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Freakin’ Burpees: Understanding the Physiology Behind the Torture

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Let’s talk about one of Crossfit’s favorite calisthenics exercise: the dreaded burpees. Seriously. I dislike them. With Passion. And every time I’m late for class, which is almost always my coach makes me do several burpees for every minute I’m late. You would think I would learn…

I come to class last week, and find this on the WOD board:

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100 burpees for time. Are you serious?! I was ready to boycott this WOD, but I pushed through and was able to finish it in a little over 15 minutes. It wasn’t pretty, but at least I finished!

And then if that wasn’t worse enough a WOD, the crossfit games started 2 days later, and lo and behold our WOD 2 days later:

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MORE BURPEES!?!! and add Snatches to that?! Yikes. I had no idea where I found the strength to push through this insane WOD, but I did it. It was painful. But it was over.

And it got me thinking…Burpees suck. I have yet to meet anyone who truly loves burpees. Yet they’re part of our workout at least once a week. I had to find a way to appreciate burpees despite how much I despised them. So I did a little research and was surprised to learn some cool facts about this powerhouse exercise that really works your entire body: your arms, core, legs, and even challenges you mentally. I mean something that sucks so royally and leaves you so exhausted even after 5 reps has to have some rewards at the end right?!

Nifty video on the History of Burpees


5 cool facts about Burpees

  1. It was founded in 1930’s by American physiologist Royal H. Burpee who created the burpee test for a Ph.D thesis to test for fitness
  2. The actual burpee consists of a combination of jumping jacks, squats, and pushups
  3. They burn a lot of calories. Because of the high intensity of the exercise, researchers say that if done properly, burpees can burn 50% more fat than moderate exercise like walking and jogging. (instead of spending hours on the elliptical, do 100 burpees instead!)
  4. No equipment necessary! It’s all about using your own body’s resistance and going at your own pace. You can do burpees anywhere. It’s what makes it such a versatile little exercise!
  5. 1,840: The Guinness World Record for most burpees performed in an hour. This was done by Paddy Doyle in the United Kingdom on Feb. 4, 1994

Performing a Burpee (

Physiology behind the Burpee

Step 1: From Standing to Squat position:

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Muscles Used:

  • Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Gluteus Maximus: contracting and lengthening at the same time (eccentrically)
  • Squatting causes knees and hips to flex and ankles are moving to dorsi flexion position.
  • Using your muscles in the back to maintain an upright position
  • Using core to prevent excessive forward bending

Step 2: From Squat to Push up or Chest to the ground position:

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Muscles Used:

  • Biceps/Triceps of arms to support upper body and elbow as you push your legs back to start the pushup
  • Quadriceps allows you to move your knee forward
  • Hamstrings and Glutes allow you to move your hips back.
  • Upper chest muscles: pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and rotator cuff all contract to keep your body off the ground.
  • Shoulder muscles: trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior and pectoralis minor all contract to stabilize shoulder/scapula area.
  • Rectus abdominis contract to keep core stabilized

Step 3: The actual Pushup:

Muscle Used:

  • Pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles contract to stabilize shoulders while performing the actual push up. 
  • Tricpes contracts allowing elbow flexion
  • Rectus abdominis stabilizes core and keeps them contracted

Step 4: From Push up to Squat Position:

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Muscles Used:

  • This is one of the worst part of the burpees. 
  • Gastrocnemius (calves) contracts allowing feet to be lifted and knees/hips rapidly flex to the squat position
  • Rectus femoris (part of your quadriceps) and hamstrings contract as well as lower part of the core to maintain upright position

Step 5: The Jump

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Muscles Used:

  • Gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes all used to forcefully jump before landing on your feet and repeating the motion again and again. 
  • Back muscles and core used to stabilize the core and the back.

So when all is said and done, Burpees suck. But they suck for a reason: They really work out the whole body. Not only physically but mentally as well. It takes dedication and perseverance to really finish all 100 burpees.  Do it long enough, and you’ll definitely see some radical changes. I appreciate burpees for their potential, but I’ll still complain and curse each time I do one.







Silks, Sweat & Soreness

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My friend Margarita invited me to try a aerial class with her bright and early on Saturday. I’ve never done an aerial class before, but I’ve always wanted to try it. I knew going in I was going to have a hard time, because aerial focuses so much on being graceful and a lot of upper body strength. I mean you’re literally doing pull ups on these slippery silks and trying to go as high as possible without falling down. For someone already afraid of heights, this was a tough exercise. But I definitely had fun.

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This is not as easy as it looks. My arms are so shaky. And being graceful..yeah, that’s never going to happen. Those aerial acrobats make it look so easy.

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I did a lot of swinging in class, hence all the blurriness in the pictures. It’s so hard to stay still. A lot of it has to do with tightening your core, and focusing on staying still, and controlling your movements.

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I have to say, Crossfit has definitely made my shoulders look amazing; and it has definitely helped me tremendously with my upper body strength, because otherwise this aerial class would have been impossibly challenging (it still was really difficult, but at least I could actually try some of the moves).

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My friend Margarita is a lot more better on the graceful front than I was. And our coach Sarah in the background! I love her. She’s passionate about aerial, and super encouraging. Lover her enthusiasm and kind words.

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A decent, non swinging picture! Whohoo. My shoulders were screaming in pain. And I kind of overdid it, because right after this skill, I couldn’t hold this stance much longer and ended up rotating my shoulder all the way through. Nothing popped out, and no serious injury occurred. But this activity is something you should definitely do with a professional around.

