Nerd Fitness » Blog Level up your life, every single day. Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:31:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Lord of the Rings Workout: One Plan to Rule Them All Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:19:13 +0000 Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

An incredible poem, from the greatest fantasy epic ever told (Tolkien had quite a knack for poetry).  A little while back, we posted a Star Wars Workout on Nerd Fitness and the response was overwhelming: “GIVE US MOAR WORKOUTS!” you said.  ”KEEP THE NERD COMING” you said.

So I said, “Stop yelling at me!” and “Your caps lock is broken!”

And then we made more workouts.

In honor of one of my favorite stories, and a great companion to our “Walk to Mordor” guide, I wanted to bring you another fantasy-themed-workout.

Not only is this workout incredibly nerdy, but it’s also an epic workout that will go perfectly with your Star Wars Workout and  Beginner Bodyweight Routine (just remember to take a day off between each!)

So…shall we…GO to Mordor?

The Lord of the Rings Workout

LOTR Workout

In honor of the number of rings listed in the poem, we’ll be doing things a bit differently with this workout.

As always, make sure you start with a proper warm up!  Can’t have you pulling a muscle before we start our battle with the Nazgûl.  For exercises which require a dumbbell, pick a weight that makes the number of prescribed reps difficult, doesn’t cause failure.

There are 3 books, and thus three mini workouts. In each mini workout, you are going to complete 1 set of each exercise and then move directly onto the next one. Depending on your level of fitness:

  • I am a hobbit, and new to working out: Do each Book ONCE before moving onto the sequel.
  • I am an elf, and this seems like a fun challenge: Do each Book TWICE before moving onto the sequel.
  • I am a Dúnedain, ranger of the north: Do each Book THREE TIMES before moving onto the sequel.

What’s that you say? You don’t have time to do all three books in one single workout? Cool. Spread them throughout your day!

Now, we had far too much fun creating this workout – we all got a chance to geek out, even if we didn’t cover anything before the third age.  Sorry, we’re saving the Valar for the next one!

Superset 1: The Fellowship of the Ring

Hobbit Hole

3 ”YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Slams (3 medicine ball slams - feel free to yell “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” each time you do this.)

7 Legolas Bow Pulls (7 renegade rows).

9 “One does not simply walking lunge into Mordor” (9 lunges, each leg).

1 Minute: Hip “Bridge of Khazad Dum” (hip raises and hold at the top position for 1 minute)

Superset 2: The Two towers

two towers cover

3 Riders of ROWhan (3 bodyweight rows)

Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” jumps. (7 box jumps - REALLY explode)

9 Helm’s Deep-Squats.  (9 bodyweight squats – get your ass to the ground. Way down.)

1 Minute Tower of Orthanc Holds (Kick up against a wall and hold a handstand for as long as you can until 1 minute is complete, in as few as sets as possible. Can’t hold a full handstand? Check out the variations in our Guide to Handstands.)

Superset 3: The return of the king

Aragorn Legolas

3 Eowyn “I am no Man!”makers  (3 manmakers)

7 Light of Galadriel raises (7 arm overhead dumbbell presses)

9 “Army of Dead”lifts (9 light weight reps, barbell or dumbbell)

1 Minute Samwise Gamgee Carries (As demonstrated here by AKLulu carrying me at a NF meetup) A heavy sandbag over the shoulder works too.  No sandbag? Just carry two dumbbells around the gym for a minute.

destroy the ring! save middle earth!


Now, before you go complaining that you don’t have time to complete this work out…remember what Gandalf says: ”All you have to decide what to do with the time that is given to you.”

If you can only complete two circuits per section, or 1 circuit per section, that’s okay. It just gives you an opportunity to level up the next time you attempt this work out. Do this workout every other day, or occasionally instead of your other regularly scheduled workouts.

Work your way up to the Dúnedain Level and beyond for each.

Remember, your diet is the most important part of any equation (“but what about second breakfast?”).

We’ll be adding this workout to our beginner fitness courses, Men’s Fitness 101 and Women’s Fitness 101, complete with high-definition demonstrations of every exercise (here’s a sample) along with high-definition warm ups and cool downs.

What other movies/games/books would you like us to cover in future workout routines?

What kind of questions do you have about this workout?

“The road goes ever on…and on…”


NF Meetup

PS: Thanks to all the Austin Rebels who came out this past weekend to hike/ruck the Greenbelt! For those of you who couldn’t make it, be sure to check our meetup page so you don’t miss the next Rebel gathering.


photo source: Andy Zeigert: GandalfJeff Hithcock: Hobbit HomeSanjeev Beekeeper: Art of Two Towers,  Andy Zeigert: Aragorn and Legolas, I_Believe_: One Ring, Riccardo Cuppini: LOTR Scene

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Boards Don’t Hit Back: The Legend of Bruce Lee Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:51:49 +0000 Today is a special day.

We are going to discuss one of my heroes, and probably one of your heroes. The man, the myth, the legend: Bruce Lee.  If he’s not your hero yet, he soon will be.

If you are a nerd, you love Bruce Lee.  

If you are into Martial Arts, you love Bruce Lee.

If you like Nerd Fitness, you will also love Bruce Lee.

Bruce is one of my heroes, and I’d like him to be your hero too, so I’m going to be sharing his philosophy and some of my favorite quotes from him. This guy accomplished more in his tragically short life than most people could in 10 lifetimes.

His philosophy drives a lot of the rules we live by at Nerd Fitness.

So, just how much of a badass was Bruce Lee? When Chuck Norris was asked if he and Bruce actually fought to the death, who would win, Chuck replied without thinking: “Bruce of course. Nobody can beat him.”

Let’s get after it.

Who was Bruce Lee?

Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon

Born in San Francisco in 1940 – the year of the Dragon, of course - Bruce Lee spent most of his childhood growing up in Hong Kong. After getting in a fight with a local gang, he discovered the martial art Wing Chun to properly defend himself (which we’ve covered here).

It was this martial art that would shape his future, and the future of all martial artists that came after him, propelling him down a path to super stardom, martial arts fame, and life story and philosophy that inspire millions upon millions of people today – even 40 years after his death.

Bruce Lee went through an extreme version of the experience many of us nerds go through in our formative years – feeling like an outcast. Due to Bruce’s mixed heritage (his father was Chinese and his mother was of mixed descent), he consistently encountered people who shunned and refused to train alongside him.

In fact, Bruce ended up having to constantly defend himself in street fights, and after defeating a guy with serious gang ties, his father sent him back to San Francisco to keep him out of fights and off the streets.

For comparison, I spent my childhood fighting on the streets in games like Bad Dudes (“The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue him?”)

But it was in the Long Beach International Karate Championships where he made his first mark:

The 2-finger Push Up:

And the 1-inch punch:

It was here that he was also discovered and invited to film the pilot for a show (which never aired), but led him to the role as Kato in the classic The Green Hornet.

The rest was history – Bruce went on to experiment with a number of martial art styles, and eventually created his own style, Jeet Kune Do. 

As told here, Bruce’s training was the result of of a story that can only be described as legen..wait for it…dary:

According to Bruce, the Chinese community took issue with him teaching ancient Chinese martial arts to anyone, including non-Chinese students. He was told to stop, when he didn’t comply, Grandmaster Ma Kin Fung sent his top student, Wong Jack Man to challenge him.

If Man won, he must shut down his gym immediately and never teach to non-Chinese students again, but if Lee won, he was free to teach to anybody, regardless of race, nationality or creed.

Following the fight that is set to be immortalized in the planned 2015 film Birth of a Dragon, Lee was disheartened, while he won in three minutes according to several onlookers, he was frustrated that he didn’t dispatch of his worthy challenger far sooner. As a result, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) was born.

Bruce emphasized what he called “the style of no style” which stripped his Wing Chun and other philosophies of their traditional rigidity and focused on having no form.

As his martial arts grew, his film career took off as well.  Upon returning to Hong Kong, he was surprised at his popularity and fame – it turns out his one season as Kato on The Green Hornet made him a Hong Kong celebrity overnight.

Not surprisingly, his career exploded at this point. He signed a deal to start starring (and eventually writing/directing his own films):

  • The Big Boss
  • Fists of Fury
  • Way of the Dragon (which he wrote and directed, and helped bring Chuck Norris to the spotlight)
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Began work on Game of Death

Tragically, Bruce died during the making of Game of Death. Complaining of a headache (he had suffered from seizures and headaches months prior), Bruce was given Equagesic, a painkiller to combat headaches. He reacted with hypersensitivity to an ingredient in the medication, causing a cerebral edema.

Although Bruce died at the age of 32, his work forever changed the landscape of Martial Arts, the film industry, and the societal view of Asian Americans.

In just 32 years, Bruce Lee managed to revolutionize two major industries and become a national icon.

For comparison, I’m 29, it’s 2 pm, and I’m still in my pajamas.

Be your own

Lego Bruce Lee

My favorite part about Bruce Lee was that he truly believed in forging your own path.  He did everything he could to learn the best moves and techniques from others, but applied them to his own philosophy and his own martial Art: Jeet Kune Do.

In his own words: 

Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit in with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none and, likewise, uses any techniques which serve its end.

In Jeet Kune Do, it’s not how much you have learned, but how much you have absorbed from what you have learned. It is not how much fixed knowledge you can accumulate, but what you can apply livingly that counts. 

Being’ is more valued than “doing”

Be Water, My Friend Video

Bruce created his own style, both in his training and in his art. He put a tremendous emphasis on his physical conditioning and how he ate – a NF Rebel before his time!

As we’ve seen in the videos above of Bruce and his 2 finger push ups, Bruce put a massive emphasis on strength training, as he knew it made all parts of his life better.

Along with his intense training regimine, Bruce truly understood the importance of fueling your body with proper nutrition.  After moving to the states, Bruce developed an interest in healthy eating, for he knew that he could not function at the highest level while filling his body with junk food.  He avoided baked goods and refined flour, and aimed to only fill his body with the right nutrients.

Bruce understood that we’re not all squares and circles that fit into perfectly sized holes – that we are all created differently – that foods and training will affect each and every one of us a little bit differently. That there is no one universal solution to all problems.  This is what lead him to create his art.

As he says:Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Devotion to personal responsibility


Not only did Bruce believe in forging one’s own path, but he also believed in the power of personal responsibility.  Considering I’ve covered this as the greatest skill one can learn, I guess this makes Bruce a founding father of Nerd Fitness Philosophy.

He knew that the only way to dig yourself out of a hole is to start digging yourself:

“I have come to discover through earnest personal experience and dedicated learning that ultimately the greatest help is self-help; that there is no other help but self-help— doing one’s best, dedicating one’s self wholeheartedly to a given task, which happens to have no end but is an ongoing process.

I have done a lot during these years of my process. A swell in my process, I have changed from self-image actualization to self-actualization, from blindly following propaganda, organized truths, etc. to searching internally for the cause of my ignorance.”

Is there anything greater than that? What a breath of fresh air in the current world we live in.  To stop looking outward when things go wrong. Stop looking for people to blame or some unlucky fortune, and instead attack it from within; ask how you could deal with the situation better and what you can learn from it.

Shit happens. And shit happens that’s not our fault. But if we learn to accept that it’s our responsibility to deal with it, no matter the situation, then we are in control, and the sooner we can start picking ourselves up and to get better.

This is great news: you don’t need to have anybody’s permission to start being more awesome….because you’re the one that holds the key.

He saw greatness in each of us


I believe we have the abilities to change our fate and create an epic destiny for ourselves, no matter our current situation.   Bruce believed that too.

If life sucks right now, that just means you’re in the part of the plot right before your character turns a corner. :

“We have great work ahead of us, and it needs devotion and much, much energy. To grow, to discover, we need involvement, which is something I experience every day — sometimes good, sometimes frustrating. No matter what, you must let your inner light guide you out of the darkness.

In life, what more can you ask for than to be real? To fulfill one’s potential instead of wasting energy on [attempting to] actualize one’s dissipating image, which is not real and an expenditure of one’s vital energy.”

This part is the best: “To fulfill one’s potential.”  Let that sink in for a sec.  Imagine that we all have this potential for greatness, and that it’s our responsibility to realize that potential.

This reminds me of another quote from the great philosopher, Socrates:

“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”  

A little harsh, but the dude wore a bedsheet for clothes so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

There are no limits


Bruce didn’t believe in limits.

He knew that the human body was capable of far more than our brains and fear tell us.  

As recalled by a friend of his:

Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-tow minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a-half minutes per mile].

So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.”

I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.”

He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.”

I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.”

So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out.

I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” — and we’re still running — “if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles.

Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.

A man must constantly exceed his level.”

Or, in nerd-speak: “Level Up Your Life, Every Single Day.”

Live like Bruce


I challenge you today to consider these lessons from Bruce – then make them your own.

