Ask Sparky- How To Do The Burpee

by Claudia "Sparky" Chapel

In my last column I wrote about goals; setting them and keeping them. For me, just getting up and moving my legs after being hit by a car seemed like a big enough goal. Now getting out of the knee brace I’ve been wearing for 9 weeks is the goal. As I tick one goal after another off, I am reminded of how great it feels to accomplish even the simplest of goals and my gratitude has been overwhelming at times.

My motto has been and continues to be “How you do anything is how you do everything.” In other words, how you do the warm-up, the cool down, your homework, your chores have a positive or a negative effect on your outcome.

This week’s questions have to do with shin-splints and with fitness. Let’s start with the fitness question.

What is the fastest, safest and most effective way to get fit and agile (especially for distance running)?

The Burpee

Originally used to test the agility of the Armed Forces during WW 2 it is now accepted as one of the best high-intensity core exercises. It strengthens the shoulders, chest,triceps, hammies, quads, low back and fast twitch muscles. It not only builds muscle strength, it increases heart and lung strength. What more could anyone want from a single exercise?! Having all-around strength is the key to be a well-rounded runner.

How to do the BURPEE

1. Begin standing with your feet hip distance apart, squat down and plant your hands on the ground just in front of your feet.

2. Jump back with your legs into a plan, with your arms straight underneath your shoulders.

3. Jump your legs back up right behind your hands.

4. Come back to standing, raise your hands over your head and jump as high as you can. This should be done in one smooth move.

Do 11 burpees in between speed drills or after completing a run. You will be amazed at how quickly you get stronger from this one exercise.

What can I do to prevent Shin Splints?

Shin-splints, the nagging ache on the inside or outside of your lower leg are a classic symptom of increasing mileage too soon or too heavy a heel strike or running on hard surfaces or running in old shoes. Shin splints can be brutally painful and can be prevented by taking a few precautions like making sure your shoes are in good shape, that you are not running on your heels (or leaning back), that you aren’t increasing your mileage too soon, and that your feet and toes and peroneal muscles (the muscles on the outside of the shin) are strong. Runner’s World Magazine publishes great exercises for injury prevention. I found these 2 that I am passing along to you, in the April 2009 issue.

Pole Pulls

1. Using a rope or resistance-band, waist-high wrap around a pole or even the door knob. Stand barefoot on one foot next to the band, with a slight bend in your knee and your core muscles tight. Pull the band so your hands are in front of your belly button and the band is parallel with the floor. Move the band slowly side to side, in and out, or in a small circle. If you are standing on the outside foot, the muscle on the inside of the shin works (tibialis posterior). If you are standing on the inside foot, the muscles on the outside of the shin works (peroneals). Try 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side with both legs.

Heel Raises

Bend your knees slightly, and hold onto a wall for balance. Use your calf muscles to push yourself up as high as you can, so that the underside of your toes are the only part of your foot making contact with the ground. Push your toes into the ground, this will strengthen them and they are often overlooked. Weaknesses in the toes are a contributor to shin splints. If you can do 2 sets of 10 reps, try doing this exercise on one foot at a time. These should be pain free.

Next week we will examine the on-going dilemma of hamstring pulls and tight psoas. We have a great series of exercises for those, so stay tuned and find a bosu to work with!

Remember only you are responsible for your outcome, whether you do well or come up short, you must look to yourself for the why.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Abraham Lincoln


If you have a question for Sparky, please write to her at

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