Boxing Day Burpee Beatdown: What 500 Burpees Taught Me

You know the old adage about “be careful the company you keep?” That definitely applies to Crossfit friends. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself in a casual text conversation with a Crossfit pal, and before you know it, you’ve promised to do 500 burpees on Boxing Day.

WTF? What did I just agree to? I should explain that I have a history of what I like to call

Ever wonder what someone looks like after doing 500 burpees? Look no further.

Ever wonder what someone looks like after doing 500 burpees? Look no further.

“bad life decisions involving burpees,” being the only one at my gym to complete a 100 days of burpees challenge (day one you do 1, right up to day 100 doing 100. That’s over 5000 burpees if you were counting) last year (I should write a post on that soon). For the record, if you’re texting with a Crossfit friend and have seen on Facebook that she’s signed up for an event called “Boxing Day is now Burpee Day,” DON’T ask her about it unless you want to also participate in such an insane challenge (why do I do these things to myself? I know better).

At first, I thought I would break the 500 up into sets, and do maybe 5 sets of 100 throughout the day. That didn’t sound too bad, right? But Meaghan, my bad influence  Crossfit friend, said she was planning on tackling all 500 at once. Shoot. Ok, I guess I would too. I had the added motivation of family photos (because we’re cool like that in my house) scheduled at 10 AM. Who wants to get all dressed up and do her hair for pictures only to sweat it out doing more burpees later in the day? Not this girl. Yep, I was going for 500 or bust.

So, on Boxing Day morning, in the quiet coolness of my mom’s basement, on the green almost astro turf carpet of what was once dubbed “the playroom,” I embarked on my 500 burpees. I started the timer on my iPhone, got an episode of Girls Gone Wod Podcast going (after the technical mishap of my new bluetooth speaker not pairing with my iPad, leaving me unable to hear it, thus watch, a movie like I had planned) and got to work.

Strategy: Do all 500 in one sitting (sitting – ha! But you know what I mean), but break them up into sets. I planned to break each 100 up and then rest for between 1 and 5 minutes after each 100 depending on how I was feeling. For the first 100 I did sets of 20, and I think sets of 25 for the second 100.

I was feeling pretty rough in the 2 to 300 range, and thought about throwing in the towel. Or at least coming back to finish the remaining burpees later that day. I even messaged Meaghan after 300 to say I didn’t know if I’d make it. But I remembered the looming family photos, and the commitment I’d made and forced myself to push through.

I gave myself permission to do sets of 10. After 300 I took at least 5 minutes of rest. I chugged water like nobody’s business. Each time I finished another 100 I thought about quitting. But then all of a sudden I was at 400. Only 100 more to go. That meant I just had to a set of 10 ten more times. I could make it.

I pushed through, doing sets of 10, even a set of 20 or so. With 2 burpees to go, I set up the camera on my iPhone to capture a video (which you can see on our facebook page), then promptly collapsed on the ground (see above photo). Final time? 1:14:28. Not super-impressive, but there was a lot of rest in there. And given the fact that I tackled all 500 in one fell swoop? I’ll take it.

As awful as 500 burpees was, I don’t regret accepting the challenge (thanks Meaghan!). Lessons learned?

1. There’s a reason why we Crossfit together. 500 burpees is a lot. It’s long. It’s boring. Doing them alone, even with one of my favourite podcasts to keep me company, quite simply, sucked. Even if I had had the benefit of just one other friend pushing through alongside me, it would have been so. much. better. Shared suffering brings you together like nothing else. And the encouragement of a friend can push you through when you’re ready to quit or die. I probably wouldn’t have stopped as many times as I did had I had a workout partner.

2. The hardest part is in your mind.  I can do burpees. I have pretty good endurance. I can work out for long periods of time (I’ve run a marathon, for crying out loud). Burpees might be physically demanding, but skill-wise, they’re not particularly hard. What was hard was making myself keep going. I simply did NOT want to do 500 burpees, and I definitely didn’t want to do 500 in a row. Mental toughness is the deciding factor on whether or not you’re going to make it to 500. Your mind will tell you to quit way before your body ever does.

3. Accountability is key. If you set a goal, and don’t tell anyone about it, you can quit whenever you want. No one has to know if you give up or don’t succeed. But if you’ve got someone who knows what you’re up to, someone who you’ve committed to a goal with, you are way less likely to bail. I had the thought more than once “wow, you’ve done 200 (or 300) burpees. That’s a huge accomplishment. Especially on the day after Christmas when most people are just sitting on their a**. Why not just call it here?” But knowing that I promised Meaghan kept me going. I knew I had to report back to her. Also, Jess said she didn’t think I could make it through 500, so I wanted to prove her wrong. 😉

4. Break it down. 500 burpees. Gross. Insurmountable. Impossible. But I can do 20. And then another 20. Maybe even 25. By pacing myself and breaking the big number into smaller chunks, it became much more manageable. And as with any goal, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate, and take a new approach (in my case, smaller sets) if it’s getting hard (just don’t quit!).

5. Be kind to yourself, and don’t sell yourself short. Doing 500 burpees, pretty big deal right? Especially when you’re smack dab in the middle of holidays. But instead of focusing on that, I found myself thinking about how slowly I’d gone, or how it was no big deal. The more I write (and hopefully, the more you continue to read), you will see this as a Hilary theme. If you tackle a big accomplishment, or succeed at a goal, no matter how long it takes you, celebrate it! Don’t sell yourself short.

So, to sum it all up, 500 burpees is no small feat. It’s quite an accomplishment. But the lessons learned don’t just apply inside the box. Like all the rest of Crossfit, they serve you well in the rest of life too.

What are some of the toughest physical challenges you’ve tackled and how did you push through?

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