Crossfit · training

My Scaled Back “Burpee Challenge” and Why Scaling Back Can Work

I love burpeesBack when we started the burpee challenge it sounded reasonable enough. I knew it would become challenging after a few weeks.  And challenging it has become.

I should have known that it was a crossfit thing, since my impression of crossfit (from a distance, not first-hand experience) is that demands the almost impossible from people in order to motivate them to go beyond what they think they can do.  That’s a strategy that works well for some people. And the fitness level of crossfitters is impressive evidence that it works for some people.

Not for me.  I knew when I started that I would not be doing 100 burpees a day, any day, no matter what. I wouldn’t even be doing 75. Or 50. But what I have learned is that, though it is challenging and I would not have thought I could do even what I’m doing, I’ve settled into my own burpee challenge: a minimum of 32 burpees a day [4 sets of 8] on the days I remember to do the burpees.

Yes, I know. This is a far cry from the rules of the challenge.  The challenge says to add one burpee per day for 100 days!  It says that when you forget to do a day’s burpees (or decide not to do them), you have to complete those burpees the next day. It also says you have to touch your chest to the ground on each push-up (based on the video at the bottom of this post).

I’m a big believer in less is more.  Really. That’s how I’ve accomplished a lot of the things I’ve done in my life, and some people (not just my mother) would say I’ve done quite a bit. I talked about it in this post about doing less.

And guess what? Even with my scaled back effort, I’ve done more burpees since the beginning of the challenge than I have ever done in the same period of time in my life. In fact, I’ve even gotten friends and family to join me some days — so I’m not the only one who my burpee challenge has motivated to do her burpees!

If I hadn’t scaled back, I can almost guarantee that I would have quit.  Why? Well, for starters, I sometimes miss days. And I can’t imagine at this stage in the game doing both the missed day’s burpees and the day’s burpees all in the same day. That would be over 60 burpees at the moment.  Some might be able to get that done efficiently and effectively. Those people impress me to no end. Me? I’d have no energy left for anything else.

Last week I had a yoga sadhana, that’s  a yoga class every day, 6-7:30 a.m., and it got pretty intense mid-week.  There were a couple of times in that week that if I had done my burpees and the yoga and my triathlon prep I am pretty sure I would have been over-doing it.  My body told me that.  I needed naps more than burpees, and I didn’t even get enough naps.

When I was trying to find the source of the burpee challenge, I came across another burpee challenge that resonates more strongly with the moderate sensibility I aim to cultivate.  For this burpee challenge, the challenge is to do ten burpees a day, every day.  What’s attractive about this challenge?

First, it’s still a challenge.  Most people don’t do ten burpees a day, so adding that to their lives takes commitment and maybe even some planning.  Even ten burpees, done in a row with good form, aren’t easy.

Second, though a challenge, it’s achievable.  Like I said, when I saw the 100 burpee challenge and its rules, I pretty much knew in advance that I wouldn’t be doing that.  But ten burpees a day, one day at a time, for X days in a row…I can do that.

Third, it never takes too much time. The website says it takes just 2 1/2 minutes to do those burpees.  If that’s the case, it pretty much never makes sense to skip them.  Everyone has 2 1/2 minutes.

As a general rule, unless I decide that something simply isn’t for me, scaling back beats quitting. This approach combats years of being an over-achiever. The thing about over-achievers is that they are never satisfied with what they achieve. It just never seems to be enough.  They out-perform the majority of people and yet still feel as if they’re falling short. I’m tired of that game.  That’s why I aim to do less. And in lots of things I end up doing more than I would if I had “grand plans.”

So there you have it: I’ve scaled back my burpee challenge — more than 10 a day but I will not be building up to 100. If I can sustain my minimum of 32 burpees a day through the rest of the summer, I’ll feel pretty satisfied with my effort.  No need for a super-human effort. A human accomplishment will suit me just fine.

And for those who are on track with the unadulterated challenge, all I can see is: Wowza! You are rock stars!

9 thoughts on “My Scaled Back “Burpee Challenge” and Why Scaling Back Can Work

  1. Great post and terrific approach. I’m still in with the original challenge with one significant moderation. I’m not making up missed days. So far there’s been four…also, I’ll see how I feel when I get there but I’m open to stopping at fifty. I’m getting faster, which is good. From what I’ve seen at CrossFit speed is key to doing large numbers of burpees. But really whatever works. I see that different sorts of challenges work well for different people. I’m not sure I’d find the ten burpees a day motivational. I’m still so excited I can do them. When I started at CrossFit I couldn’t do one!

  2. I actually really, really loved the burpee challenge when I did it, but towards the end I never did them all in the same session. In fact, on the last day, I think I split my 100 burpees into 3 different sessions: 25 in the morning before my shower, 25 at lunch and 50 in the evening when I usually workout. 100 all at once seems too much to me.

  3. Scaling back is a good thing. In my running days (I do more weightlifting and cycling now, thanks to a torn Achilles that healed poorly), I spent a lot of time injured or in pain. Now that I’m older (51) and supposedly wiser, I’ve decided that not being injured is the key to improvement. When I exercise, I work as hard as I can, but if something starts to “twinge,” I’ll scale back or switch things up. I’ve been pretty much injury-free for two years now, and both my strength and cardio have improved immensely because I’m not sitting the the sidelines with an injury and can be more consistent in my workouts.

    1. Love the variations on the challenge that show up on our Facebook page, every second day, more gentle increases….that’s actually very much in the Crossfit spirit. You challenge yourself at your level. I hardly ever do the recommended workout at the recommended weights. That’s called the rx version. I usually modify it and that’s fine. I get just as many cheers for my assisted pull ups as others do for their full version.

  4. This is great! I am so glad you found my burpee challenge post and was able to apply it to your daily routine! This is what I like to see. Improvement is improvement, doesn’t matter how big of a leap you take. 1 burpee per day is more than none. Keep up the great work 🙂

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