The Burpee Challenge: 3 Things I Learned and 2 Surprises

A few days into April, I decided to take part in the April Burpee Challenge.

The goal is to complete 3,000 burpees in April, which works out to 100 burpees each day (that’s all the math I can handle for today, so moving on).

Although there is no daily limit, you will quickly fall behind if you’re not burpee-ing (?) each day. Usually, knocking out 200 or 300 burpees to catch up is harder than just doing 100 when you don’t feel like it.

WHY Would I Do This??

I wanted to try something that would be a huge challenge for me (I suck at burpees) and would also force me to face doing something I don’t particularly love (I mean hate).

What Is a Burpee?

A lot of people have asked me to define what types of burpees I’m doing. Here is the Wikipedia definition of a burpee.

And here is the more finely worded Urban Dictionary definition.

I have been varying the types of burpees I do, usually in sets. Sometimes I do the pushup, sometimes I do the jump, sometimes I do a plank, and other times I lay flat on the ground before getting back up.

There is no “easy” burpee for me, so I change it up. It’s also a real pain to do the same type of burpee over and over again, even if it’s the “easy” version. It feels better on my body to get in a variety.

What Does This Have to Do With Running?

Nothing really. Maybe cross-training. I still do my running on top of the burpees. For the last two Saturdays, I’ve raced a 50K (and did not do burpees on those days).

As of today, I’ve done 1,200 burpees and I’m still 500 burpees behind.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with cross-training, which is new to me. Although I enjoy the fitness workouts I’ve been doing, I’m not entirely sure it’s done anything to improve my running. Maybe it will if I give it more time.

I have noticed that 300 burpees in a row feels about the same as a 40-mile weekend. So maybe it’s a faster way to get a good burn.

I also like the way the burpees make my core feel, and I’m pretty sure a stronger core will translate to stronger running (somebody less lazy than me should look up a credible study on this).

READ: Most People Think Core = Abs

This Sounds Pretty Dumb.

A few days ago my friend Christian (super fitness dude) questioned the physical value of doing the exact same workout over and over. His point was that the body would achieve a much greater benefit from a variety of exercises, not just one performed obsessively. I totally agree with him.

However, I’m highly unmotivated to get up and do “a variety of exercises” for a few minutes each day. Three thousand burpees is a number I can focus on, feel challenged by, and obsess over. Plus I know it’s temporary so it might be a good gateway to introducing other types of fitness into my life.

2 Things That Surprised Me

1. The Fun Aspect

I expected to absolutely hate every single burpee. Although they do collectively suck, there have been many sets that I’ve enjoyed.

My dog Ginger and I have made it a game when I come home from work. We head outside with her ball, and when I go down for each burpee, I’ll throw her ball. My goal is to come up from my burpee before she runs back with the ball.

This keeps me on track, forces me to knock my burpees out at a fairly consistent pace, and keeps both of us entertained.

Ginger usually beats me back, drops the ball, and stares at me while I finish my burpee. We’ve developed a good rhythm after 1,200 burpees.

At the beginning, she would charge back and knock my head with her skull because she didn’t realize I was jumping back up. We’re slightly more graceful now.

READ: Train Your Dog for Long-Distance Trail Running 

Yesterday I had a glass of wine, then tried to knock out as many burpees as I could, as fast as possible. I almost fell down. That was kind of fun. (I’m easily entertained.)

2. The Relaxation Aspect

Sometimes when Ginger decides she’s bored with me, I’ll pull out an audio book and listen for a bit while I burpee. Or I might just zone out. Or I’ll focus on something specific.

I’ve found I can relax my mind, even though my body is working up a sweat. By the end, although I’m tired, I generally feel more relaxed overall.

3 Things I’ve Learned

1. Time Management

Doing all these burpees on top of ultra training can be time-consuming. I was reminded of Jason Robillard‘s time management tip: He encourages people to train during idle minutes throughout the day, instead dedicating a huge chunk of fitness time all at once.

I’ve learned that by doing my burpees spread out throughout the day, it’s easier to get the numbers in. I’ve done burpees at work, in the morning, in the evening, at lunch time, and even after work while I wait for Shacky to pick me up.

Every minute is valuable. It doesn’t take long to knock out 10 burpees at random times throughout the day.

2. Illusion of Awesome

It’s very easy to make things sound harder than they feel by putting a big number on them. “Three thousand burpees” sounds insanely difficult, but when you break that up into days and hours and minutes, it’s not as daunting as it seems. I don’t particularly think it’s any harder than a “regular” daily exercise session.

On average, it takes me about 10 minutes to push through 100 burpees, including breaks. So in 70 minutes, I can meet my burpee quota for the week. Many of us run or exercise for much longer than that.

That’s not to say this is easy. Just doable.

3. Routine

This is much easier when you work it into a daily routine. My favorite time to do my burpees is right after work with Ginger and the ball. I get home and Ginger knows exactly what to expect. It’s a good routine for both of us, and strangely comforting.

I feel good about working up a sweat before dinner, I’m happy to be playing with the dog, and it works off some of Ginger’s excess energy as well. It’s a great way to end a work day.

The kitty glares at us from the bushes. She does not care one bit for burpees. She takes after Shacky.

Now I will leave you with this Burpee Fun Fact:

I always thought that burpees were named “burpees” because they made you burp. But they’re actually named after the man who made them famous, the 1930s American physiologist Royal H. Burpee. The H stands for Huddleston. This makes me wonder if I’m the only one who burps.

Burpee on!


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