Crossfit · fitness · injury

Burpees are bad for you? Wait, what?

You know you’ve been writing about fitness for a long time (hi there!) when a thing that was supposed to be a Really Good Thing of which you can’t get enough, is now on the Bad For You list. We’ve been there with food. Eggs? Sugar? White bread? And also with exercise. Does running make you thin or fat? Who knows and who cares? Right? Right.

But now burpees. Really.

This all started with me picking up on Bicycling Magazine’s Charlee Atkins 10 essential exercises for cyclists. All in all it’s a pretty good list. I worked my way through the routine, only skipping the burpees. Because, knees.

So the next day I was chatting with Meg who is a personal trainer about another list, the three best exercises for women over 40, which I’d shared on Facebook with the comment, “What do you think the best exercises are? Around here we tend to say the best are the ones you enjoy, because you’ll both do them and add pleasure to your day. “

That list also has burpees and I was kind of surprised.

Meg did not have good things to say about burpees. She didn’t think they should have made either list. Burpees, it turns out, are going out of favour.

They’ve certainly gone out of favour with me since my knee injuries. As with running, there are no burpees in my future. But in my day, I’ve done a lot of burpees, including a full-on, all burpees all the time, summer challenge. It was a lot of hard work and I kind of enjoyed it in that weird way you can enjoy really hard things.

Here’s the case for burpees, from the 3 best exercises for women over 40 piece: “Burpees are one of the best full-body functional exercises you can do. Think about it — what is a burpee, really? It’s just lying down on the ground and getting back up again. I can’t count how many women I’ve trained who could not lie down and get back up when they first began getting serious about fitness, but I can guarantee that they’re all more than capable of a full-out, chest-to-ground burpee now. “

Up until now, that’s what I would have thought too: excellent, all round exercise, good for functional fitness.

Am I wrong? Now burpees are controversial.

See Kate Upton’s Trainer Isn’t a Fan of Burpees—Here’s Why the Move Is So Controversial:

“Ben Bruno doesn’t believe in burpees. The Los Angeles-based trainer to celebrities like Kate UptonChelsea Handler, and Victoria’s Secret model Barbara Fialho, among others, took to Twitter and Instagram recently to profess his loathing for the exercise that many of us, frankly, also hate.

“There’s no such thing as a bad exercise, just bad application,” Bruno wrote sarcastically, before throwing in a series of asterisks to caveat that burpees are “pretty dumb,” along with kipping pull-ups (a pull-up variation in which you use momentum to get your chin above the bar) and American kettlebell swings (a two-handed kettlebell swing variation where the weight is swung overhead). “Instead, pick literally anything else,” he concluded.”

What’s so bad about burpees? Most people don’t have enough strength to do them properly, do them improperly, and risk serious injury.

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I’m just going to leave this here.

A post shared by Ben Bruno (@benbrunotraining) on

Do you love or hate burpees? Where do you stand on the great burpee controversy?

Crossfit · fitness · Guest Post · habits

Falling flat on day two of the New Year (Guest Post)


by Laura MacDonald

I love New Years.  In the dying days of December I love how anything seems possible.  A few days ago I asked my Facebook friends this year, what are you planning for in 2020?  I have lots of new ideas that I way toying with for 2020 (start a home yoga practice! learn to run!) but those were more fun ideas to think about than plans that I would likely follow through on. My true goal for 2020 was to return to consistency with my CrossFit workouts.  I have belonged to a CrossFit gym for seven years. It is a welcoming community of mixed ability athletes with wonderful coaches and outstanding programming. I love it. But it’s hard. I need to repeat that. I love it. But it’s hard. It can be very easy for me to decide to “unclick” myself from a class I registered for because I feel like I’m too tired, too drained from work to do a hard workout.  I struggle to see myself as an athlete and I can pretty easily get a case of the “I don’t wanna’s”’ when it comes to CrossFit. As a result, my attendance at the gym this fall has not been very consistent. But here we come with a new year, a new resolution and a renewed commitment to the CrossFit community that I love.

The gym was closed yesterday so today’s 7:00am class was my first class of my new habit.  Remember, I love a resolution! I packed my bag and laid out my clothing the night before. I got up before my alarm.  I drove to the gym in the dark. I briefing had two thoughts as I drove: 1) please God do not let this be a partner workout 2) please God do not let this be a long workout.  But I wasn’t really worried. Our workouts are usually short and partner workouts are unusual. 

