Yesterday I had to do 25 burpees.  My CrossFit intro session for a prospective new member ran overtime and I was a few minutes late starting Team Training.  I kept the team waiting and our policy is 25 burpees for folks arriving late for class.  Though it isn’t usually the coach, it seemed fair to me.  No one likes double standards.  Moreover it solved a personal problem.  I’d intended to do a warm up before we started team training but because the intro ran 15-minutes over the expected time, I had not had time to do so.  25 burpees was a quick, easy way to get my core temperature up and warm up all my joints and muscles for the training we were about to do.  Burpees were an elegant solution.

They are also our solution for missed classes.  But it wasn’t always that way.

When we opened on Dunbar Street we had no need of an attendance cap for group classes because we were lucky to get a handful of members in any given class.  But eventually, as we grew, our popular times like 6am started averaging 12-15 people, far too many for that small space.   We split the class into 5:30am & 6:30am classes, set an 8-attendee class cap and began using an online schedule for members to sign into.  Problem solved.  Except….

To our surprise and dismay, members started reserving spots in classes that were full and then sleeping in so that only 4 or 5 members were showing up for a 6:30am class that was fully booked.  This was unfair to other members who were wait-listed for that class.  To address this issue, we introduced a 50 burpee penalty for missed classes.  Problem solved.  Except…

Savvy members booked for classes started cancelling their reserved spot just before class to avoid burpees.  Instead burpees would go to the wait listed person who had just gotten into the class unexpectedly but hadn’t had time to prepare for it.  After several members suffered this fate of the hand-me-down burpees, we instituted a 2-hour cancellation window to provide fair warning.  Problem solved.  Except…

Members who failed to cancel before the 2-hour window started calling the coach and asking the coach to remove them from the class.  Some evenings I was receiving calls or texts from 2-3 members per class!  I had to either stop taking the calls or get comfortable with just saying no, to avoid this becoming a habit.  And so far this system has worked reasonably well.

And this is where burpees came from.  There was no grand design, the system simply evolved to address a problem facing our community.  The same is true of much that we do and, as a result, systems will continue to evolve to address needs as they arise.  None of them are carved in stone, we are always looking for better, more elegant solutions to problems but so far, it has been hard to beat the burpee solution.  After all, they do make you fitter:)