Getting Back on Track When Life Sucks

Lego screaming needing fitness to help get him back on track

There are times in your life where the deck is stacked against you:

  • You can’t find a job.
  • You’re out of shape and overweight.
  • You forgot your umbrella and a sudden downpour appears.
  • You live in your mom’s basement
  • You stepped in dog poop while a bird pooped on you.

Sometimes, it seems like every single thing that can go wrong does.  “Can I please catch a break?” you ask yourself, and wonder why everybody else gets some help and you can’t seem to get any.  Rest assured my friend, for there is salvation within today’s post.

Want to know the absolute most important and effective thing you can do TODAY to turn your life around and change your luck?

Ready for it?

Work out.

Make your own destiny

Storm trooper ninja taking control of his destiny by starting his workout

I don’t swear much on Nerd Fitness, but sometimes it’s appropriate.  This is one of those times.

Shit happens.  

Every day, shitty things happen to us that are outside of our control.  Companies downsize.  150 people apply for the same part-time job.  Friends move.  Relationships end.  Shit happens.

Although these things happen to other people every day, it’s tough not to fall into the “the world is out to get me” card and fall further into a rut.

Let’s start with the best thing that happened to you today:

Did you wake up? Awesome. We can build on that!

There are factors and situations in our life that are completely outside of our control. However, no matter who you are, what your socioeconomic status is, where you live, how old you are, or why your life sucks, there is one thing that you are 100% in complete control of:

Your health!

Even if everything else is going wrong in your life, you still get to control how you look, and how you feel every day:

  • You might be unemployed, but you are buff and unemployed.
  • You may be single, but you are single and look great naked, which hopefully means you won’t be single for long!
  • You may be living in your Mom’s basement, but you are in the best shape of your life.

Start small

Storm Trooper starts exercising small by taking small steps

As we learned from David in Prometheus, “Big things have small beginnings.”

You are capable of big things.  You need to start somewhere though, and starting small with exercise is a perfect beginning.  Start with exercising, take responsibility for your actions, and understandthat you are 100% in control.

And start small!

Like Leo says, pick ONE habit you’d like to build, and start TODAY:

  • I want to start walking every day.
  • I want to start strength training.
  • I want to cook my own meals.

Make this ONE habit a priority – “I don’t have time” is not acceptable, as we both know you have time.   So set up a google alert to remind you each day.  Find a buddy to remind you.  Write it on a post-it note and stick it next to your computer.  Make the habit small enough that it’s possible for you to complete each day, but challenging enough that it gets you off the couch and out the door.

Most people suck at building habits, but you don’t have to.  

Win small

Storm Troopers workout with Darth Vader watching, small exercises

When you complete a tiny fitness habit every day, it reminds you that no matter what else happens in your day, you still leveled up your life in some way.

  • I didn’t get that job, I slept in until 11AM, I watched six episodes of Battlestar Gallactica, but at least I worked out.
  • I still live at home, and my friend stood me up, but at least I managed to get myself a bit healthier today.

Sure, doesn’t sound like much.  However, when compared to what you were doing LAST week, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

And that’s all we’re looking for: small wins!

Each small win is one teeny tiny step closer to that epic life that has been foretold by the prophecy (that you created for yourself in step 1, because you get to write your own destiny).

It’s how Optimus Prime transforms: one tiny step at a time.  

And I think the world would be a better place if we all took advice from O.P., don’t you?

Build momentum

Storm Trooper knocks over dominoes to build momentum

After a few weeks of tiny steps and tiny changes and tiny improvements, all of which are 100% in your control, a funny thing starts to happen:

  • Your clothes start to fit better.
  • Your friends and/or coworkers start asking “hey, have you lost weight?”,
  • You look in the mirror and give a “hey, this is working!”

Whether it’s a dramatic change over a matter of months, or a tiny change over a matter of weeks, you get to take these victories and say “yup, I did that. I succeeded at something.”

