Nerd Fitness » Blog Level up your life, every single day. Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:05:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Super Simple, 7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:01 +0000

This is a post from Rebel Chef Noel.

It’s confession time. Ready? Here goes…

I have always hated water levels.

I hate them because I totally suck at them. That music still haunts me. (I’m not alone in this, right?)

My very first game system growing up was the NES, and my favorite game was Super Mario Bros. 3, but every time I got to World 3: Ocean Side, it was Game Over. It wasn’t until I teamed up with friends who could show me how to make it through the levels that I was able to make it to World 4. Go team!


Cooking can be the water level of getting healthy for some folks. You’ve completed other levels, you’ve gotten active, set up your batcave, and maybe even figured out how to make healthy choices in restaurants.

But when it comes to cooking, it’s Game Over for you.

Well, I’ve got good news, gang. I’m here today to be your player 2 and show you how to get past this mega challenge.

This fish tastes like fish. I’m not gonna lie to you.  It is a mild recipe, but if you don’t like fish, look away (or try one of our other awesome recipes…). But if you do like fish, and have never tried to cook it because it seems difficult, listen up. This one’s for you.

This colorful recipe takes about 20 minutes (15 of those minutes are just waiting for it to cook!), and only uses 7 ingredients.

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a printable recipe and shopping list.)

It’s easier than stomping goombas.

Fish and Veggies


Active time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 1

  1. Tilapia or any other white fish filet – cod, mahi mahi, or trout all work just fine. Check out for your best environmentally friendly options.
  2. 1/2 a lemon
  3. 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  4. 1/2 zucchini
  5. 1/2 yellow squash
  6. 5 cherry tomatoes
  7. Spices: salt, pepper & red pepper flake (okay, so maybe I cheated a little with this 7 ingredient thing…)



  • Baking tray
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels – to dry the fish off
  • Aluminum foil or parchment paper – if you’re new to this cooking thing, I strongly suggest using aluminum foil.


1. Wash your hands and your veggies.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F (207 C)

3. Cut the zucchini and yellow squash into quarter pieces. They’ll be kind of like triangles but the side with the skin on it will be rounded.


4. Cut your lemon in half. Set it aside. We’ll use this later.


5. Cut a piece of parchment or aluminum foil about 2 ft (2/3 meters).


6. Place the cut zucchini, squash, and whole cherry tomatoes down in the center of the parchment. Now you have a pile of geometric shapes!


7. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some red pepper flake.


8. Now take the fish out of whatever package it came in and place the filet on top of the pile of veggies.

9. Pour your remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) of olive oil on top of the fish, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake.


10. Now find your lemon. Did you lose it already? Awe man! But really, squeeze the juice from half of the lemon onto the fish.


11. Wrap the fish up. Origami was always really hard for me as a kid (and I guess now as an adult too), so I hope these folding instructions are better than the origami instructions I’ve used in the past…Start by folding the right and left sides into the center on top of the food pile. Crease where you fold it over.

If origami + cooking sounds like a nightmare, you can skip this step and just bake the fish and veggies on the parchment or foil for about 5 min longer. (Or you can use foil for easy folding!) The big plus about folding your parchment this way is that it makes cleanup crazy easy. No juices or oils leak onto the pan and you can just toss the parchment in the trash when you’re finished! Choose wisely….



Now fold the bottom into the center. Crease where you fold.


Now fold the top into the center also and crease.We want the packet to form a tiny pouch to concentrate the heat and steam the fish and veggies together, so we’ll need it to stay closed. The way I got the packet to stay closed was to fold the bottom and the top flaps where they come together in the center.

Warning: Do not use tape. Tape will probably melt or burn in your oven and ruin your meal.

Then, take the right and left sides and tuck and fold those under also, creasing as you go. Make sure you crease the sides really well on this step. This will hold it together. The sides being folded this way should keep the packet closed and sealed.


12. If you’re using aluminum foil instead of parchment, this step will be way easier because foil maintains its shape where you bend it. If you have the skill, feel free bend your aluminum foil into a swan or something, as long as the fish and veggies stay sealed inside. (If you do this, please send us a picture and show us your mad skillz.)

13. Throw that packet of food on a baking tray and cook it in the oven for 15 minutes.


14. When the cooking time is up, take it out and let it cool for 2-3 minutes before you chow down. You can scoop the food onto a plate or eat it straight out of the packet.


There ya go. Pretty easy meal, no?

Cue the fireworks!


There ya have it. 7 ingredients. 20 minutes. Level up.

I’m terrible at planning ahead, so quick easy meals like this are ideal when it comes to making good food choices on the fly. Knowing I have ingredients that I can whip into a healthy meal when I get home prevents me from stopping for junk food on my way home from work.

Cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating and it doesn’t have to take forever. It can be quick and easy. With a little patience, persistence, and sometimes help from a player 2, you can level up your health. Maybe you can even be someone else’s player 2 in the future and help them learn to cook an awesome meal!

What are some things you’d like to cook but are shying away from?

What parts of cooking are you struggling with the most?

What are some of your favorite quick and easy go-to meals?

Share with the class! Let us know in the comments!



PS: Note from Steve: Camp Nerd Fitness has begun, and all of Team NF is in attendance.  We’ll be sharing photos through our Facebook and Instagram accounts (and mine too!). Follow the hashtag #CampNerdFitness if you want to follow along – we’ll be posting recaps soon.  

Just a heads up that our email response time will be slow for the next week as we’re getting caught up, thanks for your patience!

7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies
Recipe type: Lunch, DInner
Cuisine: Seafood, fish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
7 ingredient, 20 minute fish dish! Easier than stomping goombas!
  • ½ a lemon
  • ½ a yellow squash
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, & red pepper flake (to taste)
  1. Wash your hands and your veggies
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (207 C)
  3. Cut your zucchini and yellow squash into bite sized pieces
  4. Cut your lemon in half
  5. Cut a 2 ft (2/3 meter) piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil
  6. Place your zucchini, squash, and cherry tomatoes in the center of the paper or foil
  7. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil onto the veggies
  8. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake
  9. Rinse off your fish and pat dry
  10. Place fish on top of the veggies.
  11. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil onto the fish
  12. Sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake
  13. Squeeze half of your lemon onto the fish
  14. Fold up the paper/foil so that it makes a sealed packet
  15. Place packet on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes
  16. When it's done cooking, take it out and let it sit for 2-3 minutes so you don't burn yourself
  17. Unwrap your meal and put it on a plate (or eat it straight out of the paper!)
  18. Enjoy your meal!
Shopping list! (makes 2 of this recipe)
2 tilapia filets
1 zucchini
1 lemon
1 yellow squash
1 package of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
red pepper flake


Photos: Great Bit Blog, Mario Wiki, Games Radar

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The Oath of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:10:03 +0000
I’ve been thinking a quite a bit lately about honor, brotherhood, and duty.

Right around the time I came up with the idea for Nerd Fitness, 300 had just hit the big screen and I was captivated by the cohesive heartbeat of the Spartan Army.

I felt the same way as I watched Spartacus lead his rebel army in the epic Starz series that left me teary-eyed by the end.

As this Nerd Fitness evolved from part-time blog to full time community, I was devouring page after page of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series, recently brought to life in the TV series.

In each of these cases, “the cause” becomes something greater than the person fighting.  They become greater than the sum of their parts.

As funny as it sounds, these awesome and epic stories seriously relate to the goofy, rambunctious underdogs here in the growing Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Let’s find out how.

Stand as one


How did mighty King Leonidas and the 300 Spartan soldiers hold the army of Xerxes at bay for so long?

By having a unified voice (HOO! HOO!), a unified cause, and a unified soul with which to fight!

As pointed out in Steven Pressfield’s The Warrior Ethos, Spartans fought for each other, for their city, for their legacy:

“The will to fight, the passion to be great, is an indispensable element of the Warrior Ethos. It is also a primary quality of leadership, because it inspires men and fires their hearts with ambition and the passion to go beyond their own limits.”

Many Spartans would often fight with the shields and spears of their ancestors; dropping those weapons on the field of battle to run away was considered far worse than death.

On the battlefield, they also fought as one.  Their actions supported and protected their brothers, and they expected the same in return.  It’s why Spartan warriors who lost their helmet or spear were fined, but punished with death if they lost their shield:  “Because helmet and spear are carried for the protection of the individual, but the shield protects every man in the line.” Thus the two options for a Spartan:

“Come back with your shield, or on it.”  

Our Rebellion here at Nerd Fitness operates like a Spartan Army…just with fewer loincloths:

  • We rely on each other for support in our quest for a leveled-up life.
  • We have friends that keep us accountable when giving up seems easier.
  • We have brothers and sisters that we teach all that we’ve learned, while looking for guidance from others that have already walked the path.

It’s that support that makes us greater than the sum of our parts.  Spend five minutes in the Woot Room and you’ll want to scream “FOR THE REBELLION” too.

It might even make you want to don a loin cloth and start yelling, if that’s your thing.

I am Spartacus


Despite its violent/sexual content (which may or may not be a plus depending on your tastes), the Spartacus series on Starz absolutely blew me away and brought me to tears by the end of the last episode.

How did a small band of slaves make the mighty empire of Rome shake?  They wanted it more.  They stood united in belief. They fought for something greater than themselves.

As Simon Sinek points this out in his incredible TED talk and book: “Start with Why,” companies, tribes, or rebellions become more powerful if they have a truly powerful “Why” that powers their every decision.

Sure, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion helps people lose weight and make better eating decisions. That’s WHAT we do.  We do it through a supportive community and corny, funny, educational articles.  That’s HOW we do it.

But that’s not why we’ve become such a force full of momentum

It’s WHY we do it that we are successful:

We want to be role models for our children and inspirational heroes for our friends and family.

We want to look in the mirror with pride, and finally feel confident and comfortable in our own skin.

We want to inspire people to stop using games and movies as escapes, and instead use them as inspiration to live adventurously in our own lives.

