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Find Out For Yourself

Following the recent post about 100 burpees a day for a year, I noticed several questions that asked how it was possible to recover from such frequent work. I wasn’t surprised to see such comments as they typically follow any post that highlights an approach that is either unusual or defies conventional wisdom. After all, it isn’t every day that we run across someone who has performed 100 burpees a day for an entire year.

As I think back throughout the blog’s history, there have been many stories that elicited similar reactions. For example, I vividly recall when Stefaan Engels first announced that he would run a marathon every day for an entire year. The reaction on Facebook was that the 49 year old man had lost his mind. The keyboard warriors boldly proclaimed that it was physically impossible.

A year later, the keyboard clan was nowhere to be found when Stefaan Engels was celebrating his 365th consecutive marathon.

Similar comments also came in when I highlighted the exercise streak of another 40+ year old woman. I first mentioned Tara Scott several years ago after she had exercised 700 consecutive days. At the time, I recall several comments from readers who concluded that she’d never be able to maintain such frequency without decline.

I updated her story in December to highlight seven consecutive years of exercise. She’s now 46 years old and has exercised for over 2700 consecutive days. Tara continues to thrive and is in better shape than most adults half her age. If you missed her update, you can see her in action here.

Find Out Yourself

And while I could certainly continue with examples, I am not writing this entry to suggest that you perform burpees each day or train for 7 years straight. As I’ve mentioned before, several factors must be considered whenever discussing frequency. The ideal training frequency naturally depends on the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that should be forced to the masses.

Therefore, I honestly don’t know how much work you can handle each day. For instance, I don’t know how you will respond to 100 burpees each day. What I do know is that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about things you haven’t tried. Far too many people err on the side of caution and never step outside their comfort zone. As soon as things get difficult, these people automatically assume that the work they are performing is excessive.

These individuals fail to comprehend the body’s capacity and potential to perform work. Hitting a bump in the road doesn’t always mean you need to turn around. If you ever wish to surpass the norm, you’ll probably need to ride out a few bumps and bruises along the way. The road to the top is rarely a straight line.

Whenever discussing frequency, I often think back to my early days in college. As a student, I worked construction on the side. My boss knew my position was temporary. I wasn’t going to continue after graduation. As a result, I was given all the jobs that no one else wanted. I dug holes, moved stones, worked the jackhammer, and swung a sledgehammer. I worked overtime all summer and took as many hours as I could during the school year. I didn’t get days off or periodize the time I spent working the 90 pound jackhammer. No one cared if I was tired or sore. There was a job to be done so that’s what I did.

When I first started the job, I remember walking into the boxing gym at night like a zombie. My body was worn out after laboring all day and now I had to train. For the first few weeks, I felt like my legs were stuck in the mud whenever I sparred. My trainer laughed about it. There was no sympathy. I had two options, either suck it up or get out of the gym.

Fortunately, I stuck it out. As the weeks passed, I began to adapt to the work and ultimately became stronger because of it. My perception about what the body could handle changed forever. One hundred burpees will take the average person 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Ten minutes of work is a walk in the park compared to a full day of physical labor under the hot sun.

And please note, I don’t say this to diminish the significance of performing 100 burpees a day. There is no denying that it is a tremendous accomplishment. When you look at the big picture however, you notice just how little time is required to perform such a task. Far more people are capable of such feats than most people will ever realize. Unfortunately, many never take the first step to find out. They’ve already been influenced by someone else who also hasn’t performed what he or she dismisses as impossible.

In summary, don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions about what you can or cannot do. No book or study has been written specifically for you. If you want to know what you can do, it is up to you to find out for yourself. Many of the best lessons I’ve ever learned in the gym came from trying things that wouldn’t make sense on paper. I had an idea so I took a chance. Not all of my ideas have panned out, but others allowed me to tap into strength that I wouldn’t have otherwise found.

