Nate and I show off our badass muscles.

Crossfit 101: Don’t cheat on burpees

Nate and I show off our badass muscles.
Nate and I show off our badass muscles.

I’m not sure why they’re choosing now, but lately people have been telling me more than usual either that I’m looking good or that I’ve gotten crazy strong really fast.

Now, as I’ve stated multiple times, I don’t think anything with me or this crazy journey I’m on moves fast. But one thing’s definitely certain: There was definitely a point, and it was kind of recent, when I stopped making excuses for why I had to stick with a 45# weight for most WODs. And then, soon after, I stopped making excuses about why I wouldn’t try something just a little bit heavier.

When friends tell me that I’m really strong, this question normally follows: Where did it come from?

Just because, to them, it came out of nowhere.

I never really had an answer for them.

But now that I’m thinking about it, I guess I do.

It was a long process, and I’ll tell you about each little milestone that ended up being a major milestone.

When I first started Crossfit, I hated burpees. Hell. I still do hate burpees! Buck furpees! But when I first started Crossfit, I would look at the WOD the night before (which I still do, actually), and if the WOD included ANY amount of either burpees or running, I would devoutly SKIP that WOD. Yup. I didn’t care if that meant I came in once or twice a week. I would not—I repeat, WOULD NOT—do burpees and I would not run.

Then, one day I decided that I was sick of skipping WODs. I mean, I was paying for the membership, right? Why should I skip a WOD because of stupid burpees. So I told myself that I’d come in, but I’d scale the burpees. Because I could always scale. And who wanted to do howevermany burpees were on the docket anyway, when it literally takes me twice as long as everyone else to do the movement (this is still the case; back then, it was probably closer to three or four times the average burpee-doer)? Not me.

So I started coming in. And I scaled the shit out of burpees. At first, I would ask if I could scale, and the coach would give me a number to do, and I would begrudgingly do them.

Then came a point where, if I asked if I could scale a movement, I got THE FACE. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that head-tilt/raised-brow/jaw-gaping look that you get when you ask to do something that the coach knows is absolutely stupid, and the answer is an obvious “no.” When it came to that point, I realized that nobody would let me continue to scale burpees. So that meant, either I start skipping WODs again, or take matters into my own hands. And since WHEN am I not stubborn? Obviously, I took matters into my own hands.

I didn’t tell anyone, but I started “scaling” burpees; i.e., I started cheating at burpee WODs. All of a sudden, I was finishing with great times, and I was feeling pretty good about my “scaling.”

(Note: Even though I was indeed cheating myself out of burpees, one good thing that came out of this was that I began to feel more confident in what I COULD do, and my burpee form improved immensely.)

I continued “scaling” burpees probably until mid-January. And then, after finishing a WOD without scaling burpees, I would go up to Dean and proclaim to him, “Guess what?! I DIDN’T CHEAT ON BURPEES!” And he’s like, “You were cheating on burpees? What is WRONG with you?”

But whether I knew it or not, and whether I liked it or not, this seemed to be one of the major catalysts to me making some major progress at the gym. I wasn’t cheating on burpees. I was doing them all. Just like everyone else. It no longer gave me extreme anxiety to come in and do them (I still have anxiety, but not as much as I used to), even if I disliked them. I even came in and tackled the 100 burpee pull-ups, and freaking FINISHED it.

Meanwhile, since I wasn’t scaling burpees anymore, I felt more comfortable trying to go heavier or not scaling other things, either.

Somewhere along the 90-Day Challenge (which I did not participate in, but did do a lot of those benchmark workouts), I did Fran at 55#. And I remember thinking afterward, Boy did that suck, but I totally could have gone heavier. So the next time it came around, I decided to go at, what I have dubbed, half Rx. That’s right—I did 45 thrusters at 65#. And I’m not gonna lie, it kicked my ass. But I did it. I did it, and I didn’t necessarily think that I could, or that I would be able to.

Then, I realized that I shouldn’t be intimidated by WODs that have movements I can’t do, or need to scale. What I was then determined to work on was the movements I could do, and do them well. And try not to scale. Heavy deadlifts? Why SHOULDN’T I go Rx? Give me a reason. If I can lift more than that more than once, why the hell not?

75# sumo deadlift high pulls? Why the hell not? Just the other day I did a bunch of 75# power cleans. (Okay, this logic didn’t really work in my favor, but I still did it.)

You need me to do an AMRAP that has 65# push presses? Why not? I did FRAN—45 THRUSTERS—at 65#. 

It’s like, I did it once, and so I know I can do it, so why not do it again?

And that’s pretty much how it’s been going.

Okay, I can swing a 100# kettlebell Russian-style for 30 seconds without stopping. Why shouldn’t I use the 35# bell for the WOD? It’s only 90 swings!

Okay, I can do 10 lunges at full ROM, why am I telling myself I can’t do 10 sets of those 10? (And just this week, I did 150 full ROM lunges!)

And then all of a sudden, I started getting some crazy PRs. Like, CRAZY PRs. Deadlift PR—check. Running PRs—check. Squatting PRs—check. Rowing PRs—check. The most impressive one? I went from having a 1RM overhead squat of about 55# to having a 3RM overhead squat of 80#.

I have been amazed by what my body can do when I (a) put myself out there, (b) have a little courage, (c) and believe I can do it.

So yes. Lately, I’ve been feeling strong and really, really good about where I am in the gym. Everything seems to be slipping right into place here. And I’m really hoping that this progress will continue. But if I have any advice to anyone who wants to make that leap and get to the next level of their training, it is this:

Don’t cheat on burpees.


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Exuberant photographer, artist, writer, designer, wannabe chef, and Crossfitter.

7 thoughts on “Crossfit 101: Don’t cheat on burpees”

  1. I love this post! I too am an avid Crossfitter and when I started in September it was very easy for me to get down on myself and talk myself into a panic about WODs. It took a couple months but eventually my confidence started to build and now I’m blowing it out of the water with my weights and my times. I really do believe that when we cheat, we are only cheating ourselves. I also believe that the human body, especially the female human body is so much stronger and capable than many people can fathom. Good for you and keep up the good work!

  2. You are doing awesome! You should do a blog entry with just pics showing your transition…I think the results are fantastic and I’ve seen you work hard so it’s only fitting that you are finally getting all those well deserved compliments!

  3. Awesome post. I can totally relate. I actually quit my cf box because it was causing me to have such bad anxiety due to not letting me scale and not really working with beginners either. I know not all are that way but this is the only one close to my house. Awesome successes. Very inspiring.

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