We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to bring our brothers and sisters along for the ride.

We want to wake up in the morning excited instead of depressed, and go to bed proud rather than defeated.

We want to feel alive, happy, and healthy.

Protect the Gate

The Wall from the south

I want to talk about an episode in the last season of Game of Thrones on HBO.

[Don't worry - no spoilers for those who aren't caught up yet.]

If you’ve seen it, I’m sure you already know which scene I’m talking about: the one in which Grenn, a brother of the Night’s Watch (a group of men sworn to defend the north by protecting a GIGANTIC wall), has to convince his fellow brothers to protect the inner gate from an impending attack.

As their courage fails them and they talk of abandoning their post, he starts to recite the oath of the Nights Watch to remind his brothers why they are doing what they’re doing:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

It’s one of the most amazing (and chilling) scenes I’ve ever seen, and it made me think a lot about the our ragtag group of brothers and sisters here.

A long time NF rebel (a mother of three) hammered the point home in an email recently: 

“I have been extremely tired since last fall, and fighting fatigue. I guess it’s ok since I am able to still do stuff, but really the only reason I get stuff done is that I make goals and wanna meet them.  Because failing myself is failing the nerds, or something, and I like when the nerds cheer for me so I want them to cheer. 

Otherwise I would just curl up on the couch…”

I honestly started tearing up.  I’ve been following this person’s story for over a year and I know what she’s gone through.  On her down days, when she wants to curl up in a ball and give up (AKA stop “defending the gate”), she thinks about all the NF rebels that cheer her on, and she feels a sense of duty to follow through with her goals.

It’s men and women like this that make Nerd Fitness what it is, and make our community what it is.

We all have friends that flake out on obligations.  They sign up for something and don’t show up, or they tell you they’ll show up and they never do.

Not Nerd Fitness Rebels.

If we commit to something, no matter how big or small, we follow through with our promises.  We hold each other together.

Our word is everything:  

  • If we say we are going to exercise with a buddy, we show up. Every time.
  • If we say yes to a friend who wants us to go run with them, we get our asses to that track at 6 AM as agreed upon. No matter how tired we are.
  • If we make a pact with a friend to eat healthy, we follow through, even when everybody else gives up.

If our “shield drops” or if we “abandon our post,” the wall might fall.

We must protect the wall.  Especially on days when it’s cold. Especially on days when an army of 100,000 shows up to tear it down.

Being a small part of this Rebellion has gotten me to the gym when I’ve been tired or lazy more times than I can count.  I feel like I have a responsibility to all Rebels, and I hope you feel like you’re an important part of the Rebellion too, and thus must follow through as well.

The Nerd Fitness Rebel Oath


As with the Spartans, the slaves of Rome, and members of the Night’s Watch, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. 

We are an army of Rebels.  Nerdy, goofy Rebels…sure.

But dammit, we’re part of something pretty awesome!

We have our rules that we live by.

We are brothers and sisters sworn to support and protect each other.

Sometimes, we have to do things that we don’t want to do, be it exercise, healthy eating, showing up to an obligation.

But we have a sense of honor and duty to those around us.  Those that look to us for inspiration.  Those that would easily fade and give up if it weren’t for us always pushing to better ourselves and encourage them to do the same.

By changing your life you are inspiring others to do the same, whether you realize it or not.

Today, heavily inspired by the brothers of the Night’s Watch, I present to you a fun Nerd Fitness Oath that encapsulates who we are and what we stand for:

I am a Nerd Fitness Rebel, and today is the first day of the rest of my life.  I shall make no excuses and hold no grudges.

I care not where I came from, only where I am going.  

I don’t compare myself to others, only to myself from yesterday.

I shall not brag about successes nor complain about my struggles, but share my experiences and help my fellow Rebels. I know I impact those around me with my actions, and so I must move forward, every day.

I acknowledge fear, doubt, and despair, but I do not let them defeat me. I pledge my life and honor for the Rebellion, for this day and all the days to come. 

We stand as one!  I’m glad to fight alongside you, and I hope you are proud to stand beside your brothers and sisters too.

On days when you want to give up, remember that you’re not alone. On nights when you want to skip out, remember you have an oath to honor. When you want to bail on an obligation, remember your duty.

There are 200,000+ Rebels counting on you.

Welcome to the Nerd Fitness Rebellion: you’re in for life!

So, are you in?



photo source: leg0fenris: 300, Spartacus Wiki: Spartacus Blood and Sand, Game of Thrones Wiki: The WallΣταύρος: Sparta

]]> 32
Struggling to Start? Pick One of These 5 Quests. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:06:42 +0000 I love quests, missions, and goals.

It’s no surprise the tagline for Nerd Fitness is “level up your life” – it’s something that’s been part of Nerd Fitness since day 1, and we’re only gonna quest out more as we go along.

We love helping people who are brand new to fitness get started by using quests, remove the mental barriers to getting started, and encouraging people to just TAKE ACTION.

If questions like these sound familiar, today is for you:

  • “Do I start running every day? What about push ups?”
  • “Should I eat low fat? Should I count calories? Try Paleo?”
  • “I hear yoga is good. But so are bootcamps. And what about those dvds?”

There’s about a bazillion different ways to get started, and as a result its damn easy for us to do nothing.  We call this “paralysis by analysis.”  I was actually afraid of writing this article for that very reason.

Instead, we’re going to break the habit, and build a healthy cycle.

Level Up Quests

I’m going to present you with 5 quests.  These are 5 quests that will get you started down your path to a leveled up life.  I want you to pick one. And I want you to do it every day for the next week.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can do two of them.  HOWEVER, what we don’t want is for you to try and do all of them every day; you’ll get overwhelmed and drain your willpower meter.

YOUR MISSION: finish your week with 7 straight days of victory.  The quests below are designed to be completed daily.  We want you to prove to yourself that you CAN build a habit, that you CAN make a change, and that you CAN stick with it for an entire week.

You’re going to finish this week with a boatload of momentum - for the uninformed, that’s quite a bit of momentum.

5 Ways to Level Up

Are you struggling to start or looking for a way to reboot your journey?

Your mission is to select a quest below, and follow through with it, every day, for the next seven days.

1) Go for a 5-Minute Walk!

Stone Feet

Description: Sure, five minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time.  And a single step might not seem like much either.  However, combine enough steps together, and a small hobbit can walk to Mordor, destroy the One Ring, and save Middle Earth.

The five minutes isn’t the important part, it’s actively committing to a change in habit and making these five minutes a normal part of your day. Once you prove this to yourself, you’ll be asking, “Hey I can walk for five minutes, why not six?”

2) Veggie Powered!

Veggie Spread

Description: Every single day, for an entire week, you need to eat at least one vegetable per day. The more green and leafy, the better. Vegetables are loaded with nutrients, but generally light on calories. This means they can fill you up and fuel you up without fattening you up.  Not gonna lie, I’m pretty proud of that last sentence.

Anyways, even if you hate vegetables, your excuses end here. Pick one and get started.

3) Push Ups Are Your Friend!


Description: Complete 3 sets of 10 push ups (any type). As one of most iconic and accessible of all exercises, the push-up builds strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. If you can complete 3 sets of 10 regular push ups, go for it. If you can’t, try incline push ups, knee pushups, or wall push ups instead.

The goal again is to not exhaust yourself, but rather to prove to yourself that you can spend five minutes each day focusing on making a physical improvement to yourself.

Make sure you read our guide on push ups!  

4) Upgrade Your Batcave

batman batcave

Description: Every day this week, spend 5 minutes “improving your batcave.”  What I mean is, we’re products of our environment, and thus by making small changes to our environment we can actually change our behavior without expending willpower.

If you want to build a new habit, remove one step between you and that new habit:

  • Sleep in your running clothes, so you are ready to run first thing in the morning.
  • Pack your gym bag the night before and put it in your car. DING! Ready to work out.
  • Put a pull up bar in your doorway, and do one rep every time you walk past.

If you want to break a bad habit, ADD one step between you and that habit:

  • Stop DVRing crappy shows, so you spend less time watching TV.
  • Throw away all junk food from your house!
  • Block yourself from time wasting websites. More time for fun, positive stuff.

Check out our full guide to building your batcave here.

5) Cook a Meal at Home

Chicken Kabob Thin

Description: Replace one meal each day with a home cooked meal.  It can be something as simple as chicken and broccoli, or any of these other recipes. Heck, you can batch cook one meal on Sunday and eat it for the next seven days.

Just prove to yourself that the kitchen is not scary, and that you are capable of making a meal – for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner:

Start Now


Alone, just five minutes a day might not seem like much.

Each of the quests above are like those steps towards Mordor.  Collectively, they add up to massive change. But they must be committed to every single day.

We are stopping the “boom and bust,” all or nothing mentality:

We are never going on a diet again: instead you are striving for lifelong lifestyle changes.

We are not going to exercise ourselves to death – we are going to build a sustainable exercise habit that allows us to succeed over the long term, and actually make us fall in love with the process.

We are going to stop asking “Am I there yet?” and understand that we never truly arrive, and that’s amazing.

I love the idea of quests, small changes, and consistent progress.

And I love the idea of leveling up, which is why we incorporated a leveling system into our Nerd Fitness Academy -to reward you with quest completions, experience, and levels when you complete challenges just like the ones above.

Heck, I just became a Level 14 Assassin yesterday :)

I want to hear from you:

Which of the habits above are you going to pick?  Post a comment below and pledge to your fellow Rebels. If you have somebody in real life, have them hold you accountable.

And then get started.


PS: We’ve sold a few spots to Camp Nerd Fitness in the past few days, so I’m realizing we might have a few procrastinators in the Rebellion!

