Nerd Fitness » Blog http://www.nerdfitness.com Level up your life, every single day. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:26:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Should I Do On My Off Days? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/30/what-should-i-do-on-my-off-days/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/30/what-should-i-do-on-my-off-days/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:26:34 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26817 “Steve, what am I supposed to do on days when I’m not training?”

We get this question all the time here at Nerd Fitness. Since we advise most people to train 3 days per week with full body strength training routines, many Rebels have a few off days each week.

When you complete a full body workout routine, or do lots of compound movements like squats, push-upsoverhead presses or deadlifts, our muscles get broken down. Then, over the next 24-48 hours hours, those muscles get rebuilt a tiny bit stronger.That’s why it doesn’t benefit us to work out every day; we don’t want to destroy our muscles without giving them a chance to grow back stronger.

That then begs the question: what are we supposed to do on those days? How can we keep up the habit of exercise and not let a day of non-training derail our progress?

Are there things we CAN do on our off days?

That’s why I’m here, my dear Rebel friend: you ask the questions, I answer them! You set em up, I knock ‘em down!

So let’s dig into what you can do on a day “off” from training.

Plan Your Off Days Like a Training Day

The biggest problem most people have with off days is that they become cheat days! Because they’re not training, they’re not thinking about being fit and it’s much easier to slack off and lose momentum.

This is bad news bears.bear

Remember, exercise is probably 10-20% of the equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90%!

So plan your off days deliberately! They’re not off days, they’re rest days, and they serve a vital role in building an antifragile kickass body capable of fighting crime (or roughhousing with your kids in the backyard).

Whether it’s scheduling one of the activities below at the same time you normally train every day, or deliberately adding a morning mobility/stretching routine to your day, doing SOMETHING every day is a great way to remind ourselves “I am changing my life and I exercise daily.”

Personally, I know I am far less likely to eat poorly when I’m doing some active recovery than when I’m not doing anything deliberatelyOn days when I’m not training, I try to block off a similar amount of time to work on myself in some way to maintain momentum, and I encourage you to do the same if you struggle with losing momentum if even taking one day off.

It could be flexibility training, mobility training, meal prep, and more. I’ll cover these below! Whatever it is, do SOMETHING every day, even if it’s for just five minutes, to remind yourself that you are making progress towards your new life.

Let’s dive in to your off-day options!

Work on Mobility

cat rest

We’ve all felt that soreness the day after (or two days after) strength training – our muscles have been broken down and are incredibly tight from all of the heavy lifting.

For that reason, one of the best things you can do on an off day is to work on your flexibility and mobility. After all, what good is strength if we can’t move our body properly to utilize it! Dynamic stretching and mobility work helps prepare our body for the rigors of strength training and keeps us injury free!

Regardless of whether or not you have a training day scheduled, start each morning with a mobility warm-up: a series of dynamic movements that gets your body activated and wakes up your muscles, joints, and tendons. If you live in an apartment or are just getting started, feel free to leave out the jumping jacks:

This gives us a chance every morning to check in with our bodies and reminds us mentally “I am leveling up physically, might as well eat right today too.”

Here’s another favorite mobility routine from my friend (and coach) Anthony Mychal. It says it’s a warm-up for tricking, but it’s quite helpful for those of us mere mortals: 

If you spend all day at a desk, doing some basic mobility movements throughout the day can keep your hips loose and keep you thinking positively. Here’s an article on how to dominate posture at your desk job.

Do a Fun Activity

soccer

We are genetically designed to move, not sit on our asses for 60+ hours a week. Not only that, but we are genetically designed to have fun doing so too!

Which means we can spend time on our off days working on our happiness AND stay active at the same time.

This fun activity can mean something different for everybody:

  • Go for a bike ride with your kids
  • Go for a run around your neighborhood
  • Play kickball in a city league (I play on Thursdays!)
  • Play softball
  • Swim
  • Go for a walk with your significant other
  • Go rock climbing
  • Learn martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Capoeira or Kung Fu
  • Take a dance class
  • Try Live Action Role-Playing (LARP!)
  • Play on a playground
  • Roll down a hill and run back up it

I honestly don’t care WHAT you do, as long as it’s something you truly enjoy doing – it puts a smile on your face, it gets your heart pumping. Exercise does not need to be exhausting or miserable. If you haven’t found an activity you enjoy yet, you haven’t tried enough new things.

The point is to get outside, remember it’s a damn good day to be alive, and that we are built to move.

Intervals, Sprints, Or Walking

run sprint

“But Steve, I have this big party coming up and I really am trying to lose as much weight as possible.”

Okay okay, I hear you – if that’s the case, then 90% of the battle is going to be with your diet (which you can learn about here), but there are SOME things you can do on your off days that can help you burn more calories:

1) Interval Training -  In interval training, you’ll be varying your running pace. This means you may switch between jogging and walking, or walking and sprinting (there are few different methods of interval training). This training style can help speed up your metabolism for the hours after you finish.

2) Sprinting - If you like the idea of burning extra calories and building explosive power and speed, check out our article on becoming the Flash. Find a hill, sprint up it, walk down, and repeat the process for 10-20 minutes. No need to overthink it!

3) Long walks - Walking is a low-impact activity that burns extra calories and doesn’t overly tax your body. What a “long walk” will be is different for everybody based on their level of fitness, but walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

If you want to take a more active recovery day, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Destroying ourselves for 6+ days a week can really wear us down, causing long term problems if we’re not careful.

Yoga for the win!

yoga-interest

You might not realize it, but yoga is the perfect complement to strength training:

Strength training makes us stronger, but it can tighten up our muscles and make us sore.

Yoga, on the other hand, lengthens our muscles and tendons, aids in their recovery, and helps our body develop better mobility and flexibility.

It’s the perfect way to create a strong AND mobile body, ready for anything and everything we throw at it. It’s kind of like turning your body into a swiss-army knife: prepared to be strong, flexible enough to avoid injury, and truly antifragile.

Now, if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, it can certainly be intimidating, especially if you’re a ones-and-zeros programmer wary of the practice’s more spiritual aspects. That was my concern years ago before I got started with it; I had to muster up 20 seconds of courage to attend my first yoga class, and I’m so glad I did.

Here’s how to get started with Yoga!

  • Nearly any commercial gym you join will have yoga classes.
  • Most yoga studios have classes throughout the day.
  • Follow a plethora of videos online if you want to get started at home.
  • Check out Nerd Fitness Yoga launching soon!

Nerd Fitness Yoga is something we’ve been working on for months and I can’t wait to share it with you!

When you sign up for more information here we’ll be sharing a cool flexibility challenge to help you gauge just how flexible you are and how you can improve your flexibility.

what do you Do On Your Off Days?

maldives relax

As we know, a healthy body is made in the kitchen, not in the gym. It’s important to stay diligent with healthy nutrition even on days when you’re not hitting the gym.

One of the best ways to do that is to use one of your non-training days to prepare your meals for the week! NF Team Member Staci Ardison does all of her meal prep for the week on Sundays, and looks at it like an activity that is furthering her fitness journey.

I like to use one of my off days to break a mental sweat too! On Tuesdays, I take fiddle lessons, which is a mental workout so taxing that I can’t wait to get back to deadlifts!

Here’s another thing you can do on off days: Have fun. 

Whether it’s playing a video game, getting caught up on a movie or TV show, or reading a book, it’s important for us to do the nerdy or fun things that make us who we are. As the Rules of the Rebellion state: fitness can become part of we do, but not at the expense of who we are!

I’m currently playing through Batman Arkham Knight (add me on PS4 and Xbox One: “RebelOneNF”!), and as I collect the Riddler Trophies, I think to myself: “I am rebuilding muscle like Batman.”

How do you stay on target even on days when you’re not “training?”

I’d love to hear from you – do you take the day off completely? Do you challenge yourself in a different way?  Do you try to do something every day to keep the momentum up, or do you actually take days off?

Leave it in the comments!

-Steve 

PS: Speaking of flexibility, I’d love for you to join the Nerd Fitness mobility challenge that kicks off soon. We’ll be sending out an email series to all people on our Yoga Interest List with exercises, videos, and challenges to test your flexibility.

We put a lot of work into it and we can’t wait to help you get more limber!

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Study Suggests We’re Doomed to Stay Fat. Wait, What!? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/28/study-suggests-were-doomed-to-stay-fat-wait-what/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/28/study-suggests-were-doomed-to-stay-fat-wait-what/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:50:24 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26790 We’re all screwed!

And we’re going to stay fat forever.

At least, that’s what a recent study conducted by researchers at King’s College, London, suggested: “The chance of returning to a normal weight after becoming obese is only one in 210 for men and one in 124 for women over a year.” If the person is severely obese, the chances are even less.

Ruh roh.

It had me thinking that maybe we’re already doomed. After all, we’re doing all of this hard work, trying our best and making changes…and yet years later we end up back where we started. Crap.

And then I dug into the study.

And it gave me hope for Nerd Fitness and the Rebellion.

What The Study Revealed

donut

“Of 278,982 men and women, the study found that only 1% of people who were obese at the start of the study were successful in losing weight AND maintaining the weight loss.”

The pointed out that the prescribed “count calories, eat less calories than normal, and exercise dutifully” failed 99% of people after 10 years.

There are two ways to look at this study:

1) Once we are overweight it’s nearly impossible to create lasting results. It’s like we are trying to hold back the tide, or fight an army of White Walkers with both hands behind our back. This self-limiting belief can crush us and convince us to give up.

2) Conventional medicine’s current strategies to tackle obesity are failing to help the majority of obese patients shed weight. A prescribed “eat less and move more” regimen fails to factor in dozens of other elements that create lasting change! Something needs to change.

But, as the home page of Nerd Fitness says: You don’t have to take advice from the Dark Side. There’s a better way to get healthy, a way that creates actual change in our lives and long term results.

After all, we have a MASSIVE community of people here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion who HAVE drastically changed their lives, so what’s going on here? We are the Watchers on the Wall, and we are fighting off the white walkers – how are we getting results while most of the mainstream are stuck on this up-down roller coaster?

