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Some people love to hate this move, but it's one of the best exercises out there. Here's how to get over the mental hump, and log a total-body workout in the process.

Jen Widerstrom
January 07, 2015

Burpees—blech! When I began doing this exercise I hated it. I couldn't do more than two or three at a time without taking 15-20 seconds of rest before attempting another set. But burpees are one of the best exercises out there: You work your upper body, your lower body, and your cardiovascular system.

Ironically, the first thing I did to get better at them took zero time in the gym: I chose to form a different mindset around them. I welcomed the opportunity of getting better at a new exercise and decided to shift my focus from my anxiety to the technique of the actual movement.

Here's what I mean. Instead of freaking out about how hard they were or how many I was supposed to do, I would consider my hand and foot placement for five repetitions. I would take the next five reps to connect myself more deeply to my breathing and made sure I wasn’t straining or holding my breath. I would even practice different rhythms of my burpee to either match the song playing or a verbal sequence with instructions in my head: “Light hands, feet back, eyes up, tiny hop.”

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It sounds so silly, but it really worked! I allowed myself the room to learn and improve on a skill and I got through it using self-cues to control my headspace. It wasn’t long before I was doing more reps with shorter rest time and had the confidence to back the movement. It felt good to conquer it, and it gave me access to an exercise I can do anywhere I go. I reap the physiological benefits of what the move offers without my brain fighting against it anymore, and I cannot express enough how good this feels.

Please start putting this movement into your training sessions—10 at the start of a workout and 10 at the end it. Meet your burpees with an eagerness to get better at them rather than an anxiousness toward them. Even if you begin by placing your hands on an elevated bench, gently hopping or stepping your feet back and returning to your start position with a stretched heel raise, I’m a happy girl because this is your start! Your heart, mind, and body will all become stronger with this one simple exercise.

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Jen Widerstrom, a trainer on The Biggest Loser, has a holistic approach to health and wellness that incorporates nutrition, fitness, and mental well-being. Check out her Health cover story, Jen Widerstrom's Shape-Up Secrets. She'll be taking over the @HealthMagazine Instagram account on Wednesday, January 14. Follow along at #JenWiderstromforHealth.

Photo: James White

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