The Burpee: Everyone’s favorite movement. Personally, I hate them and I know there isn’t a person at the gym who enjoys seeing them on the board. They are incredibly simple – you get on the floor, make your chest touch the ground, get back up, do a little hop and clap your hands over your head. They don’t require much coordination, agility, strength, or any real skill at all. I can teach someone who’s never seen one in their life to be a burpee ninja in about 15 seconds, yet they have been and will most likely remain the least favorite movement among CrossFit athletes. But as a coach, there’s something intriguing about them (aside from watching peoples’ heads drop in disgust when it’s time to get started on them): Burpees are without a doubt one of the best training tools I’ve ever seen.
Burpees are hard, annoying, and very unpleasant (especially when the guy doing the programming puts more than 100 in the WOD). I know and love this about them. I’ve been doing them for a few years now, and I still hate doing them. But keep in mind that this is a CrossFit gym, and I assure you that how you feel about burpees is far less important to me than how much better you can become because of them. If nothing else, they teach you how to “quit bitching and deal with it” when faced with something unpleasant to do outside the gym. See? Now that’s practical fitness!
But the main reason I like them is because I believe they are purely a matter of will, and they challenge you in a way that is unique to burpees: No matter how many you’ve just done, you can always do one more. You may not feel like you can after 250 or so, but if someone held a gun to your head and threatened to pull the trigger unless you did another burpee, you would clamber through another one – and you know it. You may argue, you may whine, you may complain between your gasps for breath, but you can ALWAYS do one more. This fact alone tests (and trains) your will to push yourself past your comfort zone without danger of injury from losing your grip in the middle of a kip or having a loaded barbell fall on your head, and unless you can push yourself beyond the level of discomfort you’re currently comfortable with, your level of fitness will stay right where it is now.
These horrible little monsters are a matter of WILL, and if you have the WILL to push yourself to greatness, then it WILL be yours. Don’t settle for less than incredible. Do your burpees like Jiminy Cricket on amphetamines, even when you’re tired – ESPECIALLY when you’re tired – and you’ll teach yourself how to be awesome.