As we have to send a final list of names this weekend to the Retreat company, if you want to join us at Camp NF, you must sign up by end of day tomorrow, Friday the 12th!  Hope to see you there NEXT THURSDAY (whoa.)!


photo source: Johnson Cameraface: Batcave, Pedro Riberio Simoes: feet, Martin Cthrae: veggies, Jay Springett: Start, Nicholas James Santiago: Skyrim

]]> 44
The Happiness of Pursuit: How a NYT Best Selling Author Took Over the World Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:07:53 +0000 In April 2013, my friend Chris Guillebeau landed in Norway.

This one instance is nothing remarkable; lots of people fly to Norway!  What made it remarkable was that it was Chris’s 193rd country visited.

On his 35th birthday, Chris was able to complete one of the most epic quests I have ever heard of: he had visited every single country on the planet before turning 35.

About five years ago, I remember discovering Chris’s blog, “The Art of Noncomformity,” reading his free ebook, “279 Days to Overnight Success,” and telling myself two things:

  • “Hey, this Chris guy likes to help people and built a business around it, maybe I should build Nerd Fitness around helping people.”
  • “Hey, this Chris guy is on an epic quest, maybe I should go on one too.”

Since then, I’ve followed Chris’s journey, begun my own, and in many ways, followed in his footsteps.  He’s been an incredible inspiration and one hell of a mentor, and I’m excited to share his latest project today.  I remember meeting him for the first time at his first ever event, The World Domination Summit, and thinking how “normal” and “everyday” he seemed.

As we’ve come to learn from our favorite books and movies, normal, everyday people can still accomplish great things :)

Launching today, “The Happiness of Pursuit” is now available and sure to be his second New York Times best seller. 

What makes this particular book even cooler is that Chris featured my James Bond adventure and Epic Quest in the book!  He was nice enough to sit down with me for a kickass interview that is well worth a watch/listen.

By the end of this article, we’re going to have you building your own Epic Quest and get started TODAY. 

My Interview With Chris

Chris Guillebeau Interview Video

Quick note: the technology gods were not in my favor during this interview. Despite testing out my recorder, my half of the recording started crackling throughout the interview. I re-dubbed the entire audio as best I could, but it came out like a funny dubbed Godzilla movie. However, Chris’s answers (the important stuff) works perfectly!

Throughout this interview, Chris and I discuss everything from the importance of having big quests, how to actually start crossing things off our bucket lists, and what to do if we’re the type of person that just wants to lose weight and doesn’t have time to travel yet.  On top of that, he comes up with the most clever response ever to “what superpower do you want to have” question (hint: it’s not flying).

In case you’re a podcast type of person, we’ve uploaded just the audio as well of the interview and made it available for download.  Simply download it below and listen while you’re walking to Mordor.


If you’d rather, you can watch the original unedited video (with crackly audio) here

Why We Need Quests In Our Lives

Steve Chicago

The idea of a journey or a quest has been around since the beginning of recorded history.

It’s a fundamental part of our nerdy existence, and has worked its way into our favorite books, video games, and movies (from The Lord of the Rings, to The Dark Tower, to Harry Potter). Even childhood favorites such as Zelda or Mario are based on this idea of an epic journey.

In all of these stories, there’s a clear overarching goal – a mission to complete.

This makes the decision making process that much simpler: Roland needs to get to the Dark Tower, Link needs to rescue Princess Zelda and save Hyrule, and Frodo needs to destroy the One Ring.  Because we know where the character is going, and what he needs to accomplish, the rest is easy: simply put one foot in front of the other, try try try, and eventually you reach the end goal!

It’s no surprise this same paradigm works so well in video games. We’re always chasing the next level in World of Warcraft, or that Master Sword in Zelda, or seeking what’s beyond that mountain in the distance in Elder Scrolls. As nerds and Rebels, we’re wired to ask, “What’s next?” and, “What can I do now?”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way. As Chris points out in our interview, if he could have any super power, it would be “the ability to know what I’m supposed to do next, at all times.”  Think of how fantastic that would be?

  • Should I stay in this crappy job?  Nope, you have good enough syndrome, you should strike out on your own.
  • Should I ask out that cute guy/girl at the coffee shop?  Yup. She/He might say no, but you’ll learn that rejection isn’t the end of the world.
  • Should I eat the heart attack McDonalds meal for dinner tonight? Nope.  You’re welcome.

Chris understood the importance of game mechanics his epic quest: visiting every country in the world.

Let’s take a look at how he did it, and how you can use the same strategy in your life.

The Key Components of a Successful Quest

chris hong kong

There are a few key reasons why Chris’s quest was so captivating, and manageable.  It’s all due to proper mechanics and priorities:

1) THINK BIG:  By setting a big hairy audacious goalhe realized he’d have to take the goal seriously.  Had he set a smaller goal or something that was easy to accomplish, the temptation to not make it a priority would have been far greater.

What kind of goal or quest are you interested in that’s MASSIVE? Of course, even big goals can be dismissed for being looming or unreachable, unless you…

2) MAKE IT A PRIORITY: Visiting every country in the world is no easy task. Chris told himself he was going to take this seriously and make it a priority: he build his life around this quest, sacrificing certain things in order to make it happen. If you’re somebody that wants to do big things but “doesn’t have time” or “can’t afford it,” what you’re REALLY saying is that the big things you hope to accomplish aren’t a priority in your life right now.

Every day, you decide your priorities with how you spend your money and how you spend your time.  Cable television, an hour on facebook, a fancy car, new furniture, more clothes…or, setting aside money each day to take a big trip or try something new that you’ve always wanted to do.  Your call :)

I’ve come to learn that experiences trump possessions 100 times out of 100, and I know Chris feels the same way.  When I traveled the world in 2011, it was only possible because I had sold ALL of my possessions, canceled my cable television, sold my car, etc. The value those things gave me paled in comparison to the experiences I had on the road.

Try this: make the adventure or goal the focal point of your life, and then reverse engineer the rest of your life around that purpose:

  • If your current job won’t allow you to accomplish your goals, spend 20 minutes every day working towards a new career that fits.
  • If your current salary won’t allow you to accomplish your goals, how can you either save money (by ruthlessly cutting unnecessary expenses), or spend time building up a side job that does increase your resources?

3) BE SPECIFIC: Everybody has goals and bucket lists and New Year’s Resolutions, and very few people actually cross anything off their list.  A HUGE reason for this is because everybody’s lists and resolutions aren’t specific!

  • I want to be healthier.
  • I need to exercise more.
  • I want to travel more often.
  • I want to learn a foreign language.

Chris’s goal was VERY specific: he had a list of things he needed to accomplish, he could easy check a box that said “I visited this country,” and then move onto planning his next trip.

How can you make your goal, your quest, your bucket list more specific?  Can you turn your goal into something that you can easily say “yes I did this” or “no I have not completed this yet”?

4) HAVE A COMPLETION DATE:  Chris set a goal of visiting every country by the time he was 35.  Because that was a specific date, he could then actively set up levels, smaller goals, and checkpoints for each year and month along the way. Had Chris given himself the rest of his life to complete the quest, he would have continually found other things to occupy his time.

“Eventually” never happens, and “tomorrow” never comes.  No matter your quest, put a deadline on it!

Remember when Frodo left Rivendell with his Fellowship?  He had a MASSIVE quest ahead of him filled with almost-certain doom.  He only had one question: “Mordor, Gandalf…is it left or right?”  And then, he took his first step.

the happiness of pursuit

Happiness of PursuitA huge thanks to Chris for taking the time to do this interview, an even bigger thanks for being such a great inspiration and mentor for all of these years, and a big congrats to him for launching The Happiness of Pursuit today.

If you’re somebody that’s even remotely interested in finding a quest to bring purpose to your life, I highly recommend you check out this book - I read it cover to cover last week and freaking loved it.

I plan on updating you guys on my own master quest, my “Epic Quest of Awesome” in an upcoming post – it’s been evolving and has recently become a bigger priority after following Chris’s adventures.

I’m excited to share my story with you, and more importantly I’m excited to INSPIRE you to get started on your own Epic Quest!

I’d love to hear from you:  

What kind of big quest would you like to embark on?  

And what’s one step you can take today to get started?


PS: 9 Days until Camp Nerd Fitness! Holy crap!


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Vegetable Haters: How to Start Eating Vegetables Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:57:26 +0000 “Hey Steve, I want to start eating healthy, but I don’t like vegetables.  Can you help me eat healthier without having to eat vegetables?  Actually, I love corn, so can you tell me how to make more foods with corn?”

“Hey man, hate to break it to you…but corn is actually a grain.”

“Well shit.”

I’ve had some variation of this conversation with more people than I can count.  Many people like the IDEA of eating healthy, but eating vegetables feels like Superman eating a bowl full of Kryptonite (hey, they’re both green!).

Whether it’s the taste, texture, or just the mental block, veggies consistently prove to be a challenge for many Rebels.  Considering we recommend filling up at least half of your plate with vegetables, this is a serious problem.

I didn’t start eating vegetables regularly until I was probably 22….and even then it was a challenge. If you are like I was, fear not!

By the end of today, I’m going to have you excited to eat vegetables, and ready to take the NF Veggie Challenge.

If you’re someone who doesn’t eat vegetables because you don’t like them, don’t know how to buy them, or don’t know how to make them, this article is for you.

Why vegetables rule!

Stir Fry Veggies

You’ve probably been told since you were a toddler to “Eat your vegetables! They’re good for you.”

Do you really know WHY they’re good for you?  Let me jump into a few reasons why vegetables kick ass.

1) Vegetables are nutrient dense. It should be no surprise that Popeye turned to a vegetable when he needed a powerup. Think of vegetables as one of our body’s most efficient fuel sources: they are packed full of vital macro and micronutrients. Just take a look at our article on how to eat healthy on a budget – it should be no surprise that vegetables are an important part of efficiently eating healthy! Simply put: vegetables are the backbone of any solid diet.

2) They fill you up, without “filling you up.”  Ever seen what 200 calories worth of broccoli looks like? It’s the size of a grocery bag compared to 200 calories of a doughnut or other treats.  If you are feeling hungry but don’t want to overeat, choose a vegetable. Kind of hard to overeat when you’re eating carrots or celery!

