Nerd Fitness » Blog Level up your life, every single day. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:59:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What do you bench? Strength Training 101: The Bench Press Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:16:14 +0000 This is an article from NF team member Staci.

Ahhh, Monday.  Walk into the gym, look around, and there’s a good chance not a single bench will be open.

National Bench Press Day. Every day.

For many years now, bench press has been considered by many to be the most important exercise in the gym, so many people put the bench front and center in their training program, before all else.

For the last 30-40 years, the bench press has become the universal lift for bros everywhere to determine out how strong someone truly is. How much do you bench? Do you even lift??

However, as popular as it is, the bench press in its current form is really less than 100 years old.

In fact, until the 1930’s, people did a movement called the “floor press” (which is still done today, and is pictured above), which was similar to a bench press only done from the floor. In fact, at first many people did a movement called a “belly toss” – where the bar would come down and bounce off the belly to help the lifter get it back up.

The three movements – bench press, belly toss, and floor press were all popular until the 40’s and 50’s, when the bench press started to become more and more popular, as bodybuilders liked how the bench worked their pecs better than the other two movements.

As the bench press became more and more popular, powerlifting emerged in the 1970′s and separated itself from weightlifting as a sport of its own. And to this day, the bench press is still a somewhat controversial lift.

How’s that for a history lesson! (Speaking of history, here’s a history rap battle between Thor and Zeus, because LEGO. You’re welcome.)

Why Bench?

superman benches

The bench press is a great movement to have as a part of your strength program, and one move we consider to be a part of the “big 4” basic lifts. Some of the issues coaches have with it (such as a tight chest creating bad posture) don’t come from benching itself, but come from bench being one of the ONLY movements in your program, and can disappear when incorporated as a part of a well-rounded strength program.

The bench press is widely known as a “chest” exercise, however, that’s definitely not all it is.  The bench uses your shoulders, triceps, forearms, lats, and pecs, traps, rhomboids, and pretty much every muscle in your upper body.

However, the bench press doesn’t JUST use your upper body. When you bench properly, you use your lower back, hips, and legs as well. Just like our other main lifts (the squat, deadlift, and overhead press), the bench press, while putting an emphasis on specific muscle groups, is a full body movement.

Think about it – while you’re benching, the rest of your body is not just lying there doing nothing. Your entire body should be working - your shoulders are pinched together and your lats are engaged, while your back, hips and legs are tight, stabilizing your entire body to create a solid base and help you generate drive from the round.

Plus, if you find yourself in Batman’s shoes trapped under a log, you’ll be glad you can bench.  Also, give Batman his shoes back; he needs them to save Gotham.

How to bench press: The Setup


Note: Today we are going over the basics of how to bench press the best way for a general strength program. There are many different variations of bench press used by both powerlifters and bodybuilders.

We believe this is the best (and safest) method for overall strength. Just because you see someone benching a ridiculous amount of weight at the gym does not mean they are using proper or safe form. They could be an advanced athlete who is making compromises to their form (knowingly or unknowingly) in order to bench higher numbers.

What do you need?

  1. A weight bench with uprights.
  2. Barbell – the standard weight is 45 lbs, but this may be too heavy to start. No matter how strong you are, I recommend starting with a PVC pipe or broomstick to learn proper form.
  3. Spotter – once the weight gets heavy (we will discuss options later in case you just don’t have someone else to spot you)

The Set Up


There are many different ways to set up for a bench press – as you’ll see by watching any powerlifting competition, or even by spending just 20 minutes in your local gym. Some people get on the bench and curl themselves under the bar, some enter the bench from the back and slide in under the bar, and others just lie down and then get tight.

The key here is to set up in a way that helps you get your body tight and ready for the lift. Before you begin, it might be a good idea to roll the bar forward on the uprights, as this is where you will be lifting it off from. Having the bar in the same spot in the uprights will help you with a standard set up that is the same every time.

  1. Squeeze your shoulder blades together (as if you were trying to hold a pencil between them), press your lats into the bench, and raise your chest up slightly towards the bar.
  2. While you’re doing this, squeeze your butt and plant your feet into the ground. Your entire foot (heels included) should be on the ground, on either side of the bench.
  3. Keep your entire body tight. The raising of your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulders together, squeezing your butt, and driving your heels into the ground will create a tight arch in your back. (more on this later). Imagine you are a superhero and pretend you are sucking all the energy out of the room and absorbing it. As you the bar descends, absorb that energy and get ready to explode upward with the bar.
  4. Your shins should be vertical to underneath you. If they are out in front of you, your feet are too far forward and you won’t be able to generate proper drive.

When you look up, your eyes should be just north of the bottom of the bar – you should see the bar directly above your eyes. Your head, upper back, and butt should never leave the bench.

Note: Some people (including myself) find it easier to get tight in their upper back if they put their feet up on the bench, grab the bar, get tight in their upper back, and then place their feet on either side of the bench one at a time. This is just another method and something you can try out after you get the hang of the bench!

Next, take your arms and put them straight up, and grab the bar. Your grip should be with your thumbs around the bar. A thumbless grip is not to be used on the bench press, as it is unsafe, and often nicknamed the “suicide grip,” as it is far too easy for the bar to fall off of your hands and land on your body (warning: hard to watch).

When you hold the bar, it should be in the heel of the palm (the same spot in your hands as for the overhead press.) Your wrists will not be extended, and your forearms are under your wrists, forming a solid line of support.  If you hold the bar in the upper half of your hand or the fingertips, not only are you not in a strong position, but you could hurt your wrists.



Bring the bar (or, preferably PVC as we are just learning) down to your chest. At your chest, the width of your grip should make your forearms straight up and down (as perpendicular to the floor as you can). Get a friend to help you (as you won’t be able to see on your own), or tape yourself so you can see. Don’t stress too much about getting your forearms 100% perfectly vertical.

Once you get comfortable with the movement, you may change the width of your grip, as there is wiggle room for personal preference, but this is a great place to start.  Also, keep in mind that your grip may seem way wider or narrower than your friends based on the width of your shoulders. This is normal!


A wider grip is more pec-focused, and a narrower grip is more tricep focused. However, this grip, with your forearms vertical, is the most well-rounded and safest version for overall strength. You will see powerlifters use a super wide grip because it reduces the range of motion and therefore allows them to lift more weight in competition.

