30 Burpees Per Day: What I’ve Learned About Behavior Change and Habit Formation

burpees and behavior change

Most people have a hate-hate relationship with burpees – no, that’s not a typo. They hate them when they see them prescribed in their workout and still hate them after.

It’s not one of those love-hate relationships common in other areas of life.

To most sane people, burpees suck.

But, things that suck and are hard usually help to accelerate growth.

In today’s episode, you’ll hear Paul share his story, experience, and progress thus far about his commitment to doing 30 burpees per day (10,950 this year if he goes 365/365) in 2022. You’ll not only learn why he made this commitment, but also what he’s learned about himself since making this commitment and what he’s learned about behavior change and habit formation in general.

In this episode you’ll learn, laugh, and, hey, maybe even consider starting your own daily burpee commitment (said no one ever…)

Key Highlights

  • Learn why Paul made this commitment and what possessed him into doing so (this may surprise you).
  • Learn how well he’s done honoring this commitment thus far and what mistakes he’s made along the way consistently executing this simple (not easy) task.
  • Learn what this challenge has taught him about himself, forging new habits, and how he’s found himself in quite a pickle late at night without having done his 30 burpees…

Episode Resources

Join us on Saturday, March 12, at 10:00 AM Eastern for our Build Your Own Sustainable Nutrition Plan Workshop – seats are limited. Reserve yours here.

Read our “Maintain Your Weight Loss After A Diet” Blueprint

Join The 5% Community

Learn Sustainable Weight Loss Nutrition Fundamentals


Paul Salter:

Hey, 5% podcast listeners welcome back to another episode of The 5% Way Podcast with your hosts and sustainable weight loss specialists myself, Paul Salter and Micheala Barsotti. And we just want to begin today expressing the utmost gratitude to you for choosing to spend your time with us today. We both have the utmost appreciation for you being here.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. I just want to say, I love seeing messages come through of you guys talking about how the shows have impacted you and what your takeaways are. So definitely keep those coming, keep sharing them with us. They make our day. And also, if you guys don’t know yet, we do have the official 5% Way Instagram page, we kicked that off last week. So up and coming. There’s a lot of great information there. If you want to learn more about what we’re about, follow that page because you will learn a lot and get a lot of great value from it.

Paul Salter:

Absolutely. I think that’s going to be a fantastic resource for a lot of the foundation educational elements to achieving sustainable weight loss, but not only in the nutrition realm, the mindset, the behavior shift, it’s more of the nitty gritty of what we discuss in the podcast but in another way to consume and digest. And by the way, this is a good reminder for me to let each and every one of you know as well that now every single podcast episode has the transcription readily available for you as well. So depending on what podcast platform you use to listen, there is a link that should say something similar to go to this episode’s blog page or something similar. If you click that link, you’ll be brought to the show on our 5% Way website where you can not and get some of the key highlights, links to the key resources that were shared and discussed in the episode but an entire transcript as well.

So if you’re like me, if you really prefer to listen to something once and then go back and read to better consume it, take notes, et cetera, that’s the best approach I can recommend for you is go and utilize the transcript. And what a convenient opportunity to also let you know that I did not even plan this, that our website is now 100% live, rocking and rolling too. And in addition to the podcast details and transcripts I just mentioned, every single week we have a new article coming out as well that focuses on rotating through our foundational elements of sustainable weight loss just like we do here on The 5% Way Podcast. And these topics are completely different than what we have talked about on the podcast. Yes, there’s probably some level of overlap of course but they are not just us recycling transcripts of podcast episodes.

It’s another hub or opportunity to consume new content aimed to help you feel, look and be your best. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting my writers hat back on after taking a bit of a hiatus which previously I was writing articles upon articles. I think I’ve written close to, if not more than a thousand published articles across various web website and outlets over the years. And it felt good to put those shoes and that hat back on to say the least. Well without further ado, I’m excited to dive into today’s topic because selfishly it’s a little bit all about me or a lot of it all about me and my commitment to doing 30 burpees every single day for the year 2022. And as we record this episode, we’re working a little ahead. It is February 7th so I am 38 days into the new year.

I can confidently tell you I have not done burpees every single day. I’ve come damn near close but the purpose of this episode is to use the story of me making this commitment to doing 30 daily burpees to help educate you and share with you what I’ve learned about behavior change and habit formation. And I’ll share a combination of stories, learning lessons alongside my many mistakes while Micheala simultaneously asks me the questions that she is wondering, but also the question that you may be wondering too, to help provide as much value as this particular experience has provided me with.

