Birthday Burpees Conquered.

November Project Chicago has a unique tradition for wishing someone a happy birthday: we make them do burpees while the rest of the tribe sings happy birthday as slowly as possible. Since the first time I saw someone do birthday burpees almost a year ago, my initial and pervading thought ever after was I will never be able to do burpees for that long and I definitely don’t want these super fit people watching me do it.


I kid you not, I dreaded my birthday workout for months. Whenever someone was doing their burpees, I consciously sang faster, trying to make the tribe pick up the tempo and praying that someone would spare me similarly–but I’m only one voice in a sea of friendly, yet far more sadistic voices (NP Chi has a way of turning “Happy birthday” into a dirge). Tons of my friends wished me well this week with an ominous “can’t wait to see your burpees!” not knowing how very aware of them I already was.


I started November Project feeling like the kid picked last in gym class. My very first workout ended with a Cha-Cha Slide plank challenge that for me, went terribly. Less than a year before, I broke my arm during my Peace Corps service which left me permanently unable to extend my left arm fully; I spent six months in my village barely able to push doors open with that side, let alone last the length of DJ Casper’s wedding reception classic on my hands and toes. I felt awful and unathletic and I planned to never come back to NP…except that a few members reached out socially and said how nice it was to meet me and that they hoped they’d see me again and I’d be there next week right?


So I went again. And people really were happy to see me. And everything was better. And I started getting stronger. I grew to love NP and I’ve made some absolutely amazing friends, but I was still dreading the Birthday Burpees. I spent the whole workout saying that I was probably going to have to modify, asking friends for ways they thought I should adjust them to my level, and generally freaking out. When one of our co-leaders asked if there were any birthdays this week, what felt like the whole tribe shouted “CAIT” and I sashayed my way down to the front.


Honestly? IT WASN’T EVEN BAD. I have been well and truly nervous for almost a calendar year for nothing. Not only did I PR, I did burpees in front of my tribe and did not embarrass myself. Because really, even if I couldn’t do them at all, what was my tribe going to do? Laugh at me? Kick me off the team? Cancel my birthday beach party ? That’s not NP’s style.


After all that worry over nothing, I’m confident that the next Cha-Cha Slide burnout, I’m going to kick ass. -Cait Hakala


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