Burpee six-month review

June 24, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness, Tips

[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.

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11 responses on “Burpee six-month review

  1. Hi,

    I follow very much the same approach however would love to know how you prepare (stretch) prior to executing your first set of Burpees, I feel as though i’m not preparing myself properly.

    • Awesome!

      Glad to hear of others keeping in shape the same way.

      For most of the nearly-a-year that I’ve been doing them I didn’t stretch at all and had no problem. I still have no problems, but a couple months ago I started stretching before my morning set. I confess I don’t stretch well, but I don’t let that slow me down from my burpees. I don’t stretch before my evening set.

      Before mentioning my stretches, I should mention I have no idea how effective these stretches go with burpees. I’m just doing them to start stretching somehow, expecting that as I talk about them people who know better will suggest improvements. In the meantime, I’m not going to slow down doing burpees.

      I do four stretches every day. I start with this — http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/494. Second, I stay standing, spread my legs wide and touch the ground then alternate reaching for each foot slowly. Third, I stand on one foot, hold my other foot behind me with that side’s hand, pull back on that foot and reach for the sky with the other hand (like this — http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/496 — but the left hand would hold the right foot behind me; then I’d switch feet). Fourth, I roll my neck around twice in each direction (very relaxing since I seem to store a lot of tension in my neck).

      Lately I started alternating days, so some days for my first two stretches I do a downward dog — http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/491 — followed by this — http://www.exrx.net/Stretches/GluteusMaximus/Lying.html. Then the same last two stretches on the other day.

      Do these stretches complement burpees well? Again, I have no idea. But I’m getting started and I expect I’ll improve them better by doing them and being open to suggestions than by researching without doing them. I think the human body can handle far more than what I’m doing. In thousands of burpees I haven’t felt anything remotely like pain. Also, the process is meditative, so I like the effect stretching has on my life. I should also add I look nothing like the people in the photographs or myself at a younger age.

      Oh yeah, I’m up to 20 burpees every morning and 20 every evening and I haven’t missed a single burpee since starting. I live by my friend’s statement (in a different context but applicable here) “If you miss one day you can miss two. If you miss two, it’s over.” Having increased my number of burpees by a factor of four in eleven months, I expect to stay at this number for a while. But you never know.

      Was that too long of an answer for you?


  2. Great info. 4 months ago I quit smoking, ( or switched to ecigs actually witch i consider almost as good as quitting) and I decided to get a routine that i would do no matter what and do it every day. If i went into it killing myself I feel i would end up quitting. So i do some yoga everyday, (about 20 minutes), one of those days would be considered power yoga were its pretty tough. Im not getting in extremely good shape, but i like the discipline of doing it everyday. Its a mind game of sorts. I getup and do yoga every day no matter what, and its almost like im doing them because i dont want to do them. I feel like im more productive at everything in my life sense starting this, and hope i can continue for years. So far so good. Now i want to add some more difficult exercises to my routine and was looking into freeletics, but that looks a little to exhausting for a 30 year smoker, so Im going to do some kind of purpee’s routine into my daily ritual along with my yoga. I cannot believe how hard burpee’s are considering they look very simple. One things for sure, on the days ( like 3 in the last 4 months) that i did not do my yoga, i did not feel good about myself those days. I feel good when i do it everyday.

    • Thank you for sharing. I love reading stories like yours!

      I hope others feel inspired by your story. I hear stopping smoking is hard for many people.

      I’ve found burpees work for me. They aren’t for everyone, but given your situation, I’d try them. As hard as they are, you can always do fewer.

      I recommend finding out a challenging but not too challenging number this way: when you feel rested, do what feels like a challenging number and subtract two. Then do that number regularly. In a couple weeks you’ll find that number easy. Increase when you feel comfortable.

      I’d love to hear how your practice evolves. Please let me know.

      Also, if you haven’t read my SIDCHA series, check it out: https://joshuaspodek.com/js_blogseries/self-imposed-daily-challenging-healthy-activity-sidcha-series

  3. Hey Josh! I’ve been doing 10 burpees a day for about a month or two now. I do it in the morning once I wake up.

    It was very tough at first because I had 0 upper body strength and very weak core muscles. I dreaded it and would sometimes sleep in instead, but I read somewhere that committing to an exercise routine – however short (frankly, 10 burpees don’t take long) – daily instills discipline and I managed to overcome that barrier and now I’m doing it everyday!

    It really does instill discipline.

    In fact, wanting to do burpees motivates me to get out of bed nowadays. It wakes me up in the morning and heats up my body before stepping into the shower. It’s awesome 🙂 Plus I feel more confident about my body now and stronger for a better posture. I think our approach is somewhat similar. I’ve been trying to find someone who share the same sentiment!

    For the first month my aim was to do a perfect burpee without sagging or protruding hips. Recently I’ve been able to have my nose touch the floor when I perform le push-up. What a reward! 😀 I sometimes do the downward dog at the end to stretch out my hamstrings too. If I need more sweating (I’m sweating less now than when I just started off), I mimic a short clip of Kpop dance – those really get me sweating!

    Anyway, good read, buddy!

    • I love reading stories like this. Congratulations!

      It sounds like beyond discipline, you also discovered, or created, more responsibility, ability, strength, motivation, and other elements of creating a life you enjoy more — at no cost or extra time.

      I had no idea trying ten burpees a day for a month would lead to the development I got. it sounds like you’ll also see similar changes.

      I hope you’ll come back and update as you continue. Thank you for sharing.

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