Nerd Fitness » Blog http://www.nerdfitness.com Level up your life, every single day. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:35:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Struggling to Start? Pick One of These 5 Quests. http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/11/struggling-to-start-pick-one-of-these-5-quests/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/11/struggling-to-start-pick-one-of-these-5-quests/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:06:42 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23953 I love quests, missions, and goals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Level Up Quests

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Level Up

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

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

1) Go for a 5-Minute Walk!

Stone Feet

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

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

2) Veggie Powered!

Veggie Spread

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

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

3) Push Ups Are Your Friend!

StevePlyoPushUp

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

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

Make sure you read our guide on push ups!  

4) Upgrade Your Batcave

batman batcave

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our full guide to building your batcave here.

5) Cook a Meal at Home

Chicken Kabob Thin

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

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

Start Now

Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to hear from you:

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

And then get started.

-Steve

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

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

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

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The Happiness of Pursuit: How a NYT Best Selling Author Took Over the World http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/09/the-happiness-of-pursuit-how-a-nyt-best-selling-author-took-over-the-world/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/09/the-happiness-of-pursuit-how-a-nyt-best-selling-author-took-over-the-world/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:07:53 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23932 In April 2013, my friend Chris Guillebeau landed in Norway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Interview With Chris

Chris Guillebeau Interview Video

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

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

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

RIGHT CLICK AND DOWNLOAD THE MP3 HERE

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

Why We Need Quests In Our Lives

Steve Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key Components of a Successful Quest

chris hong kong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the happiness of pursuit

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

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

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

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

I’d love to hear from you:  

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

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

-Steve

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

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Vegetable Haters: How to Start Eating Vegetables http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/04/vegetable-haters-how-to-start-eating-vegetables/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/04/vegetable-haters-how-to-start-eating-vegetables/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:57:26 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23778 “Hey Steve, I want to start eating healthy, but I don’t like vegetables.  Can you help me eat healthier without having to eat vegetables?  Actually, I love corn, so can you tell me how to make more foods with corn?”

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

“Well shit.”

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

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

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

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

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

Why vegetables rule!

Stir Fry Veggies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find your gateway vegetable

Carrots

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

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

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

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

I did this for two reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to BUY Vegetables

Store veggies

First and foremost, buying vegetables can be daunting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hide vegetables in other foods

Noel: Shepherd's Pie

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

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

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

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

Green_Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) Add kale to guacamole.

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

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

Prepare vegetables differently

Pulled_Pork_008

“Okay Steve, just give me some options!” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted_Brussles_Sprouts_09

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for some more advanced veggie options?

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

The Nerd Fitness Vegetable Challenge

NF Veggie Challenge

Are you up for the Nerd Fitness Veggie Challenge?

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

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

I’m in. Are you?

We’d love to hear from you:

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

What other questions do you have about preparing vegetables?

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

Leave a comment and let us know!

-Steve

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

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

THEME NIGHT #1: Costume Night

THEME NIGHT #2: Rubix Cube Night 

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

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Lean In: Lessons From My Croatian Adventure http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/02/lean-in-lessons-from-my-croatian-adventure/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/09/02/lean-in-lessons-from-my-croatian-adventure/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 17:24:51 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23749 I recently spent a few weeks in Europe crossing a some things off my Epic Quest of Awesome.

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

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

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

Embrace Uncertainty

RobLauSteve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let go and Lean In!

YachtWeekOldCity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crap.

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

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

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

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

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

Why not say hey?

SteveAlexisLau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I put myself out there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing Fantasy to Life

Steve Plitvice

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

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

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

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

Boat Exercises

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

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

Waterfall and Lake Montage

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

Level Up

RobSelfie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boat Muscle Ups

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

-Steve

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

YachtWeekGroup

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Steve Finally Does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Also, We’re Hiring!) http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/28/steve-finally-does-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge-also-were-hiring/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/28/steve-finally-does-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge-also-were-hiring/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:52:12 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23830 Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

Check it out:

Steve does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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

What is this all about?

strike out ALS Pete Frates

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

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

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

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

Team Nerd Fitness Donation Page

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

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

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

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

Team Nerd Fitness is hiring

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

Nerd Fitness is hiring!  