However, more weight does not always mean stronger, and our goal today is safety and strength!

Keep Tight and Build an Arch

man benching

If you’ve set up correctly, your entire body should be tight. Think of your body as one single unit, not single muscle groups. Drive your feet into the ground, tighten your entire lower body and core, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and squeeze the bar. You should feel like one solid, single unit.

When you tighten your body, your neck, upper back, and butt should be on the bench (and your feet and heels on the ground). When you drive your heels through the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and raise your chest to the bar, it will form a small arch in your back – this is natural and what we’re aiming for.

You don’t want to push your lower back into the bench to create a “flat back,” or try to not create an arch. If you have heard people talking about not using an arch in the bench press, they are most likely referring to the extreme arch used by many powerlifters.

That is not what we are going for here – that is a way to help you lift more weight by reducing the range of motion, and is only safe to look into when you have been benching for a long time and really know what you are doing. For overall strength, we recommend to bench with a full range of motion instead of trying to reduce it.

Now, feel how tight your body is? It is very important that you keep this tightness throughout the entire movement.

Okay, I’m ready! Can we bench already?

Now that we are set up, and we have our hands around the bar, we want to think about not letting our elbows flare out, and having them tucked in.

One way to do this is that when you grab onto the bar, think about trying to bend it in half upwards towards the sky. This “upward bending” cue will also help you engage your lats, which don’t actually help you with the press, but do help you keep your body tighter.

Now, unrack the bar and position the bar directly above your shoulders (without losing tightness – keep squeezing your shoulder blades together!).  Continue to look up at the ceiling, unlock your elbows and lower the bar to your chest. Don’t just drop the bar to your chest – you want to pull it down towards you with control.

At the bottom of the movement, you want the bar to touch a few inches below your clavicles. If it’s up by your throat or on your stomach, it’s in the wrong position.


Once the bar touches your chest, press up to put the bar back in its starting position.

Note that unlike the deadlift and squat, that this bar movement will not be in a straight up and down motion. Because of our anatomy, the bar will follow a slightly curved path down, and then follow the same path back up.

While pressing, remember to keep your elbows tucked in, and don’t let them flare out. Think about squeezing so that your biceps touch the side of your chest (though you wont be close enough to have this happen), or try to get your elbows under the bar.  You don’t want to be too tucked though – the goal is about a 45 degree angle (see photo below in common faults).

As you press, the same parts of your body that were touching the bench before should still be touching the bench, and your feet should still be on the floor. Don’t let any of them (the most common is your butt) come off the bench. To help prevent your butt from coming off of the bench, instead of pushing up when you drive with your heels, think of pushing up and back, towards the front of the bench (where your head is).

To re-rack the bar, move the bar backwards to the uprights and touch them with the bar, and then let go of the bar. Don’t look at the racks, you know that they are there! For beginners, it’s great to have a friend help you guide the bar back to the right position in the rack.

Common Faults


  • Not keeping body tight – As soon as you lose tightness, you have the potential for missing the rep. Make sure even when you are warming up and the weight is light, that you keep your entire body tight.
  • Butt coming up – make sure your butt stays on the bench at all times! It’s easy to let it come up off the bench once the weight gets heavy and you really start driving through your heels. Instead of thinking about driving upwards through your heels, think about driving up and backwards. If you’re struggling with your butt coming up, either try putting plates under your feet or re-evaluating your foot position (or lower the weight).
  • Bouncing off your chest – when you come to the bottom part of the lift, don’t bounce! Lower the bar to slightly graze your shirt, and then press.
  • Half reps – One of the most common faults I have seen in the gym! Make sure you are hitting full range of motion every single rep (down to chest!).
  • Wrong starting, middle, and ending positions (pictured below) – we’ve learned in the past that a vertical line is the most efficient way to move a bar, but with the bench press, the safest is to move the bar at a slight curve. The bar will start and end above your shoulders, but the middle point of the bar will be below your clavicles. If your middle position is above your shoulders, in a vertical line, your middle position is too high.

starting ending



Spotting is a very important part of bench pressing - not only having someone spot you, but having you spot other people. It can be extremely dangerous to bench press alone.

A spotter’s purpose is to ensure the safety of the lifter – not to help the lifter with reps. The spotter always watches every rep while staying out of the way.  The only thing they may help with is giving you a lift off, but after that, it is all you!

*A lift off is when you help the lifter take the bar out of the rack, and then let go of it when it is in the correct starting position.

You don’t need a spotter for your warm up sets, but everyone should have one for their work sets.

How do you ask someone to spot you? “Hey, will you spot me real quick?” usually works (it’s really that simple!). I’ve never had anyone turn me down.

If you’re always at the gym at the same time as someone else, make friends and spot each other. That way you’re not always nervous asking someone random to spot you.

If someone asks you to spot them, always ask how many reps they are going for, if they want a lift off, and how they would like to be spotted. Some people don’t want you to touch the bar unless they tell you to; others want you to help them guide the bar up if they start to fail, and others want you to take the bar immediately if they fail the rep.  Some want a lift off, and some don’t.

When you ask someone else to spot you, they will probably ask you the same questions!

Frequently Asked Questions

“I see people with their feet up on the bench – what’s going on?”


This isn’t technically correct – but it’s really a completely different movement than your standard bench press. It eliminates the use of the lower body in the movement, and can be good for people with injuries or as an assistance exercise. I’ve seen it the most in bodybuilding routines. We recommend you stick to benching like a superhero until you master the movement.

“What if I don’t have a spotter?”

If you don’t have a spotter, you can use the power rack to bench.

Just set the pins at a level just barely below your chest, so if you miss a rep you can get out.

If you don’t have a power rack, and absolutely don’t have a spotter - you can either not put clips on the bar, and then let the weight slide off one side at a time, or do the “Roll of shame,” where you roll the bar down your body, sit up, and pick up the bar. However, both of these methods are dangerous and you’re risking injury by doing them. Please do not bench press alone – especially when just starting out. Even if the weight seems light, it’s very possible to injure yourself.


The best thing you can do is to ask someone at the gym to spot you. There’s nothing weird about it all – in fact, it’s normal and expected! If that’s not an option, consider dumbbell presses or another chest exercise until you can find a spotter.