As we have seen through countless studies, YES: consuming less calories than you burn – and continuing eating that caloric deficit for an extended period of time – will result in weight loss for a strong majority of people.

This is where most of the mainstream advice that those 278,982 people were following stops. Implementing strategies such as diets does result in people having short term success. We’ve even seen a turning of the tide here in America, where we’re finally starting to consume fewer calories as a whole.

It’s not so much that this advice doesn’t work (it does!), it’s that this is only one part of a much bigger picture). In turn, they’ve failed in ACTUALLY getting people to follow their advice over the long term. And that’s the only thing that matters.

As Morpheus tells Neo, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” 

Frankly, the results in the study don’t surprise me! I get emails daily from people saying “Steve, I know what I need to do, I just can’t get myself to do it.”

Here at Nerd Fitness we understand what it takes to implement something for the long haul:

Instead, modern medicine is telling people to move more and eat less without the rest of it. It’s obvious this is a recipe for failure: when your environment is working against you at home, when society is designed to make eating healthy so difficult, and when your social circles are working against you, of course only 1% of people are going to succeed.

That would be like trying to: 

Sure, it’s possible. But less than 1% of us can actually do it! If we look at our success through that lens, it’s clear we’re failures… but we can adjust the constraints to work FOR us rather than against us.

Or, in gamer terms: why not just press the damn A button?!

Let’s learn how.

Use all your tools

yoda

I’m proud that the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is a group of average Joes and Jills who think differently. When I started Nerd Fitness seven years ago, I knew that mainstream diet and fitness advice sucked, and it wasn’t getting people lasting, long term results.

That was the whole point: rebelling against this insanity!

So, let’s take a look at how to use more than the joystick, and ensure that ALL of us get healthy. Like Batman with a fully equipped utility belt, we need to use all of the tools at our disposal in order to succeed long term:

Set yourself up for long term success with habits that last PERMANENTLY: This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Once you understand how your brains work and how to build new habits, you can start attacking them with small, deliberate, permanent changes. If you struggle with willpower, you’re not alone. You have to understand how willpower works first!

So we start with tiny changes we can live with, and then we slowly expand them as we build momentum. We prove to ourselves we CAN change. “I just need to try harder” never works – you need to understand HOW to try, and then try smarter.

Diets don’t work. No, I don’t mean “the Paleo Diet” (which is a lifestyle change or nutrition adjustment, not a temporary diet). What I mean by “diet” is a temporary change to one’s life for a short period of time. You can also add things like juice cleanses and detoxes to this list, also known as destroying yourself 90 days at a time unsustainably. I cover all of these popular weight loss tactics that perfectly fall under the reasons 99% of people struggle to keep weight off a decade later.

We don’t do short term changes; our goal is long term, permanent solutions. We need to be deliberate in our efforts to change our lives: this is not a short term fix. It’s a fundamental adjustment to how we make decisions daily that sets us up to succeed.

Build an environment that supports you: We are products of our environment, and we are affected by everything around us subconsciously all day long. For that reason, like Bruce Wayne and his Batcave, we too need an environment that creates effortless success for us rather than tempting us back to the darkness.

We know that really focusing on hacking the source code of our lives can have a drastic effect on every decision we make, and can set us up to succeed long term:

  • We adjust our environment so we have to rely less on willpower to say no to certain foods: not keeping junk food in our house, not driving past our favorite fast food place, only going to healthy restaurants so we’re not tempted.
  • We set ourselves up to succeed by lowering the barriers between us and healthy choices. Sleeping in our running clothes, blocking time-wasting websites, preparing healthy meals for the whole week. We need to make our new default effortlessly “healthy.”

A great support system: Fighting this battle alone is like going up the toughest dragon in World of Warcraft solo – why not build a great team to fight alongside you? As the saying goes, “you are the average of the five people you associate most with,” so surround yourself with a killer Justice League.

We need people who support and inspire us to get healthier rather than drag us back down. If a great support system can cure drug addicts, it can certainly help with living a healthier life. It starts by surrounding yourself with people that care and want you to succeed, not sabotage your efforts.

We know that types of food we consume factor in greatly: consuming 600 calories of Twinkies is not a great long term solution compared to 600 calories of chicken, fish, avocado, and leafy vegetables.

In fact, most of the processed junk we eat today is designed to target certain parts of our brain that make us say “MORE MORE MORE” – if you’ve ever eaten one of something and then can’t get yourself to do anything else until you’ve eaten the whole bag, you know what I’m talking about. It’s tough to restrict calories when your brain has been hijacked!

If you want our nerdy take on this, read: “Star Wars Explains Why We’re Fat.” 

We CAN win.

sword

I know we have a lot of people reading Nerd Fitness who are just getting started on their weight loss journey, many of whom who probably have gone up and down in weight for years (wondering if it’s hopeless).

This study is going to divide people into two camps:

  • I knew it. This is why I can’t lose weight – I’m doomed! Why bother! I’m off to McDonald’s.
  • Okay, clearly something’s not working. I need to try something different. I need to try smarter, not harder.

I have a hunch most of society probably fits into Group A, and most of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion fits into Group B.

I’d love to hear from you:

Have you successfully defeated the evil forces of long term weight gain?

Did you fail one way before succeeding in another?

If you’ve struggled, what keeps you trying? And how are you trying differently?

-Steve

PS: Nerd Fitness is Hiring! We’re looking for some more help delivering fun, approachable, and meaningful content. Apply at the links below!

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My 7 Favorite Push-Up Variations and the NF Push-Up Challenge! http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/22/my-7-favorite-push-up-variations-and-the-nf-push-up-challenge/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/22/my-7-favorite-push-up-variations-and-the-nf-push-up-challenge/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:25:06 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26636 The push-up is my favorite bodyweight exercise.

Although I personally love training with free weights in gym, a big portion of my workout revolves around bodyweight exercises- and that means lots of push-ups.

In fact, I once spent a year exercising around the world and did so without setting foot in a gym – it gave me a chance to really focus on bodyweight exercises as the only way to get fit, and changed my perspective on working out.

Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite variations of the push-up that show you just how versatile and fun they can be. With this one movement and its variations, you’ll never have an excuse for not getting stronger again :)

Let’s crush push-ups!

Push-ups: Basic Scaling Variations!

pushup lego

I’ve already written a whole article on how to do a proper push-up years ago, but here’s a quick refresher! First, ZERO equipment is needed. This means you have no excuse not to do them. Second, they are an all-star compound movement: they work all of the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms, and even help strengthen your core (it’s practically a moving plank!).

If you are doing a proper push-up, your elbows should be tight at your side, not flared way out. Keep your arms at your side, and your core and butt tight so your body forms a straight line from head to toe.

One of the best things about push-ups is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re 200 pounds overweight or built like King Leonidas; there’s a type of push-up you can do TODAY. You can make them easier or harder, depending on your skill and your needs.

Let’s look at a basic level and work our way up:

Level 1: The wall push-up: Stand facing the wall, a few feet from the wall. Think of this like a vertical push-up. The further away from the wall your feet are, the more challenging it is! Too hard? Get closer!

Level 2: If you can complete wall push-ups with ease, level up to a lower surface. Place your hands on an elevated surface like stairs or the back of a bench, and complete a push-up with your arms close by your side. The higher the platform, the less difficult the exercise will be. The best part about the elevated push-up is that you can do it anywhere: use a kitchen counter top, a couch, or whatever floats your boat!

And here’s Staci with a more elevated platform:

Here’s me, with a lower platform:  Level 3: Now, if you don’t have access to a wall or elevated platform, or you’re ready to start working towards a classic push-up, consider the next step up: the knee push-up. Make sure you keep your body tight: from the top of your head to your knees should form a straight line. Depending on your current level, any of the above variations can get you started. The goal is to continue to progress the difficult as you gain strength, and then you can move up to the classic push-up! Dominated the classic push-up? move on to elevated push-ups!

Level 4: Elevated Push-Ups

Elevating your feet puts an increased amount of emphasis on your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps. Now, make sure you continue to keep your body tight and in a straight line – don’t let your butt sag! The higher your feet, the more of an emphasis on your shoulders and triceps, and less on your chest (thus the greater difficulty). Once you’ve mastered the classic push-up and started elevating your feet, you can mix in some challenging variations to keep things interesting!

The diamond push-up

When people think of building bigger arms, they probably think of doing more bicep curls. Actually, because the tricep is a bigger muscle, you’ll get bigger arms faster with a greater emphasis on building your triceps. And there’s no better way to do that than with a diamond push-up (or a triangle push-up, as pictured below):

Really focus on solid form here – diamond push-ups challenge your triceps and even your wrist tendons and flexibility. You can also do these on your knees if you’re looking to isolate your triceps more:

The Side-to-Side Push-up

If you are trying to work your way up to a one-handed push-up, a great place to start is by building up your shoulder/chest/and tricep to collectively support more and more of your body weight. Here’s what I mean:

Get into the classic push-up position and move your hands farther apart. Now, lower yourself down towards one arm only – you should feel like you’re supporting a lot of your weight. To complete the rep, slide horizontally over to the other arm, and push up.

The farther apart your hands, the higher percentage of your bodyweight will be supported by that side of your chest/shoulder and arm (thus getting harder)! Think of this like a Level 3 movement on the way up to Level 10: one-handed push-ups.

The Plyometric Push-up

An explosive and powerful body is a healthy body.StevePlyoPushUp

And building explosive strength (power) helps with every other kind of strength! A plyometric movement recruits muscles to fire very quickly and rapidly, creating a ton of force in a little bit of time.
Thus, power!

Get into a classic push-up position, lower yourself to the bottom of the movement, and then EXPLODE up by forcefully pushing your hands off the ground. If you push hard enough, you should launch yourself up in the air.

Boom. See here:

Most people can’t start off doing regular plyometric push-ups. A great variation is to do them on your knees. You can even elevate your hands if necessary to make the exercise a level easier.