  • Take ownership over your situation. Develop personal responsibility about whatever problem is before you, whether or not you are responsible.
  • Forge your own path forward. Learn from others, take what you need and discard the rest. Make your own way.
  • Strive for level 50. Don’t be satisfied with where you are – we are ALL capable of so much more. Always be hungry.

Here’s how Bruce Lee has influenced and impacted my life:

Bruce has taught me to take the best of everything I learn, and use those things to strike out on my own. I spent the first nine months writing articles of Nerd Fitness trying to follow in the path of other successful bloggers. It wasn’t until I forged my own path and went against the mainstream that Nerd Fitness finally took off.

Along with that, Bruce taught me to strive for reaching my potential. I might never get there, but the mere fact of trying, learning, and failing is what makes life worth it.  I truly hope that when the credits roll on my movie (it’s an Adventure Superhero Comedy…a new genre), I can look back and say, “I did the best I could to fulfill my potential.”

Bruce taught me to be aware of preconceived notions.  We all have them when it comes to strength training, and I’ve had to learn to let go of those in order for me to truly succeed.  After all, “Emptiness is the starting point. — In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.”

How has Bruce Lee impacted your life?  What’s your favorite quote or lesson from him?

Share in the comments below. And remember…”boards don’t hit back.”



Photo Source: Chris Zielecki: Bruce Lee Statue, Sergio Bertolini: Bruce Lee in Enter the DragonAndrew Becraft: Lego Bruce Lee, Lexinatrix: Bruce Lee, Rick: Cobble Road, David-Hawkins Weeks: Marble, Alexicoitus: the fog

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10 Ways to Level Up Your Life in 5 Minutes or Less Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:44:59 +0000 Getting in shape and leveling up your life can be a daunting task.

Like Frodo setting out from the Shire and walking to Mordor, the end of this journey might seem like something that is years and years away.

However, just like Frodo, we have seen time and time again that the most important thing to do is GET STARTED.  Every tiny decision adds up, and these tiny decisions put together can build some serious progress towards reaching your goal.

Around these parts, we like to call this the Optimus Prime Strategy:  He transforms from a mac truck into a giant ass kicking robot…not with one movement, but rather hundreds and hundreds of tiny steps.

So, how do we get started? And, once we’re started, and things get tough, how can we keep that momentum going?

Here are 10 of my favorite ways to level up life in 5 minutes or less, because sometimes five minutes is enough to start building momentum.

1) Complete a 5-minute workout.  

Only 5 minutes? Who cares! Every decision adds up, right?  Plus, it’s not just about the workout; completing a five-minute workout will have your brain thinking “I am exercising, I need to eat healthy or I’m wasting my time.”

So here it is, the five minute workout:

  • Minute #1: 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest.
  • Minute #2: 20 seconds of squats, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of squats, 10 seconds of rest.
  • Minute #3: Plank for as long as you, then rest until end of minute.
  • Minute #4: 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest. (unless you have access to pull up bar, then do pull ups)
  • Minute #5: 20 seconds of lunges, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of lunges, 10 seconds of rest.

Looking for more quick workouts? Check out the Angry Birds Workout Plan or the Konami Code Workout.

2) Perform a house cleaning in your kitchen.  

If I am within 25 meters of certain foods (Goldfish crackers, Sour Patch kids, Animal crackers, Coca-cola, peanut M&Ms), it is impossible for me to stop eating them.  They take over my brain until all of them are consumed.

So, I do not keep these things in my apartment.

Spend five minutes right now, and throw away the junk food in your house.  Right in the trash. And then take the trash out. It’s much tougher to be tempted by something that doesn’t exist…or something that’s covered in garbage :)

3) Meditate for two minutes.

Our brains are so overrun with stimuli these days, with dozens of things vying for our attention: Facebook, email, TV, children, friends, our phones, and more.  There is always something to do, or something that didn’t get done, or something that will need to get done.

We never stop and realize that, as my friends Gaelic Storm say: “one more day above the roses” is a pretty good day.  I use the app Calm, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and go through a 2-minute guided meditation.

Here’s a great guide to Meditation for Beginners from Leo of Zen Habits.

4) Work on handstands.  

I have spent the better part of the past two years working on handstand balancing, and only in the past few months have I made significant strides.

How did I do it?

By practicing for just five minutes. Every. Day.

Handstands build concentration, strength, muscular endurance, and balance…they also make you feel like a badass and they’re a really cool party trick.

What’s that? You can’t do a handstand yet or are worried you need to drop a few pounds first? Read our beginner’s guide to handstands so you can get started TODAY.

5) Do a mobility routine.

If you spend all day sitting at your desk (although I love standing desks, I need to sit for creative writing), your hip flexors, back, and shoulders are probably all tensed up and tight.

I do a routine similar to the one listed below each morning when I wake up and once or twice throughout the day to stay limber:

6) Rearrange your bat cave.  

We are creatures of habit, so if we want to enact change in our lives, we need to make it EASIER to build new habits and TOUGHER to do the things we’re trying to stop.

How do we do that?

By decreasing the number of steps between us and new good habit, and increasing number of steps between us and bad habit.

  • Want to exercise more? Sleep in your workout clothes. Pack your gym bag BEFORE going to bed.
  • Want to play more guitar? Put it in the middle of your living room.
  • Want to watch less TV? Call and cancel your cable (I just did!) or unplug your TV so that you have to get up and plug it in each time you want to watch it.
  • Want to floss more? Unwind some floss and put it on the counter next to the sink, and only floss 1 tooth. That’s it.

Check out more on building your batcave.

7 ) Stop being a prisoner to your email inbox.

We spend way too much time on the unimportant, keeping us from doing things like exercising, going home to our family, playing more video games, etc.  I’m going to assume you use Gmail, because you’re reading Nerd Fitness, so here’s how to revolutionize your email in 5 minutes:

  • First of all, don’t keep an email tab open! Commit to only opening it every hour to start. Eventually, the goal is to only open it 2-3 times per day.
  • Create Gmail folders called “action” and “non-essential.” Use them.
  • For every “newsletter” email that comes in, create a filter to auto-send it non-essential or unsubscribe from the damn thing.
  • For every email from a co-worker, friend, or family member, answer it immediately, or quickly send it to the “Action” folder to deal with later.
  • Turn on the “send and archive” feature in settings.

This system allows you to get your inbox to zero each and every time you complete it. The “archive” feature means every email is filed but not deleted. Never read an email more than twice.  Read it and quickly respond, or quickly send it to “Action” and then crush the action folder when you have time to deal with it.

Just don’t leave the tab open. And please God, turn off all notifications for email and social media on your phone/computer.  These, and other productivity tips can save your sanity. 

8) Email Your yoda.

Email your Yoda: somebody on the NF message boards or in your life that has found a way to succeed.  And not just successful people. But somebody that has succeeded in the way YOU’RE trying to succeed.

Don’t try to email Hugh Jackman because you want to look like Wolverine (celebrities operate on a different playing field), but I bet emailing Saint because you can relate to his “before” situation (maybe you’re also getting married soon) is a winning proposition.

A few months back, I reached out to my buddy Anthony, and let him know that I admired his training philosophy. Anthony and I are now working together to help me level up my routine (which included this 61 day challenge)

9) hack your happiness

Believe it or not, happiness is something you can hack. Here are a few sure fire ways to improve your mood today (thanks Eric!):

1) Take five minutes and write down three things that happened to you today and why they went well. Studies have shown that building the habit of writing down the things that you are grateful for will have a positive impact on your life.

2) Perform a random act of kindness. Pay for the next person’s drink at the coffee shop.  Give money to a homeless person.

3) Email a friend and tell them why you’re glad that you’re friends.  This will improve your relationship. And make YOU happier in turn.

4) Call a loved one and tell them you love them. I’m gonna call my mom today and tell her I love her, and because it’s its her birthday (hey ma!).

The fastest way to boost your happiness is to do something nice or kind for somebody else.  This will take you LESS than five minutes.

10) shut up, and do it now!

You know that one thing you’ve been putting off?  Maybe it’s your taxes, or doing the dishes, or signing up for that thing. Or maybe it’s exercising.

I don’t care how daunting the task may be.  You’re going to tell yourself that you are going to spend just five minutes working on that task.  Just FIVE minutes. Feel free to complain as loudly as you want, but ONLY if you are already working on the task.

More often than not, the first five minutes are the toughest, and once you get past five minutes, you’ll find that CONTINUING to work on the thing is easy.  Or maybe you stop after five minutes. You’re at least five minutes closer than you were before!

But stop delaying.  Do it now.

Every Little Bit


Remember: every little win counts. And small things result gargantuan changes (which I learned from Prometheus) when completed with enough consistency.

These are ten of my favorite things that help me level up MY life.  I’d love to hear from you.  It’s been a while, so I figure let’s give away a free Nerd Fitness shirt!

Leave a comment with your favorite 5-minute life hack to level up before 11:59 on April 13th and we’ll pick a random winner to get one of our shirts.  Hooray free stuff!

So, how can you level up or make a positive change to your life in five minutes?


This week’s Rebel Hero: NF Rebel Dani at Crossfit Hell’s Kitchen, where she trained with Olympic lifter Holley Mangold!  How freaking cool is that?  Fantastic work Dani, way to represent the Rebellion!

Dani and Holley

Want to be the next Rebel Hero? Take a photo of you doing something epic in your Nerd Fitness gear and send it to so we can feature you on the site!

PS: We have some REALLY fun announcements coming for Camp Nerd Fitness on Monday, which is already 1/3rd sold out and still five months away!


photo pin: gregor: kettlebells, Sunny Ripert: legos

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How to Make Paleo Tacos Mon, 07 Apr 2014 20:00:20 +0000

This is a post from our resident Rebel Chef, Noel Fernando.

So you’ve mastered the art of the push up. You can almost do a handstand. Maybe you’ve even conquered the legendary Paleo Spaghetti.

Dang, you’ve come a long way! Would the “you” from a year ago…heck, a month a go even recognize you now? My friend, you are CRUSHING it. Sounds like it’s time to level up your cooking game.

Enter new opponent: The delicious…the nutritious….PALEO TACOS!

If I could date one food, it would probably be tacos. They’re incredibly tasty, easy to make, super versatile, and every time I make them, I marvel at my own cooking skills.

That’s what I want you to feel when you make these for the first time.

Paleo Tacos


Even Link prepares his own delicious cucco tacos – you can’t save Hyrule on an empty stomach!

Tacos were a staple in my diet of long ago. I grew up in the Southwest, eating enchiladas, tacos, pasole, and green chile. Not all of these things transfer to the Paleo lifestyle, but I’d like to share a couple of them with you today.

We are going to make:

  • Tacos – Your choice of meat and veggies wrapped in lettuce for a delicious paleo approved dish. 
  • Guacamole – A delicious condiment made of smashed avocado and other diced ingredients. In my opinion, guacamole is essential in everyone’s repertoire of recipes.  You can mix salsa in it, make it with just some garlic salt, or turn it into a killer Greek-style Tzatziki Guac! Today, though, we’ll be making a southwestern style guacamole to go with our tacos.

New feature! We’ve added a printable recipe and shopping list at the bottom of this recipe! Scroll to the bottom to print the recipe and dominate the grocery store!

So here’s what you’ll need.



For the tacos:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef - My favorite taco meat (though chicken or fish works too!). Try to find organic, grass fed. If you can’t find it or if it is detrimentally costly, that’s fine. Do the best you can.
  • 1/2 lb ground pork (optional) - Pork crisps up nicely in this dish, and adds some flavor. If you only want to buy one kind of meat, that’s also fine. Just make sure you buy enough. If you choose to buy only one type of meat, make sure you get 1 pound instead of 1/2 pound. Cooking is like jazz. Do what you feel.
  • 1 tsp taco Seasoning – You can find taco seasoning in the spice aisle.
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced - Always with the yellow onions. Blame my mother. 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil - We’ll be cooking our meat and onions in olive oil.
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime - Lime is an essential part of Southwestern cooking. Juicing a lime can be tricky, but I’ll teach you how to get the most out of your lime!
  • 2 cloves garlic - Garlic forever!
  • 1/4 jalapeno pepper (diced) - The pepper in the photograph is a red jalapeno. Jalapenos come in both green and red varieties — feel free to try out both. If you don’t like spicy food, you can use less of your pepper or eliminate it all together.
  • 1 head of butter lettuce – Tacos are usually served in a corn or flour tortilla shell. As we all know, grains are a no-no for us paleo eaters, so we need to find an alternative wrapper for our taco meat! You could just skip the wrapper and serve the meat in a bowl. OR you can keep the tradition of a handheld food and have salsa juices dripping down to your elbows by using lettuce as a shell. I’ve found that the best type of lettuce to use is butter lettuce, because the leaves are large, flat, and not too brittle. I have also, less successfully, used romaine lettuce when I couldn’t find butter lettuce. It’s up to you!

