Growth Happens At Our Limits: Embrace it.

We all search for inspiration. Sometimes we find it in a movie montage, other times in real life stories.

And sometimes something awesome happens right in front of us that gives us a fresh perspective.  Here’s a story from Taylor, NF’s Chief Wordsmith:

For about 6 months now I’ve seen a guy in a wheelchair come into my gym. He comes with a physical therapist, and does a variety of assisted rehabilitation exercises.  He usually uses low weight dumbbells or assistance bands. He can’t stand up, nor can he walk on his own, and it looks like he is rebuilding the coordination in his upper body as well.

This guy has been training along side me, while I usually am doing basic powerlifting movements.  For the last 6 months, he’s been an inspiration…but last week, he reached an all new level.

You see, in my gym, it is rare to see people take big lifts to failure, especially a squat or deadlift (for the few people who do actually squat and deadlift).  When I fail on a big lift, dropping heavy weight onto safeties, I definitely get some weird looks.

Last week I nailed a new 5 rep squat PR.  It felt great, like I just beat an end-game boss. Then, as I’m headed for the water fountain after my set, I saw my rehab friend.

But this time he isn’t working with bands or dumbbells. In fact, the therapist isn’t even assisting him, he’s just coaching him. This guy was standing up out of his wheelchair, without help, for the first time in his training.

I have NEVER seen anybody work this hard. I watched him fight to lift his own bodyweight. I saw him struggle for every inch. I watched him put every last ounce of effort he had into his legs and posterior chain - and then some. He could have fallen flat on his face, sideways into the weight machines, or on to his  therapist. In fact, I almost thought he was going to. But he didn’t.  He won. It was by far the most inspiring and impressive feat I’ve ever seen.

In a way, it was more impressive than a 500 lb squat, a perfect human flag, or a sub 4-minute mile. And it was “just” his body weight. “Just” standing up.

Healthy Hacks for Staying Fit On the Road

Greetings from Las Vegas, Nevada!

Over the past six months, I have not missed a workout despite spending time in quite a few different places:

  • Nashville, TN
  • Dallas, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Miami, FL
  • A floating music festival
  • San Diego, CA
  • Maui, HI
  • Las Vegas, NV (three times!)
  • Portland, OR

Not only have I not missed a workout, but I’ve also managed to get in the best shape of my life over that time frame.  We receive emails every day from people who have the same problem:

“Steve, when I’m at home I am great and can stay on track, but I travel a lot for work and it’s really easy to get thrown off, help?”

Although I’ve already written extensively about being healthy as a traveling nomad three years ago, I wanted to revisit this topic for the traveling working professional and share my experiences and thoughts about staying healthy on the road.

It is absolutely possible to make great progress while traveling; one of our best success stories ever, NF Rebel Joe, managed to lose 130 pounds in 10 months while traveling TWO weeks a month, every month.

If you happen to be a road warrior, or travel junkie, and/or spend more time in an airport than an office, I got you covered!

Get your head in the game

you can

The challenge with getting fit on the road is often due to not having the right mental attitude before the trip even starts.  It’s not due to a gym, or no options for healthy eating, but because your head is not in the game.

I stopped telling myself that missing workouts and eating like crap was inevitable, and instead decided that getting fit was inevitable, no matter my location.

So, before you even set foot on a plane, or before you get into your car, you need to level up your mental game:

1) Make a commitment to yourself.  I knew I was going to be traveling like crazy for the past six months, and in the past I would always tell myself “I don’t have time to exercise.”  However, over this recent stretch, I haven’t missed a single workout. How?  By telling myself that I WOULD NOT MISS A WORKOUT!

I’ve had to work out very early in the morning, very late at night, or cram a workout in halfway through the day.  I’ve worked out in gyms, parks, playgrounds, etc.  Remember, “I don’t have time is a big fat lie.”

2) Make exercise the one constant in a trip full of uncertainty.  As pointed out in this article, I’ve made exercise into my “Constant” (to borrow a term from Lost) – when my life gets crazy and I’m always in a new environment, exercise is the constant in my life that keeps me grounded.