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

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

We’re hiring for two full time positions:

  • Web Development Master
  • Graphic Design Wizard

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

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

  • Video/Audio Editing Ninja

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

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

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

-Steve

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How to Make Chicken Veggie Kabobs http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/25/greek-chicken-veggie-kabobs/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/25/greek-chicken-veggie-kabobs/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:07:40 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23644 This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

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

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

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

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

Lets get started!

Chicken Veggie Kabobs

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

 

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_1


Ingredients

For the kabobs:

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

Equipment:

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

Paleo Kabobs

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

1. Wash your veggies.

2. Cut the yellow squash and zucchini into medallions.

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-36

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-37

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-40

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-42

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-34

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-43

9. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice.

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-45

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-47

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

Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-50

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-53

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-54

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-55

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

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-27

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-30

Bonus recipe: Paleo Tzaziki Sauce

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

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

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe_Test-3

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

For the sauce: 

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

1. Wash your cucumber and dill.

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

Noel_Kabob_2

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_3

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_4

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

Noel_Kabob_Recipe_5

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_6

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe_7

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-12

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-18

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-17

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-21

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

Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-23

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

Noel_Chicken_Kabob_Recipe-25

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

Cook like a caveman!

lord_jim_banksy_caveman

There you have it!

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

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

Are you a vegetarian? Omit the meat!

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

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

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

What are your favorite foods to grill?

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

Let us know in the comments!

-Noel

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Photos: cszar, Lord Jim

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Days of Future Past: How to Use Time Travel for Success http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/21/days-of-future-past-how-to-use-time-travel-for-success/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/21/days-of-future-past-how-to-use-time-travel-for-success/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:30:09 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=22893
One of the hottest movies so far this summer has undoubtedly been X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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

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

Time travel!

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

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

You in the Past

space future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You in the Future

future

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

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

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

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

Here’s what life is like for me:

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and you have a jet pack.

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

BE VERY SPECIFIC:

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

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

Days of Future Past

future past

I have ONE final step for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Steve

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

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Proper Gym Etiquette: How to Not be a Newbie in the Gym http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/18/proper-gym-etiquette-how-to-not-be-a-newbie-in-the-gym/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/18/proper-gym-etiquette-how-to-not-be-a-newbie-in-the-gym/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:30:53 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23555 I remember the first time I ever set foot in a gym.

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

That was day 1.

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

Let’s take a field trip to the gym.

It’s all in your head

Steve Ostrich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Fear the Free Weights

TightRope

 

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t be that guy/girl!

Lego Lifting Dumbbell

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

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

The more you know…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

specific gym tips for women

OHP Staci

This section was written by NF Team Member Staci.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You got this

gym

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

Staci:

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

Taylor:

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

Page:

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

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

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

-Steve

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

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How to Become a Morning Person http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/14/how-to-become-a-morning-person/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/14/how-to-become-a-morning-person/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:30:21 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23322 I have been on Team “Night Owl” for as long as I can remember.

Sure, I remember waking up as a kid to watch Mr. Wizard before taking the bus school, but as I grew older I shifted my daily routine further and further back.  By high school, I was struggling to get out of bed to get to school on time, and all through through college an “early” bed time was 2 am.

Even in my adult life I struggled to get to bed before 1 am.  During my nearly six years of writing articles for Nerd Fitness, I’d guess that 90% of my writing was done after 10 pm.

And I wanted to be a morning person, but I just couldn’t do it.  I remember asking on Twitter:

“I can’t seem to get myself to focus during the day, and do my best work at night. How do I become a morning person?”

And the responses all came back saying the same thing: “You’re a night person, just learn to live with it.”

But as we explained in our comprehensive article on sleep, just two in ten of us are true “night owls.” The rest of us are morning people (larks) or somewhere in the middle (hummingbirds).

Little did I know that I fell where most people do – somewhere in the middle! I wasn’t a true night owl – just someone with bad habits! And I was missing out on all sorts of stuff as a result – namely quality sleep, sunlight, and a social life!