3) Veggies keep your body operating at max efficiency! Vegetables are a great way to keep your…um…indoor plumbing…functioning properly.  Adding a vegetable or two to each meal is a great way to keep things working right! Seriously: if you’re someone who doesn’t eat many veggies, you will notice a considerable difference after adding veggies to your diet regularly.

4) They can be delicious!  Sure, a point of debate…but as a former veggie hater, I am now firmly on Team Vegetable.  A plate full of veggies used to make me want to gag, and now I’m thrilled at the idea of a plate covered in a cornucopia (what a great word, right?) of multicolored plants

“Ok,” you might be thinking, “I know they’re good for me, but I don’t eat them. Help me!”  Okay, okay fine.

Here’s how you can get over your vegetable-aversion and get started.

Find your gateway vegetable


When I was 22 I proudly proclaimed that I was a “carnivore” and boycotted veggies.  Essentially, I ate things like chicken, hamburgers, pizza, pasta, french fries, rice, and not much else.

One day, I decided “I’m an adult, I should probably eat like one.”  In my mind, all vegetables were disgusting, but the reality was that I hadn’t really tried many different kinds. Instead I tried a few and just assumed they were all bad.

So, for starters: stop saying you hate all vegetables.  Instead: you simply haven’t found a vegetable that you LIKE yet.

I started trying teeny tiny bits of vegetables.  If I went out to dinner with friends, I would ask to try some veggies off of their plate.  Once I got over the idea, I would order a new vegetable each visit and give it a shot.

I did this for two reasons:

  • I figured any vegetable, even if I didn’t like it, and even if I only ate a small bite, was better than nothing.
  • If I found a vegetable I DID like, I could learn to prepare it the same way and eat more at home.

On top of that, I simply forced myself to go into any new vegetable with an open mind and positive mindset.  It’s amazing what positive or negative expectations can do to convince ourselves.  So, instead of thinking “this is gross,” say “this is what I eat and it’s good.”  Sounds a bit hokey, but it works.

My gateway vegetable: asparagus. I bought some asparagus at the store, put them on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil, covered them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and stuck them in the oven (at 375 degrees F) for 12 minutes.  BAM!  Crunchy, delicious, and nutritious. Plus, I felt like a 5 star chef!

For my first year as an omnivore, asparagus was the only vegetable I ate.  I didn’t branch out too much beyond this, but at least I had found one that I liked.  Once I had gotten over the mental barrier that “all vegetables are gross,” it was time for me to branch out.

YOUR MISSION: Find your gateway vegetable. (We’ll be giving you some great options later in the article.)

Suck it up, take one bite of many different kinds of veggies, and see which ones you actually enjoy.

Before each bite, clear your mind, Neo.  Stop going into each veggie encounter expecting to hate it!  You never know when things change.

How to BUY Vegetables

Store veggies

First and foremost, buying vegetables can be daunting!

  • How can I tell if a vegetable is fresh or not?
  • How long can I leave the vegetable in my fridge before it goes bad?
  • Which ones do I get?

For starters, here are just some of the vegetables that are Nerd Fitness Approved.  The next time you go to a supermarket, your mission is to pick ONE of these vegetables, and bring it home with you.

  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • romaine lettuce
  • spinach
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • beets
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • green peppers
  • mushrooms
  • okra
  • onions
  • zucchini
  • acorn squash
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • red peppers

Notice: we’re not counting tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes) or legumes on this list – technically they’re veggies, but for the purposes of this article we’re aiming for low calorie, nutrient dense options to start.

Use this wonderful guide on how to select fresh and tasty veggies at the grocery store.

Once you’ve bought your veggies, use, to figure out how long you can leave them in my fridge.

If you really want to make it easy, buy a bag of “Steam Fresh” vegetables – most of these only require you throwing the bag into the microwave, opening it, and putting it on your plate.

As a last resort, check out canned vegetables!  They might not be as fresh as regular veggies, and there might be preservatives added to keep them from going bad, but I’d prefer you eating canned vegetables to no vegetables at all!

Hide vegetables in other foods

Noel: Shepherd's Pie

Once I got my “gateway vegetable,” I stopped telling myself that I hated vegetables, and became more likely to try other vegetables.

However, I still didn’t love the taste of many veggies, which presented a problem.

The solution? “Mask” the taste and texture by hiding the vegetables in other foods until I became accustomed to the taste.

I started adding vegetables to everything in ways that didn’t make me taste veggies:


1) I added frozen spinach or kale to my smoothies.  I make a post-workout smoothie with fruit and protein and realized that other than giving my drink a greenish tint, the taste was unchanged.  I continued adding more and more spinach each time until it changed the taste too much.  That’s one daily serving of a super veggie without even trying!

2) I added veggies to your omelets!  I’m not a breakfast person (Intermittent Fasting ftw!), but if you’re making omelets, try adding different vegetables to your omelets each time and see which ones don’t change the taste. Plus, who says you can only eat omelets for breakfast?  They make a great dinner meal too.

3) Eat a small bite of a veggie with something you actually like.  When I started cooking chicken stir fry, I made sure that every bite of delicious grilled chicken was paired with part of a vegetable:

  • a single broccoli crown and chicken.
  • a chunk of grilled onions and chicken.
  • rice, a wedge of zucchini, and steak.
  • a slice of asparagus, and salmon.
  • a wedge of sweet potato and peppers.
  • steak, onions, and pineapple

Take something you enjoy eating, and add some vegetable on the same fork-load.

4) Wrap it in bacon.  Seriously.  Bacon makes everything better.   What’s that? You don’t like asparagus? Wrap them in bacon (see #5)! Or do this!

5) Try making carrot fries. These things taste like sweet potato fries, but they’re made of carrots. Cut some carrots into fry shapes, toss them in olive oil, put them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them in the oven at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Ta da!

6) Try zucchini “noodles” – (instructions below)

7) Hide some veggies in a casserole (like paleo shepherd’s pie- when they’re mixed in with other stuff you like, it makes them easier to eat. If you aren’t a fan of big hunks of veggies in your bites of food, chop them up really small before cooking. This way they’re less noticeable!

8) Add greens like spinach, chard, or kale to your paleo spaghetti sauce. 

9) Add kale to guacamole.

10) Hide vegetables IN your burgers (here’s a turkey burger with spinach in it).

All of the above examples accomplish the same goal: getting more vegetables into your system.  This makes your stomach happy, your mother happy, and Popeye happy.

Prepare vegetables differently


“Okay Steve, just give me some options!” 

I hear ya: When I first considered eating veggies, I just wanted ONE simple recipe I could follow along, cook, and actually enjoy.

I realized that  vegetables can taste completely different depending on how they’re prepared. Once I was able to learn one way to prepare a vegetable that I actually enjoyed, the kitchen was no longer a scary place!

With some help from our NF Rebel Chef, Noel, here are some easy and delicious options for getting started with your first vegetable:

1) Steamed broccoli: I’m not a fan of raw broccoli, but steamed broccoli? Sign me up! Steamfresh veggies come in a package that you can throw in the microwave for five minutes, add seasoning, and that’s it. Add butter or any seasoning, and eat it with a protein for a balanced meal!

If you’ve bought fresh broccoli and you want to steam it yourself, you can do it in the microwave or on the stove.

For the stove, plop about a 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of a pot. After separating the broccoli florets from the stem, plop them in the water and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.!

Don’t want to use the stove? You can also steam broccoli yourself in the microwave. Plop those florets (the “tree” minus the “trunk”) in a microwave safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with a microwave safe lid or dish, and cook for 3-4 minutes. If the broccoli isn’t soft and warm, put it back in for a minute or two!

2) Roasted veggies (bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.): Roasted veggies can taste very different from steamed and raw veggies (they get crispier and a little sweeter because they caramelize in the oven). Take your pick of vegetable: bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.

Cut them up literally however you want, drizzle/toss them toss in olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put them on a foil lined pan in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes. Don’t over think this: You can use more olive oil or use less. You can use more salt or use less. Just cut them up, drizzle, and plop them in!


3) Asparagus: Asparagus was (and still is) my go-to veggie. It’s what started it all.Simply chop off the ends of your asparagus and coat it in olive oil. Feel free to add salt, paprika, or whatever seasoasparagusning you enjoy. Plop in the oven at 375 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!

4) Sautéed zucchini and squash. Zucchini and squash both taste great with just a little oil and salt, and are super easy to prepare. 

You can choose to slice them up into slivers, or use a potato peeler to create noodle-like slices.Zucchini_Squash_Cook

Throw the slices in to a pan with some oil on medium high heat for about five minutes until they become soft and lighter in color.

All of these options can be paired with basically any protein for a delicious and healthy meal (or eaten as a healthy, stand alone snack!).

Looking for some more advanced veggie options?

  • Grill up some stuffed jalapeños or sweet peppers - try ‘em stuffed with pulled pork and wrapped in bacon!
  • Don’t forget about paleo spaghetti!
  • Hate kale? Try making kale chips!Cauliflower
  • Don’t like brussel sprouts? Have you tried sautéing them in bacon fat?
  • Don’t like cauliflower? Have you tried mashed cauliflower, or grilled cauliflower, or raw cauliflower?

The Nerd Fitness Vegetable Challenge

NF Veggie Challenge

Are you up for the Nerd Fitness Veggie Challenge?

For the next five weeks, we want you to try a new vegetable each week:

  • The next time you’re in a store, buy a new vegetable and learn to prepare it.
  • Can you find a way to add vegetables discreetly to your favorite meals (mix in with your smoothies, add to your omelets, etc.).
  • Can you find a new vegetable that you actually like?

I’m in. Are you?

We’d love to hear from you:

If you hate vegetables, what are you taking away from today’s post?

What other questions do you have about preparing vegetables?

What’s keeping you from starting to eat vegetables, and how can we help?

