MABA: Message in a burpee
After a brutal launch, everything is cold, except my heart
On the way to our Make America Burpee Again (MABA) launch workout this morning, I listened to music. I always turn on 40 by U2 (the live version, natch), and then YouTube music plays whatever it wants based on what I typically listen to. The song that came on as I pulled in to the park was Message In A Bottle by The Police. If it’s not the best rock song about loneliness, I don’t know what is.
YouTube’s timing is uncanny. The narrator is a man trapped on a deserted island—a perfect metaphor for what we are going through in the modern world, for what MABA is fighting. He writes a note, puts it in a bottle and throws it in the ocean. A year goes by, and nobody writes back. And then …
“Walked out this morning, I don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home”
When I arrived at the park, it was 6:30 a.m., cold as hell and raining, hard. It was a miserable situation to be outside, made worse by the fact I had co-planned a workout comprising 250-ish burpees. And yet the parking lot had a dozen cars in it. By the time we circled up to start the beatdown, 39 men had gathered.
Worked out this morning, my MABA friends, and I don’t believe what I saw.
Maybe by now I should believe it. Maybe by now the strength my brothers in the gloom show on a day-by-day basis should not surprise me. But then I look around at the rest of the world — loneliness is an epidemic, made worse by the pandemic—and I know we are doing something unique, something powerful, something unbelievable.
Also something a little crazy. 267 burpees in 37-degree rain later, I was shivering uncontrollably. My body was cold, but my heart was warm.
The MABA challenge is 3,100 burpees in January. The motto: Fall down. Get back up. Together. Sign up here. Talk your friends into it, too.
Tim “OBT” Whitmire, the co-founder of F3, sent me a text this morning (jokingly, I think) lamenting the fact I had talked him into doing MABA. Burpees, it turns out, are hard work. Only 30 more days of this.
1. Burpees. Pro or con?
Oh, pro. Big pro. There's a reason the burpee has been named Exercise of the Year for the last 15 years running by a Blue Ribbon Committee of Me. The burpee is the spork of body weight exercises. Strength, agility, heart rate, mental toughness - - it builds them all.
I’ve got a love / hate relationship with burpees. I love them because I know they make me better, stronger, fitter, etc. I hate them because I’m not one of those guys who’s agile enough to do the Flying Squirrel move where you collapse the squat-thrust and the down part of the pushup into a single leap, so for me the burpee is always composed of six discrete and deliberate movements. That leaves me plenty of time to think about each and every burpee as I do it — and how much I wish I wasn’t doing burpees.
2. With MABA, I feel like an archaeologist who paddles down the Mississippi River, sees a giant arch, and thinks he discovered St. Louis. By that I mean, MABA represents a small-scale version of a discovery you and Dredd made that propelled F3: Shared suffering kills loneliness. Tell me a story about how you figured this out in the “early” days of F3.
It was right there at the end of the very first workout on 1/1/11. Dredd had already developed the Jacob’s Ladder — run a hill, do a burpee at the top, come back down, run it again do two burpees, etc., up to seven burpees. So for the finale of that first workout, we did a Jacob’s Ladder on the Back 40 at AG Middle School, except my memory is that maybe we only did it to five because the guys were already so smoked.
But it was absolutely the right grand finale, because nothing cements a painful time shared quite like burpees. Later we developed the Burpee Countdown, which I like to spring on unsuspecting pax as the “warmup” at the very start of a workout. 10 burpees, nine burpees, eight burpees, and so on, all the way down to the secret surprise at the end, when they think they’re getting one burpee but you give them 10 instead. That’s always a big hit.
I’m also a fan of breaking up a run by doing sets of 10 or 12 burpees every mile or half-mile. On any given day, the burpees might be the relief from the running, or the running might be the break from the burpees.
3. I can give you a gift: One of your beloved San Francisco Giants can join you for 100 burpees side-by-side throughout MABA. Who would you choose and why?
It would have to be Tim Lincecum. His listed height and weight were 5-11, 170, but I think he was more like 5-8 or 5-9 in reality. So he should be able to knock 'em out Flying Squirrel-style, which would be fun to watch. Knowing Tim, he would also pre-medicate with substances that might take a little bit of the edge off and maybe I could share in some of that.
In the next newsletter, we’ll hear from MABA Redwood Kyle “Brick” Luetters on 24 beatdowns in 24 hours, how MABA 2021 led to vulnerability and the 30,000 people he’d like to lead for burpees in cadence.
If you’re nervous about doing 100 burpees per day, toggle down. The point is not the burpees. The point is the relationships you build and strengthen with the people you do them with.
Still not convinced? Watch this.
And you’re not going to do a month of burpees and NOT buy a t-shirt, are you? Order your shirt here.