So, I stopped making excuses, and over the past six months, I’ve turned a corner. 

Today, I’m going to talk about HOW I became a morning person and why you should consider it too.

If you’re somebody working weird hours, don’t worry, we got you covered there too.

Why Become a Morning Person?

Morning

You might already be thinking, “Steve, I’m a night person too, and I like it that way. Why mess with a good thing?”

However, you might also have realized: “Hmmm, I never seem to exercise after work, I wake up feeling like crap, and I drag myself through the first half of the work day before finally getting my act together around 2 PM.”

Why should you switch teams and give the morning a chance? I’m glad you asked:

1) Your willpower bar is fully charged in the AM.  Remember our talk about willpower, and how it’s a finite resource?  Like in any RPG game (sleeping in the Inn recharges your health meter), getting a good night’s sleep recharges your willpower.  If you’re somebody that tends to get bogged down and busy at work and never has the energy to work out after work, use some of that willpower BEFORE work on getting to the gym and you’ll never miss it.  Your willpower is most full in the morning.

Hat tip to my buddy James Clear for this one :)

2) Get your sh** done before anybody can bother you.  I realized that the reason why I was so productive at night wasn’t because it was night… it was because there was nobody awake to distract me!  Once I discovered that I could do the same thing early in the morning, my life changed.

If you’re somebody with children, or hectic roommates, you may find it difficult to get anything done AFTER work, try getting it done before.

3) Actively prepare for the day rather than stress the f*** out!  Prepare your lunch. Sit down and eat breakfast (or don’t eat it at all). Go through your morning ritual. Get in the groove…instead of snoozing a million times and then running out the door with a bagel in your mouth.

4) Stop leaving things hanging over your head.  When I worked only at night, there was always that looming feeling of “I have things that need to get done” hanging over me.  It was stressful – it’s tough to relax when there are things that need doing.

HOWEVER, when you exercise in the morning, or get your work done early, you can close up that laptop at the end of the day and say “I’m done.” Now I truly enjoy my evenings.

There are two main components of becoming a morning person: getting to bed earlier, and then waking up earlier.

Let’s tackle them both.

How to get to bed earlier

alarm

When I decided to transition into a morning person, my first thoughts were “this is going to be tough.”

You see, we can lie, justify, and rationalize anything and everything to ourselves.  It’s actually quite impressive.  So, I started by accepting the fact that I can get to bed earlier, and wake up earlier.

Here’s how I did it:

1) Focus on small incremental changes.  When most people decide to “get up earlier,” they go from waking up at 8:30 am to waking up at 6:00 am. They set a few alarms, go to bed at their usual hour (probably midnight or later), and then struggle for a week to get up at 6:00…or they snooze and have to start over.

Instead of going from 8:30 to 6:00, I went from 8:30 to 8:15 for a week. Then from 8:15 to 8:00 for a week. Then from 8:00 to 7:45, and so on.

By SLOWLY adjusting my sleeping schedule, my body didn’t freak out, and I could actually let it happen.

2) Go to bed earlier.  I’ve covered this in our extensive guide on How to Not Suck at Sleeping, but I’ll lay out the basics here.  For starters, the reason I was always up so late was because I was sitting at my computer staring at bright lights until 10 minutes before bed, or watching TV/playing videogames and then struggling to fall asleep.

So, I set myself up to win by upgrading my batcave:

  • I installed Fl.ux on my computer.  It automatically adjusts the brightness of your computer screen after the sun has set, so you’re not staring at glaring lights at night (which can mess up sleeping patterns).
  • I used Self-Control to block specific time-wasting websites after a certain hour.  I found that I was sitting at my computer doing NOTHING at the end of the day. So I blocked those sites (gmail, facebook, etc.), and suddenly I had no reason to still be at my computer.
  • Commit to no video games or TV after 10:30 PM.  Assassin’s Creed IV kept me up until 2 am for too many nights.  Damn you, Edward Kenway.  I also set alarms and committed to turning off my TV after 10:30 pm.  That has since shifted to 10 pm, and now even earlier.  Oh, and I know if I watch Cosmos before bed I’m going to lie awake questioning my existence…so instead, I read.
  • Reading [fiction] in bed. This one was Steve-specific, but I realized I couldn’t read nonfiction (I get too excited and come up with ideas). Instead I read fiction that wound my brain down and puts me to sleep.  For me, that was The Martian.

