Land of 1000 Burpees

So, you may have noticed something about my blog posts lately. There, um, haven’t been any. There are a whole lot of reasons for that, some of them better than others (and I’ve actually been planning a post about why I haven’t been writing). One of which, is that, leading up to last week, I’ve been kind of busy with this thing I was planning.

This thing I was planning, organizing and coordinating has a little something to do with the title. It was this thing I did called Burpees for Brains. This thing that stemmed from an idea I had not long after my grandma passed away at the end of January, after a journey with Alzheimer’s disease that started way back in 2004. Almost right after she was gone, although I didn’t tell anyone right away, I decided I needed to do some sort of fundraiser.

I didn’t quite know what, when, or what it would look like, but I knew I had to do something. After a couple of months of thinking, mulling it over, and talking with friends, Burpees for Brains was born. The concept was simple: aim to raise $1500 for Alzheimer’s research, and if I achieved my goal, to do 1000 burpees on June 12, which would have been my grandma’s birthday.

Well, suffice it to say, I met my goal – and then some. After all was said and done, I managed to raise over $3700! I am still a little in awe of that number, and I couldn’t have gotten there alone. And, needless to say, over the course of losing my grandma, meeting and exceeding my fundraising goal, and let’s not forget, doing 1000 burpees; I’ve learned a thing or two. So I figured that passing on my newfound burpee knowledge would be a good way to end my little blogging hiatus.

I would say that the first thing I have learned, and the thing that impressed and overwhelmed me again and again is that people are SO generous. And even more so when they see that you have a personal connection to a cause. I was constantly amazed at how many people were willing to donate. Not just friends and family – elementary school acquaintances who follow me on Facebook, my mom’s friends, gym friends that have moved away, colleagues at work. The support I received constantly blew me away. And even more moving were the stories and words of support that came with the donation. I learned of so many family and friends that have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The kind words that came with donations meant the world to me. I think people want to rally and support a cause – they’re just looking for something and someone to rally them.

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That moment of satisfied exhaustion when you’ve just completed your thousandth burpee.

Secondly, if you have a cause or passion project – make it 100% you. In my early stages of fundraising, I thought about what I wanted this campaign/event to look like. I thought about what’s important to me, as well as of my grandma. I knew I wanted to do something involving exercise, more specifically CrossFit, not only because it’s such a huge part of my life, but also because of all the research supporting the link between exercise and brain health.

I also wanted to involve food and baking somehow – again, big parts of my life, but that’s also a big way my grandma shared love and brought people together. That’s how the first sub-part of the fundraiser, my “Ballin’ for Brains” bake sale came about. I sold cookie dough, carrot cake (family recipe) and energy balls by the dozen for Mother’s Day weekend. People know me and how I love to bake, so it just felt natural. That alone brought in over $400!

As for the CrossFit part of it, like I mentioned before, when people see you have a cause that you’re passionate about, they’re happy to rally around you. I got my gym on board to designate a specific day for people to come in, do the workout of the day and donate to my cause, raising $300 in one day alone (plus a lot of generous online donations from fellow members). They were also great about publicizing things in the gym’s newsletter and social media. And last week, when it came time to do 1000 burpees, obviously there was no other place I would choose. The support from fellow gym members was amazing (more on that in a minute).

From the cause I was supporting, to the bake sale, to the burpees, everything I was doing was something I was 1000% passionate about, so it felt totally genuine. I think this passion came across, thus people’s willingness to donate so generously. Just as people can tell when you’re faking it, they can also tell when you have genuine passion, and, as my results demonstrate, they are totally willing to rally around you.

All this talk of rallying around, I need to say more about the people who rallied. Last week during the burpees, over the course of the fundraiser, and in the days before my grandma passed away – I learned who my people really were. And they showed up in a big way. My friends went way beyond just donating to my campaign. I had friends who were great about texting to check in, or asking how I was doing. Friends who brought me flowers or texted me Starbucks e gift cards. Friends who would switch things at work when I couldn’t make it in.

