How to Make a Boring Exercise Interesting

For the last 21 days, I’ve been doing a very simple workout regimen.

100 burpees for time.

I’m going to do it for another 9 days to reach 30 days, and then will re-evaluate.  But as of now, I’m in for burpees.

I feel great all day. Yes they are hard.

But it’s not boring.

100 burpees is simple, which counts for a lot.  I don’t have to get my brain around the whole workout. And now I know even on a bad day, I will be done in less than 20 minutes.

So many people say “I want variety” and “I couldn’t do the same thing day after day because I would get bored.”

Sure, I can see that. But it’s my opinion that boredom is from being boring.  Being boring is not being curious, or being complacent.

There’s a story of a young aspirant who went to learn special breathing techniques (pranayama) from a revered teacher.

For weeks the teacher taught the student to “observe breath without changing it.”

The student grew tired of this instruction and in frustration yelled at his teacher: “You are full of crap, this is boring! I came to learn special breathing techniques, and you’re not teaching me anything interesting!”

The teacher took his student to the river and they waded in… then the teacher forced the student underwater and held him underwater for a minute while the student student struggled to come up for air.  Finally the teacher brought the student up.

“What are you, crazy? Are you trying to kill me? I could have drowned!”

“Yes” the teacher said; “your breath has become more interesting!”

My point in sharing this story is that a great way to increase the interestingness of a boring exercise is to up the stakes and bust out of your comfort zone.

Here are some ways to make a simple workout like the 100 burpee challenge more interesting:

  • Vary the number in each set.  Try sets of 8, 10, 12, or 15.
  • Reduce the rest interval. When I started, I rested a minute between sets. On day 20/21 I reduced rest to 30 seconds.
  • Try to speed up the exercise while maintaining form
  • Track the total time daily
  • Geek out on the stats, measure heart rate zones, etc.

I can find a bunch of other ways to vary it up and make it interesting, like noting how you slept and if that improves performance or not, or heck… see how you do a day after donating blood.

A major point and benefit of doing “the same thing” each day, is that you aren’t the same person. The practice shows how you show up with the changes in yourself and in the world on a daily basis.

Some days will be easy, some will be hard.
Show up anyway.
Do the work.

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