What the hell is a burpee? If you are asking yourself this question, do yourself a favor (or injustice, depending on your body type): stand straight up, quickly drop to the push-up position, do a full push-up, quickly bring both feet up underneath, now jump as you stand back up. That’s one. Now repeat that for six hours, or 2,328 times, whatever comes first. That’s what one young man recently did, all to raise funds for the Green Beret Foundation (GBF).
This cat was kind enough to answer some questions for the SOFREP mafia, and more importantly, lay to bed my concerns that he was a crazy self-masochist. Turns out he’s just a All-American stud who has enough real-world perspective to understand there are more important things in life than the Kardashians, ‘making it rain’, or which new Michael Bay movie is going to have the most explosions.
Now, let us all delve into the mind of a man who would willingly to do six straight hours of an exercise that makes most humans shiver in fear, and all for the sake of a charity that supports wounded or killed Special Forces soldiers and their families.
What’s your name, where are you from, and how old are you?
My name’s John Templeman, I’m from Seattle, Washington and I’m 25, but I pass for 18.
How did you find out about the Green Beret Foundation?
I first learned about the GBF from GORUCK. They’re a company owned by a Green Beret and put on Special Forces style training events. For one of the events, we needed to raise money for the GBF in order to attend. That was summer 2011. I’ve been supporting fundraisers for them ever since.
There was this guy named Chase who I only met briefly while at Sealfit’s Kokoro camp who did 3,000 burpees in under 7 hours. It was Mark Divines challenge to do 3,000 burpees and this guy was the only one that I know of who did it. That was two years ago and I thought about that challenge a lot. Finally I grabbed my balls and started telling people I would do burpees for six hours. Fundraising was a good idea because it put pressure on me to show up and do it. Something I needed cause there were a few times I thought “why the shit am I doing this?”
Going into the event, what was your target number of burpees you wanted to do?
I wanted 2,500 or better. I had trained and practiced my pace a lot. I could do 1,000 in two hours flat without burning out. But I didn’t push past that in training and it showed in hour three. Whenever someone asked this, I told them I promise 2,000. I ended up getting 2,328. It was humbling after doing burpees for hours after each workout and logging about 1,000 a week. I set a high bar but better to shoot for the moon and miss.
What did your friends and family members say to you when you told them your plans for this event?
My family wasn’t too surprised. They had seen me do Sealfit’s Academy with Kokoro camp, and a year later GORUCK’s Selection. My friends wanted to know what the hell was wrong with me. I remember the first few people I told. We were driving to a local Tough Mudder race and I asked if they wanted to do 6 hours of burpees with me. They were ready to through me out of the car. The memorable expressions were when I was promoting the event at my gym and others around town. Most people were not interested until I said burpees for six hours. That got their attention. And there were people who didn’t believe it was even possible. The owner of my gym was telling his clients about it and some of them thought he was joking.
Why did you choose the Green Beret Foundation as the beneficiary of this event?
My dream is join Army Special Forces, but I never qualified for enlistment. So I’ve sought out operators where ever I can find them and gets taste of the life. Yes I’m a wannabe. But I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from special operations members, in particular Green Berets, and they will never ask me for anything back. This was the best way for me to give back.
Did you hit any walls during that six-hour grind? If so, what got you through it?
Oh yeah that sucked. Around the halfway mark I started slowing down a lot, I knew something was off. I had been this tired before and maintained better. It was perfect timing too because more people started showing up. I was focused on finishing but I didn’t want to look like a dumb ass who bit off more than he could chew. Turns out, I was just low on electrolytes. Got that fixed and rallied back. It took some out of me though and I had already lost a bunch of reps so I need to regain ground. I had to adjust my strategy and pace. It was a mental challenge because here I am only half way through and my primary plan went to shit and I had to go to my alternate plan, slowing down and taking more breaks. It taught me that this wasn’t something to win at, but to survive.
The last hour was really rough, but it was good to see one hour left on the clock. When you’re that close to the end, you know you’re going to make it. But I couldn’t think about anything past the next minute. I was timing myself to do my reps every minute on the minute. It helped because I only concentrated on my reps for that minute and waited until time was up before the next set. The last ten minutes were just brutal because I was putting everything I had left in it to make up lost ground. I stopped taking breaks, and I was getting muscle spasms. It was just a suck fest that only got worse. There’s a video on YouTube of the last minute. You could barely get a credit card under my feet when I jumped.
How long did it take before you felt back to normal, physically?
I was sore for about four days but I just kept moving. I took it easy for a couple days with some easy running and mobility work. There was a GORUCK challenge a couple days later and the cadre, a Green Beret, noticed when I stepped up a couple stairs like an old man and asked how I was doing after the burpees. But it wasn’t half as bad as I had thought it would be. I pushed too hard a few times training up for this and thought those injuries would come back with a vengeance. I got lucky there.
How did your family and friends celebrate afterwards?
My Dad, a few friends and I went and got burgers and shakes right after. That’s what I was looking forward to even before it started. We didn’t have a celebration really. But now I think we should. The fundraiser just hit $2,000! That’s something worth a little celebrating.
Whats next on your agenda and what are your plans in life?
There are a couple GORUCK events I’m signed up for: there’s Trek in October in San Francisco so I’ll be road tripping down there with a couple others doing it. Also, there’s a new GORUCK fundraiser event called GO being beta tested in the NW. It’s going to have multiple teams and I get to lead team six. I’m really interested in Death Race. I got a few friends who have done it, some a couple times. I hear they make you do a couple thousand burpees there. Currently, I’m applying to the Seattle Police Department. I passed my oral board interview so I’m hopeful.
Any message you want to transmit to SOFREP readers?
Burpee-A-Thon wasn’t a recent idea I had. I sat on it for a while. And before that I was thinking about the 3,000 burpee challenge. If you got a good idea, run with it. Even if everyone else thinking you’re nuts and it won’t work. And always push your physical limits. My Dad is 62 years old and started doing CrossFit last fall. Now he’s competing in the open and doing quite well. He didn’t think he could do toes to bar until it was in last week’s open workout. And he did it. You are physically capable of 20x what you think you can do.
There you have it folks. Get out there and do something! Do you have a good idea for a fundraiser for the Green Beret Foundation?
That's what makes it amazing when these healthy young guys decide to turn over their youth and health to go fight for us. Not all of us were blessed with the capability, and for those who are able to actually volunteer to do so is amazing. They could have chosen glory and money through pro sports, or they could just be wasting their youth on the dance floor. Props to them for risking their life and limb to answer the call.
My kids rip them out while I'm saying 'oooonnnne. Twwwwooooo.' Ugh.
I'm and old man just getting started in karate. My kids are taking it and I couldn't bear the thought of my kid reaching age 17, getting his black belt, and looking at me like 'what's up old man?' So those burpees do me in. I'm maneuvering 250 lbs up and down each time. Great motivation to stick to my diet!! I cant believe this young fella did thousands. Inconceivable.
In between sets of karate drills, our instructor does various 'waiting' exercises. The idea is you and your partner have to work while you wait for the last group to finish. Jumping jacks, high-five pushups with your partner, flutter kicks... But i always dread it when he says 'alright, when you finish this round, burpees.' I can usually knock out maybe 10 before I'm suckin wind.