Leave a comment and let us know!


PS: We’re now TWO weeks away from the biggest event in NF history: Camp Nerd Fitness!  We recently announced two epic theme nights, so I put together quick videos explaining them.  If you’re joining us, SEE YOU THERE, and DRESS UP!  This is what happens when you leave me unsupervised and just let me “make videos.”

So, even if you’re not coming to Camp (which is sad), check out these two videos, they might make ya chuckle :)  Though, we do still have some spots left if you’re a last minute procrastinator!

THEME NIGHT #1: Costume Night

THEME NIGHT #2: Rubix Cube Night 


photo source: Patrick: vegetables store, Martin Cathrae: Vegetable Spread, Ginny: Ginger Chicken, Ed Yourdon: carrots, mczonk: lego bunny

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Lean In: Lessons From My Croatian Adventure Tue, 02 Sep 2014 17:24:51 +0000 I recently spent a few weeks in Europe crossing a some things off my Epic Quest of Awesome.

This all started few years back when I decided to stop living through a computer screen and start looking at life like a giant video game. Since then I have done everything I can to become a real life Indiana Jones (and occasionally a real life James Bond).

Welp, my latest adventure took me to the turquoise lakes and waterfalls of Croatia and the miraculously blue waters of the Adriatic (…at the bottom of which is where my phone currently resides).

What started out as a fun vacation and a chance to unwind actually seriously challenged my thoughts on fitness, business, and life.

Embrace Uncertainty


About four months ago I received an email from my friend Rob Hanly (the bearded fellow above).

I met Rob years ago while traveling through Australia – he reached out to me and we hung out for a few hours one evening. Although we’ve stayed in touch via email and the occasional skype call, I haven’t seen him since.

When he asked me in an email if I wanted to join him on an event called “The Yacht Week” in Croatia, I was initially quite torn.  Sure, the experience had been on my bucket list for years ever since hearing of it, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time in person with Rob, and would be committing to a week cramped into a boat with him and four people I didn’t know.

I was quite apprehensive initially. After traveling around the world for just $418, I have become a frugal, adventure seeking nerd. When I found out that I could actually use frequent flyer points to cover transportation to Croatia, and that the cost per person for this adventure was actually quite reasonable, it was decided:

I was going to spend a week on a boat, with relative strangers, in a country in which I didn’t speak the language.

To quote Rounders: “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.”

As you’ll see, this trip turned into an epic, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m so thankful I made the decision to take the plunge. As nerds, many of us are shy, introverted, and not exactly known for our adventure seeking tendencies. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to embrace uncertainty and do new things. Sometimes we have to consciously decide to move past our limits.

It isn’t easy, but it’s an essential part of leveling up our lives.

Is there a new experience that you’ve said no to, simply because you were scared or uncertain?  A class you wanted to take but didn’t want to look foolish? A place you wanted to visit, but the idea seemed too daunting?

Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice, and see what happens.

Let go and Lean In!


On our first night of the boat, we ended up parked next to a boat of 12 Brazilian dudes who came to yacht week for one reason: to party as loudly as possible, 24 hours a day.  

Oh, and they had a megaphone that played The Titanic theme song.

After a night of zero sleep, we comically ended up next to them again the next day too! Thinking about the night ahead of us, we really had only two choices:

  • Be upset, try to sleep, and get super frustrated.
  • Lean in, and enjoy the ride.

So, as soon as the Brazilian boat docked next to ours, my buddy and I jumped over to their boat with a twelve pack of beer and introduced ourselves.

After just sharing a few stories (and speaking in broken Portuguese), I felt like I was part of their family.  It ended up being one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had, and we had a crew to high five for the rest of the week.

Whenever anything went wrong through the week or plans got screwed up (and anybody had the urge to complain), we quickly yelled “LEAN IN!” with a big chuckle. We forced ourselves to think, “what’s the opposite of what we would have done right now? Let’s do that and see what happens.”

Fortunately, “Operation: Lean In” was in full effect when I committed a particularly boneheaded mistake.

A few days into the event, I was wandering around one of the port cities taking photos and enjoying a quiet morning. Because my bathing suit was wet, my phone went in the top pocket of my shirt (for safe keeping…).

As I got back on the boat, I went to untie one of the ropes to get us free to start sailing, and my phone immediately fell out of my pocket and plopped into the bottom of the ocean.


The phone was definitely ruined, but also completely irretrievable, rendering the two types of insurance I had useless. (I even threw on a pair of goggles and got halfway to the bottom before deciding “I don’t want to die for a phone.”)

After freaking out for 5 minutes, I kind of laughed at myself and remembered to “lean in.” We’d been rolling with the punches up until this point, why couldn’t this also be an opportunity to learn something? So, I spent the next two weeks without a phone…and contrary to what I had expected, the world didn’t end:

  • Instead of having my face buried in my phone checking facebook and twitter, I conversed with my boatmates.
  • Instead of blindly following Google Maps to get to where I needed to go, I WROTE down names, kept my head up to enjoy my surroundings, and actually had to TALK to people to figure out where I was going. Imagine that!
  • Instead of watching my trip through my iPhone camera, I was forced to enjoy it and live in the moment, without worrying about capturing every single thing at all times.

When things go unexpectedly wrong, or life throws you a’s very easy to get mad and feel sorry for ourselves. But as I learned, complaining does absolutely nothing to fix the solution. On top of that, I realized that I’m a pretty damn lucky guy, and that I should make smart decisions when something goes wrong.

Make the most out of even the worst situation, stop worrying about things that can’t be changed, and be thankful for the chance to learn something new. When you let go and lean in, you’ll be amazed how your mindset can change.

Why not say hey?


After our first night on our boat, I realized something about my group: they weren’t super late night people.

Which is fine! Some people are night owls, and some people are early birds.

Personally, I’m the type of person that never wants to miss out on any adventure, no matter what time of day it is.

But because I’m actually shy in most situations, especially when surrounded by strangers, I was in a bit of a pickle.

After that first night I realized if I wanted a change, I was going to have to make it.  I woke up the next morning, jumped over to the boat next to me, and introduced myself.  Not surprisingly, this boat was full of incredibly nice, fantastic people, who ended up becoming my home away from home.SteveASUourBoat

(Big shout out to Joe, Nate, Doug, Evan, Peyton, Elyse, and Christie)

As the week went on, whenever I felt uncomfortable or out of place (which is quite easy as a shy nerd), I had to literally force myself to say “hey,” when every part of my body told me to “crawl into my boat and hide like a hermit crab.”

So, I put myself out there.

And I was greeted with a hug, handshake, high five, or offered a drink… and ended up spending hours getting to know some awesome new people.

We’ve covered social skills here on the site before (here and here), so I know many Nerd Fitness Rebels know how challenging this can be.  When we’re presented with social situations that scare us or make us uncomfortable, its easy for our minds to revert back to grade school/high school days when life sucked.

It’s okay to be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, but if you’re looking to have a great time in a new situation, it’s up to you to muster up 20 seconds of courage and say hey.

During this (and difficult social situations in the past), I have to constantly remind myself: what’s the worst that could happen?

And the answer is always the same: nothing.  Sure, you might meet a jerk or two (and thus choose to not talk to them again), but you will probably make some new friends.  Either is certainly better than going home with regret thinking, “damn I should have talked to those people.”

So, next time you’re in a situation where you don’t know anybody, or end up at a party, conference, or bar where you’re the odd man out, do the opposite of what your childhood nerd wants.

Pull a Costanza.  Introduce yourself and say “hey.”  Who knows what adventure (or friendship) could come as a result?

Bringing Fantasy to Life

Steve Plitvice

After surviving my seven days on a boat, I returned to Split, Croatia, and started formulating plans to cross off a big goal from my Epic Quest: Visiting Plitvice Lakes.  

If you’re not familiar with Plitvice Lakes, it’s one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring national parks on the planet.  Imagine Rivendell from Lord of the Rings - millions of waterfalls, ridiculously turquoise water, and amazing hiking.

My first afternoon at the park started with a bit of exploration, and ended with me renting a rowboat to explore some of the park’s best waterfalls.

This being Nerd Fitness, I couldn’t help but get in some quick exercises before it was time to return the boat:

Boat Exercises

As I wandered over bridges, through trees, and across bridges, I couldn’t help but feel like Samus in Metroid Prime (one of my favorite video games).  Each new viewpoint brought another “holy crap, is this real?” moment.

Here’s a quick montage of some of the waterfalls and lakes, complete with Metroid soundtrack :)

Waterfall and Lake Montage

After spending a week in confined quarters on a boat, it was great to head up into the mountains and spend two days alone exploring, hiking, and adventuring.

Level Up


As you can tell from this photo, we had absolutely NO fun on our trip.

I’m going to be doing a big update on the Epic Quest soon (including why I started it and what’s next), but I wanted to share with you three big “Quest Completes!” I had during this week:

1) Attend The Yacht Week - Sure, not necessarily fitness related, but I’m a sucker for an epic experience that I’ll never forget.  I’m a firm believer that experiences trump possessions, which is why most of my money goes into trips, adventures, and experiences.

2) Explore Plitvice Lakes - Absolutely worth the 8 hours of bus rides and early mornings.  The only other place that had my jaw drop like this place was Machu Picchu.  I honestly felt like I was in Middle Earth.  If you ever get a chance to come to Croatia, this HAS to be a stop on your list.  My advice: skip the guided tours, buy a map, and go exploring on your own.  Be the first one in the park or you’ll do a lot of waiting on people who are blocking your path!

3) Complete five muscle ups in a row - While on the Yacht, I made sure to do a few things every day that kept me from losing all of my momentum from a fitness perspective.  I’ve recently been developing my false grip strength, and thought it would be fun to hang up my gymnastic rings from the boom of the boat to get some pull ups in!

