the daylight, so I got up after only sleeping a few hours. It’s a sunny day, though only about 35 degrees and windy.

Meanwhile, plenty of other things aren’t going my way. Renovations mean complications in my living situation, always relationship issues with family and close friends, business is hard when I’m here and the project is in China, … I could go on.

Suffice it to say, when I get down and feel helpless, I can focus on things I don’t like as well as anyone. While I’m not worried about where my next meal will come from, I can match the life problems of most people with mine if I let my mind run with it.

What I wanted to do about it

Like most people, when I think about lots of miserable stuff I have the usual array of emotions: frustration at not being able to do anything, anger at whatever I felt caused situations, overwhelmed, helplessness, futility, lethargy, and so on.

Plus I was tired from lack of sleep.

So I wanted to lie in bed and wallow in these emotions. When you have a bunch of things to do, sometimes you can’t tell where to start, contributing to feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and lethargic. If you don’t do anything sometimes you start feeling worthless too, like what’s the point?

What I did about it

As much as I emotionally didn’t feel like getting up, I knew moving around and getting fresh air and sunshine would change things. I knew that even if I felt like I had more to do than I felt I could handle, I knew I had time to do things, I’ve felt this way before, I resolved all of those situations, some of them were worse, and if I started on something, anything, I’d at least make some progress. In the past when I’ve started at something I’d start feeling more capable.

So I knew going for a walk and looking for the ring would help.

I also knew one more thing: my daily routine helps regulate how I feel. It keeps the lows from getting me down. My morning habits include burpees, showering, and eating something healthy. Twenty burpees gets the blood flowing like nothing else.

So maybe an hour after getting up I headed outside (I browsed the internet a bit too). On the way out I spoke to my doorman too. Interacting with others tends to help. I didn’t find the ring, but I got outside, got my blood flowing, and at least got peace of mind that I did the best I could.

From then on, my day was at worst back to normal. I happened to share that I wasn’t feeling so good with a friend and she helped me feel better. People seem to like when you share you feel down without being needy or pathetic about it. I mainly just shared that I felt bad, but not helpless… just that it takes time for some emotions to pass.

It took a while to get here

I should note that it took my a long time to get to where I knew how to handle such feelings consistently, reliably, and predictably.

I used willpower to get myself out of bed and to get active. Willpower works when you know it will jump-start a process your emotional system will take over or for short projects. How did I know my regular emotional system would kick in this time? Experience. I wasn’t just hoping for the best. I knew once I got going I’d enjoy what I was doing.

70,000 burpees!

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

I hit my 70,000th burpee today. Well, around today. I sometimes do more but never fewer, so I’m not sure the exact number. 70,000 is a lower estimate.

Still doing 26 every morning and 26 every evening.

Haven’t missed any. On the contrary, I also include stretching, ab, and back exercises.

They’re still never easy. Before every set I have to steel myself to do them and use willpower to start. But after every set I feel great.

If you don’t have a Sidcha, I recommend burpees for all the benefits I’ve written about elsewhere.

Incidentally, I finally passed the guy who did a one-year burpee ladder (one burpee on day one, two on day two, and so on up to 365 on day 365), who did 66,795 burpees in one year, but I took more than four years to do it.

Enjoy your burpees!

80,000 burpees!

[This post is part of a series on my daily exercise and starting and keeping challenging habits. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today roughly marks my hitting my 80,000th burpee since starting the sidcha in December 2011. After the first month, I wrote “How to begin a workout routine to last: start with joy.” I remember during that first month wondering as I did those early burpees when my body would give out and I’d have to stop, figuring it would be when I was 80 or so. Still, it feels like an accomplishment to approach six digits worth of them.

I’ve come to see doing burpees like brushing my teeth. As far as I can remember, I don’t remember ever missing brushing my teeth before going to sleep—maybe on some drunk occasions in college I may have fallen asleep first but would have brushed them immediately on waking up. That would have been around 1993 at the latest.

I don’t feel any pride for brushing my teeth every day. It’s just a part of basic grooming.

Burpees are harder, but I’m coming to see them as a basic part of life. I wish I had started them, or a similar sidcha earlier, like as a child, like when I started brushing teeth. Well, I can’t change the past and I’m doing them now.

Anyway, the benefits I mentioned in January 2012 still hold:

  • Reducing fat from my stomach
  • Bigger shoulder and chest muscles
  • Jumping out of bed to start the day productively
  • Improving form, balance, strength all over body
  • Feeling great about my body
  • Zero cost
  • Less than one minute per day exercising yet effective. About three minutes including setting up and cooling down
  • Something fun to share with friends
  • Discipline, drive, focus
  • Expectation of more success

Actually, they understate the benefits of burpees, while I can’t think of any costs. Certainly not injuries, since I’ve done burpees through injuries from elsewhere in life and they’ve probably reduced injuries elsewhere.

I recommend starting your sidcha today. If you’re not sure what to start with, I recommend burpees!