Micheala Barsotti:

Awesome. Yeah, excited to dive in because I have so many questions. So let’s cut right to it. Why the heck are you doing this?

Paul Salter:

Yes. Well I finally think I recognized that 2021 was quite a challenging year for me personally. And the way that that it was showing up for me is that I noticed through a lot of time off in the months of November and December to reflect and spend time by myself, pondering and reflecting on the year that I was making several promises to myself and rarely following through. And whether that promise was to take a specific action, to stop taking another one, to spend more time with this person or less time with that person. Like most humans or maybe all humans, I was finding it very easy to rationalize with myself and convince myself to do the opposite of what I had said I would do. And the beautiful thing about making promises to ourselves is we’re the only one who knows about them. So it’s easy, super easy to not follow through on them.

But I unfortunately noticed that this had become a pattern in my life and it had led to me showing up or rather not showing up as the person, the partner, the coach, the leader, the son, the brother, the friend, et cetera that not only I wanted to be but that I knew I was capable of being and it really hit home. And this was actually when I took a trip to Costa Rica middle of absolutely nowhere in the jungle, surrounded by mountains in serene landscape where really mountains meet jungle, meets the beach all at one intersection, a beautiful place. And it hit home to me that if I couldn’t honor this promise to myself, how could I hope to honor it for anybody else? And more importantly, how could anybody ever come to depend on me to trust me, et cetera.

So it kind of put me down a rabbit hole of thinking, how does someone go about solving this problem? I mean it seems very simplistic, I should just do what I say I will do. And if I can start by honoring that commitment to myself, it will therefore become easier to honor that commitment to other people. And I thought okay, let me break this down into like fundamental elementary building block concept. I should just start I saying I’m going to do something simple. I should commit to it and then I should just do it. So a pretty straightforward three step process here. Then I thought to myself, well clearly if it was that easy I wouldn’t be having this issue. So if I’m going to try to mimic this growth I want to occur on a macro level, on a very micro topic level, I should make this simple task I commit to somewhat difficult or somewhat uncomfortable because clearly showing up this way in my life is causing a lot of discomfort which was one of the many reasons I was ultimately rationalizing taking another approach or not following through.

And what I ultimately decided upon was obvious the daily burpees. And we’ll get to that in a moment. But what I really want to make clear is through my own learning in this challenging year for me in my own education, I’ve really arrived at kind of two prominent reasons why I personally wasn’t following through on the promises I would make to myself. Which by the way, these could be really simple promise is like I’m going to, I’m just thinking of a random, I’m going to take the trash out. I’m going to go to the gym. I’m going to read that book, complete that course, call that friend, et cetera.

But two prominent reasons we don’t follow through include first, thinking too much, rationalizing inaction and taking a different action. Hesitation or indecisiveness creates an opportunity to let emotion get involved. And when it comes to doing things that make us uncomfortable, our emotions are going to try to keep us in our comfort zone as much as possible. And then second of all, every time we make a commitment to ourselves and especially when we make a commitment to others that entails doing something that brings us outside of our comfort zone, we are immediately granted a seat at the table to have a discussion with what I like to call our inner bitch voice. And he or she will ultimately usually prevail in convincing us to remain in our comfort zone due to fear of stepping outside of it.

So to summarize that, I ultimately arrived at this conclusion and eventual commitment that I needed to commit to doing something simple for myself on a daily basis that caused some bit of discomfort. It was simple, not necessarily easy in hopes that it would have a positive impact on how I showed up in the various hats and roles I wear on a daily basis in everyday life. So that is where the 30 day burpee challenge was born. And I remember reading a book, I believe it was called Spartan Up by the founder of the Spartan Race franchise and series. And if you can’t do an obstacle in one of those Spartan Races, you have to do 30 burpees before moving on. And the way he described it was like 30 burpees is just enough to make you say, oh, that’s kind of a pain in the ass, I’d rather not do it.

So that’s how I got the number 30 and well, that’s what really led to me participating and committing to this challenge every day. And I think the first thing I’ll share with you is in the month of January I was successful in my commitment to 30 daily burpees 29 of the 31 days which is 93.5% of the time. And I think therein lies the first lesson of behavior change I want to extract and share with everybody listening. Consistency is key, not perfection. And I know we know that but it’s really helpful to not only hear it again, but hear and see how it shows up in other domains of life because it’s truly a concept or principle that is universal across all aspects of life. So whether you’re learning to manage your portions, you’re learning a new mode of exercise. You’re trying to learn any number of new skills, your consistent effort is far more impactful than trying to be perfect every step of the way.