I then wanted to see if I could do a muscle up.  Despite never attempting more than one in a row, I figured it was a good opportunity to try it out.  Surprisingly, I was able to string five together in a row! Sure, I didn’t go to a full deadhang, but considering I was hanging off the side of the boat and didn’t have any chalk (and thus destroyed the skin on my forearms), I’m gonna give myself a break on this one:

Boat Muscle Ups

After taking a big break from working on my Epic Quest, it was exciting to be able to cross off three things in just two weeks.  I’m quite excited to be back in Nashville now, working on the Nerd Fitness Academy, a big secret project that I can’t tell you about yet, and gearing up for CAMP NERD FITNESS, our first ever big-time Nerd Fitness meetup.


PS: Big shout out to our skipper Mathijas, Rob Hanly, his wife Lau Hanly, Sasha Gale, Shannon Weeks, and his fiancee Alexis Shields. Special thanks to Rob and Shannon, whose photos I used here on my photos are currently being enjoyed by fish at the bottom of the Adriatic!



]]> 17
Steve Finally Does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Also, We’re Hiring!) Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:52:12 +0000 Hey guys!

So unless you’ve been living under a rock, your social media has been taken over by people dumping buckets of ice on themselves in the name of raising money for a cure for ALS.  I’ve been challenged a few times from friends, teammates, and rebels, but due to travel, I haven’t been able to get in on the action.

You can stop asking, because I finally took the challenge, and had a bit of fun with it.

Yesterday, equipped with help from a few of my childhood heroes, a camera, a few buckets of ice water, four hours of amateur video editing (and no shame), I put together a quick, corny, and hopefully funny video for such a great cause.

Nerd Fitness will also be matching a big chunk of donations that come into the Nerd Fitness page!

Check it out:

Steve does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Big shout out to my buddy Adam Moore for selflessly throwing ice cold water on me four times. A true humanitarian.

What is this all about?

strike out ALS Pete Frates

In case you HAVE been living under a rock, a few weeks back Pete Frates, former baseball player for Boston College who has been battling ALS for the past two years, challenged his friends to donate to the ALS Association within 24 hours or post a video of them dumping ice water on their heads. Before long, people were doing both.

Growing up as a little leaguer in Massachusetts, I immediately fell in love with this idea.  And it was this piece on ESPN that brought me to tears.  

Well, what started as a small thing in Boston amongst baseball players went viral and took over the internet.  It was fun to watch. Although some folks were tired of watching video after video, the campaign was a wild success, raising over 88 million dollars!

Now, my favorite part of Nerd Fitness is just how truly helpful and supportive this community can be.  I’m proud to be part of it, and I’m excited to support a great cause.  So, hopefully you have a chance to watch the above silly video and consider donating:

Team Nerd Fitness Donation Page

To sweeten the pot, we’ll be matching the first $5,000 donated, in honor of Pete Frates and all that are suffering from this brutal disease.

If you can’t donate, that’s totally fine…instead, do something nice for somebody today!

If you’ve already donated, that’s FANTASTIC.

Regardless, thanks for your sharing, supporting, and donating!

Team Nerd Fitness is hiring

Before I wish you all a great weekend, I wanna make a quick announcement.

Nerd Fitness is hiring!  

Darryl, our awesome designer who helped us update the Nerd Fitness Academy and Camp NF Pages, was hired to become the lead designer on a video game.  How freaking cool is that!?

So, since we have massive plans for the next year when it comes to Nerd Fitness we need some help!

We’re hiring for two full time positions:

  • Web Development Master
  • Graphic Design Wizard

If you’re a web developer (especially if you specialize in WordPress development) or a web designer, these are both HUGE roles we’re filling trying out *immediately*.

We also have a few hours a month of work for:

  • Video/Audio Editing Ninja

This is *not* a full-time role, but as we ramp up our online media we’d need someone we can trust to help us edit videos, fix audio, and manage media.

You can find out all of the details and how to apply for either position over on our “Work With Us” page.

I hope you have an awesome long weekend, I know I plan on having some fun.  Also, we’re only THREE weeks away from Camp Nerd Fitness!  If you’re joining us, see you there! If not, we still have room :)



]]> 17
How to Make Chicken Veggie Kabobs Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:07:40 +0000 This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Well Rebels, winter is coming. It’s August and (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), summertime is nearing its end. Soon it will be time for stews, squashes, and Paleo comfort foods.

But I’m ready for one last hurrah of summer: Outdoor cooking. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, you have this to look forward to! You lucky dogs.

If you already have burgers and dogs down, it’s time to level up your grilling game. Today I’m gonna show you how to make some super quick and easy Greek-inspired chicken kabobs.  You can get tons of veggies into your meal, and you won’t have to heat up your kitchen by turning on the oven or stove.

If you want to watch a video of this recipe get made, check it out here!

Lets get started!

Chicken Veggie Kabobs

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes




For the kabobs:

2 lbs chicken breast
1/2 cup olive oil - My mixing bowls were not big enough to fit all the chicken and the vegetables. If you also have this problem, you can split these ingredients in half for the veggies and the chicken. (So for the olive oil, 1/4 c goes into each mixing bowl.)
2 tbsp lemon juice - you can use fresh squeezed or the kind from the bottle. I used the bottled stuff because I am lazy. 1 tbsp will go to the chicken and the other to the veggies.
2 tbsp dried basil - Again, 1 tbsp for the chicken and 1 for the veggies.
2 tsp dried oregano - Split this up into two sets. Half for the chicken and half for the veggies.
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1/2 head cauliflower
4 oz cherry tomatoes - this is about half of one of those containers that they sell at the store.
1 red onion
2 bell peppers - choose your favorite colors. I like red and orange best.


A grill - Charcoal or gas. It doesn’t matter.
Cutting board - For chopping on.
Knife - For chopping.
Skewers - you can buy bamboo ones for very cheap or you can buy reusable metal ones at your local grocery store. I like the metal ones because they don’t splinter or break.
2 Large mixing bowls - for mixing your veggies and chicken
Smaller bowl - for mixing your marinade
Tongs - for flipping the skewers

Paleo Kabobs

Alright, we’re all set to put these suckers together! All we have to do is wash and cut our veggies and chicken, add some spices, and assemble it all on skewers! 

1. Wash your veggies.

2. Cut the yellow squash and zucchini into medallions.


3. Cut the bell peppers into square-ish pieces.


4. Cut the onion in quarters and cut off each end, then peel it. First remove the skin, then separate each layer.


5.  Grab your head of cauliflower (or broccoli). Chop the stem of the cauliflower off then chop it in half. After that, tear the “florets” off of the stem with your hands.  You animal.

6. Toss your tomatoes into the bowl with all the other veggies. (You may have to use multiple mixing bowls. I can never find a mixing bowl that is big enough for all of the veggies that I want to cook. Life is rough, I know.)


7. Cut your chicken into cube-like chunks. Toss this into a separate bowl.


Note* I use separate bowls, even though I am going to cook the veggies and chicken together, because I like to practice good kitchen hygiene. Cross contaminating fresh veggies with raw chicken (while using the same knife and cutting board without washing them) can make you super sick and discourage you from cooking in the future. We do not want this!

8. Once all your veggies and chicken are cut up and in your bowl, it’s time to mix up the sauce. Start with 1/2 cup olive oil.


9. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice.


10. Add your basil, oregano, salt and pepper and mix it up with a fork.


11. Drizzle the oil mixture over the veggies and the chicken in even amounts. Mix it up with a fork or your hands. (If you use your hands, be sure to wash them well after touching raw chicken!)


12. Fire up your grill! You’ll want to pre-heat it so that it’s ready to cook once all your kabobs are assembled.

13. Now grab your skewers and start with the veggies. Put veggies on about 1/3 of the skewer. Put them in whatever order you want.


14. Now fill the middle of the skewer with chicken. Yes, you’re touching raw chicken with your hands. Be brave! Also, be careful not to poke yourself with the skewer. I do this at least once every time I make kabobs. It is not recommended.


15. Finally, finish off the last 1/3 with more veggies! Once you finish assembling each kabob, place them on a large plate or cutting board so that you can take them out to the grill!


The reason we are skewering in this order is because we want all the meat to cook at the same time. If you put meat all over the kabobs, the meat on the outside will cook faster than the meat on the inside (which means the meat on the outside will dry out and burn). So, keep it all in the middle.

On one final note, I ran out of chicken and I had lots of left over veggies that needed to be cooked. If this happens to you, just make veg-only skewers. No problemo.

16. Your grill should be heated up by now. Take your beautiful works of art outside and place them on the grill. Close the lid and set a timer for 10 minutes.


17. After 10 minutes, go back outside with some tongs and flip the skewers over. Wait another 10 minutes.

18. When the kabobs are done, take them off the grill! Serve with a side of tzatziki dipping sauce (you can use store bought sauce or our recipe below!). You can also dip them in guacamole (see our Paleo taco recipe). They also have a great taste all by themselves! 


Bonus recipe: Paleo Tzaziki Sauce

If the above recipe depleted all your willpower, read no further! However, if you are looking for a bonus level for some extra experience, try this Paleo tazaziki sauce.

Sauces and spices are two things that really level up a new cook’s skills. If you think about it, all food isn’t all that different. What makes each dish different (and awesome) are the spices and sauces that you add to each one.

Tzaziki is a yogurt based sauce that is served in most Greek restaurants along with dishes like falafel, souvlaki, and gyros. It contains cucumber, garlic, lemon juice and fresh dill. Its super simple, but it packs a flavor punch and pulls this dish together nicely. Follow these instructions if you feel like adding a homemade sauce to your repertoire:



1 cup coconut cream - place a can of coconut milk or coconut cream in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (or overnight if you’re one of those people who thinks ahead). Once the can is sufficiently chilled, open it up and scrape the thick cream off the top. This stuff can be used for all kinds of deliciousness. If you’re cool with dairy and don’t want to use coconut cream, you can use 1 cup of plain, full fat greek yogurt. Make sure it’s not sweetened or flavored!
1/2 of a cucumber - peeled and diced into tiny pieces
2 tbsp fresh dill
3 cloves of garlic, minced - I love garlic. You can add more or less depending on your personal preferences.
2 tsp lemon juice - again, both fresh and bottled are fine
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt


For the sauce: 

If you do opt for the bonus recipe, make the sauce first because if you let it sit in the fridge while you’re cooking and prepping the skewers, the flavors of the sauce have more time to combine together into deliciousness.