I realized my struggle was not with getting up, but rather going to bed earlier. Making a commitment to get to bed early is a crucial part of the process.

So, stop staring at bright screens!  Put the phone down. Turn off the TV. Get off your computer. Read a freaking book :)

Now, let’s focus on the other half of the equation: getting up earlier!

How to wake up earlier

Cat

First and foremost, DON’T RELY ON YOURSELF.  Remember how I said we’ll justify anything?  You know those mornings where you wonder why you snoozed without even waking up?  If you’re not used to waking up early, your body might refuse to do so.  So we’re going to use our batcave to set us up to succeed.

1) Put your alarm clock across the room.  Remember how we talked about building a better batcave to help you get to sleep earlier?  You can do the same thing for getting up earlier.  If you can reach your alarm clock while still lying in bed, the chance of you hitting snooze is approximately 1000000.33333% higher.  That’s a fact.  So, put your alarm clock across the room!  Make it SUPER loud and annoying, so your only option is to just get out of bed and turn it off.

In college I had my alarm clock across the room and on my dresser. I fell asleep one night with both arms behind my head, and woke up to a blaring alarm at 7 am…with both of my arms dead asleep. As my roommate looked angrily at me, I had to swing my arms, Ace Ventura style, until I knocked it off the bureau and broke the damn thing.

2) Wake your ass up!  The toughest part about waking up earlier than normal is that fogginess we all experience first thing, which can affect our productivity, mood, etc.  So, the first thing I do is splash cold water on my face, and then go through a basic mobility warm-up and handstand practice exercise.

Another great option is to use this time to go for a brisk 5-10 minute walk. You know, like a Morning Mile.  In fact, 5-10 minutes of walking every day will eventually get you to Mordor if you follow through!

3) Caffeine is your friend.  Instead of using caffeine to stay awake later playing more video games, use it as part of your morning routine to wake up earlier.  We’ve already covered caffeine extensively on the site, so I won’t dig in too deeply.  The goal: enough caffeine to give you focus, but not too much that it becomes less effective with each increased day.

4) Use technology to your advantage:  If you couldn’t tell already – I’m a big fan of using technology to remove willpower from the equation and actually force ourselves to do stuff.  Now, we don’t need to shock ourselves to get out of bed (though if you want to, my buddy Maneesh can help)…but you can use technology to make your wake up easier:

  • Use Twitter scheduler:  Schedule an embarrassing tweet to go out the next morning, 10 minutes after you’re supposed to wake up. If you don’t get up and go to your computer in time, the tweet goes out.  Hat tip to Thomas Frank.
  • Try a sunrise alarm clock: Part of the reason we struggle with earlier mornings is the grogginess, and that can stem from being woken up while we’re in deep sleep.  By using something like a sunrise alarm clock, we can gradually come out of deep sleep into light sleep, and then be woken up.
  • Check out the Sleep Cycle App: Not only does it track your sleep, but it can also tell when you’re in deep sleep or light sleep, and will wake you up when your sleep pattern is least likely to make you groggy. It’s been fascinating for me to track those stats…when I can actually remember to set it up!

In all of these instances we are taking the decision making process out of your hands and putting it in the hands of technology or a third party.  The fewer decisions you need to make, the less willpower you need to use, the more likely you’ll be to find success in becoming an early bird.

build a morning routine

morning sky

The last piece of advice for you: build a morning routine around something you’re looking forward to doing.  I used to love my quiet nights spent yelling into my computer or at my TV playing games, but now I honestly look forward to my quiet mornings, waking up with the sun, and going through my full morning routine in a silent house.

