On a very recent July morning, the bedroom was lighting up through the window from the sunrise. My alarm sounded and I switched it off. I had actually woken up shortly before it rang, which seems to be the norm these days. I kept my eyes closed for a few more minutes, not falling back asleep, just biding my time. “OK, here goes” I say to myself as I roll to the side and sit up on the edge of my bed. I pivot my hips side to side, gauging the looseness of my lower back.
I stand up and slip on the pair of shorts that are waiting on the chair at my bedside and make my way to the washroom where, after a quick trip to the toilet, I do my morning weigh-in. I quietly close the door and then turn on the light. I make note of the numbers on the scale, turn off the light and with the same measure of silence I open the door and make my way downstairs to the basement.
In the main room I stand facing out the west window, roll my hips a couple more times to assess my lower back, take a sharp breath, then hinge forward to bring my hands to the floor in front of me. Hopping my feet back into a plank position, I drop my chest to the floor. I push myself back up to plank and let my hips continue their momentum upward which allows me to jump my feet forward, and I shift my weight to the middle of my feet. I raise my shoulders up to standing and drive my arms up and over my head so that my fingers from both hands meet. One.
I like to think in a rhythm cadence of threes. Not that I take a break at three, I just mark my progress by it. One, two, THREE, four, five, SIX, seven, eight, NINE, ten, eleven, TWELVE, thirteen, fourteen, FIFTEEN, sixteen, seventeen, EIGHTEEN…ending with 2 double counts…nineteen, TWENTY, twenty-one, TWENTY-TWO.
On my feet, I take some deep breaths while I walk over to my pull-up bar and note the date – an even-numbered date. Taking hold of the bar with an under-hand grip, I pull my chest up to contact the bar 5 times in a dead-hang chin-up. No kipping. On odd-numbered days I use an over-hand grip.
Today is Monday. It is also a very significant Monday in that 365 days ago my family and I left on a vacation, driving to Alberta. Knowing that I would spend a lot of time sitting at the wheel and likely not getting to work out as I normally do, I decided that I would give myself a daily minimum of activity and would make sure I do it before it got bumped later in the day, when I might be too tired to get anything done. That activity would be to start my day with 22 burpees, basically immediately upon waking up and getting out of bed. The pull-ups are optional and doable if there is something around that I can grab onto yet the burpees require nothing except my willingness to do them. Every day of that trip I started with 22 burpees.
The choice of 22 was made in part because it was my original firefighting issue number in Steinbach, and because it was neither too small of a number to be trivial nor too big to be excusable. When we returned home from that trip, I decided to continue on with the practice, even if the daily workout at Stone Brook Strength had burpees. Not that I was trying for a goal of days, I just kept going. I did burpees, in my basement, on hotel room floors, in hallways or living rooms, in a grassy clearing, and even on concrete sidewalk block in the rain. Day after day. And as the days added up without breaking the streak, I kept wanting to keep it going. And perhaps a dozen of those days I had to omit the pull-ups or do them later in the day (the occasional tree branch or ceiling beam did get used).
And this day, Monday, was 365 days or 8,030 burpees. A week earlier, for our Obstacle Course Race workout, we did 20 burpees in the warm-up and did a 5 minute max rep burpee test (I got 88), I still started the day with burpees.
Did I learn anything from this? Yes, a few things.
First, it didn’t matter whether I felt like it. Because most of the time, I didn’t really feel like doing it and if I waited until I did feel like it then it probably wouldn’t happen. So I just started moving. That logic can also apply to getting in the workout. If we wait for the motivation, it might not come. And motivation isn’t really required but momentum can really help if we are willing to build it and keep it going. Some days the only thing that made those burpees happen was knowing that I was keeping the streak alive.
Second, it started my day with a Win. Life can be tough, getting by is a struggle, and there are plenty of chances during the day to mess up and lose. And doing something that most people would not want to do first thing in the morning helps us to see that we are the type of person that takes action and prioritizes fitness. We feel compelled to act in agreement with that identity. That is a valuable Win.
Third, I got better at a body-weight movement that I believe sends my body a message that I need a body that should be good at body-weight movements. I may like burpees more than most people like burpees, perhaps more because I am now much better at them. Dreading or avoiding them accomplishes nothing. And burpees are now my cup o’ tea (cup o’ tea is replacing another specific word here, feel free to say whatever is in your head). Will I start my tomorrow with 22 burpees? Maybe. Probably. A year was cool, and I see that I am only 1,970 burpees away from 10,000. Or almost 3 more months. That doesn’t sound like much anymore.
Burpees may be a….cup o’tea. But they’re my cup o’tea 😉