“If the bench is one of the ‘big 4′, why do some people not bench press?”

First of all, leave, T-Rex alone. Second, while the bench press is a great way to build strength, but out of the big 4, it is the lift that has the most alternatives available. While it’s hard to replace a heavy deadlift, you can easily replace bench press with pushup and dip variations and continuously get stronger with just your own bodyweight for a very long time. I personally keep bench in my program because I enjoy it, but also because it’s a competed lift in powerlifting. Steve, however, has chosen to not bench press and replaces it with bodyweight variations of pushups and a lot of gymnastics ring work.

“Okay, I get it! What do I do now?”

Incorporating bench into your program is easy. It’s found in Starting Strength, Stronglifts, as well as the Nerd Fitness Academy workouts.  A great place to start is to add it in, once a week, and do 5 sets of 5 reps each (after warmups).

So that’s all there is to it! Next time you are in the gym, give it a shot! Start with just the bar, and add weight each time when you hit your weights. Just don’t forget to have a spotter!

So, what kind of benching questions do you have for us!?


Don’t forget to check out our other articles in the Strength 101 Series!

PS  - Today’s Rebel Hero of the day: Ridiculously cute Baby Gainsdalf rocking one of the new NF onesies!


Want to be the next Rebel hero? Send a photo of you rocking your nerd fitness gear to contact @


photo source: leg0fenris: legos, Alexander Danling: Benches, Christian Hernandez: Superman

]]> 12
How to Make Paleo Beef Stew Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:35:44 +0000

This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Hey Rebels! It’s been a while since we sat around the slow cooker and told harrowing tales of brave knights and powerful wizards.

(What? Do you not do that when you use a crock pot?!)

I think it’s just about time we had another slow cooking adventure, don’t you? The weather’s getting pretty chilly, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, so a low-maintenance beef stew will do just the trick.

NINTENDO64--Legend of Zelda The  Ocarina of Time_Jan22 17_36_17Coming home to a ready-to-eat dinner is one of the best feelings (and smells) in the world, like finding a treasure chest in a dark, dingy dungeon.

This recipe comes with two choose your own adventure options.

  1. The first is a super easy chop, set, and forget recipe that takes about 15 minutes of active cooking time.
  2. The second option is a little more complex and takes about 25 minutes active cooking time.

Both recipes make an awesomely delicious crock of beef stew that will warm the weariest of warriors from the inside out. Plus, the recipe makes a decent amount of food so you can feed a group of people, yourself for several days, or you can freeze and warm it as needed!

Let’s get cookin’!


A quick note before we dig into this recipe.

This might look like a lot of ingredients, but don’t get overwhelmed! This is a Level 1 recipe! 

The longest/most difficult part of the recipe is going to be gathering all your ingredients, I promise! All we’re doing is chopping them and tossing them into a crock pot. Boom. Done. Easy peasy!


2 Sweet potatoes

4 Carrots

1 lb (.45 Kg) stew beef – This comes in packages pictured above. They packages will be labeled as “lean stew beef” or “extra lean beef stew meat.” This is pretty much meat that’s already chopped up into squares for us. Yay!

10 – 12 Mushrooms - If you can buy mushrooms in bulk where you shop, that’s best option for freshness. If you have to buy a pre-packaged bunch, no sweat! Just make sure the ‘shrooms don’t look slimy or smell weird/fishy. (It’s okay to be “that guy” in the grocery store who smells all your food!) If you hate mushrooms, omit this entirely!

1 Yellow onion – The type of onion doesn’t matter here. Buy your favorite! My favorite type of onion is whichever one is on sale at the time.

1 Box (32 oz or .95 L) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock – All types of stock are fine for this recipe. Legend has it that chicken stock gives stews the best flavor. Keep it simple, but be sure to read the labels and get one that doesn’t contain MSG or any weird chemicals in it.

2 Cups (236 ml) water – to cover the veggies in the pot with liquid

3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste – This is most easily found in little cans, but it’s also sold in jars or tubes.

1 Tbsp (15 ml) dry thyme – Dried spices are totally cool, people!

6 Cloves or 1.5 tsp (7 ml) pre-minced garlic - Purists will tell you that pre-chopped garlic is a sin, but my mom bought some in bulk and gave me a ton, so that’s what I’ll be using! (Hi mom! Thanks for the garlic!)

2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil or ghee

Salt & pepper to taste - You may want to salt your stew AFTER it’s cooked and you’ve tasted it. Some store bought broths are more salty than others.


3 Tbsp (45 ml) worchestershire sauce – I was lucky enough to find one that is organic and low sugar!

3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut aminos – An alternative to soy sauce that can add some interesting flavors.

1/8 Cup (30 ml) arrow root powder – if you want to thicken your stew. The recipe without arrow root powder has a pretty light broth. I’m cool with it.

1/2 Cup (118 ml) red wine – This will add some more flavor to your stew, but it will also make it not paleo. It’s your call and your stew. The power is YOURS!


  • Knife – for choppin’
  • Cutting board – for choppin’
  • Crock pot – for cookin’ (Don’t have one? Here’s a great option!)
  • Spoons and cups – for measurin’
  • A spoon – for mixin’
  • Frying pan & spatula – optional for the brown’ step


 1. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and the carrots.



2. Chop the carrots into medallions and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch – 1 inch cubes. Bigger is better when cooking veggies in the slow cooker. The bigger they are, the longer they take to cook, and since you’re cooking this stew for 8-10 hours, that’s a GOOD thing!



3. Dice your onion. (Refer to the shepherd’s pie post for instructions!)


4. Chop all of your mushrooms in half with the skill of a samurai.


Choose your own adventure!

If you have a limited amount of time or limited patience for cooking, skip to step 10.

Howevah! If you have more time and want to add some depth of flavor to this dish, proceed directly below to step 5.

5. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Oils with high smoke points will work best as you want your pan to be pretty darn hot to sear the meat. Ghee, duck fat, or light/refined olive oil are decent Paleo options. Refer to the list in the smoke point link for even more choices!


6. When the oil is hot, place your beef in the pan and let it sear (brown) on each side for 3-4 minutes. We don’t want it to cook all the way through. We just want it to brown on the outside. Why do we do this? That browning on the meat is something called a Maillard reaction. It adds depth of flavor and deliciousness to your dish.