For the Guacamole:

  • 1 avocado - Also known as an alligator pear. Choosing an avocado can be tricky! To choose a ripe avocado, you’ll want to go for the ones that are black and tender to the touch. If the avocado is green, it’s not ripe yet. And if the avocado is really squishy, there is a high likelihood that the avocado is overripe. Do not buy this avocado! The flesh will be brown and maybe even moldy inside.
  • It is okay to buy green avocados if you are going to eat them later. To help them ripen, place them inside a paper sack with a banana. Store this bag outside of your refrigerator. This will speed up the ripening process. *Nerd alert: Ripe bananas release a hormone called ethylene, which makes the fruits around it ripen more quickly.  Placing a ripe banana near any fruit will make it ripen very quickly (approximately 24 hours)! So be careful where you put those bananas!
  • 1 tbsp finely diced red onion - You can use any type of onion (yellow, red, white, etc.). The ingredients we’ll be adding to the guacamole will be raw, and I like the flavor of raw red onions better than raw yellow onions, so I opt for red in this case. 
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime 
  • 1 tbsp finely diced tomato – Any tomato will do. I usually just buy whatever is on sale at the store. 
  • 1/4 finely diced Jalapeno pepper - Again, if you’re not into spicy food, leave this out.
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely diced

Other fun taco toppings:

  • Shredded cheese (if  you eat dairy)
  • Sour cream (if you eat dairy)
  • Salsa – Make sure you read the label of the salsa before you buy it at the store. Be sure it has no added sugars or weird chemicals.
  • Diced Tomatoes 


1. Heat up your frying pan.

2. While the frying pan is heating, season your meat. Put the meat on a plate or in a bowl and sprinkle the seasoning on top. Done!


3. Once your pan is heated, pour about 2 tbsp of olive oil into the pan. If the oil shimmers and moves quickly on the pan, the oil is hot and the meat is ready to go in. You’ll want the pan and the oil pretty hot. Make sure that the olive oil is not so hot that it is smoking, though. You do not want to start a fire in your house!


4. Break up your meat into the pan. This will help it cook more quickly. You want to brown the meat and make it a little crispy on the outside. This is best done by cooking the meat with haste at a high heat. If you heated your pan enough before hand, your meat will cook just fine.   


5. Stir the meat frequently. Once it is cooked, if it is beef, it will turn brown. Other meats will also darken. The key here is that you want none of the meat to be pink. Pink means raw.


6. Once the meat is cooked we need to drain it the left over oil to keep it from getting soggy. If you have a mesh metal strainer or metal colander, you can place a bowl underneath and dump the meat in. The bowl on the bottom will catch the oil and the metal strainer will catch the meat.

Do not pour the oil down the sink! It will solidify at cooler temperatures and clog your sink. If you don’t have a strainer or metal colander (hot oil will melt plastic), get a lid for a pot and carefully pour the excess oil out of the pot into your bowl, using the lid to stop the meat. If some of the meat falls out into the bowl of oil, that is okay, as you can pick it out after.


7. Clean your pan and reheat it. While it’s heating, dice your onion, garlic, and jalapeno.


8. Prepare your lime. To get the most juice out of a lime, you’ll want to have it at room temperature. If it was in the fridge, that’s okay too.

Roll the lime around under your palm on the counter. Squish it gently to massage the juices inside.

Tacos_08Cut the lime in half and then into quarters.


Take your lime quarters and cut through the flesh of the fruit in thirds. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE PEEL!


The lime is now prepared to be squeezed (wait for it…instructions below!). This will get the most juice out of your lime.


9. Once the pan is heated, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into it. Make sure the oil is hot, just like last time.

10. Put your onions, garlic, and jalapeno in the hot pan with the oil. Stir it around and cook until the onions are translucent (approx 3 minutes).


11. Squeeze half of the lime into the onion mixture.


12. Add the meat back into the pan to reheat it.


Now your meat is ready! Set it on low or take it off of the heat for a bit. We’re going to make guacamole!

Guacamole is best when it’s fresh. The fruit oxidizes very fast, which makes it turn a yucky looking brown color if it is left out for an hour or so. Moral of the story? Make it fresh and eat it fast! *No, you cannot save guacamole with plastic wrap or a refrigerator. If air is touching it, it is going to turn brown. Consider it a reminder to live in the moment!


1. Use a knife to cut your avocado in half. Carefully remove the seed. You can do this with a spoon or knife. Only use the knife if you promise to be careful.

2. Spoon the green flesh of the avocado out of the skin and into a bowl. A spoon makes this easy because it is curved as is the fruit! Generally it will all come out in one lump.


3. Mash the avocado with a fork. Make it nice and smooth!


4. Dice up your jalapeno, red onion, garlic and tomato.


5. Add your diced veggies to the guacamole and stir them together!


Done! Now you know how to make an awesome condiment that you can put on eggs, in other wraps, dip sweet potato fries in, or eat with a spoon. Because it’s just that delicious.


Now you are ready to assemble your tacos.

Taco Assembly


There are no hard and fast rules here. Make the tacos YOU want! Feel free to experiment with different ingredients or different wraps. Here’s how I make mine:

1. Remove some of the leaves from the head of butter lettuce. Wash and dry them.

2.  Spoon some hot, meaty taco filling into each of the leaves.

3. Top with salsa, guacamole, and whatever else you want! Delicious!

4. Make an incredible mess with your food while you eat it! Tacos are an inherently messy food.


Make it your own!

I think we can all agree that tacos are easily in the top 5 best foods ever. They are delicious AND it is virtually impossible to make a terrible taco.

You can put just about any of your favorite fresh ingredients in a taco shell and it will almost always turn out mind blowingly awesome. Unlike most traditional recipes that can be more demanding and strict about what goes into a dish, tacos are flexible. Want to make Korean inspired pulled pork and kimchi tacos? DO IT.

Feeling vegetarian friendly? Why not cook up some sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and zucchini and toss those in a shell?  All you have is store bought sausages? That’ll work for taco filling, too! Muster up some courage, choose your ingredients, and let your nerd flag fly.

What foods from your pre-leveled up life would you like to see adapted to your new lifestyle? Leave us a message in the comments and we’ll make your healthy cooking dreams come true!



Paleo Tacos and Southwestern Guacamole
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2-4
A delicious adaptation of one of my favorite mexican dishes: tacos!
  • ½ lb (227g) ground beef
  • ½ lb (227g) ground pork (optional) – can substitute pork for beef for 1 full pound beef
  • 1 tsp (5ml) taco seasoning
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) finely diced red onion
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) olive oil, separated
  • Juice from 1 lime, split (we’ll use half for the taco meat and half for the guacamole)
  • 2½ cloves garlic, diced, (2 cloves for taco meat, ½ clove for guacamole)
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, diced and split in half for tacos and guacamole
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) finely diced tomato
  • 2-3 leaves Cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Other toppings of your choice (chopped tomatoes, salsa, etc.)
  1. Heat your pan.
  2. Place your meat in a bowl and sprinkle seasoning on top.
  3. Pour 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil into the hot pan.
  4. Break up seasoned meat into the pan.
  5. Stir the meat frequently. Cook until no pink is visible.
  6. Place mesh strainer inside a bowl. Pour cooked meat into strainer. (The bowl will catch the excess grease from the meat and the strainer will catch the meat). **Note, if you don’t have a strainer, you can scoop the meat out of the pan then pour the grease out.
  7. Wash the pan and reheat it. Or you could use another pan, but why dirty more dishes?
  8. Dice your red and yellow onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Slice your lime into quarters.
  9. Pour remaining 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil into reheated pan.
  10. Put your diced veggies in the pan (yellow onions, 2 cloves garlic, and ¼ jalapeno). Cook until the onions are translucent (approx 3 minutes).
  11. Squeeze half of the lime into your onion mixture.
  12. Add the meat back into the pan and reheat it.
  13. Now let’s make the guacamole! Cut your avocado in half. Admire the beautiful inside. Then carefully remove the seed.
  14. Spoon the green flesh of the avocado into your bowl.
  15. Mash the avocado with a fork. Do it with feeling!
  16. Dice your tomato and cilantro.
  17. Add your veggies (tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, ¼ jalapeno and ½ clove garlic) to the mashed avocado and stir together.
  18. Salt to taste. Awe yeah. Delicious!
  19. Assemble your tacos! (Scoop meat into clean lettuce leaves and add toppings of your choice!)
Shopping List for Tacos AND Guacamole:
1/2 lb (227g) ground beef
1/2 lb (227g) ground pork (optional) – can substitute pork for beef for 1 full pound beef
Taco Seasoning
Medium Yellow Onion
Olive Oil
1 Lime
1 Avocado
1 Medium Red Onion
1 Bulb Garlic
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 Head of Butter Lettuce (or Romaine)
1 Tomato
Cilantro (optional)

 Photos by: Martin Borjesson: BrintamZelda Wiki: Zelda Cucco

]]> 53
Lost in a Labyrinth: Getting Healthy Isn’t a Straight Shot Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:32:41 +0000 The maze.

A sprawling complex network of dead ends, traps, adventures, and challenges.

I’ve always LOVED the concept of a giant maze, and I know I’m not alone.

From the movie Labyrinth (featuring an amazingly bizarre David Bowie), the maze in Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire, the absolutely incredible Pan’s Labyrinth, the labyrinth in God of War III, The Shining‘s Hedge Maze, and MadMaze for Prodigy (remember that game!?), I’m always up for a good maze-run to test my wits and keep me on my toes.

You know the phrase, “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon?” 

That’s not true at all.  It’s neither.

It’s a freakin’ labyrinth.

Life is a labyrinth

hedge maze

I recently stumbled across a blog that I’ve fallen in love with (and I know a lot of NF people have as well, as I received at least a few dozen emails linking me to this article).

Oliver wrote an article recently entitled “Life is a Maze, not a Marathon” and I couldn’t help but nod my head and think: this applies to getting healthy most of all.

In this Game of Life, we’re tasked with finding a way to be healthier. To live up to our potential. TO challenge ourselves to be better.

When we try to make a lot of changes, we struggle to adapt to it all. We’re told “that’s okay, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” – that change takes time, that things don’t happen all at once.

This is true.

HOWEVER, a marathon implies that every step we take is always a step forward.  That if we just put one foot in front of the other and keep trudging away down the path, we’ll reach our 26.2 mile marker and finish.

It turns out, life – and your quest for a healthier lifestyle, has a lot more twists and turns than expected.  Rather than thinking of your journey like a straight shot marathon, think of it like a winding labyrinth.

If your quest for a healthier life was a marathon, it would look like this:

  • I tried to lose weight and I failed. I’m a huge loser and I’ll never succeed.
  • I can’t get myself to eat healthier, something must be wrong with me.
  • I tried exercise once and I didn’t enjoy it. Exercise isn’t for me.
  • I applied for that job I wanted and didn’t get it.  Looks like I’m doomed to a miserable existence.

Instead, this is a labyrinth that you’re navigating, with your goal at the center of it.  You will find dead ends – and they don’t make you any less of a person.  They are simply paths that don’t work.

  • I tried to lose weight and I failed.  I will try again with a different tactic this time! I will go back and make a different turn.  Last time I tried counting calories. This time, I’m just going to focus on eating better foods.
  • I tried exercise once and I didn’t enjoy it.  I’m going to try a different type of exercise that sounds interesting to me instead.  Parkour? You mean I get to be the dude in Assassin’s Creed? I’m in!
  • I applied for that job I wanted and I didn’t get it.  Looks like I’ll need to change my tactics and stand out differently for the next job I apply for.

Fight your stubbornness


Thanks to our love of difficult videogames, nerds LOVE a challenge and have no problem dedicating hours and thousands of “continues” to win.  It’s the reason games like Dark Souls exist.

However, while this stubbornness and dedication can be a blessing, it can certainly be a curse when it comes to getting healthy.

Sometimes you’ll be heading down a path that is incorrect. The problem is, continuing down this dead-end path is a waste of your time, and actually steps taking you further away from your goal.

The best thing to do? Try a different path!

We oftentimes let our stubbornness force us down a losing path because we’ve already started it:

  • We keep trying to force ourselves to count calories and run more often, when it’s not giving us any results and we quickly abandon it every time. Instead of switching to strength training and less stress-inducing clean eating
  • We stay in dead end jobs because that’s what we got our degree for, and it’s what we think we should do, rather than what we actually want to do. This is “good enough” syndrome at its most dangerous.
  • We stay in unhealthy relationships because we’ve been in them so long and might as well just keep being miserable…instead of realizing we deserve to be happy, and that we need to take care of ourselves.

Sometimes, heading in a new direction is the best thing you can do.  Not because giving up is what to do, but rather because giving up on the wrong thing will allow you to refocus your efforts on the RIGHT path.