Of course when I arrived at the gym, the workout was on the whiteboard.  It was long. Really long. It was also a partner workout. A hard one. 

I was unhappy but got ready for class nonetheless.  And then I read the skill portion of the workout – dodge ball.  Every third day of the week at my gym, the barbell lift portion of the class is replaced by a skill or occasionally a game.  I probably don’t need to tell you that I hate dodge ball, that I have some pretty terrible elementary school traumatic memories of dodge ball.  And do you know what friends? That was it. I picked up my gym bag, I put on my jacket and I left the gym. And I cried in my car for the whole drive home.

Seven years at this gym and I have never bailed on a workout.   And today I did.

Where does that leave me on day two of 2020?  Well, I’m booked to go back to the gym tomorrow and again on Saturday.  I’m booked to go to yoga this evening and on Sunday. After I finish this blog post I’m going to go for a walk with my dog in the sunshine.

Today I fell flat.  There really isn’t anything else to do but pick myself back up and try again. 

See you out there pals.  

2020 is still new.

Happy New Year! Text surrounded by leaves. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash .

Laura is a secondary school teacher in Hamilton Ontario.  She’s CrossFit athlete, regular walker, new yogi and occasional cyclist.  In 2019 she learned that she loved to count (steps and kilometres and workouts completed) and is currently counting her way to 300 workouts in 2020. 

Crossfit · fitness · menopause · menstruation

Top Ten Posts in May, #ICYMI

  1. Women, sport and sex tests: Why Caster Semenya matters a great deal
  2. On vibrators as athletic trophies, or when a prize is not a prize
  3. Sam gets told “get off the road fat bitch”
  4. I’m 53 and a 1/2 and I’m still menstruating
  5. The Latest Weird Thing About a Stiff Neck
  6. Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies
  7. Harassment is not a compliment (Guest post)
  8. The humbling moment when you go back to lifting weights
  9. CrossFit and Women’s Bodies
  10. End Game strikes some wrong notes for size acceptance
Image description: A calendar that says “May” on a green wall. Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash .
Crossfit · running · weight lifting · yoga

Tracy is taking suggestions…bring ’em on

mage description: Tracy's shadow on sidewalk, dry mud beside, running shoes and lower legs visible in bottom left corner.
Image description: Tracy’s shadow on sidewalk, dry mud beside, running shoes and lower legs visible in bottom left corner.

I’m bored with my workout routine. It’s not that I don’t like the things I’m doing. I’m getting stronger in personal training. I love yoga and feel as if I don’t do enough of it these days. And I’m itching to get back to running after my back injury took me out of it for more than a month and I’ve only just dipped my toe back into it since then.

But I feel as if a change is in the air. As much as I’m enjoying personal training, there have been quite a few developments in resistance-training these days, with more small gyms popping up offering different kinds of weight training in more of a group-class setting. One example, that I’ve not yet tried but has been recommended to me is Revkor. We have a studio here in London, and the idea of resistance band training intrigues me.

Another option, which I also have never tried, is something along the lines of CrossFit. My friend Tara has been going to a gym downtown where they do that sort of group workout and she is loving it.

I’m kind of old school and worry that if I’m not hitting heavy free weights in a gym setting I won’t actually get stronger. But at the same time, with my 14-month leave coming up, I feel as if I might need some more opportunities to be around people, and that these group workouts at specialty gyms might be just the thing. And though not cheap, they’re cheaper than personal training.

I’m also planning to spend the summer doing 10K training, 3-4 times a week. And I want to up my yoga classes from once a week to 2-3 times a week. At least that’s what I’ve got in mind.

But I’m open to suggestions. Have you tried anything lately that’s different and that you’re so jazzed about that you want to encourage others to give it a go? If so, please tell me about it and why you’re attracted to it.

aging · Crossfit · fitness

Love these new CrossFit videos

Moves such as burpees and squats are often seen as intense or extreme fitness activities. And that they can be. Ask Tracy or me about our summer of the 100 burpee challenge. But they are, when you get down to it really about functional fitness. Squat not so that you can get a great butt or win a powerlifting competition, squat so that you can get out of chair without help as you age. Burpees are all about getting down on the ground and getting back up again. People tend not to believe but scalability is at the heart of CrossFit workouts. Yes, there’s a recommended range of movement or recommended reps or amount of weight but the basic exercises can be adjusted for all ages and abilities. You have to leave your ego on the shelf but that’s a different sort of struggle.

