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Habit – 1 Minute of Burpees to Start Day


Finding time to workout is like searching for a needle in a haystack in a dark room with legs tied together and only one hand free.  We fumble, stumble, and bumble our way to find thirty to sixty minutes to workout.  Jam-packed days of work, family, friends, entertainment, downtime, and sleep compete for our attention.  Stress increases.  Days lengthen.  Health fades.

Meanwhile, exercise is one of the best tools to improve our health, but it often sits on the bottom rung of our priority ladder.  That’s understandable given the importance of work, family, and friends in our lives, but what good will we be to our work, family, and friends when our health deteriorates prematurely?


When you go to bed or wake up and know you have a day in which thirty minutes of exercise seems impossible, choose one minute of Burpees instead.  The choice shouldn’t be between a full-blown long workout or nothing.  Working out one minute every day isn’t the solution for all your exercise needs.  When the choice is between not working out at all or working out for one minute, one minute is better.  Get your blood moving, increase your heart rate, and improve your focus all in under one minute with Burpees.  

You’ll begin to learn that there are many ways to find time to exercise that don’t require a pre-set cardio, weighlifting, or exercise routine in 15, 30, or 60 minute increments.  Combine this with the Bodyweight Exercise habit for a mid-day boost or finish your day with a 5-minute walk to squeeze a little more exercise in your day.


“Seven minutes.  It’s only seven minutes.  I can do anything for seven minutes.  ANYTHING…except Burpees!”  A sane dialogue with my rational mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Waste it I did.  A good number I’ll score.  Embarrassed I won’t be.

The CrossFit Games Open competition introduced a workout in 2012 requiring you to perform as many Burpees as possible in seven minutes.  The Open is a worldwide competition every spring with five workouts you complete over five weeks at your local CrossFit with over 300,000 people from 175 countries competing.  After 2012 the seven minute Burpee workout was the Workout of the Day (WOD) at CrossFit Inspire once or twice over the next few years.  A WOD is the primary workout everyone at a CrossFit class completes together lasting typically from 3 to 30 minutes.

This day was hot, humid, and heart-attack prone.  Not ideal.  Not gonna matter.  What mattered was mindset.  Mine was simple: Complete 15 Burpees every minute for 7 minutes for a total score of 105.  Break it into smaller sets.  7 or 8 reps ever every 30 seconds.  One rep roughly every three seconds.  Stay consistent.  Now the funs begins.



Minute 1 – This isn’t so bad.

Minute 2 – This is bad.

Minute 3 – The end is not near I fear.

Minute 4 – Focus on 8 reps in 30 seconds.

Minute 5 – Focus on 4 reps in 15 seconds.

Minute 6 – Focus on 1 breath.

Minute 7 – Fall, protect face, stand up.  Repeat.  Survive.

After seven minutes of heart-pounding, muscle-spasming, air-sucking blissful torture I kissed the ground in relief as the buzzer sounds to signal the end.  I squeezed in a few extra reps to log an even 110.  Goal secured.  Exhaustion acquired.  Nap earned.

That’s the torture of Burpees, but don’t be afraid.  The habit below is designed to make it easy to get started, get the benefits, and keep the motivation to do it again.  Only the dopamine-seeking workout-junkie-masochists among us want to complete a max number of Burpees for seven minutes again.

The inspiration for this habit came from my buddy Brian Lawrence telling me about his run a mile habit to start his day and then hearing Luis von Ahn, DuoLingo co-founder, describe his habit of staying in shape by starting his day running for 16 minutes as hard as he can.  I’m not a “morning person”, so I’m constantly searching for ways to jumpstart my mind and body more effectively in the AM.  I wanted a simpler version of their running habit that didn’t require as much time, effort, or space.  Enter Burpees.

Squat Thrusts (Military), Up Downs (Football), Sprawls (Wrestling), Burpees (CrossFit).  Different names.  Different contexts.  Same result.  Full body workout in minimal time and space.  To ease up on the effort, slow down the pace and time-box the workout.

A week later noticed my mornings were off to a more focused start.  I wasn’t sweating after my Burpees.  It wasn’t so hard that I didn’t want to continue.  Problem solved.  Benefits gained.  Another tool in the ‘Toolbox for Health’.