I remember talking to my friend Saint two or three years ago about being unhealthy – it was one of the most depressing conversations I can remember. Saint was out of shape, overweight, in a dead end job, hating life, and stuck in a rut.  Every day, we’d have a g-chat conversation about how miserable his life was, and it honestly started to drag me down.  So Saint woke up one day and decided “I’m going to start exercising.”

Over the next three years, Saint transformed – slowly at first, but eventually he picked up some serious steam and went on to become one of the best success stories I have EVER seen.  Since then, Saint has become a man possessed, and now talking to him is like talking to a completely different person.  Our conversations are actually ENJOYABLE and inspiring to me!  Saint is now a dragon-slayer.

Build confidence

Storm Trooper holds magnifying glass up to girl, begins to build confidence

When you start to exercise, you start to feel better about yourself, you get addicted to the feeling.

And then you chase it – exercising more, making better diet decisions, taking better care of your body.

The  feeling of self-confidence you get from being proud of what you see in the mirror is worth every decision required to get you from here to there.    

People can FEEL that self-confidence.  Ask any person what they look for in a potential mate, and I guarantee one of those attributes is “self-confidence.”  People want to hang around people that make them feel better and happier – when you are healthy and feel good in your own skin, you are happier and thus elevate the happiness of the group you’re with!

On top of that, people who take control of their own luck tend to get lucky more often: 

  • People who exude confidence and expect great things tend to get more great things than those who expect the worst.
  • Job applicants who are strong-willed and project confidence have a better chance at getting the position than the timid, shy, unsure applicant.
  • You have a much better chance of scoring a date when you approach him/her with confidence and project confidence that the answer will be yes.
Confidence can be tough to come by for somebody that’s never had it, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be acquired like any other skill.

Catch the disease


Getting healthy is contagious to every other part of your life.

Think of it like the best disease. Ever.

It overtakes every cell in your body, invades your brain, and gets you thinking drastically differently than before infection.  Here’s why: when you take responsibility for your situation, work to improve it, and find success, you get to pat yourself on the back and say “hey, look what I did!”

As you continue to improve your life physically, you start to identify other aspects of your life that you’d like to improve:

  • Hey, I got in shape, and I’m still have a lot of credit card debt; I want to fix that.
  • Hey, I got in shape, and I am really unproductive; I want to fix that.
  • Hey, I got in shape, and I am addicted to TV; I want to fix that.
  • Hey, I got in shape, and my house is a mess; I want to fix that.

You can apply the same techniques that allowed you to be successful with fitness and health with other aspects of your life: Start small, win small, build momentum.  If you’re in debt, set aside one extra dollar today to pay down the debt.  If your house is messy, set a new habit of making your bed every day.  If you are really unproductive with your time at work, start taking small steps to remove distractions (sign off gchat, better filters to keep your inbox uncluttered, etc.)

When asked what his key to success has been, billionaire and all-around badass Richard Branson responded with two words: Work Out.  If you have a few minutes, check out the article my friend Scott wrote on the man explaining why exercise has been the catalyst for success for so many.

Saint went from being unhealthy, overweight, in debt, and working a miserable job to getting in incredible shape, scoring a promotion at a new job, digging himself out of debt, getting married, and buying his first home.  He’s upping his game further, helping me develop the first (of many) Nerd Fitness iPhone applications and writing a book explaining how he got in shape.  It all started with “I’m going to get healthy.”

How about Staci, the chain-smoking, overweight, out of shape, unhappy desk jockey turned power-lifting superhero?  Over the past few years, she has transformed her life completely, inspiring thousands of women all over the world to get healthy.  Once Staci decided to get healthy, she realized how much she enjoyed it and started helping others get healthy.  I was so impressed with Staci’s transformation and willingness to help out on the Nerd Fitness message boards last summer that I hired her part time to help me with the business aspect of Nerd Fitness.  Now, Staci is a full-time member of Team Nerd Fitness, competes in Crossfit and powerlifting competitions, and even teaches classes at her local Crossfit gym.