3) Never miss two in a row.  I realize we all have busy lives, and things happen, but I’ve added this rule to my life that has kept me on track despite a hectic lifestyle.

I had to apply this rule last week after having a bit too much fun at the World Domination Summit.  I was exhausted, with no voice, and had very little time, but I knew that if I missed a day on my workout, suddenly skipping my workout the next day would be even easier.

So, when I’m traveling, I NEVER miss two workouts in a row.

If I was supposed to work out on Monday but due to travel had to skip it, I would work out on Sunday, and then again on Tuesday.  If I have to eat an unhealthy meal, then my NEXT meal that same day suddenly becomes the most important meal of my life, and it has to be healthy.

Plan ahead

hitch

When you get ready for a trip, you probably go through a checklist:

  • Toiletries kit
  • Socks, underwear, undershirts
  • Dress/Suit/Tie/Shoes
  • Laptop, iPad, Kindle

There’s one thing that might get left out: your plan of attack for getting fit!

I now travel everywhere with a set of olympic rings (purchased from my buddy Peter at FringeSport).  I know that with those rings, as long as I can find a tree branch or swingset to hang them from, I can complete 99.9% of a workout that I would complete if I was at home.

I also make sure I have enough workout clothes with me, as all it takes is a simple “oops, out of workout shirts” to convince myself that I’m not ready to exercise.  It’s a amazing what we can justify to ourselves to avoid something.

I put my workouts into my Google Calendar, with alerts set to remind me on the days and times I need to exercise.  This one action probably adds 50% to my probability of actually exercising.  Just as you would build a better batcave at home, you too can build a better batmobile (see what I did there?) that sets you up for success.

I do the best I can to plan ahead on my meals too.  If I know I’m going to be spending all day in an airport, or on an 8-hour road trip, I see if there’s a way I can bring a healthy snack along with me so that I can tread water (and maintain momentum) until a healthier option presents itself.

I remind myself that ANYTHING is better than nothing. Last week, my schedule was so hectic that I only had thirty minutes to work out, so I dialed my workout back to just the essentials.  I warmed up, did sets of heavy squats, then some romanian deadlifts, and got the hell out of there!

If you don’t have time to work out for an hour, do 30 minutes. If you don’t have time to run 5 miles, run 2 miles.  If you only have time to do push ups in your hotel room, do push ups in your hotel room.

YES, planning ahead requires work.  Planning ahead also puts you in a much better position to succeed.

Now that we’ve taken care of the mental aspect of travel, it’s time to dig into the logistics.

Locate your “gym”

gym

Despite spending probably 50-60 days in hotels over the past six months, I probably used a hotel gym twice.  

Why?

Because most hotel gyms are absolutely awful – they generally have a collection of treadmills, ellipticals, and non-function work-out machines (boooo machines!)

So I work out anywhere and everywhere else.  You have a few key options when it comes to training on the road. I don’t care which one you pick, as long as you pick one:

1) Find an actual gym. A simple google search will reveal actual gyms in the area that you’re staying.  I guarantee there is a 24-hour fitness, LA fitness, or local gym that will have the actual equipment you need (for me, it’s barbells for squats, deadlifts, and presses, and something to hang my rings from).  Call them before you arrive and ask them how much a week’s membership is, if they allow deadlifts, and if they have any free trials.

This is the most expensive option, but if you have room in your budget and this is something you can spend extra money on, this is my favorite option - it’s a lot easier to stay on a routine when you can replicate your home workout situation.

2) Find a playground. While traveling the world, I would pull up google maps each time I got to a new town and looked for a green square on the map.  I figured that as long as there was a park, there would be trees and hopefully a playground.

We’ve covered an extensive playground workout (which I used while living in Ecuador) that will give you a complete full body workout that can be done anywhere! Really, you just need something to hang from for your “pull” movements and everything else can be done with just your body weight.  This is where my Olympic rings come in handy!

3) Use the hotel gym.  While planning for my trips, if I can’t find a suitable gym or park in the area near to my hotel, I’ll contact the hotel or check out the hotel online and see pictures of their gym – if they have dumbbells then I know I can at least MacGyver myself a workout that still covers the essentials (build your own workout here). It’s not 100%, but you can get pretty darn close if you’re creative and plan properly!