And then when I was actually doing the burpees? The support knocked my socks off. My friends came to keep me company, doing 25, 50 or even 100 burpees with me. And although I packed my own snacks – I really didn’t need to. I had a virtual buffet of snacks that just kept coming in. One friend even went as far as having gourmet doughnuts delivered to the gym! Another friend texted (in advance of coming to do her burpees with me) to ask what I needed, and then showed up with the VERY necessary two bottles of Gatorade on a hot day. And Stacey, my CrossFitting yogi extraordinaire led me through some much-needed stretches between sets.

All that to say – invest in people. Build your tribe. Because when you need them most, people will surprise you with their awesomeness in showing up.

And now the burpees themselves (plus the 300 kettlebell swings that came with them). Since I doubled my initial fundraising goal, I tacked those guys on too (because I’m crazy – but not crazy enough to do 2000 burpees in one day). Obviously, you can’t tackle a feat like that and not learn something. In case you wondered, I started bright and early at 6 AM and I was done the thousand by about 12:45 (which was actually faster than I was planning). After a couple hours at home to rest and refuel, I was back at the gym at 3 to knock out those KB swings (10 sets of 30) and do some much-needed stretching.

1000 burpees is a daunting feat. But I was reminded of what I’ve learned time and time again over the course of my CrossFit career: you can tackle any challenge if you break it down enough. I knew as soon as I planned this craziness that one big set of 1000 burpees was NOT going to happen. Initially, I had been thinking of doing ten sets of 100. But even that seemed aggressive. I banked 2 sets of 100 in the first hour (even then, doing that many in a row felt pretty terrible). But after that, I switched entirely to 50s and mostly 25s.

Once I made that change, I was surprised at how do-able 1000 became. Even going at the snail-like pace I chose to preserve energy, 25 burpees can be done in under 3 minutes. I was pretty good at keeping on schedule, doing 25 every 15 minutes. Around 11 AM, I realized that if I upped it to 25 every ten, I could be done before my break at one, so that’s exactly what I did.

You may not be planning on doing a thousand burpees any time soon (and I can’t say I blame you), but this lesson can serve you well any time you’re tackling a big challenge: break it down. Take it in small chunks, and whatever number or challenge you’re facing won’t seem so huge. Still feel overwhelmed? Break it down further. Keep taking small steps forward and you’ll be surprised at how fast you reach your destination. I’ve said many times since last week that I’m surprised at how fast the morning went by, considering that I was at my gym for over 6 hours!

Another side note if you’re planning on tackling a big challenge: give yourself some credit. You’re probably stronger than you think you are! I honestly had no idea what to expect or how this whole thing was going to go. And although I was tired, I was surprised at how ok I felt and just how do-able the whole thing was. Once again, I underestimated myself and my abilities. Just remember, whatever obstacle you’re staring down, you’ve got this!

One last take away from the Land of 1000 Burpees? When you achieve a big accomplishment – celebrate it! I wrapped up the day with a post-burpee party – complete with burgers, fries and ice cream, surrounded by family and friends that had been there and meant so much to me. It was perfect in every way, from the food served (burgers and fries were my favourite meal my grandma made us growing up, and she always made sundaes for the grandkids), to the venue (my backyard), to the guest list. I saw this party as a celebration, yes, but more importantly as a thank you to the supporters who got me there. A night of eating all my favourite foods and being outside with the people I love was pure perfection, and the best way to wrap up the Burpees for Brains journey. I wish I could go back again!

So – you don’t need to do 1000 burpees to learn all the lessons I did. You actually don’t ever have to do 1000 burpees (although for the record, speaking as someone who has also run a marathon – I’d pick the 1000 burpees any day). But you can 100% be passionate, fundraise for a cause, build a community, or rally people around you. In fact, I highly recommend that, if not all, you do at least one of the above. But above all; be passionate, be genuine, be completely, totally and uniquely you. It won’t be easy. In fact, at times it might be downright hard and life will get crazy. But I guarantee you – good things will come!

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