It’s just an unrealistic expectation that breeds frustration and ultimately breeds failure. But I will say, I remember very vividly the first time I did not follow through on my commitment to myself because the thing is, it didn’t hit me until about two or three in the morning on the next day. I woke up to go to the bathroom and realized shit, I did not do my burpees yesterday. And I think I was somewhere along day 15 or day 16. And upon having this realization, and here is lesson number two I want to share with everybody, I was incredibly disappointed to the point it kept me up probably another hour or so. And I’ve got Oura Ring data to prove that, where I was just restless, kind of mad at myself.

Like it’s so stupid to say but I had committed to doing this simple task that literally took me a minute or less and I didn’t do it. And I had 16 waking hours to spend a minute doing something I said I would do. And that really frustrated myself. And I was just so mad. Like how could I have forgotten this already? And the lesson I was able to quickly learn and I’ve learned time and time again and it gets easier to digest and overcome is rather than wallowing in self pity and what ifs and frustration and guilt and regret, I quickly reminded myself, and by quickly again, about an hour of ruminating on it in the middle of the night that I had another opportunity to get right back on track tomorrow. So of course you can probably imagine what the first thing I did was as soon as my alarm went off in the morning just to make sure I checked that box.

So that was in fact, I got my 30 burpees done because when you miss or you skip an opportunity, whether intentionally or not, you’re always one opportunity away from getting right back on track. So whether you miss a meal, you miss a workout, miss reading 10 pages or 10 minutes per day, there’s always another opportunity right around the corner and beating yourself up and picking yourself apart serves absolutely no purpose. Instead, use that as a productive learning lesson to understand why did you miss? Why did you not follow through? What happened there? For me I mean, it’s pretty obvious, piss poor planning. I had those 16 hours in the day to execute a task for 60 seconds. Clearly my priorities were not in a row or clearly this task was not on the top of my radar, it was not written down. There were no alarms or external reminders set so it fell by the wayside. And that happens.

I mean I remember just an hour ago and Micheala’s like, oh, are we going to do this on our call today? And I was like oh shit, no, probably not because I didn’t have any type of reminder in place. And it just goes to show the value of a reminder based system or some way to continuously revisit what you say your priorities or your action steps are. So in this case, my priority if I want to follow through on this commitment has to be getting 30 daily burpees in front of my face, on top of my mind as often as possible. And this is incredibly important in the early stages of trying to build a new habit or learn a new skill because most of the time what you need to do it’s relatively simple but it’s not in your DNA at this point in your journey to think about it and do it on a consistent basis without some external cues and prompts.

So for me I’m a big lover of sticky notes. I like to email myself, which I’ve been told is very strange but hey, it gets the job done. And I set a reminder or an alarm on my phone. I block all time in my calendar, all of those external cues help put it back onto my radar so I am far more likely to get it done. And I think with any new skill, that is an approach that we are all guilty of not taking advantage of enough. And I have learned in my own discovery as well as helping so many others make positive lasting behavior change, we should really go overboard and overkill this first phase of learning a new behavior when it comes to the external reminders.

If it’s setting an alarm on your phone every hour, putting sticky notes in your kitchen cabinet, in your fridge, in your freezer, on your food scale, in your pantry, just overkill it so it becomes so deeply ingrained you have no choice to ultimately reach a point where you walk into your kitchen you’re like, boom, burpees. Or you walk, you put your feet on your bed, boom, burpees. It becomes so ingrained and part of your DNA that now it truly has taken this path in which has accelerated to graduating to becoming a habit.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. And I immediately think of confidence, how much confidence it builds because every day you’re doing the thing. I think it’s so cool, I’m not going to lie, when you first mentioned you were doing burpees every day. I’m like, what the heck is he doing and why now? Now, having so much more context behind it, it’s like that’s really cool that you were able to take a weakness of yours or like an area that you’re like, I want to improve here and you broke it down to something that you’re like, this is a push.

It’s a little bit of a stretch, but it’s doable for me to do every single day to build that confidence, to show myself that I am this type of person. And now I bet you’re doing things in other areas of your life more consistently too because of that one thing. And so it goes back to when we set goals, we always talk about starting small, keeping it small because you want to be able to create that consistency. And if you overshoot it and go too much of a stretch then it’s not something that you can do every single day. And then what does that do to your confidence? It automatically sets you up to miss twice which is rule number one what we don’t want to do.