When the meat has browned, transfer it to your slow cooker.


7. Next, we’ll sear the carrots and onions. Let the pan heat up again with some oil in it. Add the carrots and onions to the pan and let them brown for a couple of minutes. Stir them a couple of times so that they brown sufficiently on all sides.

If you are impatient and don’t let the pan heat up enough before throwing on your veggies, they may look like the below picture. So, let the pan heat up enough first to get that nice sear!


8. Now throw your seared veggies in the crock pot with the beef.

9. Take your pan off the heat. Pour 1/2 cup of your broth/stock into the warm pan and use a spatula or whisk to mix it around. This is called deglazing the pan (the bits of flavor that stuck to the pan when you were searing your meat and veggies is called “fond”). This will steam a lot, but don’t worry about it. Scrape all that stuff from the bottom of the pan. That’s the flavor. Get it.

Once you feel like you’ve gotten the bulk of the stuff suspended in the liquid, pour that liquid into the slow cooker along with everything else.


10. Add the mushrooms and sweet potatoes to the crock pot.

11. Now pour the remaining stock from the box into your slow cooker.


12. Add the tomato paste and thyme.


13. Add a couple more cups of water to cover the veggies and mix everything up well.

14. Place the lid on the slow cooker, set on low, and cook 8-10 hours! Your house will fill with irresistible mouthwatering smells as this cooks!


Set and forget!


Someone recently told me that they didn’t believe crock pot or slow cooking counts as real cooking.

I DEFINITELY disagree. Slow cooker recipes are some of my absolute favorites. They make incredibly tasty dishes with very little work. Plus, you have so many options to customize your meal. Here are just a few ways to customize this meal:

  • If you want to add more veggies to your stew, consider other hearty root vegetables like rutabagas and turnips – or even celery!
  • Love spinach, leafy greens, peas, or other veggies? Add them to the stew too! Just wait until it’s about half way done before throwing these in the pot. This will keep them from getting too soft and mushy. These types of veggies aren’t as sturdy and won’t stand up to slow cooking for long periods of time very well.
  • Are you vegetarian? To make a hearty vegetarian stew, use vegetable stock instead of beef or chicken, and more veggies and maybe even a can of diced tomatoes.

Depending on the size of your crock pot, they can make a TON of food for the week! As long as you are willing to plan ahead and have the patience to wait a few hours for your meal, slow cooking can be super rewarding. And it is TOTALLY cooking!

So, what are your favorite stew/soup ingredients?

Have you tried crock pot cooking? How do you feel about it? 

Beef stew is the last recipe of the year for Nerd Fitness! What progress have you made in your cooking this year?

Are you looking forward to improving your skills in 2015? Share your triumphs and new goals in the comments!

- Noel

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


Photos by: Ocarina of time:


Paleo Beef Stew
Recipe type: Lunch/Dinner
A hearty beef stew that will warm the weariest of warriors!
  • 2 Sweet potatoes
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 lb (.45 Kg) stew beef
  • 10 - 12 Mushrooms
  • 1 Yellow onion
  • 1 Box (32 oz or .95 L) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • 2 Cups (236 ml) water
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) dry thyme
  • 6 Cloves or 1.5 tsp (7 ml) pre-minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) refined olive oil or ghee
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional additions:
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) worchestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut aminos
  • ⅛ Cup (30 ml) arrow root powder
  • ½ Cup (118 ml) red wine
  1. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and the carrots.
  2. Chop the carrots into medallions and cut the sweet potatoes into ½ inch - 1 inch cubes.
  3. Dice your onion.
  4. Chop all of your mushrooms in half with the skill of a samurai.
  5. Choose your own adventure. For a level 1 recipe, skip to step 10. For a leveled up recipe, continue to step 5: Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  6. When the oil is hot, place your beef in the pan and let it sear (brown) on each side for 3-4 minutes. When the meat has browned, transfer it to your slow cooker.
  7. Next, we'll sear the carrots and onions. Let the pan heat up again with some oil in it. Add the carrots and onions to the pan and let them brown for a couple of minutes.
  8. Now throw your seared veggies in the crock pot with the beef.
  9. Take your pan off the heat. Pour ½ cup of your broth/stock into the warm pan and use a spatula or whisk to mix it around. Once you feel like you've gotten the bulk of the stuff suspended in the liquid, pour that liquid into the slow cooker along with everything else.
  10. Add the mushrooms and sweet potatoes to the crock pot.
  11. Now pour the remaining stock from the box into your slow cooker.
  12. Add the tomato paste and thyme.
  13. Add a couple more cups of water to cover the veggies and mix everything up well.
  14. Place the lid on the slow cooker, set on low, and cook 8-10 hours!
Shopping list:
2 Sweet potatoes
4 Carrots
1 lb (.45 Kg) stew beef
10 - 12 Mushrooms
1 Yellow onion
1 Box (32 oz or .95 L) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
1 small can tomato paste
dried thyme (find it in the aisle with the spices)
1 head garlic
Olive oil or ghee

Optional ingredients:
Worcestershire sauce
coconut aminos
red wine
arrow root power

]]> 47
Is Fruit Healthy For You? Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:36:16 +0000 Seriously, what’s the deal with fruit?

It’s gotta be healthy. It’s natural, came out of the ground, off a vine, or fell out of a tree…which means Joe Caveman would have eaten them! But…it’s also often loaded with sugar. And sugar is bad news bears.

So is fruit good for me? Bad for me? Somewhere in between? And is juice good? Because I like juice! 

Welp, the answer is….it depends.

Today we’re going to dig into the question “is fruit healthy?” give you the Nerd Fitness take. Plus, a video of a cat getting his head stuck in a box. You’re welcome. 

Is Fruit Healthy?


As you probably know already, we’re fans of the Paleo Diet around here at Nerd Fitness. In fact, our Nerd Fitness diet and leveling system in the NF Academy is built upon many of the same principles.

On the Paleo Diet, you’re told you can eat as much as you want of certain approved foods and don’t have to worry about calories or portion sizes (which is the reason we are fans of it: simple, no calorie counting, and it removes the “I’ll just eat one” temptation).