+++++

Conventional wisdom is no wisdom at all. Conventional wisdom is taking somebody else’s word for the way things are… It’s the followers of this world who rely on assumption. Not the leaders. – Richard Marcinko

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17 comments

17 Comments so far

  1. Randy Maddux March 4th, 2014 7:59 am

    Great article Ross.

    A few years ago I was doing 100 burpies/day every morning as soon as I would get up…well, after a strong cup of coffee. No warm up, no stretching, just cranked them out. I worked up from sets of 5 on the minute for 10 minutes, to sets of 10. After several months of this I developed tendonitis in my glutes! My own fault, obviously, but other than that I felt great and also worked all day and did a regular workout in the evening.

    Lesson learned: a body will adapt to a tremendous amount of stress, but it is very important to take care of yourself by stretching and doing a proper warm-up!

  2. Sean Davis March 4th, 2014 8:55 am

    So much truth in this blog right here!

  3. Jim March 4th, 2014 9:57 am

    Great post Ross! You never know what you are capable of until you push yourself. This is a message that will never grow old and is absolutely inspiring.

  4. DoomRater March 4th, 2014 10:54 am

    Heh, “excessive” for them… at that moment in time! But as I said in the other post, the body adapts and grows stronger over time, because it thinks it needs to be strong enough to handle the loads being thrown at it.

  5. Shane Middleton March 4th, 2014 11:42 am

    Hi everyone, the 100 burpee a day challenge inspired both myself and my girlfriend.
    We’re both now 4 days in. I finished mine today in 8 mins 51 seconds. However my first attempt 4 days ago I managed in just over 12 mins. We look forward to it each day now. We have a 7 week old baby so sleep isn’t great at the moment, however we both beat our time today. My point is I was devoted to the Mike mentzer style of training and in all honesty got lazy because I kinda took overtraining to the extreme. I realise as Ross states the capacity that our bodies have if only we get up and start. This is my first post on this site so apologies for going round the houses.
    .ive read that the record for 100 burpees is just over 3 mins and I see no reason why that isn’t attainable for myself.

    Love the site btw , thanks all :-)

  6. dodo March 4th, 2014 12:31 pm

    Not a great post, Ross.

    Because it’s not about what the body is capable of, but what is the optimal für PROGRESS! I don’t care if someone CAN do 1000 burpees a day, the only relevant question is: how many should someone do to make maximal progress from week to week without getting injured longterm (joints, tendons, CNS, …).

    Unfortunatly you totally missed this point in your post. Every time there are jsut those nebulous stences like “it must be tailored to the individual”. for years you failed to deliever a simple table with your experience of frequency with your athelts. for best PROGRESS, NOT CAPABILITY!

    we are talking aboug trainig here, not exercising for the sake of exercising.

  7. Dave c March 4th, 2014 12:58 pm

    I am fully with you Ross. My father did a hard, dirty, physical job (a coal merchant) carrying 100lb to 200lb bags of coal from a wagon to people’s houses, for up to 12 hours per day, 6 days per week for over 30 years. I don’t know exactly how much coal he shifted in a week, but it was many 100′s of tons, onto and then off the wagon. He was still doing this at 58.

    I train hard, but I’m not even vaguely close to what he was doing when he was almost 60.

    I think we aim far too low and worry way too much about optimal and over training, instead of getting on with it.

    Love the stories you put up.
    Thanks
    Dave

  8. Southern Trainer March 4th, 2014 2:22 pm

    Let’s hope Dodo doesn’t reproduce. I feel bad for future generations who are taught that 10 minutes of exercise is too much work for the body to handle.

    100 burpees isn’t a workout. It’s a warm-up. It’s an exercise in movement. It’s an exercise in discipline. Discipline is what most people need more of. Hats off to the woman who busted her butt. How could anyone deny her results.

  9. seth March 4th, 2014 5:23 pm

    I thought I knew how to do burpees until I saw Ross doing them. He literally explodes off the ground in the jump part of it. Like Ross has said, don’t worry to much about how much time it takes to do them. Worry more about quality of effort.