I had the same thought watching CrossFit athlete and sports nutritionist Jennifer Broxterman doing her post-surgery rehab exercises in her CrossFit box. She was doing sit to stands with the aid of a cane. Functional fitness, it’s what it’s all about. (I’ve been doing sit to stands too as part of my knee physio.)

You can read about Jennifer’s Fight Gone Right.

And in the meantime, these CrossFit videos have been making me smile.



The burpee is a mainstay movement in CrossFit used to develop fitness. In certain populations, the burpee (prone to stand) is a critical skill required to safely lower one’s body to the ground and stand back up. ” 

“The squat (sit to stand) is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back, and knees sound and functioning in your senior years.” 
Crossfit · cycling · fitness · fitness classes · Rowing

Sam Tries Orange Theory Fitness

It’s January. It’s cold and grey and I’ve been feeling in a bit of a fitness rut. Besides the campus gym I haven’t really stepped out into the fitness world in Guelph. But my options are limited here. There’s less going on than in Toronto where I spent sabbatical and even less going on than in London.

Sarah and I tried out Zwift at the Bike Shed on Saturday and on my own I went and tried out Orange Theory.

I’ve always been a bit of an attention deficit disorder exerciser. I like to have lots of options. And lately it’s been feeling like it’s just a matter of giving things up: running, soccer, Aikido and CrossFit.

Snipe racing is new but it’s winter.

Enter Orange Theory. I first noticed them in London and there’s one in Guelph. I knew the format. Like CrossFit it’s a group workout, a mix of cardio and strength training. I have friends who go and think it’s fun.

I stopped in on Friday for a demo class. I was equipped with a heart rate monitor and my name and heart rate appeared on a screen in the gym. The instructor asked about my fitness background and got points for not even once mentioning weight loss.

As for the class itself, there was a nice gender mix, mostly women but some men. I used the rowing machine and the spin bike instead of running on the treadmill for the cardio bit. I alternated 400 m segments of rowing with 1 mile efforts on the bike as prescribed by the workout of the day. The classes are 1 hour long and that felt just right.

The strength training was mostly chest and triceps using the bench, dumbbells, and the TRX. Each person got their own station. Unlike CrossFit there was no competition and no team efforts. There was no measuring or comparing. I have mixed feelings about that but right now, that works for me.

The instructor also got points for showing me where the heavier dumbbells live!

What did I like? As with personal training it feels good just to show up and have some one else plan the workout. I liked that about CrossFit too. I like the cardio and strength training mix, again like CrossFit. The group vibe works for me. I like that it’s month by month so I could sign up for the worst of winter, say January through March, and then say goodbye and head outside again. It also works with my limitations right now.

I could do without the calorie counts. Yawn.

Have you ever tried Orange Theory Fitness? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!

Here’s the results of my workout emailed to me after the class. Lots of time in the green cardio zone but also I was just learning my way around.

Crossfit · fitness · fitness classes

Learning from CrossFit (Guest Post)

By Cassandra

CrossFit has always seemed like one of those ‘too intense for me’ things, even though I have been secretly envious of the limits to which the athletes can push themselves. Having got that out in the open, I’m in fact finally exploring CrossFit as a fitness option and finding it to be the psychological and physical challenge that I need in my life.

I am by no means a CrossFit athlete but I have been doing CrossFit workouts and challenges, such as pullups and powerlifting, for the past year. I take it at my own pace and I push myself when I feel like it. I don’t want this post to be specifically about CrossFit, rather I want to share the reimagining of fitness that it has allowed me.

Now 36 years old, I started going to the gym over a decade ago in an attempt to address body image and self-esteem issues. I got hooked and have been working out, weightlifting, and cross training, ever since. I have learned a lot from reading about different training techniques, mostly from fitness magazines, so-called ‘experts’, and blogs, but mostly I have based my workout routines on what my body is telling me any given day or week. Having followed different routines and 30-day workout programs, I feel like I’ve seen a lot.

