Days of burpees.

The challenge was to start with 1 burpee on the first day of the year, and add a burpee everyday until the last day of the year: 365. The prize: 6-pack of my choice.

I didn't know how I'd be able to do 365 burpees in one day, when I couldn't make myself do even 1 burpee on the first day of the year. As I watched Michael Mock, Josh Wagner and Stephen Koch do push ups and jumps after hiking all day in -20ºF weather looking for non-existing ice, I thought about how I had collapsed in the middle of the approach on the previous climb, and how I had to turn around yet another time that day. I felt cold, nauseous with fatigue, and was unable to move. 12 that day seemed like an utterly impossible task.

I decided to take on the challenge. Partly just for the hell of it, to see if I could do it… and partly out of frustration with myself.

I made up the lost days, and catched up. And continued. At the beginning I was really sore. Really really sore. Shoulders mainly. And Achilles tendon. So tight that I had to walk back and forth instead of jump-backs for days, until my ankles got used to the impact. My hips also complained. Hip flexors. So I had to learn to jump lightly and land softly, to keep the flexors happy. Just my body getting used to changes. Oh yes, also neck. Tight for several weeks- horrendous tightness. I just wanted to hang on anything I could see in front of me just to release the tension.

I was recovering from a pronator injury, so at first I used a clenched fist to keep the injured wrist stable, straight, and stress free. Not fun. But slowly the soreness actually went away, my wrist became stronger, and I could play with different push up positions that suited me best for that particular day. Burpees became a vital part of my recovery, strengthening my body as I worked through methodical wrist rehab: arms, forearms, shoulders, back, legs, feet- everything.

Burpees kept me steady through school; they gave me something to look forward beyond the everyday studying. Study requires so much brain power that at the end of the day I feel completely exhausted even though all I did was sit for hours on end. But at the end of the day, I still had my burpees. I hated them so much. Ok get up. Do 1. Do 10. Do 20. Open a beer. Do 10 more. Feeling better. Beer interfering with jumps but it's ok, it's late at night and I really don't care. More burpees. Finish beer, shower, collapse in bed. Sleep solid.

Burpees gave my body an outlet to vent; they let my body move, jump, feel rusted, crappy, then warm up, and feel good, and great, and want to keep moving, and get outside to go run even if it was in the middle of the night. Feel peaceful again to study; feel focused again for a class or exam in the middle of the day. Burpees became my go-to 1-minute-meditation-break.

As the numbers grew to 200s, I could no longer maintain the 30 sec on, 30 sec off pace. So I decided to break them up: 2, and then eventually 3 sets throughout the day so my shoulders would not get too sore. I went to school wearing jogging bras instead of nice outfits so I could keep up with the morning and afternoon numbers. I did them in school emergency stairwells, empty class rooms, hallways, back alleys, gas stations, rest stops, trails in the woods... anywhere I could find a little quiet space. I just kept on doing them.

To my surprise, there came a point when I no longer was sore. It happened around number 200. It was around August, when I was working in the Tetons during school break. I realized I was able to hike up and down to 13,000 feet in a day without having to specifically train for it. When December came, around 330, I was in shape to ski every day. I hadn't planned it that way, but it happened.

On the last day of burpees, day 365, I was given tickets to the lifts for the whole mountain. I had planned to rest that day to prepare for a ice climbing trip the next day. Instead, I skied blues with my son, up high on Rendevouz, for the first time in my life. It was absolutely beautiful.

Day 1, 2014. Wake up at 4am to prepare for a long drive and approach to reach ice. Excitement and dread. I knew I had collapsed in that hike the year before, and had again turned around on another attempt from sheer cold. My head began the battle: "I didn't sleep enough. I didn't ice climb for a whole year. I didn't rest my legs. I don't remember how to remove ice screws… I don't have a nice warm jacket with a hood. My shoes are heavy and hurt my shins. I didn't train in them. I didn't train the same way as last year. I'm tired. I don't know how I can so this..." On and on.

As I started hiking, I realized I knew exactly what to do. Quiet the mind by focusing on my legs. They were fine. They didn't hurt at all, and kept going just fine despite my head. They had spring to them, the muscles were awake. They had been trained throughout the year, one step at a time. One day at a time. Amazing discovery. Trusting my body and letting my mind go. We climbed all day, and ended up continuing to walk into the night to find help as our truck died and we had no reception. Walking in dark, the ski was full of stars, shooting stars, and the trail was light from the snow. It was an incredible climbing day, from beginning to end.

Now I am done with the challenge. I wasn't sure what I was going to do after it… and I ended up continuing with them. 100 a day. Not every day… but almost every day. When I am at the climbing gym, I play with combining them with pull ups for variety. Half the amount, double the breathlessness. Because even if I have days when school work keeps me from achieving any kind of ''getting outside for fresh air and movement,'' I still have my 10 sacred minutes of super intense jumping around.

I want to thank my guide and friend who encouraged me to challenge myself, and supported me through the daily frustrations that brought about the end result. Strength, endurance, confidence.

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