On top of that, fruits and vegetables certainly qualify as naturally existing plant-based foods that are packed full of key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more.

However, fruits are indeed composed of quite a bit of sugar, which we all know is worse than Darth Vader. Now, I could go into the science of sugar, sugar composition, and which percentages make up each fruit…but I’m sure you just want to know the answer to the question “CAN I HAZ FRUIT?”

So let me go over a quick rundown and then we’ll get to the answer.

Depending on the fruit, it contains a certain combination of each of the following types of sugar:

  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose (A combination of Fructose and Glucose)

Although we don’t have a perfectly painted picture (RIP Bob), most agree that the combination of sugar within naturally growing fruit affects your body differently than say, high-fructose corn syrup or straight table sugar.

A big part of the reason why fruit sugar is less effective than unhealthy sugar is that it’s usually accompanied by fiber, which helps our bodies slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

So, although many fruits do contain quite a bit of sugar, they’re also loaded TONS of other good stuff that we love. I eat fruit for a delicious and healthy snack (apples and almond butter for the win!), or to give me some energy before a workout.

Long story short: we like fruit, and think that it can be part of your healthy meals each day.

But there is a caveat…


We love fruit…in moderation.

When somebody is transitioning from a very unhealthy diet full of lots of calories and sugar to a primarily protein and plant based diet, it’s very easy to go overboard when sugar is no longer a primary food group. And hey, we’d rather you eat lots of fruit than lots of candy and soda. No question about it.

But since our bodies can get addicted to sugar so easily, we want to be careful.  Where does one look when they want sugar but can’t eat candy? Fruit! Lots of it. It can still hit that pleasure center in our brain that says, “YAY SUGAR.”Apple Stormtroopers

We have talked with with quite a few members of the NF Community who have been frustrated with their lack of weight loss, only to discover that they were eating 1,000 + calories each day of fruit!

As we pointed out here in our article on “Is a calorie just a calorie?” – burning more calories than you consume each day is the most important part of weight loss. Generally, the Paleo Diet helps people achieve this by packing you full of filling, low calorie foods (like chicken and broccoli).

Since fruit has a ton of sugar, we have to be careful about our tendency to seek more and more. It is, after all, considered by some to be more addictive than some drugs. Yikes.

So, eat fruit in moderation. And don’t eat too much Fruit of the Loom either. That’s weird.

What about Dried Fruit and fruit juice?


“Fruit is healthy. I like juice. Therefore fruit juice must be healthy!…right?”

Unfortunately, most fruit juice (Apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, etc.) might as well be labeled “sugar water.” When the fruit is squeezed to make juice, you get all of the sugar from MANY fruits and none of the fiber.  Suck!

Throw in some preservatives, extra sugar for flavor, and a few other ingredients and you have yourself a “healthy juice drink made with real fruit!”

Here is a typical amount of sugar for four popular fruit juices, all in the name of ‘healthy’! I’m sure they’re labeled as such too (and this is assuming you’re only drinking 12 oz):

  • Orange juice - 21g of sugar
  • Apple juice - 28g of sugar
  • Cranberry juice – 37g of sugar
  • Grape juice - 38g of sugar

For reference, a 12 oz can of Coke has 40g of sugar. So, if you’re trying to be healthy, fruit juice is a no-no. If you want to squeeze your own OJ occasionally, go for it…just keep it in moderation. Fruit squeezed without the fiber is just sugar water…

And remember: Darth Vader loves cranberry juice cocktail.

Next, avoid “real fruit smoothies” from places like Smoothie King. Those things can have 500+ calories and over 100 grams of sugar. That’s not healthy – it’s a few frozen berries and a boat load of sugar and juice.

Lastly, let’s talk about dried fruit.  Take fruit, dry it. Boom dried fruit! What could possibly be unhealthy about that?”

The issue with dried fruit is that it’s quite easy to eat a crazy amount of it (as it’s dehydrated and takes up way less space in your belly than normal fruit), which can lead to overconsumption of sugar and calories quickly.

For example, a small quarter cup (aka a tiny handful) of raisins has 130 calories, and 30 grams of sugar.

So, although dried fruit contains the healthy vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit and is easy to throw in a bag when traveling, it’s calorically dense and very easy to scarf down by the handful (without putting much of a dent in your appetite).  So, if you snack on them, be aware of your consumption!

To recap:

  • Avoid fruit juice unless you squeeze it yourself.
  • Don’t even think about “real fruit smoothies” from the smoothie store.
  • Consume dried fruit in limited quantities.
  • Darth vader drinks cranberry juice cocktail.

Just tell me what to do!!


Like anything else, Nerd Fitness recommends fresh fruit in moderation.

Except awesomeness. You can have as much of that as you want.

Back to fruit! We recommend eating a healthy combination of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. We think fruit should be a part of that equation too.

Although it’s nearly impossible to overeat celery, lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus…it’s quite possible to overeat fruit. So eat fruit! But eat it in moderation – it should not occupy the biggest portion of your plate at every meal (that should be veggies, even if you don’t like them).

Here’s the lowdown:

If you are healthy, happy, and feel confident in your skin, and you eat fruit….keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working! Victory!

If you are struggling to lose weight and fruit makes up a big part of your diet, consider scaling it back and eating more fat/protein/vegetables instead.

If your goal is weight loss: Eat dried fruit rarely, canned fruit even less often, and fruit juice less than that.  Eat real fruit in moderation.

Be smart, enjoy your fruit, and stay mindful as you eat.

Let’s hear your fruit stories! Do you have a favorite fruit snack (Gushers don’t count), or is fruit something you’re now realizing you eat WAYY too much of?


PS: Have you been to the Nerd Fitness store lately? We’ve added hoodies, new tank tops, flags, even little rebel onesies (wait til you see me modeling that one…)

photo source: Andreas: Storm Trooper Apple, alasam: fruit plate, JD Hancock: Fruit Plate, Nomadic Lass: Banana, Theophilos Papadopoulos: Mandarin

]]> 47
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:38:27 +0000
I have a confession to make.

It’s now been 6 years and 600+ published articles here on Nerd Fitness. I’ve spent the past twelve years of my life obsessed with health and fitness, muscle building and fat loss, and have even made it my sole life’s focus for the past three years.

