[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.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book