4) Do a hotel room workout.  So busy you can’t even leave your hotel room?  Hotel gym sucks? No park or gym near you?  Do a hotel room work out!

Here’s more info on how to complete a true workout without leaving your hotel room, in 20 minutes!

5) Do a gas station workout!  Check my guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple about how to stay healthy on a roadtrip.  Pull over and do a workout using the side of your car while filling up your gas tank:

Shhhh, did you hear that? It was all of your excuses for not exercising while traveling flying out the window!  With ONE of the five options above, you literally have no reason why you cannot complete a workout while traveling.

Now, the REAL reason why exercising is so damn important isn’t just because it helps build muscle, make you stronger, and keep you healthier – it also helps ensure that the calories you consume are going towards building muscle and not getting stored as fat.

On top of that, how we eat is 80-90% of the battle, whether we’re trying to lose weight or if we’re looking to get bigger and stronger, and by exercising every day we always keep thinking healthy.

So let’s dig into road warrior nutrition!

Eat right, level up

unhealthy

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in our brains that tell us “I’m traveling, TIME TO EAT LIKE AN IDIOT!”  

If we’re not careful, all of our months of hard work focused on making better eating decisions can grind to a screeching halt, not unlike getting hit with a red shell in Mario Kart (I see you Luigi!).  When you take an entire week off from eating healthy while traveling, it makes getting back on track when you return infinitely harder.

So we need to tread water and stay on target while traveling with our diet so that we don’t lose all of that momentum.

Focus on these few goals while traveling: maximizing protein consumption, limiting liquid calories, eating vegetables, and never making two “mistakes” in a row.

Protein builds muscle, and it can also be incredibly filling.  I make sure every meal has a protein source, and aim to eat as much of it as possible.  This is much preferred to filling myself with empty calories like bread.

I limit liquid calories.  I know I’m going to be drinking, so I am extra diligent with my meals so the alcohol doesn’t throw off my diet completely.

Vegetables are my friend. Like protein, I try to eat as many veggies as possible, knowing they’re full of nutrients and light on calories.

Remember that anything is better than nothing.  We’re not compounding a mistake by making two.   Saying “I ate like an ***hole for breakfast, so today is ruined” is a losing mentality.  So, if we eat poorly for one meal, the next meal HAS to be healthy. No excuses.

Mentally you’re prepared to eat right, now let’s cover an actual game plan for doing so.

Road warriors unite

polynesian resort

BOOM!  Just like that, we’ve officially conquered every barrier between you and a healthy life on the road.

It really comes down to three key things:

1) Priorities – staying healthy and getting stronger can happen on the road, but it must be front and center in your mind.  Making healthy eating decisions is a choice. Going to the gym is a choice.  No more excuses.

2) Plan ahead - know where you’re going to work out, and when.  Put your workout in your calendar.

3) Never miss two in a row - shit happens and life gets screwed up while traveling.  Don’t let one mistake become two.

What are your biggest struggles while on the road?

Have you found a way to be happy and healthy while traveling?

Inquiring minds want to know! Leave a comment below and help out your fellow road warriors.

-Steve

PS: Speaking of travel, next week I’m off to Amsterdam for 3 days and then Croatia for 10 days!  This is my first international trip since going to Brazil for Carnival last year, and I’m so freaking excited.  Time to cross a few things off the Epic Quest list :)

If you happen to live in/near Amsterdam or Split, leave a comment or hit me up on twitter at @SteveKamb so we can meet up!

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photo source: Sonia Carolina: You can, Anne: Gym, Brave Heart: McDonalds, Robert: Highway, i k o: hitch-hiking, Joe Penniston: polynesian resort

Is Muscle Memory a Real Thing?

I slid into home on a close play.

It was a few weeks back during a recreational kickball game, and because I essentially slid with 100% effort (while wearing shorts and sneakers) trying to avoid getting pegged with the ball, I scraped up my legs, arm, stomach, and hand.

All of my teammates starting laughing at me, saying “Steve, it’s just a kickball game! Why did you slide!?”