1. Wash your cucumber and dill.

2. Cut the cucumber in half. Peel it with a potato peeler or small knife.


3. Scrape out the seeds from the inside with a spoon.


4. Slice the cucumber in very thin strips length-wise.


Then turn them at a 90 degree angle and chop them into smaller pieces short-wise.


5. Now we’re gonna chop that cucumber super small. Hold the knife parallel to your body. Place your hand lightly on the top front end of the knife to keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board and use the heel of the knife, the part close to your hands, to chop the cucumber. Use a rocking motion and move the heel of the knife back and forth over the cucumber until it is minced. Take all that cucumber and put it in your small mixing bowl.


6. Take your fresh dill. Remove the “leaves” from the stems of the plants. Remove enough leaves so that you can measure 2 tbsp of leaves in a spoon before chopping.


7. Mince the dill the same way you did the cucumber in step 5 and toss it in the bowl with the cucumber.


8. Mince your garlic: Take your cloves of garlic, chop off the end that was attached to the bulb. This end is hard and flat.


Place your knife flat side on top of the garlic. Smash the clove under your knife.


Remove the peel from the clove and cut the garlic into strips. Then mince like you did with the cucumber and dill. Place your garlic cloves in the bowl.


9. Open your can of coconut milk. Scrape off the cream layer and place it in your bowl with the chopped stuff. Alternately, if you’re using yogurt, measure out 1 cup of yogurt and put it in your bowl.


10. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and mix it all together.


11. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge. Move on to the next part of the recipe!

Cook like a caveman!


There you have it!

Take your favorite veggies, add some meat, toss in oil and spices, put it on a stick, and cook for 20 minutes. The best part is that your kitchen never heats up. (If you live in an apartment like I do, this is a major plus during the summer.)

Kabobs are one of my favorite quick and easy ways to make a ton of food. They’re great for gatherings, super colorful, and kiddos can enjoy helping you assemble the skewers (under strict adult supervision, of course). Plus, there are tons of different combinations you can use to mix up a kabob recipe and make it your own:

Are you a vegetarian? Omit the meat!

Want to add a little sweetness? Add some fresh pineapple or peaches!

Tired of chicken or beef? Use shrimp, salmon, scallops, or pork chops!

Other veggie possibilities include: Sweet potatoes, broccoli, whole button mushrooms, whole sweet peppers, jalapenos, yellow onions, carrots, etc. Pretty much any veggie but leafy greens will work on the grill.

What are your favorite foods to grill?

Are there any types of cuisine you’re dying to see (paleo or non-plaeo)?

Let us know in the comments!



Photos: cszar, Lord Jim

]]> 21
Days of Future Past: How to Use Time Travel for Success Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:30:09 +0000
One of the hottest movies so far this summer has undoubtedly been X-Men: Days of Future Past.

It combined the best of the new X-Men films with the best of the old X-men films (though sadly no Nightcrawler), and stuck them in one giant blockbuster.

How can you have young wolverine and old wolverine, young Magneto and old Magneto, young Charles Xavier and old Charles Xavier?

Time travel!

Everybody loves a good time travel story – from Star Trek to Looper to Chrono Trigger - it’s so much fun to think about what could happen if we could go back into the past, talk to our younger selves, and rewrite our own history.

Today we’re going to join Charles Xavier, and use time travel to level up our lives.

You in the Past

space future

Yeah yeah, I hear you. The past is done.  Written in stone.  Done.

We can’t go back and rearrange history (…yet), but we can learn from it.

However, I want you to take a few minutes and think about what you would tell yourself if you COULD go back in time 10 years ago.  This is what I would tell myself:

1) Stop reading Muscle and Fitness Magazine and working out six days a week with individual body parts. It’s not working.  Instead, learn how to do big lifts, and just focus on getting strong.

2) Macaroni and cheese served in a pot does not count as a healthy meal.  And pizza doesn’t count either.  If you want to get bigger, focus on eating quality food before just quantity.  You’re spinning your wheels.

3) Dude, she’s not worth it, cheer up.  And the next won’t be worth it.  You’re going to be fine :)  And they’re not scary, it’s okay to talk to them!

4) A few years from now you’re going to have a bunch of dumb ideas, and then an idea to start a fitness site for nerds….which you will do nothing with for 18 months.  Start sooner!

5) Things work out. You’re going to panic about all sorts of things, and blow so many other things wayyyy out of proportion.  You’re going to freak out.  That test? Those papers? They’re important, but you won’t remember a damn thing about them. You WILL remember those road trips with friends and late nights.  So relax.  Get your shit done, but don’t forget to enjoy today too.

Yeah, it would be awesome to go back and talk to 20-year old Steve. Sure, he was young, naive, weak, and terrified of women…but he was a good kid trying to figure stuff out!

Stick with me – this isn’t just a silly exercise – we’re about to do some more time traveling and figure out how this affects the YOU right now.

You in the Future


A few weeks ago at the World Domination Summit, attendees were asked, “What’s life like in the future for you?”

Most people had answers that were so incredibly positive and exciting (or hilarious):

  • “The future is great! I’m now a published author!”
  • “I started that school and now I’m helping kids get educated in third world countries. Everything is awesome.”
  • “I’m pretty happy, but also sad. Sure life is great in the future, but there are still no jet packs.” (from my buddy Thomas Frank)

Now, for your next exercise: Instead of transplanting ourselves back 10 years, I want you to think 10 years into the future.  What is life like for you?  I’m going to guess life is pretty damn good for you – you should be getting closer and closer to reaching that “Level 50″ version of yourself.

Here’s what life is like for me:

Life is freaking awesome.  You’re in better shape at age 40 than you were at age 30.  The Assassin’s guild in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is proud to have you, because you’re crushing gymnastic holds and reaching new records.  

Both of those books you wrote? They hit the New York Times List, and more importantly helped a LOT of people.

Your epic quest is marching onward, and you’ve reached Level 25.

Your violin and piano skills have lead you onto the stage for small shows simply because you enjoy play the music and having fun.

The Rebellion has effectively transformed the fitness industry.  No longer is it the norm for people to fall for scams and shady products.  You turned down that buy-out from the Natural Life Food Company, and have continued to focus on providing value, education, support, and really corny humor to your tribe.

Oh, and you have a jet pack.

Your turn.  We’re talking about stuff that hasn’t happened yet, so feel free to dream away as to what you’re going to accomplish with your future.


  • You didn’t just become a runner, you officially ran the Boston Marathon.
  • You didn’t just become a traveler, you hiked Kilimanjaro and found Nemo.
  • You didn’t just lose weight and get stronger, but you deadlifted 405 lbs and fit into size 32 jeans.

I want you to paint as vivid a picture as you can.  Project yourself into that future and see what life is like.

Days of Future Past

future past

I have ONE final step for you.

It’s time to do a little Future-Past living.

Imagine you actually accomplish the life you hope to live 10 years from now.  You are living this epic life.  10 years from now, both jet packs AND time travel exist, and you get to come back to visit yourself TODAY.

TODAY-you takes a look at the time-traveling FUTURE-you and (after initially freaking out) starts up a dialogue.  Today-you wants to know where you end up.  You see all these choices laid out before you, and there are so many possibilities. More importantly, there are the paths that lead to accomplishments, and other paths where things aren’t going so well.

Think of this like Spock in the reboot of Star Trek. There is a good path and a great future, and a poor path and a poor future.  What do you think the “future you” tells the “now you” to ensure you are heading down the proper path?

Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? The smallest of decisions can result in massive changes. That decisions to finally give getting healthy a real chance leads to a lifetime of new habits and a new you.

That “what the hell, sure” response to your friend asking if you want to go play frisbee or try rockclimbing turned out to open an entirely new chapter in your life. You finally decided to stop avoiding the kitchen and try the easiest chicken ever…now you cook all the time!

Future-you knows better, and knows all the things that you wish you could have done differently starting today. This is that chance.

Here’s some things your future-you might tell the YOU from right now:

  • Stop eating that crap food – you know it’s not making you happier in the long-term, and 10 years from now you’ll wish you had started making small changes today.
  • Go to that _____ class!  Who cares if you’re self-conscious and are gonna suck at it?  Everybody else there is self-conscious too!
  • Stop spending money on useless junk!  That trip you always wanted to take…eventually? Well it’s 10 years later, and “eventually” hasn’t happened yet.  Experiences trump possessions!

It’s now your turn. I realize this is QUITE the exercise, so I’m going to bribe you.  I want you to leave a comment with the following three things:

  1. Something the current you would tell yourself 10 years ago.
  2. What your future looks like, being as specific and detailed as possible.
  3. What’s one thing the FUTURE you would come back and tell TODAY you so that you head down the right path?

Leave a comment before Thursday, August 28th at 11:59 pm, and we’ll pick two winners: one at random, and one that’s our favorite. We’ll send the winners a free Nerd Fitness shirt.

That’s right, I’m bribing you to mentally time travel.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some teeny tiny steps to take :)



photo pin: Ian Sane: Time to Walk Like a Rebel, Carsten Tolkmit: time tunnel, BagoGames: Future Past, Joe Penniston: orbit

]]> 118
Proper Gym Etiquette: How to Not be a Newbie in the Gym Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:30:53 +0000 I remember the first time I ever set foot in a gym.

I was 16, a day removed from getting cut from the basketball team, and I planned on getting “big and strong.”  The problem, was…I didn’t know what I was doing!  I sheepishly wandered from machine to machine, doing a set of this, 10 reps of that…and then I tried to do the ONE exercise I thought I knew: the bench press!