But…what if that path isn’t obvious?

lost in the labyrinth

green hedge maze

In any labyrinth there will be times when you see three paths ahead of you, and have no clue which one you need to take.

In life there will be times when you don’t know which path to take either, and this can be overwhelming.

The worst thing you can do? Sit down on the ground and complain that you don’t know what to do.  More information at this point isn’t gonna help either.  Instead, you know what DOES help?  Making an educated guess, picking a path, and seeing where it leads.

Remember The Fellowship of the Ring? Of course you do. They sit and see three paths ahead of them – they select one, which leads to the great hall Dwarrowdelf, one of the most impressive scenes in the entire trilogy:

So, after sitting in that spot for hours, how did they decide to pick that one path? Because Gandalf decided “the air [didn't] smell so foul” down that path.

Sometimes, we’re going to be at a point in our lives where there are many options laid out before us.  Because we’re an analytical bunch, we can actually paralyze ourselves with too many choices, and instead choose to do nothing.

When you are faced with a similar decision:

Should I try this type of workout, or this type of workout, or this type of workout?
Should I follow this diet, or this nutrition plan, or this one?

It’s easy to be so afraid that one path might be better than the others that we don’t decide at all.

It’s tough to solve a maze when you are sitting still.  It’s time to pick a path.  Here’s how:

1) Do SOME research and see if you can determine if one path is better than others. However, DO NOT BECOME AN UNDERPANTS GNOME.  Yes, that’s a serious condition that needs to be avoided.

2) Pick a path, for a reason.  Maybe it’s because you did a bit more research and it’s a path that seems like the most optimal.  Maybe it’s because that path “doesn’t smell as foul.”  Maybe it’s because that path is the prettiest. Maybe it’s because you flipped a coin.  Whatever reason, pick one and start working.

3) Give yourself the chance to have a small win to test that path. When you are lost in any game, you often mark the walls or leave breadcrumbs to make sure you don’t double back or make the same mistake over and over. If that path fails to get you out, you NEED TO KNOW! Just like leaving breadcrumbs in a maze, give yourself some way to find out if you are going in circles. Give yourself two weeks to see if your new workout routine is producing performance (strength or time) gains.  See if two weeks with your new diet results in a slightly slimmer waistline or improved weight.  If the path isn’t working, make a TURN! Return to step 1 and repeat the process.

You can’t save the world, and you can’t find the end of the maze sitting on your butt wondering which path to take.  Research and a logical decision making process helps, but sometimes you just gotta move.

As you eliminate paths and solutions, continue working and pushing and trying and failing and learning.

Do this long enough, and you’ll reach your goal…

the end of the maze

maze solved

We are so hard on ourselves when we fail.  It’s time to stop thinking of failure as the end, and start thinking of failure as one step in a big process towards finding the end and saving the day.

Here’s a quick recap on how to find the end of the maze:

  • Understand that we’re in a maze, and it’s damn difficult to solve.  Anybody that tells you they have life all figured out is lying.
  • When faced with a series of paths, make the best educated guess you can and PICK a path.  There’s only one way to find out where it leads…
  • When you find a dead end, cross it off from your list of possible solutions, and try a different path.
  • Grit and determination will result in victory. With enough perseverance, crossing off enough possibilities, and continuing to push ahead…you will find the center of the maze.

Get started. Don’t beat yourself up when you end up in a dead end. Try new paths.

Find the end.

Take that, David Bowie.


PS: I really just wanted to see if I could end an article with “Take that, David Bowie.”  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.


photo source: Hans Splinter: Labyrinth, vgm8383: Bush Labyrinth, Zach McCormick: Stairs Labyrinth, lina bielinyte: foggy maze, FutUndBeidl: maze puzzle

]]> 35
Becoming Wolverine: How to Recover Faster and Never Get Hurt Again Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:16:06 +0000 This is a guest post from my good friend Jason Fitzgerald over at

As a kid, I used to debate really important questions, like: Which X-Men superhero would I be?

And over and over again, I always came back to Wolverine. The claws! The mutant healing factor! The adamantium skeleton!

I loved Wolverine because his mutant power is one that we can improve ourselves: his enhanced recovery.

While we can’t fuse our bones with a virtually indestructible metal alloy that makes us practically invincible, we can improve our own healing factor so we can work out more without getting hurt.

For many of us, overuse injuries stop us in our tracks. Whether it’s that weird pain in our back when lifting or a burn in our Achilles while running, injuries are an unfortunate reality for Rebels who are leveling up their lives.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare occurrence. Some reports place the annual injury rate for runners at over 50%, and over 40% for triathletes. As a coach, this is unacceptable to me.

So what should we do? Stop exercising because we’re afraid of getting hurt? There’s no fun in that.

Instead, you can change how you exercise to lower your injury risk – so you can keep running, jumping, lifting, throwing, and playing.

Wolverine has unparalleled regenerative capabilities – and so can you.

But first…

What Exactly Are Overuse Injuries?

Wolverine Hug

Overuse injuries are what happens when we fall victim to the “3 Too’s” – too much (exercise), too soon (before you’re ready), too fast (at too high of an intensity).

Whether that’s running, Ultimate Frisbee, or golf, overuse injuries can happen if you go all in without letting your body recover in between exercise sessions.

Now, instead of calling it an overuse injury, let’s call it a “repetitive stress injury.” Doing something over and over again causes stress – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but if we do it too much without enough rest, we could get hurt.

Not all injuries are repetitive stress injuries, though. If Magneto uses his power to extract the iron from your body, that’s not an overuse injury. That’s an acute injury and you need to get to a hospital right now.

Here are some of the most common repetitive stress injuries and the type of athlete they usually afflict:

  • Tennis Elbow (tennis players, weight lifters, those with jobs that have repetitive motions like carpenters, plumbers, or butchers)
  • Patellar (knee) Tendinitis (weight lifters, basketball players, anyone who jumps a lot)
  • IT Band Syndrome (cyclists, hikers, and runners)
  • Achilles Tendinopathy (runners and hikers)
  • Plantar Fasciitis (runners, hikers, and those who spend a lot of time on their feet)

You might be asking yourself – do injuries only happen to endurance specialists? The answer is nope!

Overuse injuries are common among any type of athlete, not just those who prefer endurance sports like running, cycling, or swimming. In fact, they’re the most common injury among weightlifters, too!

Since these types of injuries are repetitive, those of us who specialize in a single sport are more at risk. I train for marathons and I’m more likely to get an overuse injury than someone who just runs casually a few times a week.

Staci trains for weightlifting competitions so she’s more likely to get a repetitive stress injury than a Rebel who only does bodyweight workouts twice a week.

Even X-Men can be at a higher risk for repetitive stress injuries. If Gambit keeps throwing playing cards all day, he could develop tennis elbow. Nightcrawler’s prehensile tail could get tendinitis if he spent hours crawling and swinging in battle with the Brotherhood of Mutants.

Now that we know what repetitive stress injuries are, how do you actually avoid them?

Recovery 101


There are specific ways you can adjust your exercise routine (like doing neutral grip chin ups in the PLP program, for example) to help prevent injuries. However, none of them would work if you didn’t allow yourself time to recover in between workouts!

Without recovery, you can’t adapt to your workout and get stronger or faster. After all, it’s in the recovery period that your muscles rebuild faster and stronger – not the workout itself.

I’m a nerd and love graphs so here’s how this adaptation principle works (for strength training, replace “race” with “next workout”):

Stress Adaptation

See how important recovery is?

If you follow every workout with a night of hard drinking and only four hours of sleep, you’re never going to see any progress.

While it would be awesome to have Wolverine’s healing factor, it’s best to listen to my college coach’s advice: “you can’t burn the candle at both ends.”

So how exactly do you get the maximum amount of recovery in between workouts? Just three easy payments of $29.95 for RecoverPRO-X2 JAKKD!

Just kidding.

There are no shortcuts to recovery, performance, or getting in shape. If you’re paying out the nose for wacky supplements, you should stop that. Seriously.

There are three aspects of recovery that have the biggest impact on how you feel day to day, so here we go.

1) SLEEP! Getting enough sleep is hands down, absolutely, positively the most important thing you can do to recover in between your workouts. Sleeping as much as you need helps your muscles repair the damage that you inflicted during the workout (this “tear down, then rebuild even stronger” is what fuels the adaptation process and helps you get stronger and faster).

Not getting enough sleep has a huge number of negative physical side effects, like decreased muscle mass, poor recovery, lower testosterone and human growth hormone levels (important for women, too!), and a lot more. That’s bad news bears.

If you’re exercising a lot, you might need more than usual. Experiment with what works best for you, and check out the Nerd Fitness Guide to Sleep.

Diet Matters! Eat a conventional diet of fried food, simple sugar, and virtually no vegetables, and your body won’t be getting the basic building blocks it needs for that rebuilding process. Imagine trying to build a house without any wood? Just imagine it! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

If you exercise a lot, especially if you run, you’ll need more carbohydates. But that doesn’t mean you can gorge on Oreos and sugary sports drinks.

Instead, use the paleo diet principles and add nutrient-dense carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, fruit, wild rice or quinoa.

The RIGHT Training. Recovery is only going to happen if your workout is appropriate for you. New to weight lifting? You shouldn’t start out with six max effort deadlifts. Just started running? Probably not a good idea to sign up for a marathon in three weeks.

Your workouts should always build on themselves. You start at a level that’s appropriate for you and gradually over time your workouts get harder and harder. This is exactly how fellow Rebels see enormous success – they follow good training that progresses over time. It’s tempting to get excited and do too much too soon, but resist the urge.

Once you’re sleeping enough, eating right, and training appropriately, it’s time to learn smart injury prevention strategies that you can use within your workouts.

These are the same strategies Professor X uses with his team. Trust me, I called him to verify.

4 ways to actually prevent injuries


Repetitive stress injuries happen for a lot of reasons, but the most common are because of poor form, no progression, lack of strength, and no variety. And usually because of a combination of all four!

If you improve each one, your injury risk will plummet. While you won’t be as indestructible as Wolverine, you won’t get hurt nearly as much as the non-Rebel who doesn’t plan his workouts well.

1) Proper form is critical if you’re a weight lifter, cyclist, runner, or any athlete in between. The wrong movement repeated hundreds (or even thousands) of times is a serious injury in the making.

As a running coach, I see problems with running form all the time. And it transcends to other sports too. In the weight room I see people doing technical lifts with horrible form. Helloooo back injury!

Exercising correctly is admittedly the least sexy topic ever (almost ahead of taxes), but it’s foundational. It’s basic. It helps you do whatever exercise you love – running, lifting, Parkour – without problems. And hopefully, without injuries.

2) Progression is moving through every exercise at a level that’s appropriate for you.

Start at Level 1. Then level up to Level 2 when you’re ready. That’s progression at its finest. It’s one of the really effective ways I was able to go from chronically injured to healthy.

Improve your training gradually, consistently, and incrementally. It’s the smartest (and most often IGNORED) training principle that will help you stay healthy.  It’s why Steve started with just 10 push ups on his first day of PLP training.  It’s why you don’t start with a 20 mile run, but rather going for a walk.

And my suggestion is to always err on the side of doing too little than too much. I’d much rather you be 5% under-trained than hurt and unable to exercise at all.

3) Get strong! Like, really strong. Strength helps prevent injuries no matter what activity or sport you enjoy.

  • Parkour athletes won’t fatigue as quickly and will have the strength to avoid any clumsy falls or muscle strains.
  • Runners who lift weights are less likely to suffer an overuse injury.

If you haven’t started with strength exercises yet, yesterday is the best time. But today is fine, too! Always use good form while doing strength work and start with manageable workouts like bodyweight exercises.

That’s right, form and progression, again! All of these principles are related – once you implement them into every one of your workouts you’ll be far less likely to get injured.

4) Variety is the spice of life and it should be a big part of your exercise program, too. As a coach, I see runners making this running mistake all the time by doing the same distance, at the same pace, in the same shoes on the treadmill every day.

You might be making the same mistake as a weight lifter, doing the same exact workout in the gym every single week. No wonder you’re not improving!

Every subtle change you implement is a different stress that’s applied to your body. Exercises like squats have almost countless variations that help you gain strength and work your body in different ways.

Since repetitive stress injuries are by definition repetitive, variety is a way to reduce that repetition. Here’s a good example for the Rebels who like running: let’s say your knee hurts after a 5 mile run on a hilly route on the roads.

The next time you go running, wear a different pair of running shoes (to slightly alter your running form) on a flat 3 miler on a softer surface like a dirt path. That’s a totally different type of run than your hilly 5 miler on the roads.

You can do the same with any type of workout: vary the stress, reduce the repetition.