But here’s the truth: I don’t have this all figured out.

Ok, true, I make my living helping people figure out how to live better lives.

But anyone who tells you they have figured out all of life is full of it.

Nobody has it figured out, not really. We’re all just working together with others and experimenting to figure out what we can, as we go.

And that’s awesome.

That’s what has lead me down a path in life I’m damn proud of, and why I’m proud to be a small part of a rapidly expanding community that focuses on the same thing.

This isn’t just a grand theory. For me, finally accepting that, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” was the first step to actually achieving my goals.

Here’s why it can be for you too.

My Personal Journey

Steve Ostrich

Over the years focused on health and fitness and running this site, I’ve learned quite a bit. Often I realized I needed to find a new path to accomplish my goals:

I used to think that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and that six meals a day stoked our ‘metabolic fire’ (whatever that means), until I stopped eating it and got healthier than ever.

I used to dutifully eat my heart healthy whole grains keep my carb content high, until I experimented with mostly vegetables and protein and dropped a significant amount of body fat quickly.

I used to train individual body parts and used machines often to get big like bodybuilders (which never worked), until I started focusing on getting strong with a few basic movements.

I used to believe that I was fragile, that we were genetically predisposed to certain paths, and our destinies were laid out…until I helped hundreds of people who told their genes to go to hell and had tremendous transformations. Heck, I’m even feeling antifragile these days.

I used to think educating people more and more was the solution to helping them get fit: “If I could just TELL them to exercise more and eat healthier, we could get healthier”…until I learned that the psychological aspect of health and fitness are so much more important.

Every day, I stumble across a new study, story, or article that changes the way I think. Who I am now is DRASTICALLY different than who I was six years ago…but it took lots of learning, lots of questioning of conventional wisdom (my OWN beliefs at the time), and lots of experimenting to find the right path.

As I said before, I don’t have all the answers, and I may not know the perfect path for you specifically to get healthier and happier. “I AM NOT A FITNESS EXPERT” has been on our about page since Day 1 of running the site.

I’m a normal guy like you, trying to figure it out…I just love learning and sharing what I’ve discovered.

Even after I’ve been doing this for twenty, thirty, even fifty years, I want to maintain this attitude – that learning is never finished and there always might be a better way of doing things. We should ALWAYS be students.

If you read something on Nerd Fitness, it’s because it’s something that has worked for me or has helped the people of the community.

If I recommend a particular type of diet or workout strategy, it’s because I have found through my research, experimentation, and experience working with other Rebels that these strategies have the greatest chance of helping the greatest number of Rebels reach their goal.

So, today rather than share with you a tactic that I’ve used to get healthy, I’m going to share with you the step-by-step plan to taking control of your own fitness plan. And it starts with a modest concession:

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Be humble, get fit

this way, that way

Once you have accepted the possibility that you are eating the wrong things or doing the wrong workouts, it’s time to put this humility to work.

Here’s the path I’ve used to improve my life and the lives of a few hundred thousand nerds:

1) Accept that we’re all different: Just because a tactic has worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for me: everybody has different genetics, lifestyles, jobs, and obligations. Following the Hugh Jackman workout will not turn me into Hugh Jackman, just as following the Scarlett Johansson Workout will not turn me into Scarlett Johansson. Which is a shame.

Instead, I question everything (which is a rule of our Rebellion), and I understand that I can’t compare myself to the success or failures of others.

2) Make as many mistakes as possible, but don’t make the same one twice. I can’t tell you how many people I know who continue to do the roller coaster of “run like crazy on a treadmill and diet” until they grow miserable, fall off the wagon, and end up back to square one. Then, they repeat the exact same attempt, in the exact same way, months later and have the same results.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Failing is awesome! Scientists fail at proving or disproving hypotheses all the time…but then they move onto trying a new experiment.

Fail frequently, learn from it, and fail differently. I stubbornly kept my head down on calorie counting and a progressive strength training program for years until I finally asked for help. Then I saw more success than I had in the previous six years. I’m now setting PRs weekly, and in better shape than I have ever been.

3) Surround myself with other curious people.  My favorite part of Nerd Fitness has to be our community. Nothing inspires me more than seeing a community full of curious people from all walks of life, sharing their successes and struggles in the name of helping the community be better as a whole.

This is an important part of how I encourage people to build a Jedi Order around them:

  • Yoda: Somebody who is further along your path than you, who has succeeded in a way you want to succeed.
  • Fellow Jedi: Somebody who is in the same spot as you, struggling with the same things, and is willing to bounce ideas off of you and offer up their own suggestions and results.
  • Padawan: Somebody who is behind you and wants to be where you are. No matter how out of shape or overweight you are, I bet there is somebody farther behind who is in need of a shoulder. You don’t need to be an expert, just somebody who has ‘been there before’ and can offer up support and advice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Don’t take Nerd Fitness as gospel. Rather, understand that the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is community that encourages you to question everything and keep an open mind, and then take action and find out what works for you.

We’re all figuring it out


We’re all figuring it out.

If you’re trying to get healthy and struggle with which tactic or technique is the best one for you, I know how you feel.

If you’re a new parent and worry you don’t know the best way to raise your child, it’s okay. In fact, it’s probably a good sign!

We have a community of 240,000 and a message board community of 30,000 that can’t wait to hear from you: Yodas to share their stories and advice, fellow Jedi to fight alongside, and Padawans who desperately want to hear how you got to where you are.

Learning what you can from wherever you can, make mistakes and adapt, and share your results with people who line up with your philosophy.

So, thanks for listening to this student of fitness.  Thanks for letting me make mistakes and fail. Thanks for not blindly following my words but rather experimenting and see if they work for you. Thanks for sharing your results with others, in the name of making this world better.

What’s one strategy you’ve had in the past that you now think about differently?

Thanks for being here :)



photo source: Ian Sane: Street Confused, Lori Greig: This Way, That Way

]]> 28
Fallen Off the Wagon? Today is National Respawn Day. Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:20:50 +0000 Be honest, you probably stuffed your face (multiple times!) over the past week.  Or maybe it’s been weeks and weeks of falling off the health wagon.

The holidays are often a perfect storm of chaos that can knock off us our footing when it comes to getting fit.

