I’ve never really loved burpees. The act of getting down to the floor and back up takes a lot of effort, especially when repeated over and over again. This action uses a lot of different muscles, and takes your body through a therapeutic range of motion.
In terms of getting your heart rate up with minimal equipment, space, and setup, burpees are king.
While I’ve always believed that burpees are good for me, I have a hard time motivating myself to do them. I like lifting weights, because as I get stronger I feel like I’m making progress. Running is nice, because you are covering some ground and get to go outside. However with burpees, it feels like I’m moving in place and not going anywhere.
There are lots of ways to create motivation for otherwise boring tasks. As an app developer and long time player of phone games, I thought it would be helpful to apply some of the commonly used gaming techniques to burpees.
With burpees, it’s important to pace yourself over the days, weeks, and months. Too few reps and you won’t improve, too many and you establish an unsustainable pace.
Imagine that your body has an energy meter. When you do burpees, energy is used up. When you rest, it is replenished. Once empty, you are not able to do any more burpees. If the energy meter is full then you are wasting precious energy.
As we get more fit, our energy meter refills a little bit faster and has a larger capacity. This mimics how your body’s energy systems work.
To represent getting fitter, we can introduce experience points (XP for short). As you do burpees, you gain XP. When you reach a certain number, you level up and your energy meter gets stronger. This gives a sense of accomplishment and makes it easier to see progress.
We can also use levels to reward ourselves by unlocking new movements we’re allowed to do. Some other simple bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and sit-ups can be mixed into our routine to give us variety.
Now that we have an energy meter and XP, it’s only natural to want to optimize so we can make progress faster. What if there were consumable items we could use to restore energy? This parallels real life, where some days we feel more energetic and capable than other days.
Let’s add a store to our game. You can buy an apple, which will immediately restore 10 energy. Or, a protein shake, which helps you recover energy faster for 24 hours.
While we’re at it, let’s also add some clothing items that we can wear on our hero. A pair of old tennis shoes will allow us to do burpees a little bit better. A nice T-shirt helps us recover our energy more quickly.
Before we can buy stuff, we’ll need a currency, Burpee Bucks. You earn Burpee Bucks by doing reps.
While grinding away at reps and gaining experience is good, it’s also nice to have some measure of how we are improving over time. We can measure our progress by performing some regular test workouts, or “benchmarks”. For example, do as many burpees as you can in 5 minutes and record your score in the app. A few weeks later we’ll incentivize you to do this workout again and record your new score.
Once you’ve unlocked a few different exercises, we’ll have benchmarks for those as well. We can also do longer ones that combine multiple movements to get a more holistic view of your fitness.
Eventually you will unlock all the exercises and acquire all the best clothing for your hero. At this point you can continue to compete against yourself, but that will eventually get old. So let’s bring in a little external motivation. Once you’ve leveled up far enough, you will unlock the ability to join a clan.
Your clan will be a group of like-minded burpee doers. You will form a team and compete against other clans. The format for this hasn’t been determined yet, but it will likely be based on which team can perform the most reps over a period of several days. There will be prizes for the winning teams, and lots of motivation for individuals to contribute to the team effort by doing their share of the burpees.
If these ideas sound like fun, be sure to check out the app we are working on here. Sign up for the email newsletter so we can inform you when beta testing spots are available.