 

The Divebomber Push-up

A fun push-up name for an incredibly challenging push-up variation. If you’re working your way up to handstand push-ups (see the next variation!), this is a great place to start. Be warned: these are brutally difficult :)

Get yourself into a downward dog (shameless Nerd Fitness Yoga plug here!), and then move your head towards your hands. The rest of your body should follow. As you finish descending, push up through to a cobra yoga pose.  You’ll REALLY feel these in your shoulders and triceps, as your head moves towards your hands.

To complete the rep, reverse the process back to the start.

As you develop strength here in your shoulders and triceps (which are emphasized more than your chest in this movement), you’ll get closer and closer to being able to pull off the mother of all push-ups: the handstand push up.

The Handstand Push-up

Oof. That’s the sound of me falling on my head as I tried to learn how to do a proper handstand push over the past few years! Here on Nerd Fitness we’ve already written an extensive article on how to do a handstand, and we’ve covered push-ups, so we might as well combine the two, right?

Before you work on handstand push-ups, you can start by working your way up by doing Pike Push-Ups, which turns a push-up into a pretty difficult shoulder and tricep exercise! Once you’ve mastered that movement, you can work your way up to the handstand push-up.

Kick up against a wall, and without flailing your elbows way out to the side (which can wreak havoc on your shoulders and elbow joints), slowly lower yourself down until your head touches the ground softly. Then raise yourself back up.

If this is too challenging for you, consider just working on the negative portion: lowering yourself as slowly as possible, and then kicking back up into another handstand and repeat the process.

The Nerd Fitness push-up Challenge

stormtrooper pushups

The most important part of using bodyweight exercises for strength training: consistently and progressively increasing the difficulty.

Not only that, but on days when you are training your upper body (or any day when you are doing a full bodyweight routine, mixing in push-ups at the end of a workout is a a challenging way to close things out.

Remember – we all have to start somewhere, but we have to start. Doing a crappy push-up is better than doing no push-up.

So I challenge you:

Complete 30 push-ups TODAY.

I don’t care which variation you do. I don’t care if you do one every 30 minutes for the next 15 hours, or if you do all 30 at once.

But I want you to do 30 push-ups today.

And then leave a comment letting us know which type you did and how it went.

We’ll select one person at random (from people who comment by 11:59pm EST on 7/29/15) to give away a free membership to the Nerd Fitness Academy, where most of the videos in today’s article came from. The Academy has workout plans, diet advice, and a leveling system where you earn experience points when you complete quests.

So, drop and give me 30!

-Steve

photo source: themofojt: Stormtrooper Pushups

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How to Survive Sitting All Day http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/13/how-to-survive-sitting-all-day/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/13/how-to-survive-sitting-all-day/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 15:00:52 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26630 Although it’s “just a desk job,” working in an office can wreak absolute havoc on our bodies.

If you’re somebody who spends all day at a desk and computer (which I’m guessing applies to a majority of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion), you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Whether it’s lower back pain, wrist pain, a really tight neck, or a lack of mobility, when we spend all day at a desk to pay the bills, our bodies often get stuck picking up the tab.

What can we do to counteract this office life we have to live?

Although I’ve done some crazy things like exercise around the world, most of my time is spent sitting at a desk for 10+ hours a day, connecting with readers, writing articles, and watching stupid cat videos on YouTube.

I feel like I’ve cracked the code for staying limber despite sitting all day, and I want to share it with my fellow desk-dwellers!

Set your workspace up to succeed

bad monitor desk

If you work a desk job, you probably spend more time at your desk than you do at anything else in your life.

And yet, that time is often spent sitting in a chair that’s too low, with a desk that’s too high, and our necks bent down looking at a screen at an angle that makes us feel like Quasimodo.

That can result in all sorts of nasty stuff, like eyestrain, shoulder pain, back pain, arm pain, wrist pain, and neck pain.

Desk jobs might not seem physically taxing, but they can certainly cause us some physical problems. If you’re going to level up your office life, it’s time to do a desk audit.

So let’s start with setting your desk chair at the proper height so you can type without scrunching your shoulders up. I swear, 90% of desk/chair combos, in offices or in coffee shops have this ratio wrong.

You want to sit in a chair at a height where you can sit with your shoulders relaxed and pulled back, you’re sitting up tall, and your forearms are parallel to the ground or or lower, meaning you don’t need to reach up to your keyboard, nor shrug your shoulders.

I can tell when I work at a desk that’s the wrong height, and you probably can too: my shoulders shrug up, I get tense, and my neck bothers me for the next few days.

So, set your desk at the right height for you!

1. PICK A GREAT CHAIR:

You probably spend more than a third of your existence at a desk chair, so do what you can to make sure you’re setting in a chair that is not destroying your spine!

Last year, in an effort to fix my back issues, I bought a great desk chair (the Herman Miller chair). Honestly, it’s been fantastic, and my back feels great sitting in it for extended periods of time. But, I know it’s incredibly pricey.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a great chair (unless you can afford it) – you simply need a chair that has an adjustable height so you can set it so your feet are comfortably on the floor, a solid cushion to sit on, and good lower back support.

If your company supplied you with a crappy office chair, ask for the money to buy a good one (“it’ll improve my productivity!”), and head to an office supply store and try out a bunch of chairs. If they won’t pay for it, consider making the upgrade yourself.

A quick search on Amazon revealed this chair that has the best reviews ever – not bad for $150!

2. SET YOUR MONITOR AND DESKTOP PROPERLY:

If you work with a laptop, you are spending most of your day hunched over a tiny keyboard and trackpad.

Even if you work with a desktop computer, it’s certainly possible the monitor is not high enough for you to be able to not have to tilt your head down to look at it.

You want the height of your monitor to be such that you can look straight ahead and not have to adjust your neck angle to view the screen.

After spending a few years hunched over a laptop, I fixed my posture by adjusting where my eyes have to look by drastically raising the height of my monitors. Just raising my viewing angle was enough to get me to stop slouching, I no longer shrug my shoulders for hours, and my spine/back/shoulders/neck no longer hate me!

You don’t need anything fancy. I even just added some books to get the right height:

Desktop Set up

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to change your setup, and I’ve found that the inexpensive solutions above were well worth the money invested. Feel free to prop your monitor up with whatever you have around.

For laptop users, a separate keyboard and mouse can alleviate a lot of the “cramped” feelings and prevent you from ending up hunched over a laptop.

IF YOU WANT TO REALLY NERD OUT: check out this cool site from Ergotron (note: not a member of the Autobots). Simply put in your height and it can help you determine the height of your chair, keyboard, and monitor.

DeskSetUp

 

Now, if you have Quad Desk, or a Dwight Schrute exercise ball, you will probably have a different set of problems on your hands.

This should get you started with setting your desk up to win. But what about the rest of the day when you’re not sitting?

Staying limber in the office

cat stretch

Along with having a properly constructed office or cubicle, there are a few other things you can do to combat officitis:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – don’t stay in the same position for hours upon hours! Studies suggest the best plan for prolonged spinal health is to consistently alter your work environment – move around, stand when possible, sit…just don’t sit in the same position for 8 straight hours!

Set a timer every twenty minutes, and get up and do something! Take a lap around the office, do some shoulder rolls, neck rolls, or twists. I use a program called “focus booster” that pings me every 20 minutes to get up and do something (take a lap around NF HQ – my apartment – or do a quick stretch).

If you have your own office, or you work in a cubicle and don’t mind getting some funny looks, feel free to try some of the following:

The Couch Stretch: because I’m on my ass all day, my hip flexors tend to get tight. So I make sure to do a two minute-couch stretch every single day to help open up my hips:

The Thoracic Bridge Stretch (Hat tip to my buddy James Clear for finding this):

Consider dropping down into a basic body weight Grok Squat:

Own your office space

workspace desk

To answer your final question: you do not NEED a standing desk, even though the internet has a LOT to say about sitting all day.

I often stand when doing basic tasks like checking email or chatting with Team NF, but I really struggle with writing creatively while standing, so I’m almost ALWAYS seated for article writing.

If you ARE interested in a standing desk, we’ve actually already written a whole article about it on Nerd Fitness a few years back, but most of the ergonomic advice from the regular chair carries over.

We are all products of our environment, and by making small subtle changes to our batcaves we can set ourselves up to win.

I’d love to hear from you –

How have you combatted the evil forces of officitis?

How have you altered your working space to set yourself up to be healthy?

-Steve

NF_Logo_Large PS: Speaking of mobility, we just announced Nerd Fitness Yoga coming out later this month! Sign up for updates to get some cool bonuses and be the first to learn more about it!

PPS: How I made it this far without an Office Space reference is mind-boggling. even quoted that movie in my graduation speech. So, here you go: down with TPS reports!

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The State of the NF Rebellion (Plus: Nerd Fitness Yoga!) http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/09/the-state-of-the-nf-rebellion-plus-nerd-fitness-yoga/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/07/09/the-state-of-the-nf-rebellion-plus-nerd-fitness-yoga/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 18:03:02 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26638 Greetings my dear Rebel friend!

8 years ago, when I bought the domain NerdFitness.com, I had a big dream of helping a few dozen nerds get started with health and fitness. Too scared to actually do anything for a year, I finally got the courage to launch the site in January 2009.

I still remember the napkin I drew the first Nerd Fitness logo on, getting the idea for the “level up your life” tagline, and begging a friend to set up the initial site for me.

Six years later, hundreds of thousands of men and women from dozens of countries consider themselves part of the Rebellion. We have a powerful Academy community, a sold out yearly Camp event, and a growing team of Nerds dedicating themselves full-time to Nerd Fitness!

Whether you are brand new to Rebellion (welcome!), or you’ve been with us since day one (hey mom!), I think it’s important to fill you in about the current state of NF, what we’ve achieved to date, and most importantly, the direction we’re all going together.

What is the Rebellion philosophy?

Steve Fitness Skeptic Goggles

Now, if you’re brand new to NF, you might not know what we, members of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, stand for. Or, maybe you’ve been reading for a few years and you need a way to explain to your friends what the hell Nerd Fitness is. It’s more than just push ups, protein, and pride.