These strategies are so effective at injury prevention that I use them with my runners to help them stay healthy long-term (and myself, too – I’ve only been hurt once in the last five years!). It’s a much better approach than bad injury advice like “stretch more!” and “run intervals so you feel like you’re dying!”


What injuries do you struggle with?


Let’s exercise a little smarter, recover a little better, and improve our healing factor just like my favorite X-Men: Wolverine.

With injury rates as high as they are, I’m sure you have a story about an injury you’ve experienced while leveling up your life.

Let us know in the comments so we can learn from each other.

And if you have any questions, leave them below and I’ll do my best to reply to each one!


PS from Steve: We actually started planning this post months ago, and then my friend Brett from Art of Manliness ran a post about recovery and wolverine too.  It seems like great nerds think alike!  While this is merely a coincidence, both articles compliment each other nicely! :)

Jason Fitzgerald is a 2:39 marathoner and USA Track & Field certified running coach. Get more running advice at Strength Running - or sign up for two free presentationson injury prevention, mistakes we make, and how you can stay healthy like Wolverine!


photo source: JD Hancock: Ill-gotten, Andrew Becraft: Medic Sigfig, momo: wolverine hug, Nathan Rupert: wolverine, Nicolo Paternoster: Tightrope

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What Supplements Should I Take? Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:45:41 +0000 The best Nerd Fitness email I’ve ever received started like this:

“Just want to let you know, your website is totally and completely useless.  It doesn’t talk about supplements and it discourages use of machines (WHY???)”

Then, he asked for my best advice. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Thinking back, it was the nicest thing anybody could have said about Nerd Fitness.

This poor gentleman wanted to use machines and pump his body full of supplements to receive the fastest results possible without putting in the hard work and dedication required.  He grew discouraged when he saw Nerd Fitness promoted the consumption of real food and the lifting of actual weights rather than quick fixes.

Every week we get dozens of emails from people asking about supplements: which ones are bogus, which ones are legit, and if they even need to bother at all.

Honestly, there’s a reason it took me 5.5 years and nearly 600 articles to finally publish something on supplements: it’s a tricky freaking subject!

I’m not a doctor. Just a nerd trying to shed some light on a ridiculously overcrowded industry full of shady marketing and dubious claims. Like anything else, track your own results, do your own research, talk to your doctor, and draw your own conclusions.

Any recommendations here or any brands mentioned are simply because we like and use them.

Deep breath…and here…we…go!

The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Supplements

Pills hand

“Which supplements are necessary for a healthy life?”

“Which supplements will help me build muscle?” 

“Which supplements will help me lose weight faster?”


Unless you have a particular illness, a nutritional/hereditary problem, or are required by a doctor to take a supplement, NONE of them are requirements.

Think of it in terms of a video game: power-ups can sometimes enhance or improve your effectiveness, but without having basic skills beforehand they are a waste.  (Like getting star power in Super Mario Brothers and immediately falling in a pit. Suck!)

So, long story short: YOU DON’T NEED SUPPLEMENTS.

We thrived as a species for quite a few years (tens of thousands!) before before pills and powders came along, which means we can STILL thrive without them!  Nothing beats a solid long term diet and regular physical activity.

Just take a look at the name: “supplement.”  These products are meant to “supplement” a healthy diet, not “replace” it.

Like with any video game, a solid understanding of the basics (running, flying, driving) is the quickest way to succeed. Focus your efforts on the basics, too (and you’re reading the right website for that!).

People like Saint transformed without supplements:

saint transform

People like Joe transformed without popping pills:


Staci’s transformation started to take shape only after she stopped trying methods like weight loss shakes and pills:

Staci Before After

Here’s the secret: There is no pill, powder, or supplement that will get you the results you want!  

There is no magic bullet that will cure all of your problems.

Any advertisement or commercial that tells you their supplement will help you lose weight or build muscle rapidly without making any other changes is full of sh**!

They want to sell you the power up without bothering to tell you the importance of learning to play the game.

Unfortunately, this is what far too many people do: Eat like crap. Sleep poorly. Skip exercise. Then take a bunch of pills designed to ‘cure’ the issues associated with that lifestyle…instead of TAKING STEPS TO FIX THE LIFESTYLE!  They look for the quick fix with minimal effort.

This is disastrous.

Here’s what Nerd Fitness Rebels do instead:  Eat right. Get plenty of sleep.  Strength train.

ONLY after that should you concern yourself with further increasing performance with supplements.

Tread lightly with the supplement industry

Supplement Aisle

Sales of supplements in the United States reached $11.5 billion dollars in 2012.

People love get-fit-quick products because they promise results without all of that terrible stuff called ‘hard work.’

For that reason, the supplement industry has exploded, with vitamin shops and supplement stores popping up as fast as Apple stores.

Remember playing Mario Kart, racing past your friends going for the item box, hoping for red shells or star power. Instead, you suddenly explode; it wasn’t a powerup, it was a trap! The supplement industry is no different.

The sad reality is, the supplement industry is largely unregulated. Anybody can stick a bunch of ingredients in a tub, slap a $89.99 price tag on it, and make wild claims, regardless of whether or not it’s safe.  In fact, there’s no requirement to get approved by the FDA for your “dietary supplement” before you put it on the market.

This quick clip from the must-watch documentary “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” is incredibly eye opening:

The Truth about the American Supplement Industry

So, all supplements are bad?


Sure, a strong majority of supplements are pure garbage and a waste of time. HOWEVER, there are situations in which having a supplement IN ADDITION to a quality nutritious diet can be beneficial.

Supplements can be helpful in filling in small deficiencies and increasing performance, depending on the person and situation. 

Now, there are different types of supplements:

  • Basic supplements with few to no added ingredients: think multivitamins, protein powders and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
  • Supplement cocktails, which throw a bunch of things into a pill or powder and promise muscle gains or quick fat loss, whether it’s a “pre-workout,” “meal replacement,” or “post workout.”  The names of these things generally have exclamation points, numbers for letters, and use Z’s instead of S’s.  You know which ones I’m talking about.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to ignore the supplement cocktails, and suggest that people ignore their grandiose claims as well.  If you are an advanced bodybuilder or somebody who wants to take these types of supplements, there are sites out there dedicated to those very things.

For the rest of us, we’re going to cover the the most important stuff.

What supplements should I avoid?


Let’s go over the most popular supplements you SHOULDN’T use.  These are the bombs on the Mario Kart course that look suspiciously like the real thing.

Weight Loss/Performance Enhancers.  Weight loss pills are a big DO NOT USE.  I don’t care how much weight your friend lost using the most recent version of Hydroxicut or Lipo-6, they do not provide permanent healthy results, can be dangerous, and are not the way to go.

Here’s a quote from this article from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in reference to the fraudulent weight-loss diet pill industry:

“These products are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “They are actually very powerful drugs masquerading as ‘all-natural’ or ‘herbal’ supplements, and they carry significant risks to unsuspecting consumers.”

At best, these supplements can provide short term weight loss.  More likely however, they’ll either be ineffective or create even more issues.  There are no shortcuts in health and fitness if you want the results to last.

Detoxes and Water Pills: Cleanses, 7 day detoxes, and the like have big claims for how much weight you can lose in a short amount of time.

And they work…except that the results aren’t real and only last a day or two, making you think you need to use them again:

  • Diuretics (water pills) decreases the amount of water in your system through various methods depending on the pill, dehydrating you.
  • “Fasting” or only drinking juice for a few days actually empties your body of any real food – which can weight a significant amount and can falsely swing the scale!
  • Detoxes and cleanses have been proven time and time again to be a complete scam.

Your body is 70% water for a reason – taking pills to reduce it can mess up your electrolytes, metabolism, your workouts, and can have lasting damage to your health.

Laxatives: Never take them for weight loss. The only thing laxatives actually do is cause your large bowel to empty, and the only reason you may “lose weight” while using them is that it decreases your overall water weight. Continued use (more than a week or two) can cause long term damage. If you think you’re absorbing less calories from your food by using them (a common myth) – you’re not.  Our body absorbs all of the calories in your food before the laxatives have any effects.

These three big categories are parlor tricks, not real solutions. Don’t be fooled! These options only treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, rather than attacking the actual problem at its source: the unhealthy lifestyle.

Nerd Fitness can get you started down the right path, teach you to play the game properly, and it won’t cost you a dollar.  Start here, and mix in some of this, and thank me later :)

NOW, once you’ve addressed THOSE issues and put yourself on the path to an healthier lifestyle, we can talk about supplements that might be worth it for ya.

OK, but what about my morning multivitamin!?!

Multivitamin fruit

First, calm down.

I’m going to guess your doctor told you take a multivitamin every day.

If you’re taking one supplement right now, I bet this is it.  

So let’s get into it.  Believe it or not, the importance and effectiveness of multivitamins, the cornerstone of the health supplement industry, has been called into question. A massive study covering multivitamins determined that for a huge majority of healthy individuals with no deficiencies, multivitamins are largely unnecessary!

“On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota evaluated 39,000 older women and found that those who took supplemental multivitamins, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron died at rates higher than those who didn’t. They concluded, “Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements.”

However, in another study different conclusions were drawn:

“Some scientists believe there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against taking a daily multivitamin, because there isn’t yet enough data from randomized controlled trials. (17) That’s a reasonable but short-sighted point of view since it may never be possible to conduct randomized trials that are long enough to test the effects of multiple vitamins on risks of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative conditions.

Looking at all the evidence—from epidemiological studies on diet and health, to biochemical studies on the minute mechanisms of disease—the potential health benefits of taking a standard daily multivitamin appear to outweigh the potential risks for most people. (18)”

So, which one do we believe?  Personally, through our research we’re of the school of thought that a multivitamin can be beneficial for somebody that has nutritional deficiencies, is pregnant, or is above the age of 50.  Your focus should still be on eating a high quality, nutritious diet with plenty of vegetables, and a multivitamin could help plug any deficiences if you have them.

I reached this conclusion after discovering Dr. Roizen, who analyzed the data from the above study and pointed out a significant number of improvements from people that DID have some deficiency who took a multivitamin.

His recommendation: “You still will benefit from taking half a daily multivitamin containing important nutrients at levels close to their recommended daily allowance twice a day if you are potentially going to become, or are, pregnant, or as an insurance policy against an inadequate diet in people over 50.

Because there are so many options, here are some things to consider when picking a multivitamin:

  • Serving Size: If you are interested in taking a multivitamin, make sure you read the label and notice the serving size. Do you take it once a day? Twice a day?
  • Iodine: With the switch to non iodized salts and how bread is made (and less bread consumption), more people are seeing an iodine deficiency than we have seen in a long time.
  • Iron: I would suggest getting an iron panel from your doctor before taking a supplement with iron – Iron supplementation is quite complex and it is just often assumed that we need it (especially women).
  • Calcium: You don’t want a hugely high calcium content, despite the fact that you’ve probably been told “more calcium = stronger bones!”  Believe it or not, calcium deficiency is more complex than imagined.
  • Other ingredients: You’ll definitely want to check these, especially if you’re trying to stay away from soy or if you’re a vegetarian.  Some have no “other ingredients,” and some are full of chemicals to keep them together.  Generally the higher the quality vitamin, the less other ingredients.

“Ugh, Steve. So do I take one or not?!” you say. Fine!

Bottom line: Eat a well-rounded diet, with plenty of vegetables (including dark leafy greens like spinach and kale) and skip the multivitamin. If you think you do have a nutritional deficiency, or you’re pregnant, consider a multivitamin after a chat with your doctor.

Just don’t expect to pop a multivitamin each morning and have it cure all issues.

What about protein powders?


You’ve probably heard people (or seen ads) talking about how protein powders are a necessary part of building muscle.  You might even have been told that you must drink a protein shake every two hours or your muscles will disappear faster than GOB’s yacht

The truth is…protein powders can ALSO be unnecessary.  

YES, protein is an important part of building muscle (protein is like…the building blocks you need to build your Starship Enterprise replica in Minecraft).  Your muscles need that protein, and can get that protein from either a protein supplement or from real food like chicken, steak, eggs, nuts, etc.

If you’re getting enough protein in your diet, there is no need for you to also take a protein supplement.  If you’re wondering, we recommend 1 gram of protein per pound (or 2 grams per KG) of lean body mass, which is your bodyweight minus how much body fat you have. If you don’t know that, aim for .8 grams per lb of total bodyweight.

Now, the benefit to protein powders: if you are very busy or trying to build muscle, finding a way to consume enough natural protein every day can be a challenge (which is where a convenient protein shake can come in handy).

“That’s great Steve, I’m busy! I don’t eat enough protein regularly. What do I do now?”

There are many different types of protein powders.

The big three on the market:

  • Whey protein
  • Egg protein
  • Soy protein

1) Whey protein is the most popular, readily available, and cheapest options.  Whey is what remains after milk has been curdled and strained. It contains lactose, so if you’re lactose intolerant, stay away from whey :).