Paul Salter:

Absolutely. And it’s funny you say that because yes, there were many mistakes made and the one story that comes to mind. I remember there were several instances in January where I didn’t end up doing my burpees until like after seven if not eight o’clock at night which if you know me, I’m usually in bed by 8:45. So it can be very painful to after a long day of work to then remind myself, oh you still have to do 30 burpees after you’ve showered and worked out twice a today because I’m also doing 75 hard right now. And there was one time, it’s a Friday day night I was on like a little staycation and it’s almost nine o’clock. I had dined out that night and navigated some beautiful, just decadent tacos. And it was taco night. And I was watching an episode of The Blacklist, which by the way, can’t recommend that show enough but that’s a topic for a different podcast episode.

And it’s almost nine o’clock and it hits me like, holy shit, I have not done my burpees. And my stomach is loaded with local tacos to the point where like I was well beyond comfortably full and it was just a great place. And the thought of doing burpees was just equivalent to the thought of vomiting. And I didn’t know what would be more painful, the burpees, the vomiting or knowing the fact that if I tried to do burpees there would be vomiting. And I’m happy to report, I did my burpees. They were not my fastest set of burpees ever. They were very slow and very meticulous in making sure I didn’t squish my stomach on my thrust on the way down to expel any of the tacos I had consumed. But it taught, it really ingrained rather a very firm teaching lesson in that preparation and proactive planning are key when it comes to taking care of your priorities because you never know when you’re going to find yourself in such an uncomfortable position that you may not be able to get set tasks that you’ve committed to actually done.

And for me specifically after that night I think it really solidified the skill of decisiveness. I have found that there are many instances during the day when I think about doing my burpees and had I just done it the first time I thought about it, taken decisive action, all of those thoughts would never occur because instead they would change to, hell yeah, I already took care of my 30 burpees today. So decisiveness is definitely a skill that is applicable in any and many aspects of life. And this challenge thus far has absolutely sharpened my skillset of decisiveness. Obviously begun to sharpen my skillset of prioritizing, planning, et cetera. But where it’s really come to shine now too is helping to reinforce the skill when it comes to building new habits of stacking habits or anchoring a habit to an already existing habit. And for me, I go to the gym five or six days per week.

And if I can stack my 30 burpees to my workout, well I’m already in that workout mindset. I’m already there to move my muscles and strain my body and I’m already sweating. And it seemed like a very logical place to insert this new habit I was trying to form because otherwise I’d end up doing it at nine o’clock at night or after a time in which I’ve already showered. I don’t want to get all sweaty and worked up again. And for me, despite doing burpees at the end of a workout being one of the last things I actually wanted to do because I’m already tired at that point, it proved or it’s proven to be 38 days in the most effective time to do the burpees. I know that if I get them done then, that’s the easiest opportunity for me to get them done.

Otherwise, I’m kind of to my own devices and my million and one sticky notes and reminders. And as you’ve seen, I’ve already missed twice this year. So it’s not a perfect foolproof method yet but anchoring them to my workout ever since I’ve adapted this approach kind of in the second half of the 38 days I have been Uber successful with getting them done. On the days I don’t go to the gym I’m now trying to attach them to one of my daily outdoor walks as well. Again, kind of pairing it with that workout mindset that I’m already in.

Micheala Barsotti:

I love too the curiosity when on those days that you do miss, because most of the time you are consistent, you take those misses and rather than like beating yourself up about it, it’s like how can I be better tomorrow? And then immediately you are more successful because you woke up first thing and you knocked it out because you didn’t want that to happen again. And I just think that’s so great because when we don’t follow through on things and it becomes a pattern over and over again, it’s almost just it makes it so when we do miss, we don’t really think anything of it. We just brush it off and we create an excuse about it rather than being serious and shooting for consistency and knowing that most of the time you’re going to get it done. And when there are those moments that you happen to fall short and don’t complete the task, then you give yourself grace, you know that you’re human, you make mistakes but you’re not going to make it again tomorrow.

Paul Salter:

Absolutely. And it’s been such a unique journey because I’ve spent years teaching a lot of these principles. You and I have spent a year together teaching these principles but getting go through this journey myself helps to not only reinforce that value and that power but it helps to further add elements of relatability and firsthand experience in a slightly different domain that has carry over into other aspects of life. And then it ultimately helps to clarify messaging and communication and education around these principles and also then creates opportunities for stories and analogies which is how we really accelerate our own learning is by hearing stories, drawing connections in our own lives, through creating parallels and whatnot. So it’s really been a fun experience. And it’s neat to say I’ve done over a thousand burpees this year. And when all of a sudden done that number will be over 10,000. But I broke it down into just tiny bite size pieces.

