How fit do you really need to be to sit still and move pawns?
Very fit, it turns out. The stress of a chess tournament can have quite surprising effects on the body: Grandmasters like Cristian Chirila can lose up to 15 pounds during a 10-day tournament, by forgetting to eat, but also simply due to intense concentration. In a tournament, as I explained in my new book The Workout Bucket List, a Russian grandmaster was found to have burned 560 calories in two hours of chess, more than most people burn running five miles.
“You have to stay focused for five hours at a time,” says Chirila, a Romanian-born grandmaster who now lives in St. Louis. “If you lose that focus at any time, you can make a mistake and the game is over.”
To develop this mental stamina, Chirila and her fellow competitors need a lot of physical stamina, so they train for it. For about a year, he did three-exercise circuit training to start each day to develop his work capacity. While acting as the chess and training partner of Fabiano Caruana, the world’s No. 2 player, in 2017 and 2018, Chirila says, “I used to wake up and do this every morning…in the garden, at the sun.” It prepared her body – and her mind – for an intense day of focus. Start a morning with the same routine and see how much your focus stamina improves.
The Grandmaster’s Outdoor Bodyweight Circuit Workout
- Exercise 1: Push-ups
- Exercise 2: Abs
- Exercise 3: Bodyweight Squats
How to do:
Perform each exercise for 50 repetitions, then move on to the next exercise. Repeat all three exercises four times, for a total of 200 reps each. Rest as little as possible, trying to reduce the total time needed to complete the workout.
Chirila says after a summer of doing this workout, he could complete all the reps in 20 minutes. Watch the video above to see how I did, and find more epic challenges and life-changing races in my new book, The Workout Bucket List.
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