2) Egg protein powders are made from, you guessed it, the protein in eggs – which means may be a great alternative if you can’t use whey.

3) The other most popular protein is soy, which we personally consider a no no, as it’s a complicated beast.  Soy can have a negative effect on your body in many ways (read more about that here or here).  A lot of the more popular shakes on the market (like Body by Vi and Advocare) use soy protein, so be wary of those products. We’ll be doing a monster article soon on all things soy, so stay tuned.

When choosing a protein powder, make sure to look at the ingredients and find one from a reputable brand. Always do your research even if it is one the most popular brands (such as Muscle Milk). Some of these have had metals such as arsenic found in them.

If you’re curious, I use Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey, and Staci uses Dymatize ISO-100 or Dymatize Elite Natural.

We should also mention that many popular protein powders are just not great in terms of meeting their promises. Check out this lab ratings review of “high quality” protein powders that meet this reddit protein powder measurement results thread.  There’s lot of fraudulent stuff out there, so make sure you keep your Sherlock Holmes hat on when shopping!

The final word: pumping yourself full of 300g of protein isn’t necessary.  So, don’t overthink it.  Eat real food. If you cannot get enough protein every day, consider a protein supplement, understanding that it’s not gonna make you sprout Hulk-like muscles (here’s how to do that).

Tell me about other supplements!

Pill Assortment

I love your enthusiasm.  Let’s jump right in.  These are the supplements we get the most common questions about: 

Fish Oil: One of the most studied and widely accepted supplements as beneficial, touting claims anywhere from reducing inflammation to reducing depression.  However, like every other supplement out there, there are some negative claims too.

Examine feels like Fish Oil is important.  I know Sol and trust his research methods.  As does Mark’s Daily Apple.  Although you might hear otherwise, we don’t believe that Flaxseed Oil provides all the same benefits as Fish Oil, as pointed out here.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D can be an important supplement to consider if there isn’t any in your multivitamin, you don’t consume dairy, and you don’t get 20 minutes of direct sunlight every day. As Mark’s Daily Apple points out, dietary Vitamin D or Vitamin D from sunlight will produce the same results.

Although some say a Vitamin D supplement is a waste, Examine disagrees, as do we.  Vitamin D, either in supplement form or from direct sunlight, can be beneficial!

Branched Chain Amino Acids: BCAA’s are three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  These play a role in protein synthesis and glucose uptake into cells, which is definitely something we want to encourage when trying to build muscle. However, they are naturally found in protein and unless you are working out fasted, the studies are inconsistent at best on if supplementing with them will actually help with anything.  Conclusion? Get them from food!

Caffeine: This is often the main ingredient in weight loss supplements and performance enhancers, and for a reason – it definitely “speeds you up.”  It’s been shown to increase your endurance and power output, while reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

Now, you’ll definitely build up a tolerance to caffeine pretty quick (as any coffee drinker knows!), which means I would try to stay away from completely relying on caffeine for your workout energy. For more, check out our massive article on caffeine.

Creatine: Creatine is one of the most researched and commonly used supplements in the world.  It’s a substance that’s naturally occurring in your body, and is also found in food such as meats, eggs, and dairy.

Here’s a quick rundown: creatine stores phosphates in your body in the form of phosphocreatine, which aids in cellular function.  When you take creatine, your muscles can retain more water, which helps your muscles work more efficiently. Now, because one’s water weight is increased, creatine can make some feel bloated.

The verdict: If your goal is general weight loss and fitness, don’t worry about a creatine supplement.  It occurs naturally in your animal protein sources (like red meat).

However, if your goal is oriented towards powerlifting, increased athletic performance, or weightlifting, it may be something to consider. Do your research and make sure to check with your doctor.  There are conflicting reports about consumption of creatine and kidney issues with those who have preexisting kidney issues.  Again (as always), ask your doctor first!

Calcium: For most people, the calcium consumed from dairy, dark leafy greens, and/or in a multivitamin is enough.  You MIGHT consider taking a standalone calcium supplement, but we do not recommend it.  Recent studies have shown that our bodies process calcium supplements differently than calcium from food.  Aim to get calcium from real food.

Fiber: If you’re eating your veggies, you should not need a fiber supplement.  The goal should be about 25g-30g of fiber a day (about 14g per 1000 calories you consume) – if you need help figuring out what are the best foods for fiber, Harvard has a great chart here.

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid): One of the most popular “leaning out” supplements – it’s a fatty acid that’s found in beef and dairy.  Some studies claim that it helps reduce body fat mass (in adults that exercise) but other studies show that results are inconsistent or that it does nothing.  In our opinion, you should focus on getting CLA through your diet, and not a supplement.

ZMA: This is just zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B.  Some sites claim that it boosts testosterone (though we can’t find any good studies to back this up), and performance, though this study shows otherwise. There are studies that show that magnesium and zinc can help you sleep. If you can get enough magnesium from items like nuts and leafy greens, and zinc from meat and/or shellfish, this supplement is not necessary.

Beta-Alanine: Beta alanine is found in a ton of pre-workout supplements. If you’ve ever gotten “tingles” after taking one – this is what they are from.  It’s a non-essential beta-amino acid that’s naturally occurring in the body and also found in many meats and eggs, and claims to reduce fatigue helping you get one extra rep.  Studies are inconsistent, but many do show a minor improvement. Conclusion? Supplement this naturally through your diet and protein rich foods like chicken, beef, and fish.

What else can I answer?

Cartoon Pill

To answer your first few questions:

What do you think about [this supplement]?  I’m not a big supplement guy at all, so I may not have a strong opinion on your particular brand.  I’m gonna give a big shout out to my friend Sol Orwell over at, who has done some of the most extensive research on supplements I have EVER seen.

What supplements do you take Steve?  BCAA (before a fasted workout, as recommended by Lean Gains), Whey Protein occasionally, Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil (as recommended by 4-Hour Body, for experimentation purposes).

What supplements does Staci take? BCAA (when working out fasted), Whey Protein, ZMA, and a multi-vitamin (but only because of deficiencies due to some medical diet restrictions). She also takes fish oil if  she don’t eat a lot of fish that week, but tries to get as much from my diet as possible.


Okay so this is a monster of a post, and a lot to get through.  Let me know what further questions you have – on this topic. I’ll do my best to chime in, understanding that I don’t know your particular health situation, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not even wearing any pants right now.

Ask away.


PS: We have ZERO affiliation or sponsorships with ANY supplement company and we don’t do supplement reviews.  So please don’t contact us regarding this stuff or try to send us free samples. We don’t want them!


photo source: April Griffus: Dr Mario Tylenol, Robson#: Illustrated Pills, e-Magine Art: Assorted Pills, JP Davidson: Fresh Eggs, Andreas Feldi: Multivitamin, Julio Marquez: Mario Kart, Super Fantastic: Pills in Hand, Noodles and Beef: Supplements





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How to Set a New Personal Record Every Day Fri, 21 Mar 2014 17:56:28 +0000 When it comes to strength training, or even exercise in general, getting consistently better and increasing the challenge is the key to success.

If you repeat the same workout day after day, month after month, your body will adapt and learn to become more efficient at that workout, burning  less calories and making less progress.

So, in order for us to continually force our bodies to adapt and grow stronger, we must consistently introduce a slightly increased challenge every day.

Today, we’re going to cover the science behind all of this, why setting a new record is important for your mental momentum, and HOW you can set a new record every single day.

Why doing the same thing over and over doesn’t work


Normally, if you need to lose weight you need to increase your energy expenditure.  So, you just “move more” … right?

After all, aren’t you taught that in order to lose weight you need to “move more and eat less?”

Believe it or not, “moving more” is a bit more complex than you’d think.

As pointed out in The New York Times, exercising doesn’t always lead to increased energy expenditure.

Professor Pontzer of Hunter College followed an INCREDIBLY active hunter gatherer tribe, and learned that they burn the same number of calories as a typical american, despite the differences in the amount of activity.  Essentially, their bodies adapted to the stress and learned to burn less calories in other ways to increase efficiency:

“Energy expenditure is consistent across a broad range of lifestyles and cultures. Of course, if we push our bodies hard enough, we can increase our energy expenditure, at least in the short term. But our bodies are complex, dynamic machines, shaped over millions of years of evolution in environments where resources were usually limited; our bodies adapt to our daily routines and find ways to keep overall energy expenditure in check.”

So, if you do 3 sets of 10 push ups every day, your body will get REALLY good at doing 3 sets of 10 push ups, becoming more efficient (but not necessarily stronger) each time.

Just like killing rats/spiders in World of Warcraft becomes less and less lucrative as you level up, so too does doing the same routine over and over: 

  • In order to level up in a game, you need to fight tougher bad guys.
  • In order to level up in the game of life, you need to increase the challenge of your workout.

Understanding progressive overload

Progressive Overload

So we know that we can’t do the exact SAME thing forever and expect to level up to 50. We need to challenge ourselves.

“Progressive overload” is the term we use to describe this challenge – we are overloading our current capabilities, slowly but surely.

As NSCA’s Performance Training Journal explains:

“Without overload there is no adaptation by the body. Neuromuscular adaption occurs first, followed by increases in muscle and connective tissue, and bone mass. Proper conditioning methods will lead to physiological advancement as well. Depending on the training goals, improvements in lactic acid tolerance, lactate threshold, maximum aerobic power, and a variety of cardiovascular functions could be the appropriate responses.”

Our bodies will improve in all SORTS of ways, from stronger muscles to an increased performance of your central nervousness system. All of this is only possible through a stimulus, or what normal people call “doing something that’s challenging.”

As we apply a stimulus our bodies respond, making improvements in all of the above areas.

So, the solution is simple, right? Just increase the challenge of each exercise, every day, forever. Level 50 in no time…right?


linear progress can’t go on forever

Weathered Brick Wall

If you’re familiar with the program Starting Strength or Stronglifts, then you understand what linear progression is.

The goal is to start each powerlifting exercise (like squats) with just the bar, and then add weight to the bar each time you work out.

So, the squat portion of your beginner workout would look something like:

  • Workout 1: 3 sets of 5 reps of 45 lbs. (the bar)
  • Workout 2: 3 sets of 5 reps of 50 lbs.
  • Workout 3: 3 sets of 5 reps of 55 lbs.
  • Workout 4: 3 sets of 5 reps of 60 lbs.
  • Workout 5: 3 sets of 5 reps of 65 lbs.
  • Workout 6: 3 sets of 5 reps of 70 lbs.

Although you are starting with a very light weight, you teach your body to adapt and perfect the squat movement. Then, each week you are tacking on 5 lbs.  Doesn’t seem like much…but if you are starting with the bar, and adding 5 lbs per week, by the end of a year you would be squatting 305 lbs. if you could maintain that pace.

305 lbs is a lot of weight.  For reference, I would give my left leg to squat 305 lbs. Then I would regret the fact that I gave away a leg to squat more weight, but that’s beside the point.

When you follow a routine like this, you’re going to be able to make very rapid increases in what you lift very quickly when you start out each and every week.

For YEARS, this is the plan I would follow.  A rigid structure of sets and reps, and climbing slightly higher and higher over the course of months as I tried to increase my max lifts.

The natural progression in these plans are great! Eventually however, our “newb gains” come to an end and progress slows down. After that, we need to figure out a way to set a new personal record with each workout…when linear progress isn’t so easy.

I now always leave my workout feeling like a lion, as I always set a new personal record with each workout.

how clash of clans will improve your strength training


If you don’t play Clash of Clans, I envy all of your free time. In any case, I promise this will make sense if you’ve ever played any video game.

In Clash of Clans (an interactive PVP tower defense game), your goal is to level up your village, upgrade your defenses, upgrade your armies, and then go attack other villages to gain more resources to continue the whole process.

When you start, the upgrades come fast and easy (like with strength training).

However, like with most games, sometimes you get to a point where certain features aren’t yet “unlocked.”  I was so eager to get a certain army unit that I skipped ahead, past what my village was ready for and got the upgrades anyway.  Because my village wasn’t ready, I got my ass kicked in almost every battle. Newb move, Kamb.

Since then, I’ve learned my lesson, and now only jump ahead when my village is upgraded and I’m ready to go to the next level of opponents.

It’s a much slower level of progression, but now I’m winning more battles all around, both on defense and on offense. I’m better prepared to handle the level of competition because I am consistently taking teeny tiny steps to upgrade rather than massive upgrades that come along with making the next big leap (upgrading my town hall).

The same is true for almost any role playing game: just because you’re the right level to enter a new zone doesn’t mean you’re ready – you can still max out your armor, you can still level up your spells, and you can still get more stat-increasing jewelry, giving you a much better chance to survive and thrive.