Here’s a morning routine that works for me:

  • Wake up with sunrise alarm clock, which wakes me up gradually.
  • Put on water to boil for tea.
  • Perform a basic mobility routine.
  • Five minutes of handstands.
  • Sit down at my computer, put on my epic trance playlist (thanks PM!)
  • Spend 10 minutes checking ESPN, Yahoo, scanning for any important emails.
  • Jump into writing mode, and block all big sites.
  • Take over the world.

That’s my routine, but I’d love to hear yours.  How do you crush your mornings?  What’s your morning routine?

And if you’ve transitioned from night-owl to early bird, what was your favorite tactic?

If you’re trying and failing to transition, what’s your biggest hurdle?

-Steve

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photo source: Michael: cheerios, Reji: morning sky, Kevin Dooley: sleeping cat, Khalid Almasoud: lonely place

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Limitless: What if you could access more of your brain? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/11/limitless-what-if-you-could-access-more-of-your-brain/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/08/11/limitless-what-if-you-could-access-more-of-your-brain/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:30:46 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23153 “You know how they say we can only access 10% of our brain? This lets you access all of it.”

And just like that (with the help of a tiny myth), the plot for the book/movie Limitless was established, and my brain started to go absolutely bonkers thinking of all of the possibilities.

I know I’m not alone.  Although this novel came out years ago and the movie came out in 2011, I’ve continually heard it mentioned in excited conversations amongst my friends.

It’s no surprised it garnered so much attention – it’s a story that we’ve all probably dreamed about for years:

Limitless Trailer

A scatterbrained writer, down on his luck, takes a pill that gives him unlimited brain power, allowing him to write a book in four days, learn new languages, stop smoking, lose weight, get healthy, and even conquer the stock market.

As a guy who’s turned his life into a video game, and taken inspiration from fictional characters to have real world adventures (like that time I became James Bond), I figured it was my duty to explore the nuances of Limitless and find out if it’s truly possible to become more productive, without the use of medication.

Shall we see how deep the rabbit hole goes?

How to become Limitless

nzt

The point of becoming Limitless is to completely satisfy our curiosity and accomplish all of the things we hope to cross off our list:

If we want to read more often, we can fly through books at a rapid pace while retaining all of the knowledge required.

If we want to write a book, it can be done in a matter of days or weeks, instead of years (or never, as is the case with most people).

If we want to learn a language, within a few weeks we can speak the language and interact with native speakers. No need for years and years of studying

If we want to get in better shape, we can do so in an efficient way, without spending hours on a treadmill struggle to see results.

I’m sure if you have a bucket list like I do; your goals probably revolve around some variation of the above.

So, how can we start accomplishing more and sucking less?

It comes down to a few key things:

  • The ability to retain more information.
  • The ability to spend more time learning.
  • Making the time you spend learning be more efficient.
  • The ability to learn lots of different things quickly.

Step One: Exercise

lego workout

Here’s an excerpt from an article my buddy Scott (Live Your Legend) wrote:

While on a boat with Richard Branson, a man asked How can I be more productive?” Keep in mind, Richard is the founder and operator of a 400-company conglomerate. He also has dyslexia and a pretty piss poor academic track record.

Yet somehow, from space travel to deep sea exploration, to music and cell phones, this guy has literally been able to accomplish a bazillion times more than the average Joe. And he’s still only 61.

Hence, the crowd of boat passengers hung on the edge of their seat cushions in anticipation of what turned out to be an unbelievably simple answer…

Richard responded: “Work out.”

Sounds kind of ridiculous, but there’s plenty of scientific fact to back up this up.  Exercise is a key component in improving our overall disposition, allowing us to focus more, retain more, and stay productive long after others have given up.

Charles Basch of Columbia University summarized how exercise may affect executive functioning:

  • Increased oxygen flow to the brain
  • Increased brain neurotransmitters
  • “[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” Neurotrophins assure the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

Dr John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain and Driven to Distraction: The Study of Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder, offers up tons of compelling studies linking physical activity to increased focused and increased retention when studying.  “Exercise doesn’t make you smarter, but what it does do is optimise the brain for learning.”

Think of it this way: exercise doesn’t increase the size of the sponge, but it can help improve just how much the sponge can soak up.