Once you’ve found a blueprint for success on fitness, USE it to improve other parts of your life.  BUILD that momentum! 

The meaning of life


As Tim Ferriss will tell you: “Life exists to be enjoyed and that the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.”

Me personally?

I want to wake up happy, and go to bed proud.

I want to wake up every day excited about what the day holds and the projects that I’m working on.  At the end of the day, I want to feel proud of what I was able to accomplish with my business and health, and enjoy time spent with friends and family.

Although this is a fitness and health website, the REAL goal of Nerd Fitness is to help you remove barriers from your life that limit you from waking up happy and going to be proud.  In my opinion, the absolute BEST way I’ve found to get to that point?

Work out.


PS - If you have friends or family members that are stuck in a rut, share this article with them if you think it’ll help.  If you’d rather take a more subtle approach, invite them to exercise with you – offer up those words of encouragement, and don’t freaking up give up.  We only get one life on this planet, there are no continues.


Stressed Out LegoStorm Trooper Ninja, Small Exercise Steps, Storm Troopers Workout, Storm Trooper Momentum, Lego Talks to GirlLegos Fall like DominoesHappy Confident Legos, Lego light at end of the tunnel


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  • Nicole Giaconi

    While I agree with most of this article, one thing bothers me.

    “There are factors and situations in our life that are completely
    outside of our control. However, no matter who you are, what your
    socioeconomic status is, where you live, how old you are, or why your
    life sucks, there is one thing that you are 100% in complete control of: Your health!”

    Working out and eating right does not make you immune to illness and injury.  Some diseases are genetic, some are do to exposure, sometimes there is dangerous bacteria on a healthy carrot, and sometimes you just get run over by a car. Being fit wont stop that. 

    In high school I was a very active theater student. Lots of dance classes and lifting/building set pieces.  I was in pretty good shape.  I also was a very rare teenager who grew up eating good food, rather than crap.  I was one of the last people at my school who you would think would be unhealthy.  And yet, out of nowhere, one day I was just sick, really sick, hospitalized for two years sick.  The best way my doctors could explain what was wrong with me and why was… they couldn’t. There was no indication of why I was sick or what caused it.  They could only guess that I was in contact with an unusual combination of harmless microorganism, that when my body saw them all present at once, freaked out for no reason and started attacking… and didn’t stop attacking after they were destroyed. 

    I had no way to foresee this or prevent it.  I had no control over it happening or control over stopping it once it did.  It was random, spontaneous illness.

    Though, this is in no way a justification for “why bother?” I work out more and eat even healthier now. 1) because I have to to repair/maintain the damage done to my body and 2) because you need to be in really good shape to be sick.  I live it the constant fear of relapse and I know how hard being sick was on my body the first time.  It almost killed me. So if I ever get sick again, I need to be as strong as possible to survive.  What I do have control over is being prepared. 

    So, I’m just thinking, maybe that should be: “you have 99% control over your health.” You have 100% control over what you put in your mouth, 100% control over how you exercise your body, but your health?  Well, like you said, “Shit happens.”

  • Mary

    Great Article Steve,

    I totally agree that our health and fitness is definitely core to living a great and meaningful life and it definitely lends confidence for us to improve in our other areas of life too. I always find that i look forward to working out after a long, hard and stressful day because it always boosts me up and puts me back in high spirits. Looking good is feeling good and is definitely a platform to happiness and success.


  • Donny

    I also try to structure my routine so that once I get going, I’m less likely to stop because of setbacks in other areas of my life. It can be easy to say “Oh, I’m so busy now that XXXXX happened, I’d better skip the gym.” I work out at lunch during work, so no matter what is going on in my life, that’s always an hour in my day that I have free.

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  • schneewittchen

    can’t stop crying. i haven’t been able to really live since my mother’s death. but i have been going to the gym for 11 years now (even when she was in the hospital, i managed to work out) and it’s the only thing that makes me hope that one day i’ll be happy. i’m not proud of myself. everything you said meant a lot to me. i’ll read it again and again.

    it’s funny that somebody in another caountry can understand me better than people who should try to understand and help me.


