The Perfect Burpee

Last week, I had the dreaded pleasure of re-doing the CrossFit Opens WOD 12.1, a.k.a. 7 minutes of burpees, a miserable experience if ever there was one.  Four years ago, when I performed this workout, as many reps as possible was my only guiding force.  Although burpees have never been my strong suit (causes include: hip mobility, a general lack of explosive muscle fiber, and an extensive hatred of burpees in general), I managed 86 reps, the count of which was comprised by ~one minute and thirty seconds of high-quality, paced reps, 30-40 seconds of deflating, fatigued reps, and then approximately five minutes of absolutely cringe-inducing, suffocating-fish flopping on a dock-style “burpees” before collapsing of complete and utter exhaustion and a stated refusal to ever repeat the workout again.  

Fast-forward four years and there 12.1 was on my training program, sitting squarely and waiting to completely devour my pride and sense of any degree of athletic improvement.  Seven minutes of burpees demands a strategy, a plan of attack.  Having matured in my athletic approach over four years, and knowing full well the physical desecration that was my last effort, my intention in the workout was not merely as many reps as possible at any cost, but movement efficacy as the highest order: as many reps as possible while performing those reps to the best of my movement abilities.  In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Socrates describes the Theory of Forms in which a World of Ideal Forms exists, but is unknowable to mere mortals who exist in the world of shadows, poor imtiations of the ideal, but each of which reflect an essential essence of ideal form or movement.  In re-doing 12.1, I reflected on the nature of the perfect burpee, and how, while I could never actually achieve its execution (no, seriously, have you seen me do burpees, it's like, in all honesty, never going to happen), I could seek it with focus and intent.  

3, 2, 1, go and 7 minutes later…..86 burpees, exactly the same as 4 years earlier.  As the workout is recorded, it would appear I have no more “forged elite fitness” in 2016 than in 2012.  However, the numbers are just numbers, they do not reflect the story behind those numbers.  One may hike the gradual ascent to the top of East Rock from the North Meadow area, or one can tackle the steep Yellow Trail ascent from the Rice Fields (  Both paths will get you to the top, but one is going to require more careful planning, execution, and attention to detail.  The elevation change is not reflective of the path you take to get somewhere.  86 reps is still 86 reps, but the quality of my ability to achieve those 86 reps has improved significantly.  The perfect burpee is still out there…

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