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Not sure why I’m wearing a sweater, it was hot and I was sweating after that crazy workout. Thanks lovely ladies for an awesome experience. And thanks Sarah at Northwest Dance for taking the time to teach us some aerial tricks on the silk. I can’t wait to try it again. But until then, I’m going to go soak in a hot bath. My shoulders are still sore, and its been 3 days.

Hitting the Barre

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I went to my first Barre method class. It was super AWESOME and really TOUGH! My legs are still shaky!

Gorgeous day to try a new fitness class!

Gorgeous day to try a new fitness class

What is Barre? Barre actually refers to  the stationary handrail primarily used in ballet classes for getting deeper stretches and other warm up exercises. Barre studios and exercises utilize the same principles in ballet exercises, along with a bit more yoga and pilates stretches to get a great cardiovascular and strength training workout.

Inside a Barre Studio

Inside a Barre Studio

When I heard that it was just doing a little bit of yoga and pilates, I thought no big deal, I do crossfit, I can definitely handle this. Boy was I WRONG!!. Crossfit is an intense workout that usually lasts for about 20 min max. This Barre class was 55 min of holding certain poses for some time; you could feel the pain in every single muscle fiber. My glutes were definitely feeling it after the workout and the next day.

small medicine ball, 3lb weights, and barre straps.

small medicine ball, 3lb weights, and barre straps.

We started the class with a 5-7 min warm up to awesome poppy music to get all loosened up. Then progressed to using some light weights to work out the triceps/biceps and shoulders. Note: 3lb weight may not seem heavy at all, but repetitive motions using 3lb weights can lead to shaky hands, and sore muscles. What I love about Barre is it’s not about getting bulky. Rather it’s about staying lean and getting toned. And it really is a tough workout. And I love that we had a great teacher: Debbie, who took the time to correct my form and tell me when I need to get deeper into the poses to really feel the burn! By the time we got to the actual barre to work on our hamstrings and quads, my legs were shaking.

Awesome first experience!

Awesome first experience!

Overall, I loved the experience, and I would love to come back and incorporate it into my daily fitness. Unfortunately, these classes are not cheap. My friend had given me a coupon, so I was able to try the class for free. I figure I’m only in town for another few weeks before I go on my overseas adventures, so I might wait until I come back to get on the Barre train. Some things to keep in mind if you do decide to try a barre class:

1. Wear long pants; preferably one’s that go past your knees. Shorts are not ideal.

2. Bring socks; especially the ones with traction so you don’t slip and slide too much.

3. If it’s your first time, definitely come early. The teachers go over key details in class and just what to expect.

4. Don’t forget to hydrate and bring your water bottles!

5. Have fun! 😀

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Successful first day at Barre54.

For more information about Barre exercises, check out:

Have a great weekend! So much work to do, and so little time!

Let’s go for a Run…Tomorrow

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I wish I could genuinely like running. It’s been a year since I did my first 5k. And usually most people are so addicted to running after their first 5k, that they sign up for more races; training for longer distances and trying to continue setting new personal records. For some people, running is addicting. I am  not one of those persons…yet. I would rather swim a mile than run one. Unfortunately, running a half marathon has made it to my bucket list, and I figure I should give this whole running thing another try.  (I cannot even fathom running a full marathon. My legs already cramp up just thinking about 3.1 miles, I think they’ll boycott running anything longer than 13.1 miles).

Honestly, my first 5k was a horrible experience. My friend and I had talked about doing a 5k for several months. So we started doing some training.  We began on the treadmill, and then a month before the actual race day, we started running outside. Those treadmills are so deceitful. Running outside really meant jogging…and taking really long walking breaks. We had beautiful running/jogging weather for training purposes. It wasn’t too humid, and the weather was perfect, and great for training outside. Fast forward to the morning of Feb 12, 2012: the one day in the entire winter season, where the weather in balmy Florida dropped to like mid 30s. Not lying. I was not used to such cold weather. I was dressed in layers, and even before the race started my fingers and my ears were freezing. My nose was running, and I was tearing up because it was that cold. Running seemed to make me feel more colder, but I thought I should try for a little while. After running a mile, I wanted to quit. This really wasn’t what I was prepared for. At All. Luckily I found some people who were running at the same pace I was, and we encouraged each other until we finally saw the finish line. I picked up my pace only so that I could get to my car faster and turn up the heat and go home to take a hot shower. And that is exactly what I did after I crossed the line. It was a miserable experience. But I’m glad I did it; only to say that I finally did a 5k.


My first 5k in such awful weather, and all I got was this shirt, and a tank top at that. Oh the irony 😀

I quit running for several months, until I started a gym membership, and decided to be friends with the dreaded treadmill again. I’m still no good at running. I get winded really easily. My knees and ankles get agitated. And I have yet to finish a 5K run under 30 minutes. My best was 35 minutes. Now I’m trying to get myself to endure running outside. Choosing a different running route definitely makes the jog more interesting, as does meeting friendly running neighbors, and finding upbeat and poppy music. I still don’t like running. But sometimes amazing views like this fills me with hope, and encourages me to not give up…just yet. But for now, I’ll still stick to swimming and doing yoga and crossfit and building endurance. Maybe I’ll go for a run tomorrow 😉

Spectacular view in one of the most magical places ever.

Spectacular view in one of the most magical places ever. ❤ CBC

Any of you runners out there? Got any tips on being a better runner? I would love some advice.