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  • Psychologically Fit

    The more I read, the more impressed I am.  Your outlook on life and insight are wise beyond your years. I’ve turned so many people onto this site and they’ve all loved it. It’s time for the nerds to take over, with Steve as our righteous leader.

  • JamesBurgePR

    On thing that really helped me to feel good about myself and even got me to go to the gym was fullbar. It’s this bar that makes you feel full longer so you eat less. I lost some weight and actually gained cofidence! Check them out: Thankfully now I have the courage to even step foot in a gym!

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  • winterbreezy

    I definitely needed to read this <3 Thank you :)

  • The man

    Yeah, but how do you get in shape if you already have a disease like ibs or gerd???

  • xtophr

    I appreciate what is being said here and I do try to work out. I have a trainer but I just don’t like going to the gym. Mostly because my diet is horrible in that I don’t eat very much. I’m keeping with it for months now, but I just feel too depressed to really enjoy it.

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  • babsfreedom

    Working out is the best therapy there is. Making your body fit and strong makes your mind feel like it is on top of the world.

    It is all about choices.

    Live life with courage and wisdom.

    And never give up. Because your haters would love that. Shit happens all the time.

    We just have to learn how to make the best of it and become stronger after it.

    What doesn’t kill you will make you either stronger or weaker.

    It is your choice in the end. Just keep on exercising for now. :)

  • Danielle Barnes2010

    i like this website and this article very much. I am definitely going to try to work out a little everyday. I walk alot everyday but I feel like its not enough. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Stephen

    i just read this in a time of my life that (much like Saint) i really needed some wise words, i FEEL that this is the motivation i needed. Thankyou so much.

    I will be a success story.

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  • Roxanne

    You must be out of your mind, or else very young. The ONE THING we have control of is our health?! Is that so!! When you find yourself lying in a hospital bed following lung surgery where the doctor removed half of your lung so you would live, but you have never smoked so why do you have lung cancer — THEN tell me, know-it-all-youth, that health is the ONE THING you have control of.
    I forgive you because time will take care of your problem. You can’t help it if youth is so inexperienced and ignorant. When you do reach that age, if you are wise, you will find out that you never actually had control over anything — you just thought you did — an illusion that makes one feel in control.

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  • Mahi Tuna

    this title should be the benefits of exercise. although it is an important component of changing your life around it’s not the only factor. there are many “buff” people walking around who are bent and twisted. honesty and integrity far outweigh getting buff in turning around your life. being brutally honest with yourself is the first step. most people know why there life sucks but usually blame it on others and outside circumstances.

  • J Beez

    This doesn’t pay the bills that await you when you are out of work, but have a “great body.” I don’t understand why people think working out can change your attitude when problems are STILL there waiting for you when you get back. It’s just a temporary fix that prolongs the suckiness of being without a job despite countless interviews and rejections. But I applaud your effort.

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  • Anonymous

    Why bother with exercise?
    You are still going to die.
    Exercise will not make you happy. It will bring temporary & fleeting positive feelings, but if you were unhappy before exercise and being fit you will remain so.
    Exercise is an existential time-killer. It is full-body masterbation with no point or purpose. Why run, why lift weights, again, again? Why choose such a pointless situation? Most people agree with me, and would rather not engage in such deliberate absurdity. Yes, we’re lazy and unhealthy and fat. And then we’ll die

  • ACG

    Thanks so much… Cheered me up just a bit today

  • sura

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  • Guy

    Working out is for fags.

  • TheScienceEnthusiast1130


    Could you sign this petition:

  • who

    started going to the gym again got hit by a car walking home now have to sit at home until i get the ok to workout again not my day not my week not my year

  • The Half Machine

    Awesome article. Been stuck in a rut for a while but you reminded me wait is a waste of time. Thinking about doing something and then getting hung up on how struggling it could become is the greatest motivation-killer for me. I had forgot that all you have to do is “Just do it”.

  • eriannamoric

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