Maybe you made a declaration to friends earlier this year that THIS TIME was going to be different, and you’re afraid to tell them that you’re gonna try again.

Maybe you posted on the Nerd Fitness message boards with all the motivation in the world, and you’re afraid to come back and say that you have to start back at square one.

Maybe you REALLY thought this last try was going to be different, and now you feel like a loser because you can’t seem to get it together.

Whatever happened, you might be feeling down and out. If it’s not you, it might be a friend of yours who also started out strong, fell by the wayside, and doesn’t know how to start back up again.

Welp, you’re in luck.

Because TODAY is National Respawn Day.

Everybody waits for an arbitrary date in the future (specifically January 1st).

F*** that! Do you know how much you can accomplish in 30 days!? Everything! Enough to set yourself up for permanent success.

It’s time to come back to life!

What’s A Respawn?

Halo Spawn

Sometimes, shit happens.

In video games, we die when facing a particularly tough bad guy or challenge, and so we respawn – coming back to life and rejoining the battle from just a short distance away.

When we hit a terrible shot in golf when playing amongst friends, we shake it off, make fun of ourselves, and use a ‘mulligan’ to hit another one.

But in life, when we try to get fit and struggle…we call ourselves losers and give up. We’re ashamed that we tried and failed.

Hmmmm, one of these things is not like the other.

Why do we take the bumps in the road on the path to a leveled up life personally? Why do we think these challenges are a reflection on who we are?

Today we’re going we’re no longer afraid to admit to our friends that we need to respawn. It’s time to stop looking at our “failure” to get healthy as a personal reflection on who we are as a person, and instead look at it for what it is: a temporary game over; an opportunity to learn, respawn, and try again.

How do you defeat the final boss in a video game? As any Dark Souls 2 player will attest, by dying, A LOT. Dying starts a process of learning what doesn’t work, and what does. Then you slowly you adjust your strategy until you get close.

And then maybe you die again, and want throw your controller against the wall. But you don’t…because you know less than another half dozen tries will get you to victory. And… on the 137th attempt, you finally succeed, and you drop a loud “F*** YEAH!”… scaring the crap out of your cat.

Here’s the truth: Everyone fails! A LOT. At everything. The difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that some people, full of grit, will respawn repeatedly. Others throw the controller, cross their arms, and declare “this game is dumb.”

Welp, as Rocky tells his son in Rocky XXXVII (I think that’s how many there are now): “it ain’t about how hard you can hit…it’s about how hard you can GET hit and keep moving forward”:

Rocky Video

Let’s find our respawn point in real life.

The Respawn Point


Hopefully by now you’re part of the Nerd Fitness message boards - a place full of about 30,000 of the most supportive amazing people you’ll ever meet.

They want you to succeed and they want you to come back and give it another shot.

So we created a section of the boards called the Respawn Point. Think of it as a ‘do-over’, mulligan section if you will. (HUGE credit to Academy Member and Rebel Retrho who came to us with this idea, and inspired this very article. Nailed it.)

PLEASE start a thread in there and vent to your heart’s content. Maybe life got busy; maybe you got a new boyfriend or girlfriend and stopped exercising; maybe you lost your job and drowned yourself in booze or WOW for a month.

Whatever it is…Jackson 5 said it best – we want you back. We want you to resurrect at the respawn point…and freaking get back in the fight! Rez yourself and get back in there.

Rezzing and coming back to life isn’t a moment to come back with your shoulders slumped and tail between your legs. It’s not a time for self-pity, guilt, or self-loathing…it’s a time to celebrate. This is the most exciting part of the movie/book – this is the part where the audience waits in anticipation: “wait, he’s going to fight!”

Plus, let’s be honest, the mythical phoenix is one of the coolest animals ever.

So, we want you to start a thread, tell us that what went wrong, and then tell us that you’re ready to respawn and give it another shot. There will be no judgment, no opinions, no sadness….only cheers from the Rebel faithful for getting back in the fight.

What happened happened, and now it’s time to cast a “phoenix down,” put on your hard hat and get back to work.

Not only that, but I’m gonna sweeten the pot too: For every rebel that successfully rezzes and tells us that they’re getting back in the fight, Nerd Fitness is going to donate a freaking X-Wing to the Rebel Alliance.

Okay, so in lieu of X-wings not being fully operational yet, we’ll donate $2 per Rez (up to $2,000) to Child’s Play Charity which helps provide entertainment to sick kids in hospitals.

Yeah, that’s right. All you have to do is commit to getting back on the horse, and you’ll have an army of 30,000 ready to cheer you on. Plus, you have to do it because it’s for a great cause. Bribery FTW!

All I ask is that after you respawn, you give yourself the best possible chance to win:

  • Be Selfish: MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY THE NEXT TWO WEEKS. Leave work early to get to the gym. Go to bed instead of going out drinking with friends. Say no to another game of Call of Duty so you can prepare dinner.
  • Use buffs if you have to. Recruit friends to help, or use a strategy guide.
  • Attack the problem differently. Don’t do the same thing and expect different results. If the treadmill and starving yourself didn’t work, STOP IT! Try a new technique or tactic this time!

Rez a friend


“But Steve, I’m still rockin and rollin, like a maxed out Wizard. How can I help?”

I want you to rez a friend. 

If you have a friend (or know a member on the NF message boards) that has dropped off the face of the earth, pass this message along to them, and invite them to jump back in. Bring them back to life, and celebrate the fact that they’re gonna give it another chance.

It’s no big deal to drop a rez in any RPG and get your friends back up for the fight. Life is a game, and it should be no different.

Encourage your friend to try again, to shake off the last effort, and give it another go. Encourage them to start now, instead of digging themselves further into a hole for another month or year before snapping out of the funk; do it now!

After all, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30 days.

Get back in the game

Dark Souls

Do you know what you get done in 30 Days!?

A lot. Which is different from alot. Instead of waiting until January 1st to get started, why not have a freaking KICK-ASS 30 day stretch and hit January 1st with star-power momentum?