Here is where CrossFit comes in. I first was exposed to CrossFit with a fellow gym-mom at a Goodlife gym in Orleans, Ontario last year. She had been doing CrossFit, in a serious way for over 5 years and persuaded me to try out a CrossFit gym for a free trial. I don’t like saying ‘no’ to a challenge so I went. The place was a warehouse that was outfitted with equipment and I did one regularly scheduled class with a crew of 10 other regulars. It kicked my butt, but I walked away with less of my tail between my legs than I expected.The take away was an enormous adrenaline high. This is nothing new to someone who knows the endorphin rush of a good pump or a muscle burning run. However, the difference here was the equalizing power of CrossFit in busting gender stereotypes of strength and endurance. The most impressive person in the class was a woman, easily ten years younger then me, and someone who was obviously able to crush the Workout Of the Day (aka WOD).

Here is what the workout looked like: 25 thrusters (80% maximum weight on a barbell, bring bar to your chin and push up, repeat), 100 pullups (with an assistance resistance band, but still horribly difficult), 50 wall balls (throw a 10-15lbs medicine ball to a point 10 metres up the wall, repeat), 200 double unders (skipping rope, spin the rope over your head twice in one jump- I could only do 15!). We had 20 minutes to finish and she finished in 14 minutes. Unbelievable.

The take away was an enormous adrenaline high. This is nothing new to someone who knows the endorphin rush of a good pump or a muscle burning run. However, the difference here was the equalizing power of CrossFit in busting gender stereotypes of strength and endurance. The most impressive person in the class was a woman, easily ten years younger then me, and someone who was obviously able to crush the Workout Of the Day (aka WOD).

Here is what the workout looked like: 25 thrusters (80% maximum weight on a barbell, bring bar to your chin and push up, repeat), 100 pullups (with an assistance resistance band, but still horribly difficult), 50 wall balls (throw a 10-15lbs medicine ball to a point 10 metres up the wall, repeat), 200 double unders (skipping rope, spin the rope over your head twice in one jump- I could only do 15!). We had 20 minutes to finish and she finished in 14 minutes. Unbelievable.

Returning to my workout routine at the gym after that exposure was strange. All the equipment that once gave me a sense of accomplishment felt boring, limited, and static. After that initial CrossFit workout I craved the full-body challenge and power I felt. I never signed up for the CrossFit membership, which is $100/month, hardly an affordable option for a working mom who doesn’t work out everyday. No, I took the lessons from CrossFit and started doing my research. I found workouts online and started making my own goals: learn how to do a CrossFit pull-up (aka kipping pull-up, look it up online), learn power cleans (also, look it up), and ultimately, do a single muscle-up (a pull-up where you bring your torse over the bar).

As I worked on slowly building my skill and strength to beat these new physical challenges, I found myself completely forgetting about my thoughts about body image. I was grunting and yanking my body around at the gym without a care for how silly I looked, how grossly contorted my face would get, or how loud I might sound. Not only had I discovered a workout style that pulled me further away from the image obsessed gym routine, but I felt more proud of my accomplishments then I ever had. I started thinking of my journey as an over-all athlete- getting stronger in a way that barbells and seated leg press machines had never given me.

Now, I should mention one of the major downsides to CrossFit style fitness- injury. My body is not a stranger to pain incurred during athletic activity but now that I’m a working mom, I can’t afford to lose my general physical abilities. I have been very cautious with how far I push myself to meet my CrossFit challenges and that is why when people ask if I do CrossFit I say, ‘I do CrossFit-lite,’ which suits me just fine. When I talk to other women about CrossFit I try to explain the way it has help me burst through the typical gym workout and the lessons it has taught me on functional fitness vs. image fitness. I don’t often use the much over-used term ‘empowerment,’ but CrossFit is part of my own journey towards greater physical and psychological resilience and strength.

Like so many other fitness blog posts, I would say I have learned a lot from CrossFit, but I can also say I have left a fair amount behind, only taking what seems to make sense to me, my body, and my lifestyle. I’m also not a particularly competitive person, so I don’t get much out of the official CrossFit workouts and culture, which are all about competing for ‘best times’. My CrossFit-lite is all about personal records and kicking my self-esteem issues to the curb, in the most sweaty, red-face, and grunt-y kind of a way!

Cassandra has been a feminist since she could remember – something about being raised by a political, feminist, engineer, single-mom. She studied environmental studies and wrote her Master’s on transnational muslim feminist organizing, and works in community engagement for non-profits. Though her dream was to become a chef and she worked many long-hours in fancy kitchens she prefers community building- oh, and maybe the macho kitchen culture didn’t help. Currently, she lives in Orleans, Ontario with her husband and two ridiculously busy toddlers.