As with Clash of Clans, and RPGs, the slower but more consistent you can make your progress with training, the less likely you’re gonna end up in a situation where you get your ass kicked.

Here’s how to do this IRL.

Set a Personal Record every day

Level Up

We’ve recently discussed how to break through the dreaded plateau.

In this nerd’s humble opinion, the best way to break out of a plateau…is to avoid them in the first place!  They’re mentally draining, depressing, and can derail even the most determined rebel.

So, when linear progress isn’t possible any more, rather than adding 5 lbs. a week to the bar, stalling for a few weeks, and then trying to push through, the goal instead is to find a way to make smaller increments each week. Instead of climbing stairs with flat sections, or a roller coaster where you actually drop down:
floor_graph kinetic_energy_roller_coaster_graph_almclh



Instead, you want ride up a ramp, consistently improving:

Growth Graph

Now, there are two big benefits to this approach:

  • You don’t overload your body too much, but you consistently teach it to expert to have to lift more and more each week, so it begins to expect it and thus adapt by preparing by getting stronger and repairing properly.
  • You don’t have those down days where you wonder if you’ve stalled out, or those days where you take steps backwards. You are consistently proving to yourself that you are stronger/better today than you were yesterday.

The goal is to increase the total capacity you lift each workout in SOME WAY.  There are a few ways to do this:

  • Lift more weight per rep than last time.
  • Lift more reps with the same weight than last time.
  • Lift more TOTAL weight for the workout than last workout.
  • Lift the same number of reps, sets, and weight, but do so with less of a rest between sets.
  • Lift with better form (e.g. a deeper squat, or more range of motion), or a harder variation.

As long as ONE of these metrics is higher than your previous workout, you have leveled up and grown stronger.

For example, here’s 4 of my workouts involving the overhead press:

  • Workout 1: 5/5/5 x 95 lbs.
  • Workout 2: 6/5/5 x 95 lbs.
  • Workout 3: 6/6/5 x 95 lbs.
  • Workout 4: 6/6/6 x 95 lbs.

Each week, I just added ONE additional rep to my workout.  Then, in Workout 5 and 6, the process reset itself, but at a higher weight:

  • Workout 5: 5/5/5 x 100 lbs.
  • Workout 6: 6/5/5 x 100 lbs.

Although I moved less TOTAL weight around (week four total was 3x8x95 lbs = 1710 lbs, and week 5 was 3x5x100 = 1500 lbs), I picked up more weight per rep than before. I leveled up!

Let’s say I’m having a bad week; I might adjust by doing 8/8/8 x 75 lbs.  Picking up less weight per rep, but doing more reps, and thus more total weight: (3x8x75 = lbs).

Be More Like a Turtle


You know the story of the tortoise and the hare?

Slow and steady wins the race.

It’s boring as hell, but when it comes to health and fitness….so freaking true.  And turtles are cool.  Ninja Turtles, Crush, The Zombie Turtle kid.  Turtles are IN right now.

So, check your ego, and don’t do more.  To borrow from Paul Rudd’s Character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “the less you do…the more you do”:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall Clip

The goal is to increase by the teeniest of tiniest fractions, each and every workout.

This is so tough to accomplish when you are just getting started, as it’s so much easier to throw a bunch of weight on and graduate and level up VERY quickly.  This is when you get your ass kicked in Clash of Clans, RPGs, and in the gym.

What’s that you say? You don’t do weight training?  THAT’S  OKAY! (though you definitely should :):

“I’m a runner”: Keep track of your time.  Run a few feet further than last time.  Run the same distance in less time.  Run lots of sprints (sprint link) instead of a long slow run.

“I only train with body weight exercises”: Awesome, I love body weight training.  Increase your rep total by 1 each workout, then go WAY down in reps but increase the difficulty of the exercise:

  • Workout 1: 10/10/9 regular push ups
  • Workout 2: 10/10/10 regular push ups
  • Workout 3: 5/5/5 feet elevated push ups
  • Workout 4: 6/5/5 feet elevated push ups

I do yoga:  Great!  Stretch a teeny tiny bit farther (further?) in your next routine, and try to level up just ONE movement.

Slow, steady, consistent progress.

Today, I’m going to be deadlifting the most I’ve attempted in close to 4 years.  It’s been a slow, steady climb over the past eight months, but each week the number has gone up in some way.

How about you?  

In what teeny tiny way are you setting a new Personal Record today?



photo source: Nicholas Petrone: Turtle, Darren Hester: Brick Wall, peddhapatai: repeat, Themeplus: Clash of Clans, FutUndBeidl: progressive, artnoose: level up, stairgraph, Hartford Physics Wiki: rollercoaster graph, Xavier Bermeo: Growth Graph, Tim Ellis: Race Car

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The 5 Biggest Life Lessons I Learned in the Arcade Tue, 18 Mar 2014 17:09:44 +0000 Ah, the Arcade.

As a kid, I remember wandering into the local Ryan Family Amusements in the Cape Cod Mall, enamored with the shining lights and loud noises, excited for what adventures lay ahead.

Armed with five dollars in tokens (dutifully earned from a week’s worth of chores), I’d carefully wander through the aisles, watching others playing fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, old school classics like Rampage or Donkey Kong, and ticket games like Skeeball or Rock’n Bowl.

I’d then settle my eyes on the game that intrigued me the most that day, and devote the next two hours of my life to mastering it….or losing a lot of quarters very quickly :)

Who knew that the basic lessons learned in the arcade could translate over to life and fitness goals; they even helped shape me into the person I am today.

Let’s take a look at some of these awesome arcade lessons.

There are cheat codes and combos

Mortal Kombat

Everybody loves a good cheat code.

And combos make you feel like a badass, inflicting massive damage with minimal but directed effort:

I remember games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Killer Instinct. I remember studying Orchid’s 80-hit combo, practicing for days so that I could get to the arcade and unleash fury on an unsuspecting victim.  Yes, hammering away on the quick attack button might defeat the bad guy, but putting in a bit of effort to learn combos meant maximum damage with minimal effort.

I remember playing games like Top Skater, and learning about the special cheat code that let you play as a freaking surfer…dropping the jaws of all the confused people watching (I LOVED doing this).

Some codes made games more fun. Some codes gave you an advantage.  Some combo moves allowed you to advance more rapidly.

Just like in the arcade, there are combos in real life and cheat codes:

Exercise is a good start. Strength training is a cheat code (Ask Staci).

Eating fewer calories is a good start.  Following the Paleo Diet is a cheat code (Ask Saint).

Want a flawless victory? Go with the killer combo of Paleo Diet + Strength Training + Intermittent Fasting.  C-C-C-COMBO!

Creating a financial budget that saves a few dollars a day is the “quick attack” button. Making one phone call to renegotiate your rent and another to lower your cable bill is an Ultra Combo (thanks Ramit!).

Working hard and hoping for a raise is good.  Spending two hours of prep to negotiate a higher salary?  That’s a cheat code.

Why do more and get less results when you can do less and get MORE results?  Pick and choose the codes you want to use, combo effectively, and achieve a flawless victory.  Stop worrying about landing 100s of quick, weak attacks and instead knock people out with one big combo.

Not all games are created equal

Pokemon GrabberNot all games are created equal, and not all games are worth playing! 

I could drop a quarter into a grabber game that is over in half a second (“THE CLAW!!“), or I could drop four quarters in Time Crisis and play for over an hour (thanks to my First Person Shooter skills – and this shooting trick demonstrated by the late Andy Whitfield).

Not bad for a buck!

So, although it was fun wandering and playing lots of different games once (and being terrible at them), nothing made me happier than finding a challenging game that that I truly enjoyed and dumping all of my time, energy and effort into honing my skills and racing for the top score in that one game.

As with Arcade experiences, not all life experiences are created equal, either:

Think about your gym: You could spend an hour doing leg presses, leg curls, leg raises, hip abductor and adductor machines, calf raises, and then an ab workouts…or you could spend 15 minutes doing one exercise, heavy squats, and get FAR more results in far less time.  Win.

Instead of spending hours doing cardio (if you don’t actually enjoy it), why not spend 20-30 minutes doing the Beginner Bodyweight Routine or Star Wars Workout anad then go home and WATCH The Empire Strikes Back?

Instead of playing the calorie counting game (weeee!), why not play the “let’s stop freaking out and just focus on eating real food” game?  It’s more fun and requires less work – I promise.

Think about where you spend your time and money: Is $100 a month (and 2-3 hours per day) spent on cable TV better than $100 spent on language instruction, or 10 books that enrich your life?  Your call.

Seek out the “games” in life that are the best use of your time, that bring you the most happiness, and that challenge you in a way that you want to be challenged.  

What do you spend your tickets on?


One of the most important lessons I learned about life is delayed gratification.  It came from games that allowed me to earn tickets, like Skeeball and video poker.

True story: When my mom was out of town and it was Dad’s turn to take care of my brother, sister, and I, he taught us to play poker using LEGO Duplo pieces as poker chips. I was five years old.  And I wonder why I love casinos…


Tickets could always be turned in for prizes, from bouncy balls for 5 tickets to speaker systems for 25,000 tickets.

There were two ways to approach the arcade:

  • Spend all of your tickets each time you finish, buying lots of tiny knick knacks. Nothing too exciting, and you’ll probably lose them or grow tired of them in about five minutes, but they can be fun for RIGHT NOW.
  • Save your tickets, stockpile them at home, and return when you have enough for an actual prize of worth.

I bet you can guess which camp I belonged to. If you answered: “the weird kid that loved saving tickets almost as earning them,” you’d be right.  I would have been the kid who waited forever in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.

This attitude has carried over to the rest of my life:

  • Rather than stuff my face with empty calories throughout the day, I’d rather hold off on snacking and instead later enjoy a big (and healthy) nutrient dense meal.  I know the special power boost I’ll get from my big meal destroys the short lived rush from low ticket food.
  • I spent two years living on very little, building Nerd Fitness from the ground up while also working a full time job.  I knew that putting off short term distractions and focusing my effort on something I truly wanted would lead to the greatest “delayed gratification” victory ever.  3.5 years later, I couldn’t feel more happy or humbled at my life as a video game.

Stop sabotaging what you REALLY want by chasing what you want RIGHT NOW:

  • That cookie might make you temporarily feel better, but it’s not gonna help you look in the mirror with pride and self-confidence.
  • Skipping your workouts to watch another episode of House of Cards might make you temporarily happier, but three months from now you’re going to wish you had started TODAY.
  • Spending your money on a bigger TV, better car, and more shoes might make you feel better temporarily, but you’ll always have that big trip on your list saying “some day.” Start saving now, and plan for that epic splurge on a big adventure.  I’ve done both – experiences trump possessions every damn time.

Now, I’m not saying you should be spending 20 hours a day working a job you hate to save money until you can retire and THEN be happy.  It’s important to enjoy the game you’re playing too.

What I’m saying is this: Stop spending all your tickets on junk, and start saving for things that will actually bring you success and happiness!



Although I was too young to play the original Gauntlet, I remember dumping hundreds and hundreds of tokens into its successor, Gauntlet Legends.

Gauntlet Legends Gameplay

As a fan of RPGs, I was immediately enamored with the concept of being able to pick a class and character (Wizard FTW!), crawl through dungeons, level up, and consistently face more challenging situations.

However, the game only allowed you to play for a limited amount of time, since your health bar was constantly depleting.  Sure, you could discover health potions in treasure chests, but that timer was always counting down.

Once your life got low enough, you’d hear the famous overlord voice yell “Player One, You are About to Die!”

You could put more quarters in to keep playing (and I usually did), but that voice and the constant countdown was a reminder that my time playing was limited, and I had to make the most of it.  It forced me to play with a sense of urgency instead of dillydallying around.

Life is a game and we’re all on a timer.

How often do we start a sentence with “someday”?  

How often do we spend days doing something unfulfilling…wishing things were different?

It’s time to add some urgency to our lives.  Your pocket isn’t full of quarters and you don’t get to add more time.

We get one playthrough, and we need to make the most of it:

  1. If there’s something on your bucket list you’ve always wanted to cross off, start planning for it. Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. NOW.  Start with these step-by-step instructions.
  2. If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to learn (a new language, parkour, swing dancing, a musical instrument), stop making excuses (you’re lying) and start making it a priority.
  3. If you’re in a bad situation, it doesn’t mean you need to STAY in that bad situation.  It means you need to put steps in place to make a change and level up.

These changes might be painful or cause discomfort. But better for it to csuck a bit and then improve than spend any extra time being unhappy.  Life is too damn short.

I discuss this in my TEDx talk: if you don’t like the game you are playing, pick a new game.

The late Steve Jobs felt the same way: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Game on


I’m going to leave you with one final lesson.  

Arcades have hundreds of games because everybody likes something different.  I love watching people set a high score in any game, regardless of whether or not it’s a game I actually want to play.  I watch them be good at the games they enjoy, and then move on to the game I enjoy, focusing on bettering my own high score.