After loading up more weight on the bar than my total weight, my spaghetti arms shakily removed the weight from the safety rack, and I proceeded to drop it directly on my chest.  Panicking, I slowly rolled my body to the left, and watched as the weights spiraled off the end of the bar.


The weight hit the ground and sounded like a gunshot. My entire body (now lopsided due to only having weight on ONE side of the bar) drastically shifted to the right. Those weights spun off and hit the ground too. Another gunshot.

I quickly raised the bar to the safety rack, and hoped nobody noticed…until I saw about 40 pairs of eyes staring at me.

That was day 1.

Fortunately, since then, I’ve made every mistake known to man when it comes to training in a gym over the past fourteen years. Today I’m going to review all of the fundamentals of gym etiquette to give you the confidence to get out of my dreams your head and into my car the gym!

Let’s take a field trip to the gym.

It’s all in your head

Steve Ostrich

The most important lesson I had to learn while training in a gym: nobody actually cares about you.

Sure, I had a room full of people looking at me when I almost broke the gym floor, but two minutes later they went back to doing their own thing.

Here’s the truth: everybody else is also self-conscious of how they look in the gym.  They’re wayyyy too concerned with how they look in a mirror to notice you.

  • That dude who is super jacked? He’s looking in the mirror wondering why he’s not as big as that other guy.
  • That woman on the treadmill? She wishes she was confident enough to go to the free weights section!
  • That guy running sprints? He’s praying the girl next to him won’t notice the sweat pool forming in the back of his shirt.
  • And that guy? He’s self conscious too.

And if you’re afraid that people are judging you because you’re out of shape – the majority of people I’ve talked to actually have told me they love seeing someone out of weight trying their hardest – because they know how hard it is to get started.

If you’re not convinced by the idea that most people aren’t paying attention, you should know that you aren’t exactly a lvl 1 entering a lvl 50 zone.

I’d say that in my 14 years in a gym, 90% of the gym-going population doesn’t know how to exercise properly.

Because you’re reading Nerd Fitness, you know how to build your own workout and that machines are the devil. This already puts you essentially in the top 10% of gym goers.

Now, you just need to give yourself a little confidence that says you belong in the free weights section.

Don’t Fear the Free Weights



Regardless of whether you’re a male or female, young or old, overweight or skinny…you have just as much of a right to use the free weights section as anybody else.

Whether you’re squatting 45 lbs and someone else is squatting 450 lbs, it doesn’t matter – you pay the same as they do, and your workout is just as important as theirs.

So, here’s what I want you to do to complete your first free weights session in a gym:

  • Pick ONE free-weight exercise you’re going to master. Maybe it’s the squat or overhead press. Read the articles, watch the videos, practice the form in your house.
  • Turn yourself into a superhero version of you, one that loves free weights.
  • Or, activate Beastmode, and take 20 seconds of courage to wander into the free weights.
  • Focus on that ONE exercise and block out everything else. Like Happy Gilmore in his happy place.
  • Don’t look around you.  Don’t focus on everyone else.  Focus 100% on you.

And that’s it! Then you can go back to the machines, the elliptical, the stretching station, or yoga class.  But I want you to push your limits and step outside of that comfort zone.

Don’t be that guy/girl!

Lego Lifting Dumbbell

I think the biggest reason we’re afraid of gyms is that we don’t want to make mistakes, and we don’t want to appear foolish.

Like any other activity, there are some unwritten rules.  If you’ve done these before, DON’T WORRY – remember 90% of people have probably done them too.

The more you know…

1) The squat rack and power rack are for squatting, overhead presses, and other compound barbell exercises, not bicep curls.  A few weeks ago, I observed a gentleman who proceeded to occupy the squat rack so that he could do bicep curls…with dumbbells.  Yes, he stopped others from squatting, or even using the barbell, so that he could stand inside the cage to watch himself in the mirror doing dumbbell curls.

There’s actually a “curl rack” made for you to curl in.

Don’t be that guy or girl! In many gyms squat racks are limited…those safeties are valuable! Please don’t use the squat rack for bicep curls. 

2) Wipe down the bench/equipment after use. Hopefully 90% of your exercises are done standing, but if you DO use a piece of equipment, or are stretching on a mat afterwards, don’t forget to wipe it down after use!

If your gym allows chalk (and I hope it does) and it gets all over the place – clean it up.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for a spot! If you are doing something like a bench press, don’t be too scared to ask somebody to spot you.  Here’s how it will go down:

  • You: Hey, can you give me a quick spot?
  • Them: Sure!
  • You: I’m gonna try and get 8 reps
  • Them: Okay!
  • You: 7, 8…
  • Them: You got one more!
  • You: 9!
  • Them: ALL YOU!
  • You: Thanks!

It’s that simple. Don’t be afraid!  We’re all in the gym trying to get better too, so just ask. Chances are, you’ll likely make a new gym friend.

If someone asks you to spot them, here’s a great article on how to spot people.

4) Don’t completely tie up 2 pieces of equipment at once, and don’t be afraid to “work in.”  Don’t be the person that does a circuit of squats, pull ups, and bench presses all at the same time in a gym during the busiest time of the day. Only occupy ONE piece of equipment at a time whenever possible, and if you are doing a “superset,” bring your dumbbells or whatever else you need over to you. If the gym isn’t packed and you want to give your circuit or supersets a try, go for it. Just make sure that you let anybody “work in” who wants to (trading off using the equipment in between sets).

Conversely, if you see a piece of equipment somebody else is using, it’s okay to ask them:  How many sets do you have left? Could I “work in?”

  • If they say less than 2, smile and say “oh okay cool, I’ll jump in when you’re done.”
  • If they say more than 2, ask if you can work in with them.

5) Re-rack your weights and put any equipment back where it belongs! There’s nothing worse than finding a piece of empty equipment loaded up with a bunch of weird weight on it. If you don’t have time to re-rack your weight and put all the equipment back where it belongs, you don’t have time for that exercise!

6) Not sure how to do something? ASK!  Ask a trainer in the gym if you’re not sure how a piece of equipment works or are unsure of how to do a lift. OR, if you’ve been in your gym for a while, and you see somebody who knows how to lift properly, ask them!

Personally, I’d be flattered if somebody came up and asked about how to do a deadlift or squat. The way I see it, that’s one more for the good guys, one less for the zombies :)

7) Be courteous of other members – Don’t sit on your phone and hog equipment or interrupt others mid-set. Keep your own things tidy, preferably in the locker room. Don’t critique others unless they ask for help (you wouldn’t want others to tell you how to exercise).

specific gym tips for women

OHP Staci

This section was written by NF Team Member Staci.

Lifting weights in public for the first time is intimidating for everyone – but for a lot of women, it’s downright terrifying.  There’s been this stigma that we don’t belong in the weight room for years, so not only is it weird for many of us to be there, but guys are still getting used to seeing women not afraid to lift weights.

And the truth is – a lot of guys get just as nervous being around a girl who is lifting as we are nervous lifting around them.

I’ve spent a lot of time in gyms of all shapes and sizes, and trust me – I’ve seen everything from someone explaining the difference between pounds and kilo numbers on the plates (because I shouldn’t attempt to lift that many pounds), to “you know, if you keep lifting heavy, you’re going to get bulky.”

And then there’s always the classic, “Hey baby, you foam roll often?”

One of the biggest questions I get asked from girls starting out is “how do you deal with getting hit on by guys at the gym?”

Sure, it can be annoying, but I remind myself: “I didn’t stop eating because a guy hit on me at the grocery store, and I’m certainly not going to stop lifting because someone might possibly hit on me at the gym.”

So guess what? My advice for girls in the gym is the exact same as for guys in the gym – the most important thing you can do is go in with confidence, be polite, and do your own thing.

If someone treats you like you’re an idiot, or if they start telling you you’re doing things wrong, I always reiterate a very simple and polite line: “I appreciate your input, but I’ve got to finish my workout now, I’m on a tight schedule.”

It doesn’t matter what they said or if they’re wrong. Just move on.

And don’t underestimate the power of headphones. It’s not rude to quickly finish a conversation by saying goodbye and putting on your headphones to “go finish your workout!”

The point is this: Handle yourself the same way as you would handle yourself elsewhere. You deserve to be there.

You got this


Feeling a bit of anxiety in a new gym atmosphere is completely normal. Making a few mistakes is completely normal too. Here are a few stories from NF Team Members, now avid gym goers.


When I first wanted to try squats, I was really nervous to do it in public – so I watched a ton of videos online, got a PVC so I could practice at home, and did all the research I could.  When I got to the gym, I noticed the rack looked a little different in the videos, but it had all the main points, so I figured out how to use it and went with it.  I went home and was super excited to tell all of my Nerd Fitness rebels on the message boards about my amazing freeweight squatting experience, but turns out, the machine I used was actually a free motion smith machine – not a squat rack at all.  Fail :(


When I first started working out in the free weights section, I ONLY did dumbbell exercises. I was petrified of the very idea of a barbell…proper form, getting injured, asking for a spot – it all felt like too much. Finally I asked one of the staff members and he took me through some movements. Another guy who I saw around the gym often was watching, and commented that he realized he had been doing the movement wrong this whole time. All of a sudden my fear was shattered.


The first time I worked out in a gym by myself, it was actually pretty great. I signed up for a gym that was open 24 hours – at the time I still worked odd schedules that would regularly change. I ended up working out anywhere between 10pm-2am regularly, so it was usually pretty empty, and I didn’t have to worry about anyone bugging me or trying to “correct” my form. A funny moment that sticks is when a guy offered me the bar pad that he was using on the Smith Machine and I turned it down. He said I made him feel weak!

Hopefully you can learn from our experiences and mistakes and hit the gym feeling like a pro.

What was your first time at the gym like? Do you have a great newbie story? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear!



photo pin: Nicole Paternoster: tight rope, Pascal: Dumbbell, W_Minshull: Legos at Gym

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