The benefits from one minute of Burpees are similar to any exercise routine.  You won’t get the same amount of benefit as a longer workout, but again the comparison shouldn’t be with a longer workout.  The comparison is one minute of Burpees versus no exercise that day.  Small benefits accumulate over time to produce larger results.

  • Extra Focus in Morning – Getting your heart rate up and breathing hard for just a minute will jolt your mind and body awake.
  • Little Stronger, Little More Cardio, Little More Flexibility – Burpees tax the legs, core, and upper body for a little strength boost.  You will challenge your cardio even in one minute.  The Burpee push away at the bottom is a good stretch for your lower back to start your day.
  • Metabolic Boost – Anytime you increase your heart rate and oxygen consumption you’re revving up your metabolism and Burpees never fail in that regard.
  • Happy Brain to Combat Stress – That post-workout ‘runner’s high’ doesn’t require a marathon running or weightlifting session.  You can get a little dopamine boost in a minute plus a feeling of pride at starting off your day conquering a physical challenge. 


Learn How to do a Burpee – Videos

Learn How to do a Burpee – Steps

  • Start with feet hip width apart and stand upright with hands open in front of you at hip height.
Burpee - Starting Position
Burpee – Starting Position
  • Stick your butt out as you squat down with knees out into the Hollow Position and kick your legs back off the ground to land on your hips and chest bracing your fall with your open hands.
Burpee - Hollow Position
Burpee – Hollow Position
Burpee - Ground Position
Burpee – Ground Position
  • Modification – Instead of the falling to the ground, place your hands on the ground in front of you first, then kick your legs back into a Push Up position.  Stop here or drop your hips and chest to the ground to go a little further as you progress towards a full Burpee.
Burpee - Push-Up Position Modification
Burpee – Push-Up Position Modification
  • Push your upper body off the ground with your hands as you arch your back into the Push Away position.  
Burpee - Push Away Position
Burpee – Push Away Position
  • Modification – If you modified the last step and are in a push-up position, you’ll skip the Push Away step.
  • Explosively jump both feet back to the starting Hollow Position.
  • Stand upright, swing your hands back, and jump off the ground.
Burpee - Jump
Burpee – Jump


Capture Number of Burpees in 1 Minute

  • Set a timer for one minute.
  • Complete as many Burpees as possible at a comfortable pace before one minute expires.
  • Capture that number.  That’s your target for the number of Burpees to do whenever you perform this habit.

Practice 1 Minute of Burpees for 1 week

  • Learn this habit by performing one minute of Burpees every morning for the next week.  This practice  will help you remember that you have this tool in your toolbox.
  • Pick a cue below and use this habit whenever those triggers are fired.

More Technical Reference Videos

Common Challenges

  • Action Disinclination – This is a fancy way to say that it’s easier to just read these words, than to practice a Burpee right now.  Decide if you’re going to act to improve your life right now.  If you want to improve, stand up and complete one Burpee.  If you want to stagnate, stay seated.  Remember if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
  • Technique – Most people lack good form when performing Burpees.  Join the club.  If you practice first thing in the morning, you will get better.  Lack of technique should not be a reason not to perform this habit.  Pretty much anyone can fall down and stand back up.  Watch the Carl Paoli video to perfect your technique.
  • Weak Triggers – You may find it hard to remember to perform this habit when you’re going to have a rough day.  The best antidote to forgetting is practice.  Practice this habit every day for one week, then pick out a day the following week that will be long, stressful, jam-packed, or you have a big meeting and practice again.

Common Cues

  • Time
    • Wake-Up
    • Shower
  • Planning
    • Reviewing calendar
    • Planning week
    • Planning day
  • Day Aheads Looks…
    • Stressful 
    • Long
    • Jam-packed 
    • Big meeting in morning


Most people spend more time and energy in going around problems than in trying to solve them.  – Henry Ford

Finding time to exercise can be a hard problem.  Spending a little more time exercising is not. Small improvement is better than stagnation.  Make your problem easier to solve and take one minute per day and practice your Burpees.  Your mind, body, and spirit will appreciate it.