“I <3 (love) burpees.” That was Malia Panos’ motto when she first started doing burpees to raise awareness and funds for Mammograms in Action, a non-profit organization that helps low income and uninsured people get mammograms. As her daily burpee count grew, it became “I like burpees,” and now as her count is nearing 300 each day, it’s become, “not so much!”
Panos, a personal trainer at Fitness Together in South Miami, began doing burpees daily last fall to honor her mother, who passed away from breast cancer ten years ago. She began with one burpee on September 15, the day her mother would have celebrated her 62nd birthday, and has been adding one each day. At the end of this year-long journey, she will have done 67,161 burpees.
On her daily blog Burpees4Boobs.blogspot.com, Panos said, “It sounds horrible….trust me, I know. But compared to the daily struggle people go through (and that my mother went through) living with cancer, it’s nothing!”
Visitors to the blog site can read Panos’ story, view videos of her daily burpee and workout sessions, make a donation to Mammograms in Action and be inspired. Panos was inspired by Daniel Lawson, the first person to tackle the year-long Burpees 4 Boobs challenge, and Zionna Munoz, who founded Mammograms in Action.
Since her mother’s battle with cancer, Panos has supported numerous Susan G. Komen for the Cure events and participated in a 60-mile walk to benefit breast cancer research. She is especially passionate about supporting Mammograms in Action.
“Even with my family history, my health insurance company would not cover the cost of my mammogram because I was under age 40,” said Panos. “How many women choose not to get a mammogram because their insurance won’t cover it and they can’t afford it?”
Panos knows that mammograms save lives. There are 2.6 million breast cancer survivors as of 2011. Of the 232,620 cases of breast cancer last year, seven percent were women under age 40. Burpees 4 Boobs is Panos’ way of bringing awareness and raising funds for a good cause.
So what exactly is a burpee? The burpee is sometimes called a squat thrust. The full body exercise is performed in four steps and used in strength training and as aerobic exercise. In other words, they’re not easy. It should come as no surprise that Panos, who is certified through the ISSA and has been a personal trainer with Fitness Together for more than three years, often adds variation to her burpees – which is code for “more difficult.” Try burpees into power clean, burpees to deadlift, burpees with dumbbell thruster… you get the idea.
Speaking of variation, friends and family often join Panos during her sessions to offer support and ease the pain. “On day 100, which was Christmas Eve, I had 100 people join me to do 100 burpees. That was 10,000 burpees on that single day!” she said. “On Cinco de Mayo, a friend did burpees with me and they were much more fun with a shot of tequila in between sets!”
With her four children, ages 7-16, cheer- ing her on, Panos may do her burpees quickly for time or break them into sets and incorporate them into an intense workout. At this point, it usually takes her a solid hour to complete the day’s burpee count. And September is still a few months away.
“People with cancer don’t get a break. They must battle the disease every day,” added Panos.
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