We members of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion believe in a few key ideas (11 rules specifically!). These are the three most crucial:

RULE #1: We know diet is 80-90% of the battle, so we do our best to eat as well as we can as often as possible, and occasionally choose to eat what we want.

RULE #2: We know that we need to have fun with our fitness, so we pick activities that make us happy and get our heart racing.

RULE #3: We also know that a strong and mobile nerd is a healthy nerd, so we make an effort to get stronger through bodyweight exercises or training. Strength makes every other activity in life easier!

We know all of the above is easier said than done, so we make sure we set ourselves up to win:

We are products of our environment, so we build ourselves epic batcaves that minimize the amount of willpower we need to make better decisions

We believe life is a giant game, and we get to be the heroes of that game! I actually turned my life into a game, giving myself experience points for going on adventures and completing quests and missions.

We only compare ourselves to who we were yesterday. Comparing ourselves to others is a recipe for disaster, as they have different genetics, lives, and so on.

That’s the Nerd Fitness Rebellion in 20 seconds. So, how the hell did we get there?

Where we are now…

NF Decal

This community is something pretty damn special. I want to share with you how the community has grown up over the past few years, and specifically how our team has grown up too!

About 18 months ago, we made the decision to take down our fitness training ebooks and instead dump all of our effort into The Nerd Fitness Academy – our flagship course for helping people get started with health and fitness. Last summer, we did a major overhaul, completely redesigning the Academy, adding a class system (Warrior? Ranger? Monk? Druid?), and even adding quests to complete to gain experience points and level up!

Last fall we had our first ever in-person major meetup: Camp Nerd Fitness! We brought 150 brave nerds to the mountains of Georgia for a long weekend of adventure and fun, and it changed my life. We had so much fun we decided to do it again this fall, and we’ve already sold all 300 spots for the event this September!

It has me thinking we need to do more of these things in 2016! :)

Now, none of this stuff would be possible without our incredible team, which has exploded in size in the past year. Many people still think that NF is just a one-man operation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Believe it or not, there are dozens of things that happen behind the scenes every day to make this site and community run properly.

We have Staci (Rebel Ops), Taylor (Managing Editor), Baker (Product Development), Darryl (Rebel Design), and Lauren (Rebel Support and Events), in addition to a dozen other folks who help with all sorts of other tasks in the background. We’ve come a long way from just me and a blog :)

In addition to all of the fun information above, here are some fun stats about the community:

  • 699 articles published
  • 268,000 email subscribers
  • 36,000 message board members (with 40 volunteer moderators!)
  • 13,000+ Academy members
  • Millions of monthly visitors

Honestly, those are some cool numbers, but they all pale in comparison to what’s really important: emails and messages and success stories from community members:

Steve before and After

Bronwyn Before After

before and after ron

I love hearing from you guys (yes, we read every email that hits in the NF inbox!), and nothing makes me happier than hearing about how NF helped you help yourself level up your life.

So, that’s where we’ve been… where are we going?

Nerd FItness Yoga is Coming!

NF Yoga

For the first time in nearly two years, we are putting out a new product! I’m excited to officially announce Nerd Fitness Yoga, coming out later this month. 

You see, strength is nothing without mobility. If you can’t get your body to sit down and stand up, it doesn’t matter how strong those muscles are!

Mobility and flexibility help you stay injury-free and feel younger, which makes every other part of your life easier.

But how does one get started with boosting their mobility and flexibility? Most of us have heard about Yoga classes. We know it can come with fantastic benefits, but what if you’ve never been to one?

Getting started can be freaking intimidating:

What if I don’t know how to find a yoga studio? Do I need one?

What if I’m too intimidated too start? I don’t want to look like a idiot!

I don’t have time to drive to a studio, can I try at home?

Those are just a few of the issues and concerns we set out to solve with the creation of Nerd Fitness Yoga.

We partnered with certified yoga instructor and (NF Rebel!) Kate Marolt to put together a course that includes everything you need to start improving your flexibility and mobility immediately: 6 full-length yoga routines, a deep stretching routine, and a handful of extra, shorter mobility videos you can view daily.

We want to eliminate any hurdles you have had with trying Yoga in the past. You can do these workouts anywhere, with anyone, at anytime. Daily routines as short as 5 minutes, with the advanced yoga routines taking up to 45 minutes. No matter how much time you have, we will help you jump in and get started.

It’s done with the same fun, inviting style you’ve come to know and love from Nerd Fitness (yes, including a few corny jokes from yours truly). We even designed the yoga studio to pay homage to Super Mario!

Yoga Set

We’ve done our best to create a product that will work for any member of our community, whether you’re 500 pounds or 100 years old – every video features instruction for any level and any body type.

If you’re somebody that wants to try yoga but is afraid to go to a studio, or just can’t find one in your town, NF Yoga will be a great fit for ya!

I’m not gonna lie: I’m really freaking proud of NF Yoga. We don’t have many things for sale at Nerd Fitness, so when we put something new, we make sure it’s something worth checking out! We’ll be releasing Nerd Fitness Yoga towards the beginning of August, and I couldn’t be more excited.

If you’re interested in learning more about the product and to get some extra content between now and then, sign up for our NF Yoga List to be notified of all the things we’re putting together.

PUT YOUR EMAIL IN THE BIG BOX BELOW!






For the rebellion… next!

team super hero

While there is a lot of excitement around sharing NF Yoga next month with you, that’s not the only thing coming in the near future.

I hate making promises when I don’t have specifics or a deadline, but I can fill you in on a few more things you can expect over the next 12 months!

  • Our sold out Camp NF 2015 goes down in September
  • A super secret project launches in January 2016 (to be revealed soon! I can’t share it yet, but it’s a big one…)
  • A character creation and leveling system for ALL members of Nerd Fitness
  • An improved Nerd Fitness Academy experience: more quests, new recipes, and improved workouts
  • Our next premium product (We’ll be asking directly what you’d like to see us build next, so keep an eye out for a survey soon! )
  • More in-person events to meet members of Team NF and other passionate Rebels near you

I’ve had this grand vision of looking at life as a game for as long as I can remember, and only now are we at a place where we have the tools, the talent, and the time to pull it off.

Things have certainly taken longer than I would have liked them to, but I’m fired up for what’s to come. I truly expect Nerd Fitness to become a worldwide juggernaut that puts a dent in the universe.

Thanks for being here, and thanks for putting the words of the Rebellion into action. I can’t wait to bring all of the above to life and show you what the team and I have been working on behind the scenes for a long time.

-Steve

PS: here’s a link again to sign up for our Yoga interest list. Excited to share more info with you on it towards the end of the month!

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How Ron the Lay Pastor Lost 100 lbs http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/29/how-ron-the-lay-pastor-lost-100-lbs/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/29/how-ron-the-lay-pastor-lost-100-lbs/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:30:59 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26550 Meet Ron, an office manager for a retirement and investment firm, a lay pastor at a local church, and a badass nerd.

Ron and his family (wife of eight years and two girls) live in western Indiana, where they raise some of their own food, and work their butts off in the yard.

Not long ago, Ron was stuck feeling as though he was just drifting through life –  sapped of energy, unmotivated, and overweight.

But after coming across Nerd Fitness, going Paleo, and implementing exercise strategy from the Nerd Fitness Academy, he’s turned his life around both physically and emotionally. Ron is down over 100 lbs (and 10 inches off his waist), and is hungering for the next thing to keep him challenged. 

Let’s find out how he did it.

Ron’s Story

Before after2

Steve: Thanks for taking the time to let me interview you dude! Let’s start with what life was like for the “old” you. 

Ron

Ron: I was a sad sack of unmotivated carrion. My days usually started late because I had usually stayed up too late the night before watching TV or reading. Only having enough time for a quick shower and something carby or sugary for breakfast on the way out, I would collapse into my office chair typically 5 minutes or more late.

To no surprise, my stomach was usually pretty quick to rumble, so I was typically in the break room searching for munchies by 9:30 or 10.

Lunch was usually hurried because, shockingly, I was usually behind schedule having arrived late and taking up time for the previously mentioned munchies. Portions for most meals are surprising to look back at now. Like oliphant-sized portions. I don’t remember chewing a whole lot. Things were swallowed or torn into like an orc. I don’t remember tasting much either, for that matter.

I was completely exhausted by 5. You can imagine how fun I was when I arrived home. I was too tired to play with the kids, work in the yard, or help with the house. Dinner was an exaggerated display of the lunch mob scene. Then I usually followed that a couple hours later with a “bedtime snack,” which meant anything in the pantry that I could munch on while I sat in front of the TV or studied on the computer. I couldn’t tell you how much I would typically consume because there was no sense of regulation or measure. I just ate until I felt better. I ate until I didn’t feel bad about all the things I thought were so bad about my life. It was a deadly cycle.

Steve: Holy crap – you were seriously stuck in a cycle of doom. So what was it that sparked the change?

I remember being on vacation with my family and my closest friend’s family. We usually go to Lake Michigan in August. I love the beach there, but I remember being so aware of my weight that I couldn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t enjoy the kids. I wasn’t happy about spending time with my wife or my best friend and his family. I wasn’t thankful for what I had been given. I felt sick at what I had wasted. I felt disgusted that I had selfishly spent so much time being a horrible steward of what God had blessed me with.

When we were back home, I started searching. I wanted to find something sensible. I knew none of the gimmicky stuff would work for me. I needed something I enjoyed and could connect with, and I found this article by this nerd on fitness. His “deep” thoughts were “eat a little better, get a little stronger, run a little faster.” I felt the connection, I had dealt with God on the deep roots of the problems that had caused all of this, and I was ready to live differently.

Steve: And what’s a typical day like now?

I get up with more time on my hands, and usually have time to read something encouraging from the Bible or a spiritual article. My wife spoils me and without fail is up making me eggs and bacon. This is my absolute favorite food now, especially if it contains some kind of greens like kale.

