About five years ago, I adopted an “always say yes” motto when I’m asked to try any workout. So when my friend Nicole did a Facebook call-out for three people to join her in the 50 Burpees a Day for 30 Days Challenge, of course I had to join.
Now 50 burpees may seem like a lot—and it is. But since I recently changed jobs and now work out only twice a week, I needed something new. Plus, 50 burpees can be done in under 10 minutes, and under five if you’re fit (and I like to think I am). I also rationalized that I could split them up, or do catch-up if I needed to.
Here’s what the 30-day burpee challenge was like, and how I feel now that it’s over—along with some profesh trainer insight.
Day 1: I did 50 burpees straight. And never again.
I thought, Oh, I’ll video it. And I did. I was dying, but I did it. I posted it. Proof. Done. After that, though, the most I could get through in one continuous go was 30 (once), and after that two sets of 25. Why couldn’t I do it again? “I would say it’s mental,” says Jennifer Lau, Toronto-based Nike master trainer and principal at fitsquad.ca. “You were likely excited and nervous to start the challenge, so the adrenaline might have pushed you through to completing the 50 reps on the first day. Clearly you have it in you, and physically you can handle the work capacity—it’s just wrapping your head around it.” It’s all about the mental game.
Some days I killed the burpees; other days I suffered.
Since the challenge happened over 30 days, I figured the varying sense of difficulty was due to hormonal ups and downs. After all, around my period, there are times when I get exhausted without doing much. But Lau clarifies that a number of things play a role in performance: “How was your sleep? Did you eat well and choose healthy foods that wouldn’t make you feel sluggish? Did you have a stressful day? Sleep, stress and nutrition have huge impacts on our energy and therefore performance.”
It was frustrating not being better on day 30 than day 1.
I did 50 burpees a day for 30 days and didn’t notice any improvement (or change in my body, for that matter). What the?! “Burpees are not a strength-based movement, so it’s difficult to measure improved strength after the challenge,” Lau tells me. “[In comparison], in a push-up challenge you would probably get more measurable results.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t reap any fitness benefits, however.
Does 25 x 2, 10 x 5, or 20 + 20 + 10 all equal 50?
Because the goal was just to accomplish 50 burpees a day, I played around with how I hit that number in any given day. But looking back, I wonder if I was doing the same workout. Lau says nope: “By completing 50 straight, you are keeping the same high level of intensity throughout the exercise. The shorter your rest periods, the more calories you will burn. So, no, taking breaks between 25 or 10 reps does not burn the same as 50 without rest.”
Is it cheating if I double up?
There were two days I completely missed because of work and evening plans, so I just did 100 burpees the next day. Because I was still doing the same number, I just brushed it off. On the Facebook group, I saw friends start over or even give up because they missed a day. I didn’t want to fail the 50 Burpees a Day for 30 Days Challenge, so I kept going. And I was right to do that, says Lau, as long as I was able to maintain good form for all those next-day burpees.
Timing matters for the 50 Burpees a Day for 30 Days Challenge.
I did my 50 burpees whenever I had time—after dinner, before bed, when I woke up. But if I were to do it all over again, I wanted Lau’s insight on how I could make these burpees more effective. Do them in the morning, she advised: “You can get them out of the way, and you’re less likely to skip your workout later due to work, other commitments or low energy.” But at the end of the day, the end of the day is better than not doing them at all. On rest days, I looked to the burpees as a quick burst of cardio. And on workout days, I used them as a finisher. Lau gave me the thumbs-up for this approach.
I’ve seen fitness challenges that work your way up to doing something, like running a 5k. But the 50 burpees seemed more my level. Now that I’ve done the 50 Burpees a Day for 30 Days Challenge, Lau tells me to try a 30-day challenge that’s more strength-based: “I like the push-up, pull-up or squat challenges. Add friends or document it to stay motivated.” So who’s up for joining a Facebook group?