That’s why students at Naperville High School make exercise the first class of the day.

And that’s why in this study, Charles Hillman discovered that a single bout of exercise prior to studying could result in 5-10% increased amount of cognition amongst children.

Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, increase your chance for success by making exercise part of your routine. 

Step Two: Have a game plan

have a plan

Now we have our brains prepped and ready to absorb more information.  

However, none of this matters if we’re not prepared to learn in the right kind of way.

Malcolm Gladwell asserts in Outliers that people become experts after 10,000 hours of practice.  That’s not the entire story. 10,000 hours of haphazard practice, or learning things incorrectly will make us REALLY good at being bad at that activity.

So, we need to have hours and hours of good practice in order to become an expert.  Which means if we practiced something, perfectly, for 8 hours a day, every day, it would take us approximately 3 and a half years to become an expert at something.

But we don’t have that kind of time – and we don’t need to achieve “mastery.” 

When it comes to learning language, dance moves, martial arts, or a new instrument, identify the movements or words you need to become PROFICIENT in the skill.  Don’t worry about the rest of the stuff – we’re aiming for efficiency here.

Here are my favorite examples:

LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE: My friend Benny learns a new language every 3 months. He now speaks 10+ languages, despite graduating college only knowing one.

PLAYING A NEW MUSICAL INSTRUMENT: Instead of studying sheet music for years and learning complex classical pieces, look at current music, and begin to see patterns:

  • If you can learn to play basic chords on guitar, you can learn 80% of popular music.
  • If you can learn basic chords on the piano, you can quickly learn most pop songs you’ve ever wanted to play.

The goal isn’t to make it to the symphony or qualify for a job as a foreign translator. Instead we want to pick up the basics, and the enjoyment and personal advancement that comes along with it.

Check out the book The Talent Code for more information on learning properly.

Step THREE: Build a proper environment

batman batcave

We’ve got our brain prepped for learning, we’ve identified the skills we want to learn or the goal we hope to accomplish, now it’s time to build an environment for success.

You know how I had you build a Batcave to help you build better habits? We’re going to do the same to help you become Limitless.

Step One: STOP F***ING MULTITASKING!  We like to think we’re the masters of multi-tasking, but it absolutely ruins us when it comes to learning and being more productive.  Every time you shift from writing your book to watching a youtube video, your productivity suffers.  Every time you swap between your work and gchat window to talk to coworkers and friends, your level of creativity and concentration suffers.

If you want to be more productive while sitting at your computer, focus completely on one task. If you are going to learn a language, set aside time to learn that language and do nothing else.

EFFICIENCY rules!  

Step Two: Remove Distractions. All of them.  I used to think that I could ONLY work at night.  I would struggle to write all day long, and then suddenly, at 9 or 10PM, I became a focused machine, cranking out content like nobody’s business. I just assumed it was because I was a night owl…nope. It’s because I allowed myself to get distracted VERY easily, because everybody was awake and talking to me all day.  I spent all day in Gmail, on Gchat, reading IGN, and Reddit. Then, when everybody else was in bed, I would finally get stuff done.

Earlier this past week, I sat down at my computer at 6 AM and wrote four articles (a total of 8,000 words), finishing up around 4 PM. This is something I have NEVER done before.

How the hell did I do that? BY REMOVING ALL DISTRACTIONS!

  • I signed off Gchat, and Skype.
  • I closed out all tabs non-essential to the task at hand.
  • I used Self-Control to block all time wasting websites.
  • And one final tactic I’ll share with you at the end of the article.

You don’t have to follow these exact steps. Here are a few other examples:

If you want to write a book, set yourself up to succeed. As my friend Chris G. points out, “If you want to write a book, go to a boring place.”  Don’t go to a place where the weather is great and you don’t want to be inside writing.

If you want to read more books and become more learned, get rid of your damn TV.  Cancel your cable, get rid of your TV, don’t give yourself a chance to get stuck on your couch watching reruns.

It’s not that people who read more or do more necessarily have more time than you, they simply stop spending time on the nonessential. Remove distractions whenever possible, and focus on the important.