Work actually goes by much quicker nowadays. I convinced my boss to let me replace my desk with a standing desk on the wall, so I am usually on my feet or at least leaning on a stool. I usually do not feel the mid morning call for snacks.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I enjoy running after work as well as on Saturday mornings. I have been training all winter and spring for my first half marathon which I recently finished. I know it’s not your favorite mode of exercise, Steve, but the camaraderie of my running club has helped immensely and the experience and advice of other runners has helped me to pursue it carefully and wisely. I also cross train on other days using the workouts in the Nerd Fitness Academy.

Steve: If you love it and it’s working for you, that’s awesome! Seems like you’ve changed completely – how did you get started?

When I first started I was just focusing on completing different routines you had on the site and others I found online. This worked great and is what I was doing when I lost a lot of my weight.

I  soon found some exciting goals to conquer – the challenge of completing a half marathon just pulled me in. So, I put my focus on this, and maintaining my core and building strength.

Steve: That’s awesome man – sounds like you got the workout part figured out! What about your diet? 

I have had a gluten sensitivity since high school that required a diet change not long after I was married. Of course, gluten-free does not mean healthy, so when I started studying on Nerd Fitness, I was definitely excited to get on the Paleo bandwagon. My wife was not as excited as I was, which was my fault looking back, as I did not take the time to share with her what I was learning and the reasons for my excitement.

Eventually she did see the merits, and we use a Paleo-ish strategy. (I would not say we are 100% as we do use rice and some other exceptions, but definitely emphasize whole foods over processed.) We have also started raising some of our own meat in the form of chickens and have a good size garden. It’s been awesome to see the kids learning from a young age where our food comes from and to help in growing their own.

Steve: I love that you’re raising and growing your own food! Well done sir! Let’s talk about the journey itself – how did you track your progress?

Focused entirely on weight early on, weighing myself almost daily. Then feeling the weight of your reprimands in the Academy, I stopped obsessing over that and took encouragement from losing inches around my waist and chest as well.

Steve: Haha awesome, glad to see someone’s listening! What would you say was the most important change you made that helped you succeed?

As a family man, the most important change would have to be when the whole house changed. It made it so much easier to have my wife and kids eating healthy with me so that I didn’t come home to temptation.

Steve: Was it your family that was your main support system?

Ron_after3

Yep – I got lots of of encouragement from my wife – my chief supporter. Other family and my family at church really helped to encourage me when they noticed changes. My best friend helped big time with the accountability by being willing to ask how I was doing in working out and such. Of course, the information and community on Nerd Fitness was an instant shot in the arm whenever I was struggling.

Steve: Have you tried and failed to get healthy before in the past? What made this time different? Any advice for someone in your old shoes?

I would have to say the big difference in this effort was the small bite approach.

My advice would be to look honestly at your life, and do some self-examination – are your bad habits merely symptoms of deeper root problems? Then resolve to tackle this a step at a time: “Eat a little better, get a little stronger, run a little faster.”

Steve: You’ve lost a hundred pounds and transformed dramatically. What’s next for you?

Now that I finished my first half marathon, I have a goal to do another one in the fall with a focus on finishing it in under 2 hours. This last one was 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Steve: That’s awesome. Your physical appearance has clearly changed…what else has changed about you?

I would say my eyes are more open to all I have to be thankful for.

Steve: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

Definitely Lord of the Rings, but I enjoy Star Wars and know enough about it to frustrate the ones that love it with incorrect references and such.

Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?

I could read all day every day. If I go missing, look for me in a dirty hotel room, covered in the dust jackets of a thousand books.

Steve: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?

Matter manipulation so I could manipulate what matters.

Steve: I see what you did there. Quote to live by?

“God finds our desires not too strong, but too weak…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -CS Lewis

Steve: Tell us something interesting about you!

I can beat most people playing chubby bunny. Google it.

Steve: Thanks for putting my words into action my man! The Rebellion is proud of you :)

Why Ron Was Successful

Ron_after1

Ron cracked the code: when you’re stuck in a cycle of demotivation and apathy, 100 lbs of weight loss and changing nearly all of your daily habits can seem like an impossibility. But Ron’s life now looks completely different – he’s full of energy, has built a solid base of healthy habits, and is hungry to take on the next challenge.

Let’s take a look at the why Ron broke through:

Ron had a great “why”: Ron had an awesome source of motivation – his family. One of the exercises in the Nerd Fitness Academy asks Rebels to write down their “big why” – the reason you decided to start on a path to a healthier and leveled up life, which helps keep you going when the initial excitement wears off and you have to stay on target. Ron had one of the best reasons out there – he wanted to be able to play with his daughters, and serve as a role model for healthy behavior. We can accomplish tremendous feats when we are fueled with a powerful “why.”

Exercise strategy: Ron implemented a cross-training exercise strategy. He didn’t JUST go for runs or didn’t spend all day at the gym. Instead, he implemented some core strength training ideas, but set his big goals around his runs because that’s what made him happy! Ron didn’t spend his time stressing about “getting through” workouts he hated. Instead he found something that got him excited.

Not only did this help him to start to build an antifragile body, but it also gave him many different ways in which he could see progress (and thus create some awesome positive feedback to keep him motivated and on track). When you see your running mileage going up AND you’re getting stronger from week to week, it’s hard not to get excited about leveling up your real life character even further.

Ron took small bites: Ron says he never really gave “getting healthy” an honest try before. It was the mantra of “small bites” (aka tiny permanent changes) that made approaching this huge journey seem doable rather than impossible. When we stand at the base of the mountain and look up, it’s easy to turn around and think: “no way am I getting up there.”

But when we look forward at the road ahead, instead of the peak of the mountain, we begin to realize that all really need to do is put one foot in front of the other. Just ask Frodo: that’s how he walked to Mordor!

If you’ve failed in the past, or struggled to even get started on your journey, give it another shot. Try setting incredibly small goals, and stop looking at the peak of the mountain. Just focus on that next step.

Ron went Paleo-ish: As we say (ad nauseam) – diet is 80-90% of the battle. Nearly every success story we’ve had has made diet a key focus at some point in their journey. Ron didn’t stress about going 100% paleo, following a strict “clean eating” diet, or counting calories every day, but he did put a focus on eating less processed food and more real food.

We often overcomplicate the diet thing. In reality, that’s all it takes: eat more real food, and eat a little less junk each day. In the Academy we have 10 different levels of “healthy eating,” and we encourage people to find the level that works best for their lifestyle and goals – for Ron it was a paleo-ish focus on eating whole foods and more vegetables. He’s even now growing his own food in his back yard!

Become the Next Success Story

Ron_Before_After

Ron made some major changes over a period of 18 months. He didn’t use quick fixes. He worked smarter, implemented a few small changes that made a big difference and built on those over time.

Remember, we want to create permanent changes that last a lifetime, not just get you ready for the beach or your wedding. With over 100 lbs lost and a new outlook on life, Ron joins the hall of Rebel heroes to help inspire us all to keep moving forward and leveling up.

Remember – we’re a community, here to support and lean on one another. Let’s learn from each other’s successes.

What questions do you have for Ron?

-Steve

PS: I was really proud to learn that Ron was a member of the Nerd Fitness Academy – and to see that the programs were an important part of his journey. If you’re looking for more complete and directed instruction, check out the Academy and see if it can help you too. Otherwise, the 600+ articles and free workouts on Nerd Fitness are a great place to start too :)

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How to Cook the Easiest Steak Ever http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/25/how-to-cook-the-easiest-steak-ever/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/25/how-to-cook-the-easiest-steak-ever/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 13:54:40 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26033 This is a recipe from Rebel Chef Noel Fernando.

When people think of the Paleo Diet, it seems like the first thing that comes to mind is a big, juicy steak. (Okay, so maybe bacon is first. Then steak.)

Many of us do love steak, but are afraid of trying to cook it at home. A nice piece of meat, even at the grocery store, can be expensive, so we don’t want to risk over-cooking or seasoning incorrectly. I understand where your fears are coming from, friends, and I’m here to talk you through it.

Believe me, steak intimidated me for a long time. If you’ve been wanting to try cooking your own steak at home, this recipe couldn’t be any simpler. Get ready to level up your cooking game and make yourself gosh darn proud!

This steak is super easy. It takes 15 minutes and only uses 4 ingredients.

Enough talking. Let’s get to cooking!

Ingredients & Equipment:

Noel_Easy_Steak_001

Basic Steak:

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 3 min
Serves: 2

1 steak (1/2 lb or 226g per person) - if this is your first time cooking a steak, get a ribeye. It’s hard to go wrong with this cut. Ribeyes are well-marbled, tender pieces of meat, with a mid-range price. If you can afford it, spring for grass fed beef. It tastes better.

An ideal ribeye is about an inch thick. Some places give you the option of bone-in or boneless. I usually go with boneless, but this is just personal preference.

1/2 Tbsp (7.3 ml) butter or ghee – ghee has a higher smoke point and is better for searing meats, which is what we’re doing here. But chefs around the world have been using butter to sear meat for a long time. Just make sure your pan isn’t so hot that the butter burns. (You’ll know it’s burning when you put it in the pan and it immediately turns brown and smells a little off. If this happens to you, it’s totally fine. I still do it all the time. Just pour your butter out, rinse off the pan – careful not to burn yourself while doing this – and start over by heating the pan up again.)

Coarse sea salt - using coarse salt for cooking steak changed my world. If you want your world rocked and you’re going to be cooking meats often, get some high-quality coarse salt. You won’t regret it.

Freshly ground, coarse black pepper - the best way to control the coarseness and freshness of your pepper is to buy a pepper mill. This is a pretty decent investment for a new cook. If you like the taste of pepper, nothing beats having it freshly ground. If you don’t have it, regular pepper obviously works too!