As I looked at my bruised and battered body, I couldn’t help but laugh.  It just…happened, just like it has happened a few other times this season during minor plays. No matter how hard I try to just have fun and not care about kickball, 10 years of Little League must have worn special pathways into my brain to force me to think “CLOSE PLAY! SLIDE! SACRIFICE YOURSELF!”

It’s something I have done SO many times in my life that it has honestly become part of my DNA.

I think of other instances too in which my brain reverted back to its automatic decision making processes:

  • Riding a bike!  It’s something I could do now even if I took 10 years off.
  • I remember spending hours learning Orchid’s 80-hit combo in Killer Instinct so that I could pull it off automatically in the arcade and destroy the competition.
  • When I shoot a foul shot in basketball, it’s always one spin, two bounces, then spin it in my hands, then shoot (usually a miss, as I’m not very good. ha!)
  • I can play certain songs on the piano with my eyes closed, but if I miss a note or have to start halfway through the song, it’s almost impossible for me to play it right.

As I was sitting there on the bench, looking at my bloody limbs, laughing at myself for not being able to turn off the switch, I thought about this concept of “muscle memory” and “automatic response,” and if we could apply them to making us healthier.

The answer, of course, is: “Yeah. DUH.”

Crockpot Pulled Pork: 1 Pot, 5 Awesome Meals. (CAMP NERD FITNESS SALE ENDS FRIDAY!)

Hey guys!  Before we get into this post from NF Rebel Chef Noel, don’t forget that early bird pricing for Camp Nerd Fitness (with a newly updated site and schedule!) ends on Friday!  

Hope to see you at the BIGGEST EVENT IN NF HISTORY!!!

Take it away Noel!

If there’s one thing I’ve come to love as I’ve learned to cook over the past few years, it’s being able to look forward to a mouth-watering meal. Few things match the anticipation of coming home to a meal ready and waiting for you in the slow cooker.

In fact, it’s kinda like this.

While bacon often takes a front seat in the Paleo-sphere, today we’re going to branch out from that and explore what other things we can do with the noble pig.

The nice thing about an easy pre-made protein base is that you can use it in a bunch of different types of food.

  • Feel like Mexican tonight? Make tacos!
  • Feel like Asian? Add a homemade sauce and some kimchi!
  • Don’t feel like cooking? Serve it with some quickly nuked veggies!

The possibilities are endless! Here are a few serving suggestions with varying degrees of difficulty and time dedication to get your culinary cogs started.

Ready?

Here we go!

How to Deal with Haters

Imagine the following scenario: You’re sitting around a dinner table at a restaurant and everybody places an order for a meal:

  • Person 1: Chicken and broccoli please!
  • Person 2: I’ll have fish, quinoa, and a salad please.
  • Person 3: I’ll take the steak, asparagus, and sweet potato please.
  • Person 4: I’ll take a double cheese burger and chili cheese fries please!

For the sake of argument, let’s assume person 1, 2, and 3 are generally healthy, and person 4 is overweight.  Can you see persons 1-3 saying the following:

  • “Are you seriously going to eat that?”
  • “Are you sure you should be eating that?”
  • “You’re overweight enough, you should probably eat more like us.”

…of course not! That would be considered incredibly rude, inconsiderate, and downright mean.  That person can eat however they want, right? It’s their life! Compare that to the following situation:

  • Person 1: I’ll take a medium pizza with sausage and side of garlic bread.
  • Person 2: I’ll have the chicken parmesan pasta and salad with extra ranch.
  • Person 3: I’ll please have the lasagna, and let’s get nachos for the table.
  • Person 4: I’ll take a chicken salad please, dressing on the side.

Can you see persons 1-3 saying the following to person 4?:

  • “Oh come on, why eat like that?”
  • “Come on, live a little!  You’re too skinny already.”
  • “Jeez, I feel bad for you having to eat like that.”

If you’re a health-conscious individual (or are working on becoming one), and you are still hanging around your unhealthy friends, I bet you’ve dealt with that second scenario on more than one occasion.

When people eat things that are unhealthy, everybody keeps their mouth shut…but when somebody goes in the other direction and tries to better themselves, suddenly everybody feels the need to chime in.