Step four: Use caffeine properly

Caffeine

This is the hack most closely related to the drug NZT in Limitless.  

Most of us use caffeine to wake us up after a late night and early morning.  Just think of how many Facebook messages you see from friends that say something along the lines of “don’t talk to me yet, I haven’t had my caffeine.”

It’s true: when we become addicted to caffeine (it’s a drug), its effectiveness is severely diminished, and we have to use caffeine to get us up to our normal baseline. Without it, we are distant, irritable, and awkward.

Instead, try aiming to use caffeine for bouts of hyper-focused activity.  

As we point out in our Guide to Caffeine, we need to closely manage our tolerance to caffeine. Personally, I try not to have it every day, and oftentimes take a week or two off from consuming it at all.  Then, when I need to get hyper-focused and accomplish a ton of writing (like today for example), black coffee, green tea, or Yerba Mate tea is enough to get my brain focused on the task at hand – It’s now 3pm and I’ve been writing since 8AM!

Sure, it’s no NZT, but as this PubMed study shows:  

“…caffeine can significantly affect cognitive performance, mood and thirst at doses within and even lower than the range of amounts of caffeine contained in a single serving of popular caffeine-containing drinks.”

NOTE: This is not a prescription to start mainlining cappuccinos into your arteries. Like any drug, caffeine affects everybody differently – know your limits, and if you have a history of hypertension or any other medical condition, talk to a medical professional.

The more you know…

Become Limitless

limitless road

I actually wrote this article following the exact principles laid out above:

  1. Exercise. My day started with a dynamic warm up and five minutes of handstand practice.
  2. Have a game plan. I knew exactly what needed to get done today: two articles. And a time limit (before 4PM)
  3. Set up my environment. I’ve signed off from gchat, closed my email tab, and blocked myself from time-wasting sites. I also canceled my cable so TV isn’t a distraction.
  4. Caffeine ftw.  A few cups of yerba mate tea gave me plenty of focus, and I stopped worrying about the challenges.

Here are some other quick hacks to help you become more productive and successful.

  • Show up every day.  Hat tip to James Clear on this one.  If you are trying to learn a musical instrument or language, tell yourself that you only have to play for five minutes every day. Establishing the habit is more important than that “perfect” time to learn.
  • Use others to help - If you want to learn something quickly, identify somebody who has learned quickly.  Ask them to break down the task into the basics and get started on those. I enlisted the help of Jim Bathurst who helped me learn how to complete a muscle up in a single afternoon, because he was a great teacher.
  • Start making mistakes on day ONE. You could spend years studying foreign language grammar books, but it doesn’t help if you don’t start speaking the language. Whether deadlifting or a new hobby, embrace the fail.
  • Don’t pick too many new things to learn at once.  Trying to learn Kung Fu, play the Violin, and learn French might prove to be quite challenging.  Instead, pick ONE or TWO new things to learn.
  • Consider different types of music.  If you’re trying to write more or read more, or be more productive at work, experiment with different kinds of music.  A killer vocal trance mix can put me in the zone where I black out like Will Ferrell in Old School and have suddenly produced thousands of words of content. For other people, it might be classical, or Katy Perry. Probably not Katy, but hey “Teenage Dream” is pretty fantastic.
  • Sleep more.  Unfortunately, we can’t be like Eddie Mora in Limitless - he functions on minimal sleep every day and uses that extra time to learn more. As I point out in the Nerd Fitness Guide to Sleep, if you manage to only get four hours of sleep, a sleep deprived body can actually act similarly to an intoxicated body.

I now lay down a challenge for you:

What’s ONE skill you want to learn or goal you want to accomplish?  Be it a new language, an instrument, writing a book, whatever.

What’s ONE distraction you can remove from your environment to actually have you get started on that skill/goal?

And what’s ONE step you are going to take TODAY to get one step closer to limitless?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some violin to practice!

-Steve

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photo pin: Johnson Cameraface: Batcave, JD Hancock: High-OCtane Villain, Angus MacRae: Road, Ben De Jesus: Espresso, Nick Royer: Pushups!, Vy Vu: Limitless, Limitless Poster

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