Life is no different.

Appreciate the hard work of others at the game they chose to play, be it their chosen profession or athletic ability, but don’t think less of yourself when you don’t measure up on their playing field.

I’m not a fan of running, so if I based my self worth on how I stacked up against a marathon runner I’d have a very poor opinion of myself. Instead, I focus on the fact that I did 2770 pull-ups and have gotten damn good at handstands.  That’s the game I’m playing.

Remember, you don’t know how many quarters it cost somebody to get to that point in their life or level of success!  Let them play their game, and you play yours. Compare yourself to you from yesterday.

Okay, now it’s your turn.  

I’d love to hear what Arcade games occupied most of your time, and what lessons you learned from them.

Here are a few more of mine:

  • Donkey Kong taught me to study timing patterns and hone my skills.  And that hammers are awesome.
  • Rampage taught me that teamwork can be crucial for world domination. And to not punch electrical signs.
  • Mortal Kombat taught me how to finish what I started, and finish strong (FATALITY!).  And that Sub-Zero is the man.
  • Cruising USA taught me how to drive, and that double-tapping the gas is a great way to pop a wheelie. (kidding, San Fransisco Rush taught me to drive.)

How about you?

What was your favorite Arcade game to play, and what life lesson did it teach you?


PS: I’ve been on a lot of trips recently (with a few epic ones on the way) that I’ve been chronicling through my Instagram Account @SteveKamb.  Follow me there!

PPS: Thanks to all the folks that came out to the Chicago Meetup last week!  GOOD TIMES, and I’ll definitely be back.

Chicago Meetup

Photo Sources: Rob Boudon: Ms Pac Man and Donkey Kong, Joseph Yen: Mortal Kombat Truck, Waymond C: Pokemon!, Randy Heinitz: Tickets, Eric: leaning tower of quartersdieroadroash: skeeball

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That Time I Did 2,440 Pull Ups: The 60 Day PLP Challenge Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:50:36 +0000 Wow.

This past Sunday, I finished up what was probably the most challenging workout plan I’ve ever attempted. I managed to stick with this plan, day after day, every day, for 61 straight days.

I honestly don’t think I have ever done ANYTHING 61 days in a row!

It wasn’t easy.  Over the past 61 days, I completed a total of 2,440 pull ups, 2,440 push ups, and 2,440 lunges, in addition to my regular workout plan of 3-4 days per week of heavy lifting (which included weighted pull up, heavy deadlifts, and ring work).

I thought I’d be running on fumes – or that my arms would fall off after the 61 days.   Actually, I feel stronger than ever – more invincible and more anti-fragile.  As I mentioned on my 6-Week challenge Thread, I feel like Wolverine (…which lead to this).

It shifted my perspective on training and what the human body is capable of.

So what am I talking about?

The PLP Program.

NOTE: This is NOT a beginner program, and should not be attempted unless you have been training consistently and can do multiple repetitions of pull ups and pushups with great form.

The PLP Program

Steve Pull Ups

Originally concocted by Chad Waterbury in 2011, and more recently introduced to me by my friend (and now coach) Anthony Mychal,  PLP is a progressive program in which you complete one additional rep of three exercises – Pull Ups, Lunges, and Push Ups – every day, for two months.  You do a set of each exercise and then repeat, circuit style.

There are two versions:

  • If you can do 10 straight pull ups: Start day 1 with 10 reps of each.
  • If you cannot do 10 straight pull ups: Start day 1 with 1 rep of each.

You complete this program for 60 days (though, because I’m a nerd and like round numbers I did 61 days to get 70 reps).  You do all of this in addition to your typical workout schedule.

Complete your required reps each day in as many sets as you need, whenever you need to.  The goal is to do it in as few sets as possible, but enough so that you can complete each rep with proper form.

I kept my reps per set in the 8-12 range.  For example:

  • PLP 24: I did 3 circuits of each: 8, 8, 8.
  • PLP 40: I did 4 circuits of 10, 10, 10, 10
  • PLP 70: I did 6 circuits of 12, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11

Do your PLP whenever it’s convenient for you.  During the first week or two, when the reps were low, I would do my PLP as a warm-up or a cool down after my workouts.  Then I started doing it first thing in the morning after waking up. Some nights, I did it last thing before bed.

Timing of the repetitions isn’t important. Take as long as you need between sets and circuits, but try to shorten that time as you go.  What IS important is that you complete your assigned reps, every day, sometime after you wake up and before you go to bed.

My Results


So, how did this every day style of training work for me? My ultimately my goal is to pack some more muscle. While PLP didn’t cause a drastic difference in this respect, as I’ll explain in a minute, I’m super proud of the results due to what happened during these two months.

Here’s me doing my last few reps of my pull ups on my Instagram Account (ah, I know I didn’t go to dead hang full lock out on the last ones.  The 2770 pull up excuse :P) :

We’re nerds, so let’s start with the numbers: I lost 1.5 inches off my waist, gained .5 inches on my chest, shoulders, arms, and thighs. My weight dropped four pounds, and my body fat percentage dropped approximately 2-3%.

All in all, GREAT changes for somebody playing the long game of slow muscle building and growth.  I’m not asking “am I there yet?” because I know this is a long journey.  I didn’t do something that was unsustainable, I didn’t make drastic changes I couldn’t live with. I found my new normal. And I like it.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would be capable of completing this challenge.  I had too many excuses lined up:  I had tried PLP in the past and aggravated a tendon that knocked me out on week 3.  I have a bad spine, shoulder, and elbow that I constantly used as an excuse as to why I always stall out on or hit walls.  I had a CRAZY travel schedule that took me to 10 states over those two months.

To be honest, since that diagnosis about 15 months ago, I felt fragile.

However, after going through PLP, I stopped feeling fragile and started to feel like my body was regenerating quicker. The other day, I hit a 2-year personal best on my deadlifts; later that evening I went and did my PLP 65 pull ups without my arms falling off :)

The day after that? I did a total of 105 pull ups for the day (PLP plus my regular workout plan)! The last time I did 100 pull ups in a day, I ended up with T-rex arms (explained in this article) for two weeks.

Before, I’d come up with excuses to skip days or miss workouts.  I was too busy, work was too important, I was too tired from traveling, etc. Now, I stopped accepting excuses.  Over the past two months, I’ve spent almost half of my days traveling (Las Vegas, Arizona, SXSW, etc.), spent 5 days on a boat in the Caribbean, and had to find and move into a new apartment.

Despite all of this chaos, I’m proud to say I didn’t miss a single day and crushed all of my workouts and PLP sessions.  In the past I would have missed a day or two or three for whatever reason.  This time, I decided, “Nope. Not gonna miss a single one.”

Yup, some days I was less than 100% (Las Vegas and The Rock Boat especially).  Other nights I was so freaking tired and exhausted that I would have paid somebody $100 to do the pull ups for me.  The night I moved into my new apartment was particularly miserable.

However, I used the Braveheart Technique and complained loudly to myself…as I was doing my pull ups.  Then, they were done!  I put on my hard hat and went to work, learning a lot about myself in the process.

Sometimes I had to put PLP before other things in my life – even work!  I decided that this workout plan WAS work and missing was not an option.

PLP kept me on track, and became my Constant.  In years past, when traveling I would allow myself a few days off (which is NOT a bad thing); however, it would take me many days upon returning to get back in the groove.

This time, because I didn’t miss a day, I was constantly thinking, “I am healthy and making good decisions.” So, when I got home I had maintained my momentum and got IMMEDIATELY back on track.

Questions You Might have

Steve Push Ups

“Why does PLP work?” By adding just a single rep each day, you are teaching your body to expect a small increased challenge each day. You force your body to recover quickly, and thus it has to adapt. PLP teaches your body to become resilient, stronger, and regenerate faster in order to manage the increased daily stress headed its way.  Like jogging for a quarter of a mile, and then going just a bit further each day – your body learns to adapt and expect additional stress, rebuilding stronger and quicker. PLP just applies this concept with three great muscle and strength building exercises.

“But you always say ‘take a day off between workouts,’ what gives?”  I hear you, and I still feel that for beginners this is the best path.  I have been training in gyms and around the world for the past 12 years, and wanted to try something a bit counterintuitive.  I still took days off between my heavy lifting sessions.  But why does PLP work despite the rest rule? As Anthony explains, as a newb, rest is your best bet:

“It’s kind of like getting the flu. You’re adding something to your body that it’s not used to, and it responds to the stress as a novelty. This freaks you out quite a bit, and understandably so. Your body has no idea what it’s dealing with. It kind of makes sense to use it in this situation simply because there’s little reason NOT to recover in between every training session. You want to be fresh enough to groove form on lifts and exercises.

But after you put in some time, you’ve ironed out form and whatnot, the stress isn’t as novel anymore either. Your body has the potential to operate on a different clock, but it’s not always easy. By starting at 10 reps and then adding, you’re “forcing” your body to recover on a shorter time window. 

Again, if you are just getting started, don’t worry about PLP – including traditional recovery days will be the most effective way to level up.

“What if I miss a day?” Suck it up and get right back on track! One missed day isn’t gonna screw stuff up. But two definitely will.  Remember, never allow yourself to miss two in a row.  So if you miss a day, that next day should be your next number.  If you complete PLP 30, then miss a day, the next day should be PLP 31.

“What if I can’t do pull ups and regular push ups?”  This probably isn’t the workout plan to attempt at this point on your journey.  There may be more effective ways to get the results you’re looking for, like the Beginner Body Weight Workout.  Focus on getting really good at these movements and work towards being able to complete them with great form, and then come back to this workout.

“What kind of results can I expect?”  Honestly? I don’t know.  That is dependent upon your genetics, training schedule, experience, dedication, sleep schedule, and nutrition.   The guys from this T-Nation article (where PLP was born) all saw great progress (as did Anthony Mychal and I).  It is important to remember that sticking with ANY program for 2 months straight will produce results, but the amount of success is dependent upon a number of factors.

Speaking of success…

Tips and Tricks for Success

Steve Lunge

Always warm up before!  I had a day in Vegas where I skipped my warm up and I tweaked a muscle in my back because I simply just started with pull ups without properly warming up.  I put myself through a quick dynamic warm up and do lots of arm rotations and joint movements to warm up my back and arm muscles.  Same goes for my legs.

Keep your elbows tight! On your push ups, keep your elbows tight at your sides.  My elbows grazed the sides of my body with each rep.  REALLY focus on good form on your push ups.  No elbows flared nonsense!  Elbows tight, and full range of motion.

Neutral Grip Pull Ups! Because you’re doing SO many pull ups (in addition to however many you’re doing with your normal workout), your elbows and shoulders are gonna take a pounding.  Do pull ups with rings or with your palms facing each other, engage your shoulder blades down and together behind your back; pull your chest to the bar.  Put your arms through a full range of motion when possible.  There were days when I had to do regular pull ups or chin ups because I didn’t have access to neutral grip options, but ultimately I stayed with neutral grip for 90% of my workouts, and my joints thanked me.

Reverse lunges are your friend!  This is because you’re going to be doing a crazy number of lunges in addition to any other heavy lifting or leg work throughout your two months on the PLP program.  In order to decrease the wear and tear on your knees, do reverse lunges (and keep your core tight).  Stand feet together, and step back to do your lunges.  You can also do split squat lunges (step back into the lunge, do all reps with that leg, then do all reps with the other leg).

GET SLEEP and EAT RIGHT!  Recovery is HUGE with this workout plan, and your body needs its rest in order to be able to regenerate like Wolverine.  So sleep MUST become a priority.  Along with that, make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of protein in order to help rebuild those muscles!  As I am in the process of getting bigger, I increased my caloric intake during my final week to deal with all the extra work.

Have IMMEDIATE access to a pull up bar. Although I have a pull up bar in the small gym in my condo building, I wanted to minimize the steps between me and completing my daily PLP, because otherwise I knew I would find excuses. So I bought a door frame pull up bar, and did about half of my PLP routine on that. Ultimately, I upgraded my batcave.

any takers?

Steve Handstand

So, anybody want to give it a shot? I’m excited to hear your thoughts and if I can help you out in any way.  

What kind of questions do you have for me?

Are you up for the challenge?  

Any other counterintuitive workouts to share?

Put on that hard hat and go to work!


PS: We are off to a great start with Camp Nerd Fitness sales, with close to 100 campers already joining up! I’m really looking forward to this event and I’m so excited that others are too.  I hope to see you there, as I’ll be giving out all the hugs and high fives I can muster :)

PPS: A huge CONGRATS to my buddy Benny Lewis for releasing his book, Fluent in 3 Months, this week.  Benny is a great friend and a phenomenal linguist, speaking 10 languages despite only speaking English until his early 20s.


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