Equipment:

  • Frying pan - Please use an all-metal pan (cast iron or stainless steel are great). You’ll be placing it in a hot hot hot oven, and nothing ruins a meal like melted, burned plastic inside your oven. Womp womp.
  • Tongs - One of my favorite pieces of equipment in the kitchen. If you don’t have a pair of tongs, get yourself one. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
  • Cutting Board – Any will do, but plastic is best for staying sanitary when cooking with raw meat.
  • Meat thermometer (optional) - I’ve mentioned this magical little piece of equipment before. If you never ever want to have to worry about over or under cooking your meat, buy this thing. It makes everything so much easier. Your steak, chicken, pork chop, etc. will be cooked to perfection every time.

Instructions:

1. Start by taking your steak out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature. This helps the steak cook quickly and evenly. Just make sure you put it in a safe place so your dog doesn’t steal it. My dog stole a pound of flank steak one time… it was a bad day (for me…my dog had a great day!)

2. Next, heat your pan and the oven. Set the oven to broil (or high, if that’s an option), and heat your pan on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

Noel_Easy_Steak_024

3. While the pan and oven are pre heating, take your steak out of the package and place it on a cutting board or plate. Pat it dry with some paper towels. Having minimal moisture on the meat will ensure the most contact between the actual meat and the pan. You’re shooting for no liquid in between.

4. Next, sprinkle some salt and grind pepper onto both sides of your steak. Easy enough.

Noel_Easy_Steak_004

If you want to get really fancy and plan ahead, salt your meat and then let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator over night. The salt will break down some of the muscle tissue and re-absorb some of the moisture.

5. This is where things start to happen quickly. Make sure you’ve read through the rest of the recipe so you know what comes next! I suggest you also have a stop watch or timer with you.

Plop your butter or ghee into the pan, and place your steak right on top of it. The steak should sizzle right away. Oh yeah.

Noel_Easy_Steak_010

After 30 seconds, use your tongs to flip the meat. Your steak should have a nice brown caramelization on the side you just seared. This is called the maillard reaction, and it is delicious, beautiful thing.

Noel_Easy_Steak_013

6. Let your beautiful steak cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Now both sides will be caramelized brown, but the middle will still be raw. That’s okay. Move on to step 7.

7.  Next, take that pan and stick it in the oven. (If you’re using a meat thermometer, this is the time to use it. Set it and stick it in the steak before you put it in the oven please! Remember, medium-rare is 130-135F, medium is 140-145F, and medium-well is 150-155F. Many digital thermometers have pre-settings you can choose from.)

Noel_Easy_Steak_015

8. In order to get a medium-rare steak, it will need to sit in the broiler for approximately 2 minutes. Yes, that’s right. Only 2 minutes.

9. After those two minutes are up, grab an oven mitt and pull your steak out of the oven. But don’t slice into it yet!

10. Remove your steak from the pan with your tongs and place it on a cutting board or plate. If you’re using the same board/plate from step 4 (seasoning), you’ll want to wash it first! No mixing cooked and raw surfaces!

Noel_Easy_Steak_016

Let the steak rest on the plate, covered in foil, for about 10 minutes. This could be the longest 10 minutes of your life. While you’re waiting, fix up a salad, put some veggies on your plate, cut your sweet potato in half, or play some Tetris.

11. Eat up! Congratulations! You just cooked your first steak! 10 points to Gryffindor!

Get Cooking!

Noel_Easy_Steak_021

The weather’s getting warmer, and summer is a time for grilling. Not all of us Rebels have access to a grill, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a big juicy steak every once in a while!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit this makes a pretty plain piece of meat. If you’re buying high quality beef, this is probably all you’ll need to make it taste amazing.

However, some people’s taste buds might want a little more. Feel free to experiment with dry rubs, marinades, herbs, and spices of any kind (more of these higher-level recipes coming soon!). As always, if you’re sticking to paleo, read the labels!

In any case, follow the 10 steps above, use these 4 ingredients, and it’ll be one of the tastiest, prettiest home cooked meals you’ll put on your plate. Be proud of your mad skills!

What’s your favorite way to cook a steak? Marinades? Rubs?

What other recipes would you like to see? 

Let us know in the comments!

-Noel

PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!

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Dunechaser: Neoligthic Men

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Fat Shaming vs Body Acceptance: Is it okay to be fat? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/22/fat-shaming-vs-body-acceptance-where-do-we-draw-the-line/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/22/fat-shaming-vs-body-acceptance-where-do-we-draw-the-line/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:51:13 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25973 Love who you are! But don’t settle!

That person must be vain. They’re way too in shape.

Get that girl a burger! She’s too skinny!

I’m full-figured and proud of it! Strong is the new skinny!

You can’t go five minutes these days without everybody chiming in on body acceptance, fat-shaming, or just expressing their opinion about what a human body should look like. (Not to mention the recent controversy surrounding /r/fatpeoplehate on Reddit.)

Today, we’re gonna dig into some of the tension between those supporting body acceptance, those actively engaged in fat shaming, and those looking to simply improve their health and the health of their loved ones.

Regardless of your current physique and situation, I bet you’ve contributed to this problem without even noticing it.

Let’s get after it.

You should look like this

kirby

Regardless of what you look like currently, or how you want to look, there will always be detractors everywhere, letting you know you should look different.

Ultimately, they’re saying one of two things:

  1. I am interested in this type of person, and you look different; therefore, you should change.
  2. I look a certain way and you look different, thus I need to challenge your look to feel better about my look. (Sometimes this is also, “I want to look like you do, but I don’t, so I’m going to challenge it to feel better.)

About a week ago, Nerd Fitness was featured in an Imgur article that made it to #1. In it, they referenced the before and after photos of Team NF member Staci and her incredible transformation.

A quick trip to the comments reveals plenty of dudes who decided it was their place to let Staci know they liked her better in the before picture.

Staci

Staci gets this quite frequently (thank you Internet), and her response is always the best:

“Why do I care what they think? I was unhealthy, my doctor told me I was unhealthy, and I was miserable. Now I’m happy and healthy. Thanks for the input though.”

I’m sure this isn’t the first you’ve seen of this. People want to let others know they liked them better when they were bigger, or smaller, or whatever. It will come from random internet trolls, or even from our own family and friends!

Throw in this “Dad bod” nonsense (I weep for the future of humanity that I even have to acknowledge this) and you got yourself plenty of situations where we have a group of people who are unhealthy justifying their unhealthy lifestyles by putting down people who choose to live healthy.

It’s ridiculous, and it needs to stop.

Things we need to stop saying

words dictionary

Be honest, I bet you’ve said one of the following phrases or saw somebody else saying it and agreed. If we’re gonna elevate ourselves above all of this, the following phrases should be put out to pasture:

“Strong is the new skinny!” This phrase is often accompanied by a picture of a smokin’ hot woman in minimal clothing who is thin and (maybe) strong. You now have two things to feel bad about: you’re neither strong nor skinny! Not only that, but there are a ton of skinny folks trying their hardest to gain weight. Which brings us to…

“That person needs to eat.” This is essentially “skinny-shaming.” Many people have no problem saying “that girl should eat something!” when the same person would probably never say “that girl should eat less!” about someone who is overweight. We all have different body types, and yes, some people are naturally very thin. Guys or girls!

“Real women have curves.” Real women have a heartbeat. If you qualify, then you’re in! Real women have curves, or they’re skinny, or they’re big, or they’re tall, or they’re short. Just because you don’t look like the woman next to you doesn’t mean she’s not a real woman.

“That person is WAY too fit. Soooo vain.” It’s easy to make fun of the really really big guy at the gym, or the “too strong” girl, and make fun of them for being really vain or “scary” for having a bodybuilder body. We don’t make fun of people for being great at football, drawing, or cooking – fitness is a hobby, too (and weightlifting / powerlifting is a SPORT just like football).

Apparently the world has determined it’s okay to get in shape, but not too in shape. If you’re a dude, you can get big… but not too big. If you’re a woman getting strong is cool, until you’re too strong and then it’s “manly” and you need to stop because it’s gross.

As the comedian Jim Gaffigan quipped in a way that’s all too real: 

Jim Gaffigan

We all want to feel good about ourselves, and it’s easier to indirectly put down others who don’t look like us instead of taking a look in the mirror and asking ourselves “am I healthy, happy, and comfortable and confident in my skin? Cool, I’ll do me, and you do you.”

After all, who gets to determine what somebody should look like? And whether he or she should gain weight or lose weight, get bigger or get smaller? Only THAT PERSON!

Body acceptance vs shaming

measuring tape bellyNow, we’re all created differently. 

Where do we draw the line between telling people “love who you are, no matter what” and “you are killing yourself with your lifestyle choices, and you need to change?”

It’s certainly not always tied to our physical appearance. Some women have a gap between their thighs, while some men can put on muscle quickly and easily. Some women are naturally more big boned, and some men are super skinny. Regardless of where we are: big or small, thick or thin, we can all work towards a healthier existence.

That’s probably why you’re visiting a site called Nerd Fitness!

On top of that, you might look at somebody and say “that person is unhealthy,” not knowing that they are on their journey, down 100+ pounds already, and working daily to improve themselves. You never know.

In this game of life, it’s like somebody hit the random button when it came to our genetics and that’s the character we must play…but from there it’s 100% up to us to play the game however we want. Once you accept your starting point, you can also accept personal responsibility and start leveling up from there.

Regardless of what you look like, all I care about is the following:

  • Do you get a clean bill of health from your doctor? You can be “damn proud” of your body, but if you’re overweight and unhealthy, or skinny and unhealthy…something needs to change.
  • Are you working to get better? For some that might mean a bigger deadlift, or a slimmer waistline, or 10 lbs lost or gained. Again, the specific goal is less important than having one! What I care about is that you only compare yourself to you from the day before, and work on making improvements.

If we’re going to survive as a society, we need to stop putting down other people, fit or unfit, and realize its a waste of our time, energy, and effort. It’s never okay to shame or bully people.

Body acceptance and health

lego pullup

The truth can hurt sometimes, but we need to accept it: we are bigger as a nation than we’ve ever been. 

In fact, women’s clothing has had size inflation for the past 40 years. It’s clear that as a society, we might not be doing so well.

And yup, things need to change. 