What are you supposed to do when you find yourself in this situation?

It’s one thing if it’s a random stranger at a party that tells you: “well, I like to enjoy my food, so I could NEVER eat like you.”  But what do you do when it’s a co-worker, friend, or family member?

Today, we’re gonna learn how to deal with haters.

Becoming Antifragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos

What would you say if I asked, “What’s the opposite of fragile?”

Most would say unbreakable, strong, or sturdy. Author Naseem Taleb however, argues that the opposite of fragile isn’t strong or sturdy, but ANTIfragile.

Right now, you’re probably thinking: “Steve, that’s not even a word. What the heck are you talking about?”

Welp, I read Taleb’s book, Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder, a few months back upon the recommendation from Anthony and Brett, and absolutely fell in love with the concept.

I think I read it in a matter of days.

And now, you could say that Antifragile and I are going steady.

Since discovering this concept, I’ve worked hard to rebuild my body and my life around this concept of becoming antifragile: getting stronger and more resilient as more chaos is introduced.

I’ve always wanted to become more like Jason Bourne (it’s a big part of my Epic Quest), and I feel like building my life and my training around antifragile concepts have allowed me to level up and break through new barriers.

Here’s how you can make yourself into an antifragile badass.

Six Months Ago I Recommitted to Fitness. Here’s What Happened…

Six months ago, I decided to re-dedicate myself to health and fitness.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Steve, you run a site called Nerd FITNESS, what do you need to rededicate yourself for? Were you not exercising this whole time?”

I’ve been working out pretty consistently since I was 17.  I’ve gone up and down 15 pounds over that time frame, depending on how hard I’ve been training, how much I’ve been traveling, how good my diet has been, etc.

Despite running a fitness site and telling other people how to exercise, the business side of Nerd Fitness was getting so busy that I was skipping (or cutting short) more and more workouts. Like anyone else, I was coming up with more and more excuses.

And, despite thinking I was in great shape, I really wasn’t.  

woke up one day in November (after Thanksgiving), looked in the mirror, and decided to make a change.

Starting January 1st, 2014, I re-dedicated myself to my health, both physically and mentally.  Since then, with the exception of my birthday last week, I have consistently exercised 3-4 days a week with heavy strength training, mobility work, and gymnastic movements.

Now, at the age of 30, I’m stronger and in better shape than ever.

Although my physical transformation isn’t as drastic as Joe or Saint, my mental transformation HAS been drastic: my fears about strength training (stemming from a spinal condition) have disappeared and I have more confidence than ever. I’ve become a better Rebel Leader as a result.

Here’s what happened.

Do You Have Drive? Here’s What REALLY Motivates Us.

We’ve been told our whole lives that rewards and accountability are what get us to actually follow through on our promises.

It’s the reward that drive us to complete a difficult or undesirable task; it’s the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps us going when times get tough.

Heck, every RPG in existence is built around this premise too: “just one more quest, because then I’ll get a new level which will let me buy a new sword!”

We then use accountability to drag us out of bed on days when we just don’t feel like doing our job. We can either lose a $50 bet to our friends for skipping, or we can just do the darn workout!

We’re big fans of rewards and accountability around here at Nerd Fitness, but what if that’s just the beginning?

It turns out, there’s another type of motivation that is the REAL predictor of long-term success…and it has nothing to do with punishment or rewards!

If you’ve been on a roller coaster, losing weight and gaining weight and going through months of success followed by months of apathy…

If you’re tired of knowing what to do to get healthy, but just can’t freaking GET yourself to do it…

Today is for you.

What you need to know about P90X, Insanity, Weight Watchers, Shakeology, Cleanses, and Nutrisystem

There are a million and one fitness products and diet systems out there to “help” you get healthy.

Because there are so many options, I get a million fitness emails a week (okay more like a few dozen) from Rebels asking me for my thoughts on certain programs and products that are popular.

Today I wanted to highlight the biggest/most successfully marketed programs out there, and give my humble thoughts on what I think is right and wrong with them, and how they could be better.

