From men’s health
David Whetton, 40, from New South Wales, Australia, has been performing at least 100 burpees for a year. He shares with Men’s Health how this physical challenge has changed his body and mindset.
When Covid closed my business completely, I suddenly found myself at home with more time. I felt a real need to have something to anchor my day in the swirling waters that Covid became for small business owners.
I had always stayed fit and active – rugby league and rugby union, running, weights, tennis – but these outlets were now largely closed and I had no idea when they would reopen. I spoke to Patrick ‘Sarge’ Ritchie, a colleague and leading bootcamp operator in Sydney who has focused his professional life on accompanying others on their fitness journeys. He suggested a movement that was naturally whole-body.
So I looked online for a fitness challenge to do inside my home while quarantined. I came across a Pittsburgh personal trainer named Chase Barron who had been recording his own challenge of 100 burpees a day for 30 days. He spoke with such clarity and insight about how his mindset had to adapt to the aspect before, during, and after the daily burpee. He really inspired me.
I can definitely understand why the burpee is hated in CrossFit circles. No day gets easier with burpees! They are a constant rolling motion that requires precision in breathing, in the placement of hands and feet, with no pause, no delay, no pause for breath. Plus, if you get it right, the burpee will hit every part of your body, from your toes to your neck.
But above all, doing burpees is a mental game. Your mindset starts from “do I have to do this?” to ‘How much can I squeeze out of it?’ and you wake up with burpees in your head and hit the pillow with a great sense of achievement, no matter what may not have gone your way that day, at least you’ve given your body and mind the respect of a daily practice that comes to you and your loved ones , Friends and colleagues because you have presented the optimized version of yourself.
The story goes on
Because actually it’s not about the burpees. They are just a means of finding out what is driving you. It’s about regaining a fraction of your day to make your life – and your interactions with those around you – better. It may seem like a selfish act at first to roll out the mat to break out another 200 burpees, but it soon becomes a way of giving the best of self to those around you who depend on you.
My motivation last year came from within. It was never about being “the tallest man at the bar”. I am a smaller body and I am aware of my genetic and physical limitations. Instead, I was determined to create a daily habit of mind and body that required preparation, perseverance, and passion. When I was 40, I found out that these were my core competencies. So why not use it? Burpees were the answer for me. I recorded every day in the top corner of a paper calendar what made me accountable for myself.
By around the ninth month, I went from a small pot belly to a six-pack. My back muscles really developed and my shoulders got wider. My biceps and triceps stretched and became very defined. My chest and chest widened, and shirts now fitted me much better. My waist became slimmer and my legs became tighter overall, especially my calves due to the constant flexing and pushing movements that were required when bending and jumping. But by far the greatest development was mental. Resilience, daily commitment, and the ability to drop and do 200 burpees were far more rewarding than the physical gains, welcome as they were!
Photo credit: Men’s Health
The only time I’ve had an injury was when I was overloaded with other bodyweight exercises like pull-ups. They injured my forearms and forced me to focus more on the best practice burpee technique. During the same period, I also did 100 daily kettlebell or dumbbell squats a day as this gives me the extra leg strength to really effectively complete the high jump component of the burpee. It’s the element of exercise that really powers the cardio aspect of fighting gravity, as well as the cumulative fatigue that comes with doing so many burpee reps every day.
I started the challenge on April 2nd, 20202 when my area in Australia was first locked. I started with 100 consecutive burpees a day and then added 10 more reps with each subsequent month. 110 per day in May, 120 in June and so on. This week I did burpees of 220 repetitions for a full year. In 365 days, I did a total of 55,000 full pushups, stowage, jumping, and repetitions of burpees.
I’ve stayed in close contact with Chase along the way, connecting on Instagram to like-minded burpee enthusiasts around the world like @charlieburpee and @theburpeeguy, who have become close friends across the ocean and continue to inspire me and hopefully vices too vice versa.
I still go and always will. Daily burpees have become just as important to my life as the other basics. Family relationships, good nutrition, rewarding work, fresh air, and good sleep. When I finish those first 365 days, I’ll start over at 100 and add 10 again every month. This time only, I’ll be holding two 5.5-pound dumbbells and finishing 55,000 weighted burpees to curls in shoulder presses over an additional 365 days in a row.
The general reaction when I started this trip a year ago was, “Why? Burpees suck! ‘And that’s because they do … if you only hit them every now and then or if they are portrayed as some kind of training torture in the gym. But that is perception over reality. Burpees are a highly efficient full-body exercise, and if done regularly and with the right attitude, they can even be fun (well, almost)!
Sure, people noticed the physical difference in my body after a few months, but mostly they noticed how much more positive my interactions were, how my focus had sharpened, as I became more dedicated to doing work or chores. I think that’s the real benefit of burpee for me, just reformulating my values towards a more positive mindset that evaluates every day for its ups and downs and shows gratitude and goodwill in dealing with others.
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