It’s 30 burpees per day. And just a couple of real thoughts I want to just reinforce here to start wrapping up this episode from what I’ve already shared already and Micheala just hinted at again is basically we don’t want to miss twice. And it’s very important that when you do miss, you don’t throw a pity party. You practice grace, you practice kindness but you take five minutes to figure out why the hell did you miss. You made a commitment, something didn’t go wrong. Don’t just brush it under the rug. Take a few minutes to learn, why did I miss? What went wrong? What can I do differently tomorrow to ensure it doesn’t happen? Because if it happens again, well now you’re building a new habit of missing and that’s the opposite of what you would set out to accomplish in the first place.

And I think building off of that too, one day of missing similar to one meal never defines you. It’s one finite moment. And the example I like to give is in the eating space. If you eat four times per day, that’s 28 meals per week. If you miss once and you’re bat in 27 out of 28, you’re still really, really good. Hall of fame professional baseball players they only get a hit like maybe 31 to 33% of the time and they’re in the hall of fame. So now that’s an extreme example I know but it just goes to show you like consistency is what matters most here and not perfection. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. I mean that’s why like in the NFL for example there’s only ever been one undefeated team. The NBA that’s never happened. College basketball, like very, very rare. And there’s a bajillion different college teams out there. So it’s consistency that matters but understand why the hell you missed and get back on track the next day. Really take advantage of that next opportunity to get right back on track.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah, that’s great. The last thing I just want to say is we always talk about in the 5% community and the fundamentals program it’s about like showing up to be your best self. And in the community specifically we dive into all the different areas of how you can show up as a better person. But this is just a great example of how much it’s all connected. Most people come into us because they have a weight loss goal but they don’t realize that where they’re falling short with nutrition habits, they’re also falling short in so many other areas of life. And when they’re able to master these habits, they gain more consistency not only in their nutrition but at work or with their relationships or all these other areas. And it’s just like it is just all connected. You work on this, there’s just a reason that you are falling short when it comes to nutrition. It’s like diving in deeper in understanding where that’s coming from.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. I think that’s such an excellent point. I’m so happy you brought that up because it just reminds me of just a couple members in particular who have noticed extreme improvements in how they carry themselves and handle themselves in their work whether it’s asking for raises or promotions. In their relationships, standing up for themselves and friendships, networks, communities, et cetera it is all interrelated. And when you can master the control of what you do and don’t put in your body, that is incredibly powerful, that extends its reach to every nook and corner of your world and realm. And that just gives you an opportunity to be fucking limitless and untouchable. And that’s a really the cool place to be.

Micheala Barsotti:

Couldn’t agree more.

Paul Salter:

Awesome. Well the last thing I will say before I wrap this sucker up is just a reminder on March 12th, Micheala and I are leading a free live training discussing and teaching you how to build your own sustainable nutrition plan. You do not have to be someone looking for weight loss, weight gain or anything like that. We’ll teach you how to build the foundational pillars to get you to a place where you can confidently make those decisions if that is a goal of yours. But the purpose of this live training is to show you exactly what processes we take, we’re going to give you our nutrition questionnaire, give you our blank framework and teach you how to view creating a sustainable nutrition plan through the lens of individualization, simplicity and flexibility. And really talk about it from a big picture philosophy down to the nitty gritty nuances and making sure all of those boxes are checked so that they promote what really matters most which is adherence to your plan.

Because if you can adhere to your plan consistently, that is how you achieve a significant result. So you’re going to definitely want to sign up for that. Again, Saturday March 12th, 10:00 AM eastern time. A link is in the show notes and description for more information and to actually sign up. You do need to sign up so that we can send you the Zoom link. We don’t want just anybody and everybody on that link. We want you, those who are there to learn, who are there to take action to feel, look and be their best.

Well thank you so much for listening to this episode. I hope you had as much fun as I did talking about all things burpees. Most importantly, I hope you found it valuable and found some relatability and parallels to some behavior change and habits you are working on in your own life. And if you did find this episode valuable, it would be incredibly valuable to us if you shared it with somebody else and you left a genuine and honest review and rating on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen to your podcast. Well thank you again for listening. Have a wonderful rest of your day and we’ll catch you in the next episode.

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

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