Not that they’re asking for my help, it seems like they’re doing quite well!  But for the other few hundred people a week, let’s clear up what works and what doesn’t.

Today is my 30th birthday, and I need your help!

Holy crap, I’m 30!

Almost four years ago to the day, I quit my amazing day job (seriously, my job was to help create floating music festivals) to focus on a small website I had been working on every night as a side hobby for the previous 18 months.  I turned 26, and started the next chapter of my life.

Believe it or not, when I quit I hadn’t actually made any money with Nerd Fitness yet!

I just believed so strongly in the power of this community that I knew I had to take the leap and see if I could turn my “hobby” into something more. I knew there was a group of men and women out there like me: people who loved video games, fantasy novels, comic books, who also wanted to get healthy. People who wanted to use those books and games and movies as inspiration rather than escape, who wanted better lives for themselves and those around them.

Here we are, four years later.  That hobby has evolved into a worldwide community of over 200,000 email subscribers, 27,000 message board members, 40 volunteer moderators, four full-time team members, and over a dozen contractors.  That’s a lot of nerds!

Now, because it’s my birthday today, I’m gonna ask for your help.

Rebel Acts of Kindness

NF Dallas Meetup

The part of Nerd Fitness of which I’m most proud has to be our community.

We have rebels that fly across the country to support folks at races and events they’ve met through Nerd Fitness.  We have relationships that have popped up as a result of Nerd Fitness (I wonder how long before we have our first Rebel wedding?).

Heck we’re even having a freaking CAMP NERD FITNESS this fall to bring Rebels together for an epic weekend of adventure.  Yesterday, we had a Rebel buy a ticket to Camp Nerd Fitness that’s flying all the way from AUSTRALIA (Hey Jade!).  I hope to see you there too!

If you told me four years this is where we’d be now my head would have exploded.  Luckily my head is still intact!

Now, want to know WHY this community works so well?  Because we’re dedicated to helping each other.  We support each other when support is needed. We pick each other up when we’re down.  We offer assistance, help, and guidance to whoever, whenever.

We try to make our lives better, and we try to make the lives of people around us better too.

Though I don’t actually want to grow up (and don’t plan on it), I think today is a cool opportunity to introduce something to Nerd Fitness that many of you are probably already doing:

I want you to complete a Rebel Act of Kindness. 

What’s that, you ask?   

It’s simply a small (or large) act of kindness that you complete to make somebody’s day better:  

  • Sponsor somebody’s gym membership for a month.
  • If you eat out for lunch or dinner tonight, leave an unusually large tip – they work hard.
  • If you see somebody struggling in the gym, give them a spot.
  • Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line – unless it’s full of sugar, haha! (kidding)
  • You know that homeless guy on the street you see EVERY DAY…have a conversation with him. He’s a person too.
  • Go through your closet, grab the things you haven’t worn in FOREVER, and donate them.
  • Find a member of the armed forces, shake their hand, and thank them for their service.

If you have the chance to write a note with your RAK (Rebel Act of Kindness), write “For The Rebellion! Pay it forward :)” on it.  We’ll see how many of these random acts make their way back to us :)

Last year we built a freaking library down in Peru, raising THOUSANDS of dollars more than we had hoped to raise.  That was us just getting started.

I’m not gonna lie, I totally expect Nerd Fitness and the Rebellion to take over the world some day.  After all, we’re building an army of super smart, super strong, travel hacking rebels!)…and that means we have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than it was the day before.

So, for my 30th (!) birthday, and for Full-Time Nerd Fitness’s (4th birthday!!), I want you to pay it forward, and encourage the random folks you help out to do the same.

Let’s make today better than yesterday, for ourselves and for everybody else.

Thanks for being here, and thanks for being a part of the Rebellion.  We have some great things to announce and update over the next few weeks, but for today – let’s just focus on our RAKs.  I love this community and I’m honored that I get to spend every day working on it.

ONE FINAL REQUEST: If you happen to RECEIVE a random act of kindness today, I’d love for you to share it in the comments for this article – it’ll be a good reminder that there are awesome people out there who do good things just for the sake of doing good things.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Rebel Acts of Kindness to carry out!

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

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