I’m all for body acceptance, but if we are in an unhealthy place, it should be accompanied by a commitment to getting healthier. The truth is, many people are unhealthy and eating themselves to an early grave.

Insulting people who are unhealthy is certainly not helping; it’s cruel, unhelpful, and can make things worse.

We have a personal responsibility to ourselves to be happy. We have a responsibility to play the hand we’re dealt, challenge ourselves to be better and take action on improving our lives. Nowhere is there a place for insulting others.

My challenge to you today is to start thinking about a few key things:

1) Are you using any of the phrases that put down others to make yourself feel better?

2) Are you getting a clean bill of health from your doctor, or are you using the “I am proud of my body” as an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial subject: 

How should we navigate this space of not wanting to offend, but help the people in our lives get healthy? What about people who proudly don’t want to change?

Conversely, have you noticed yourself putting down others because they were simply different?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

-Steve

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photo source: Paul Boxley: Kirby, caleb roenigk: hostility, Koisny: Lego

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Your Most Popular Diet Questions Answered http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/18/your-most-popular-diet-questions-answered/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/18/your-most-popular-diet-questions-answered/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:31:09 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26379 “Help! I know should eat better but I don’t actually know what that means!”

We get emails like this all day, every day, because “eating better” is a confusing subject.

  • Go to a doctor and he might tell you to eat more “heart healthy whole grains.”
  • Read another blog and it might say “eat 30 bananas a day for optimal health” (seriously, that’s a thing apparently).
  • Open the latest fitness magazine and you’ll be taught about belly-fat banishing super foods.

What’s the truth? How the heck does one “eat better?” How much should I eat? Why are we here? What’s the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

The answer to all of these questions and more are covered below in an easily-digestible (heyo) article.

Let’s dig in.

How much should you eat?

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-28

“Is it true that the less I eat, the faster I’ll lose weight?”

Maybe… and only up to a certain point. Our goal isn’t to get you to lose weight as quickly as possible. Our goal is to get you to lose body fat (not just weight) in a sustainable, permanent fashion.

Why?

Because starving yourself for a month-long “diet” only to return to old habits right after doesn’t help anybody.

So, we do NOT recommend you go on a diet. I actually hate that word. And the word “moist,” but I digress. A diet implies a temporary change to lose weight quickly, until you return to an unhealthy “normal life,” at which point you’ll put all of the weight right back on and have to repeat the cycle. Instead, we are going to make permanent changes to our lifestyle, moving the bar and adjusting what “normal” means to you.

Because over-consuming calories is generally the major culprit in an expanding waistline, consuming fewer calories is a good starting point. Spend a few days using a calorie tracker app (like MyFitnessPal) to track your daily food intake – every calorie. Once you start to educate yourself on how much you are eating every day, my bet is you’re eating more than you thought.

[note: Most sites and apps like MyFitnessPal give you macronutrient breakdowns that we don’t necessarily agree with. Disregard their recommendations for a low fat and high carb ratio, and simply use the apps for tracking.]

“So, I know how much I AM eating, how much SHOULD I be eating?”

Depending on your level of activity and body composition, your daily caloric needs will be different for every person… but here’s a broad range for an average human trying to eat an acceptable amount:

  • Men: 1800-2200 calories
  • Women: 1600-2000 calories

These are ROUGH estimates based on basic numbers, though the specific total you need will depend on your height, weight, genetics, and level of activity – you can actually calculate it by plugging in your stats here, and it’ll give you a ROUGH estimate of how many calories you should be consuming on average to maintain your weight. Eat less, lose weight. Eat more, gain weight. This is called your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

You can calculate your TDEE here.

Now, because this amount might be drastically less than you currently consume, we recommend you slowly decrease the amount of food you eat so your body doesn’t revolt: going from 3500-4000 calories per day down to 1600 is a recipe for disaster!

“Wait, why is eating WAYYY too few calories bad?”

Regardless of how much you eat, we don’t recommend that you drop below the bottom end of the spectrum if you want to be healthy and happy. Eating 1200 calories a day (or less), along with running on a treadmill for two hours is unsustainable, unhealthy, and won’t get you the results you’re after in the long term.

When you eat the right kinds of food (explained below!), and the correct amount of it, you’ll give your body the “ok!” to stop hoarding calories and storing energy and start burning it!

Note: This doesn’t mean if you skip a meal here or there your body will kick into starvation mode. In fact, we recommend skipping meals here and there for many people! It’s called intermittent fasting.

“What if I’m trying to get bigger?? How can I eat more calories?”

Welcome to my world! If you are skinny and looking to pack on some size and muscle, you need to consume more calories than you are burning, in addition to following a challenging strength-training routine to stimulate muscle growth.

For that reason, the same foods we encourage people to avoid when they are trying to LOSE weight can be great tools to help you GAIN weight.

This means in addition to consuming protein sources to assist in muscle building (meat, fish, eggs, whey protein, etc), look for foods that are high calorie and high carb to get your total caloric/carb intake up:

  • Rice (brown or white)
  • Whole milk
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Fruit
  • Nuts (healthy fats, high in calorie)
  • Nut Butter (peanut, almond, cashew)

If you’re not getting bigger, you’re not eating enough. Count calories for a week, add 250 more per day, and check again in two weeks to see how your weight has changed!

“What about snacking? What are some healthy snacks I can eat throughout the day?”

Actually, I’m not a big fan of snacking! I’m officially on Team “No Snack” as I just make sure my actual meals are big and healthy. Now, if you are looking for some healthy options, no problem. Make sure you check out our article on snacking! Just remember to keep track of total calories for the day!

Eating healthier

Pulled_Pork_040_Noel

“Got it, so I should eat fewer calories…but now I’m hungry all the time because I’ve cut half of what I used to eat in half. And now I’m cranky. And I want my cookies. And that ice cream over there.”

Although calorie restriction is a good start for losing weight, we also believe that the quality of the calorie plays a big role too! Your body does not treat every calorie equally: eating a lot of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein will result in a different experience for your body compared to an equal amount of candy, pasta, cookies, and cake.

For that reason, if you’re going to start eating fewer calories, you need to start consuming more filling foods that don’t have a ton of calories.

Foods like chicken, steak, fish, and most protein sources (provided they aren’t breaded and deep fried) can help you feel full without increasing your caloric intake.

The same is true for vegetables: if you can LOAD up a plate with veggies and grilled chicken covered in salsa (or one of our other healthy recipes), I guarantee it’ll be a fraction of the calories compared to a big soda, french fries, a plate of pasta, chips, or candy. And you’ll actually feel satiated after!

There’s a method to the madness with this type of eating. We don’t LOVE counting calories, as it can cause us to get neurotic and freak out over every calories, though it is a good place to start. So, instead, we try to simplify things and put the focus on real food as a strategy to stay on track long term.

Some use the Paleo Diet, which we are fans of due to its focus on consuming real foods. Others just use the “stop eating junk, start eating real food” strategy.

“Wait, eat more vegetables, and protein? But I read on many sites that meat is bad for you, and I should be eating more heart-healthy whole grains.”

Personally, I’m not a vegetarian nor do I prescribe to the lifestyle – I believe meat can be a healthy part of our diet. If you don’t eat meat, feel free to stick around, but make sure you check out my friend Matt at NoMeatAthlete.com too! As for “heart-healthy whole grains,” we actually recommend you minimize the amount of grains and total carbs you consume.

“How many carbs is too many?”

If your goal is weight loss, we recommend that you consume less than 100 grams of carbs per day, and aim to get most of those carbs from leafy greens and other vegetables. Depending on your training routine, that number might need to be lower or higher.

“If I keep my carbs under 100 grams per day, then what else do I eat?”

Lots of healthy fats (avocado, fatty meats, almond butter, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil) and protein!

“I thought fat was bad for me?” 

Nope! Fat has been wrongly vilified for years. Eating fat does not make you fat, just like eating foods with cholesterol is different than the cholesterol in your blood.The real enemy? Sugar and refined processed foods!

Want to kickstart your weight loss? Cut sugar from your diet. No more sodas.

“I know I should eat more vegetables. But I don’t want to give up the foods I love. And I love sugar.”

How about this: eat healthy as often as you can, and then for a few meals a week, eat what you want. See how your body changes over a few weeks, and then adjust accordingly. Don’t give up anything permanently, but you have to start limiting the junk food. And sugar is what’s ruining us.

What if I just don’t like the taste of vegetables?

That’s cool. Neither did I, til I found my gateway vegetable: grilled asparagus. And then I started liking zucchini when in a stirfry. And then broccoli. And now I eat bowls of vegetables. Here’s a strategy for vegetable haters.

Making changes permanent

notebook

“Great work Steve, you made my head hurt. Eat less sugar, eat more fat. Vegetables are good, too many carbs is bad. Eat less but not too much less. Just tell me what to do.”

First and foremost, don’t over-complicate things. Knock that off. All I want you to do is make small, DELIBERATE, sustainable changes to your diet:

  • Try to eat some protein with each meal.
  • Vegetables are your friend. And no, corn doesn’t count.
  • Fat is not the enemy! Liquid calories, and sugar in particular, are your enemy.
  • Make changes you can live with.

All we’re trying to do is raise the average number of healthy decisions you make each week. If last week you made 0 healthy decisions, then if you make just 1 this week – congrats, your average week is now healthier than last week!

We are not trying to crash-diet our way into a bathing suit for a week. We are making permanent changes that permanently change our relationship with food. We take care of ourselves – we eat more veggies and protein because we know they make us operate and function better.

No matter your situation, start today. Make one better decision. As you get better at understanding how to eat better, you can increase the difficulty and make more healthy decisions each week to accelerate the speed you transform.

“What’s the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?”

42.

Any other questions for me? I’d love to answer them.

-Steve

PS: If you want more specific instruction, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, diet strategy, workout plans, and the ability to level up a character by completing quests!

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11 Most Common Workout Questions Answered http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/15/11-most-common-workout-questions-answered/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/06/15/11-most-common-workout-questions-answered/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 11:01:52 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26345 Why, hello there!