  10. Jim Madden March 4th, 2014 6:25 pm

    Well said Ross. I’ve recently taken up the challenge to do high frequency, “Daily Max’” squat training, while trying to keep in pretty good running shape. For the last nine weeks I’ve been maxing my SQ three to four times each week, while still doing two six mile runs each week too. Earlier this week I squatted 250% of my bodyweight. A lot of people told me that there is no way a forty year old guy could handle this much volume, especially while still doing some distance running, it it has certainly passed the experience test for me. In fact, I’m having so much fun and making so much progress, that I’m adding a fifth day Squatting. This certainly defied everything I’d come to expect from myself in regard to recovering! So much the worse for conventional “wisdom.”

  11. Joe March 5th, 2014 12:03 am

    How many people dance for fitness? Pro Latin dancers are ripped and lean. Why can we do to cultivate a stronger mind particularly our will and emotions? What about mans soul and spirit beside the body? We all need God.

  12. Jase March 5th, 2014 2:20 am

    Dodo is not wrong. It depends on your goals. I’m 40 and do judo and bjj most days plus a couple of sessions of S&C a week. Pushing out 100 burpees every day would be excessive (for me) and undermine my broader goals of training and competing.

    The point of the post in my view is that we often live within self-limiting thoughts. I have a chronic back condition. For years I BELIEVED I couldn’t run. Then one day I went for a run – walked a lap, jogged a lap three times, wearing a back brace!

    Four years later, I can run continuously for an hour and do it weekly. I get sore. I get tight. I see a physical therapist. But I have challenged and expanded my reality.

    Set goals – crazy ones if you like – and go for it. And let your beliefs catch up!

  13. Brodie March 5th, 2014 5:57 am

    He isn’t telling anyone to do 100 burpees. It says it right in the post “I am not writing this entry to suggest that you perform burpees each day” and “I honestly don’t know how much work you can handle each day.”

    Some people just want to be told 1+1=2. They can’t think for themselves and never do more than what someone else tells them to do.

  14. Eric March 5th, 2014 2:32 pm

    People are too caught up in “numbers.” Lately, I’ve been doing a series of bodyweight exercises daily and not even counting reps. I will drop down and perform a set of a certain type of pushup and really concentrate on the form instead of counting reps. Often people will take an exercise like burpees or say 8-count bodybuilders and will use very slop form especially when they start becoming fatigued. People obsess over getting a certain amount of work done like 10 sets of 10 or whatever. I’ve found since I stopped counting reps, I enjoy the bodyweight exercises much more and train more intensely. Instead of saying I will perform 100-reps of burpees a day, maybe just start by doing burpees daily and gauge the amount by how you feel. Anyone who has trained for any length of time, knows that some days you are in the zone and some days, not so much.

  15. dmitry March 6th, 2014 12:38 am

    “don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions about what you can or cannot do. No book or study has been written specifically for you.”

    good point Ross.

  16. peter yates March 8th, 2014 7:27 am

    HI ROSS, AS USUAL YOU ARE RIGHT ON THE MONEY. I LEFT SCHOOL AT 15 AND STARTED WORK AS A ROOFER. I WAS EXPECTED TO KEEP UP WITH THE OLDER GUYS ESPECIALLY LOADING THE TILES UP TO THE ROOF. THE FIRST COUPLE OF WEEKS NEAR KILLED ME BUT THE OPTION OF QUITTING WAS NOT THERE. SOON I WAS DOING A FULL DAYS WORK THEN RUNNING TO THE GYM BOXING AND WEIGHTLIFTING MOST NIGHTS AND DANCING ON THE WEEKEND. JUST SEEMED NORMAL. I HAVE DONE SOME EXERCISE PRETTY MUCH EVERY DAY FOR THE PAST 50+ YEARS AND HAVE NO PLANS TO STOP NOW. MOVEMENT IS LIFE.
    REGARDS, PETER.

  17. RossTraining.com Blog November 13th, 2014 5:03 pm

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