The goal of Nerd Fitness is to remove every barrier and excuse, both mental and physical, from helping you build a body you’re proud of and do the things you want to do.

Not that any of us would ever use excuses to skip exercise :)

A big part of that is having confidence: confidence to walk into a gym or start a workout and know exactly what to do. It means having the confidence that what you’re doing will help you reach your goals, and that the time and energy you’re putting in is worth it!

Think of this like the instruction manual that comes inside the case of a video game called Exercise.

Now available on all platforms!

Where do I start?

start road

“I know I should be exercising, but I don’t know what to do. Should I just strap on some shoes and go running? Get a gym membership? Yoga? HALP!”

We have a few key philosophies at Nerd Fitness:

  • Diet will account for 80-90% of your body transformation.
  • Pick a form of exercise you enjoy and do it often.
  • Strength training will make ALL aspects of your life easier.

So, if you are trying to lose weight and just getting started with exercise for the first time, your focus first and foremost should be on your diet. That will account for a strong majority of your change!

After that, you need to find something that you enjoy that gets your heart beating faster. If the thought of running makes you miserable, don’t do it. If the idea of going to a sweaty gym scares you, hold off! I don’t care how you exercise, just that you do SOMETHING. It all counts:

If you don’t like to exercise currently, then you haven’t tried enough activities yet. We are genetically designed to move – which means you need to find the type of movement that puts a smile on your face.

Lastly, we love strength training: We believe that a strong nerd is a healthy nerdThis can be as simple as doing some squats and push ups in your living room (like with the beginner bodyweight routine), or as intense as deadlifting 400+ pounds in the gym, doing gymnastics, and so on.

No matter what you are doing for your fun activity, and what type of life you plan on living, strength training even once or twice a week for 15 minutes can have a profound effect on your physique, heart, and happiness.

How does cardio fit in? I heard I need to do cardio to burn fat!

Can I let you in on a secret? I run a fitness site, and I don’t do cardio. Ever. The thought of running on a treadmill makes me ill. I pick up heavy things, and I do activities that are fun to me (hiking, kickball, parkour), etc. My cardio is built into my fun activities so it doesn’t feel like cardio.

If you enjoy running, RUN! That’s amazing. If you enjoy hiking, HIKE! But if you’re doing mindless cardio to lose weight, there are far better uses of your time – again, eating properly is 90% of the battle, and strength training can give you more bang for your buck on burning calories.

So, only do cardio if it’s an activity you enjoy. And regardless of what that activity is…strength training will make it better and more enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Workout Questions

Steve Ostrich

“Okay Steve, I’m ready to start strength training, you got me convinced to give it a shot. Now, WTF do I do?”

Good question, but don’t swear at me. My Gramma reads this! Strength training ultimately just means you put your body and muscles through a routine that pushes past your comfort zone, breaking down those muscle fibers and forcing them to rebuild. Thus, your body and muscles will adapt by rebuilding themselves stronger to be more prepared next time.

This is strength training in a nutshell.

Because your body is constantly rebuilding the muscle, it’s burning extra calories the whole time – this is why strength training is so fantastic; you get stronger, you burn extra calories, you keep the muscle you have and burn the fat that covers your muscles. Everybody wins!

“Do I need a gym membership?”

Nope! You can get a great strength training workout in while at home, or at a park, but obviously, also at a gym. Strength training can be picking up weights, or just doing movements using your bodyweight. My favorite path combines the two! Here are some workouts to get you started:

What does a good workout look like?

A good workout takes movements that recruit as many muscles as possible. Why do 15 exercises with machines when you can get the same (or better) results with ONE movement?!

A great full body workout has one or two exercises from each the following components:

“Okay, so I see the list of exercises, so what do I do now? Pick one? how many do I do? Do I rest between sets?”

You have two options here.

  1. A typical strength training routine will have you doing something like 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps of an exercise, waiting 60 seconds between each set, and then moving onto the next one.
  2. You can do them one set of each exercise and then quickly move onto the next exercise, and so on. Then do it all over again. That’s called a circuit.

FOR EXAMPLE, here’s how I would do a barbell squat:

  • Warm-up set: 45 pounds (just the bar!)
  • Set 1: 5 reps of 100 pounds.
  • Rest 60-90 seconds
  • Set 2: 5 reps of 100 pounds
  • Rest 60-90 seconds
  • Set 3: 5 reps of 100 pounds
  • Rest 60-90 seconds
  • Set 4: 5 reps of 100 pounds

Then you move on to the next exercise.

Meanwhile, a circuit looks like this:

  • Exercise 1: 10 bodyweight squats
  • No rest, go right to…
  • Exercise 2: 10 push ups
  • No rest, go right to…
  • Exercise 3: 10 dumbbell rows
  • No rest, go back to…
  • Exercise 1: 10 bodyweight squats
  • Repeat!

When you do all exercises in a row like this, you will get tired more quickly than if you rested 60-90 seconds between each exercise, and your heart will get more of a cardiovascular workout. The circuit is designed to burn slightly more calories, while the strength routine (surprise) will befit you slightly more in strength and muscle building.

Either plan, #1 or #2 will work. What’s important is that you pick one and start!

“How often should I strength train? Every day?”

Our advice is to strength training 2-4 days per week depending on your goals and schedule. Generally, avoid strength training the same muscle groups two days in a row.

  • If you do a lot of push ups today, wait at least 48 hours for your chest and triceps muscles (the major muscles used in a “push” movement) to recover before doing lots of them again.
  • If you do barbell squats in the gym, you should wait at least 48 hours to do them again.
  • If you do a TON of pull ups, don’t do them again tomorrow!

Now, if you do a workout in which you do a lot of lower body exercises (and only lower body exercises) today, you can work out tomorrow and do all upper body exercises, because you’re working out different muscle groups! However, we generally recommend that beginners don’t do this, and instead work out your whole body, and then take a full day off – on your day off you can do the fun fitness activity you picked above!

“I’m scared in the gym, and I don’t know how to do many of the exercises listed above. Can I just use the machines? It’s much tougher to screw those up.” 

I loathe machines. They take up most of the gym space, they force your body to move unnaturally, and they do most of the work for you. Body weight exercises and free weights are much safer, healthier, and better for you in the long run. I promise you.

But that might scare you, so we’ll work up to it. I’d rather have you in the gym doing machine exercises than not exercising at all. HOWEVER, each week I want you to transition from one machine to a comparable free weight or body weight exercise. Here’s how you can transition from machines to free weights.

Our Strength Training 101 series has tons of great information on proper form of exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press.

“How do I know what workout plan to follow? I’m overwhelmed.”

Here’s the truth: Pretty much ANY workout plan will get you results. Seriously. Just remember two things:

  • Diet is 80-90% of the battle. If you follow a strength training plan and eat healthier, your body will change.
  • Pick a plan and stick to it. The best plan is the thing you actually do with consistency.

We have a number of free workouts on our resource page here, or you can check out more detailed workouts along with diet advice and a character leveling system in the Nerd Fitness Academy.

“I’m not seeing progress, what am I doing wrong?”

When we strength train, we are trying to lift more weight (or do more repetitions) than we did last week. For this reason, if you aren’t getting stronger and adding more weight to the bar, or doing more repetitions, you aren’t going to see progress.

WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT: Write down your workout. Since strength training only works if you progressively increase the difficulty each time, you need to know how you did last week and what you need to do this week to improve.

  • If you can do 3 sets of 9 push ups this week, next week go for 3 sets of 10.
  • If you deadlifted 225 lbs this week, next week go for 230 lbs.
  • If you could do 2 pull ups this week, next week go for 2.5 pull ups.

How can I find a more advanced version of the exercise I’m doing?

As stated above, the goal with strength training is called “progressive overload.” You want to consistently pick up heavier weights or challenge yourself with increasingly more difficult movements. Our bodies adapt quickly, and if we pick up the same weight or do the same number of reps, our bodies adapt and we get less and less benefit from the same amount of work.

Which means we need to make things tougher!

  • If you are training with barbells or dumbbells, simply add more weight or do more repetitions as you get stronger.
  • If you are training with bodyweight movements, you need to increase the difficulty of the movements once they become easy.

How does one make bodyweight movements more difficult?

  • By adding weight if you are doing dips or pull ups.
  • By elevating your feet when doing push ups.
  • By switching the exercise, such as working towards pistol squats instead of normal bodyweight squats.

By changing the angle or amount of bodyweight you’re manipulating with an exercise, you can make it tougher! Check out our “Playground Workout” to see how to scale some exercises!

What if I want to do cardio AND strength training?

Go for it! Feel free to strength train and then do cardio (only if you enjoy it!!) on your off days. Maybe you strength train on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday, and you do fun activities that get your heart racing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Feel free to do interval training or sprints on days you’re not strength training to kick start your weight loss. Or yoga. Or Parkour. Or live action role-playing! Whatever makes you happy.

Get started

Storm Trooper starts exercising small by taking small steps

The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to start. Today.

  • Make a change to your diet, even if it’s a small one.
  • Do some push ups and see how you feel tomorrow, even if you’re not sure the form is perfect.
  • Go to a gym and try squatting for the first time, even if it’s just the bar.

As Winston Churchill famously said, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

That’s right, we hit you with historical quotes, fitness knowledge, and cat videos here on Nerd Fitness. Boom.

Educate yourself with the least amount of information possible that gives you enough confidence to start. That might mean reading 15 articles on the barbell squat before finally going to a gym and trying it…or it might mean reading ONE article and trying it.

But what’s important is that you start.

Don’t become an underpants gnome!

What other questions do you have about getting started? I tried to cover as many bases as I could here, but I’m sure there are some questions I left out!

-Steve

PS: If you’re somebody who wants more info, workout plans to follow, and specific advice on adjusting your diet and building habits, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy. This is our flagship course that helps beginners on their first year of fitness. Join over 13,000 Rebels currently enrolled!

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photo source: Stephan Boudy: Question Mark, Kristina Alexanderson: Storm Troopers

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