In 30 days you can:

  • Get halfway through a PLP challenge, the workout plan that turned me into freaking Wolverine, an antifragile badass.
  • Take a Paleo challenge and see how your body adapts to cutting out sugar/paleo and grains. (Hint: I think your body is gonna like it)
  • Build a new habit! Take a Hard Hat challenge and build a new habit.
  • Work on handstands every day.
  • Commit to finally start eating vegetables.
  • Do something you love, even if you suck at it.
  • Start walking to Mordor. 4 miles a day will have you almost to Bree by the New Year.

If you’re somebody that wants more instruction and is interested in leveling up your life (literally) in your month back, consider checking out The Nerd Fitness Academy.

Pick ONE thing from the list above, and get started. Don’t wait for the new year or some arbitrary date to begin.

Sure, “dying” sucks, but everybody loves a great comeback story. It’s a freaking time to celebrate, and a chance for you to actually say “HELLO BOYS! I’m BAAAACK!”

Except without the, you know, blowing up an alien spaceship thing.

Respawn, and re-engage.

The world needs you. We need you.



photo source: jit: Dark Souls 2, BradleypJohnson: Go, Michael M. F.: Halo, Joi Ito: Kaptah

]]> 45
Struggling to Get Fit? Add Potions Before Your Boss Fight. Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:02:57 +0000 Self improvement can suck.

Getting ourselves to do the things we know we need to do can feel impossible. We know a better life awaits if we can just get ourselves to “stay motivated” and “get focused,” and yet time after time we struggle to stick with anything long term, continually restarting from square one.

We ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with me?” And “Why do I suck? I know what I need to do and I just can’t get myself to do it.”

  • “I know I need to eat better, but after a few days of cooking delicious meals I get busy and somehow end up in the drive-through line at Arby’s.”
  • “I know I should exercise more, and after a kick-ass week at the gym, I find myself half-assing my workouts, not seeing results, and I get demoralized. Wait, how did I end up in the Arby’s line again!?”
  • “I’m in pretty good shape, but trying to level up to an elite level of fitness really just seems like an exercise in frustration. Where’s the closest Arby’s?”

If any of the above sounds like you, then today is for you.

Trying to change in situations like the above can be futile if you’re not adequately prepared. It’s like going into a boss battle with 50% health, crappy armor, and no healing potions.  

Yes, you CAN still win, but the margin for error is miniscule. Why not give yourself the best chance to survive?

Today, we’re going to talk about how to actually conquer the above situations by thinking of these challenges in terms of bosses, battle gear, and buffs. Let’s see how they can help you survive the first encounter with a difficult challenge, instead of a frustrating defeat.

It’s time to start using buffs and upgraded armor in real life too.

Stack Your Inventory.

Health Potions

I am currently in the process of packing on some size and muscle (like a superhero). 

This requires a eating tremendous amount of healthy calories, along with a diligent adherence to a demanding workout plan. Initially I had grand visions of preparing myself tons of healthy meals, hitting all of my workout goals, running Nerd Fitness, and continuing my other nerdy pursuits (gaming, violin, reading, etc.)…ultimately resulting in me looking like Captain America.

Unfortunately, I’ve been fighting this battle off and on for the past decade. Despite this effort, I still don’t look like Steve Rogers.  I always do well for a few weeks, but generally slide slowly back to “pretty good” territory…and I always chalked it up to lack of dedication.

After a heart to heart with myself (it happens a lot when you live alone), I decided to add a critical item to my inventory to help me get through a few key months to get me on track while I sorted out the rest of the chaos in my life.

I gave myself permission to eat out for lunch, every day.

Feel free to let out an audible gasp right now. “BUT STEVE, you write about healthy eating and preparing your own meals and you provide tons of recipes, what gives?!”

Hear me out! What I’ve come to learn is that there’s a perfect plan, and then there’s a realistic plan.

We’d love to all follow the perfect plan and flawlessly defeat the boss (like this guy who perfectly won Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!), but the reality is…life is tough! An imperfect plan we ACTUALLY execute is better than a perfect plan we fail to execute.Tyson

So I added some buffs to my inventory.

At the beginning of the year, I really struggled with preparing all of my own meals; 3200-4000 daily calories of chicken, steak, vegetables, and some sort of carbohydrate source was time consuming. I also practice intermittent fasting, so all of those calories are consumed in an 8 hour window, from noon to 8 pm.  I felt like I was spending a lot of time on food and I wasn’t successfully juggling all the items in my life.

So, I made some key upgrades:

  • Lunch HP potion: After going to the gym, I eat out for lunch, nearly every day. I have three restaurants that I frequent that provide me with a MASSIVE meal full of rice, protein, and vegetables. It’s prepared quickly, relatively inexpensive, and I can get tons of calories into my system without prep or cleanup.
  • Upgraded weapons: After burning out the motor on a few crappy blenders (and taking 10 minutes to blend my powerbomb protein shakes), I finally bought a good blender. It saves me 3-5 minutes a day and makes me far more likely to take the step to make a shake.
  • Improved armor: Although I loved the idea of cooking a delicious stirfry every night, the fact of the matter was that I DIDN’T DO IT. So, I bought a cheap rice cooker. I minimized the steps between Hungry Steve and Well-Fed Steve.


I chose instead to re-prioritize my inventory, and use some of my rupees on these items so that I didn’t have to be AS perfect in my boss battle (my caloric nutrition goals).

Do I plan on eating out for lunch every day for the rest of my life? Negatory! I look forward to the days when I can prepare all of my healthy meals and still get everything else done in my life – I know it’s possible as I’ve done it before. Right now however, this “imperfect plan” is one that I can execute and actually get results with!

And guess what? The past two months have resulted in tremendous strength and size gains.

In any video game, when you are going into a new boss battle, that buff or healing potion can be the difference between life or death. When you attack a new problem (or an advanced tactic) in real life, adjusting priorities can also be the difference between finally building that habit….or yet another crash and burn attempt at getting healthy.

Mercenaries and strategy guides

Strategy guide

In many video games you’re able to hire a character to join you on a boss battle, unlocking certain strategies that can help turn the tide.

Or, you may have used a strategy guide or video walk-through to get past a difficult boss. Some might argue that it’s “cheating” to watch somebody else beat the game before trying it yourself, but it’s still up to you to follow the instructions and execute it properly to win.

In life as in games, we can hire a mercenary or use strategy guides too! Yes, it would be great to just KNOW how to exercise, how to squat properly, or how to create a workout plan, but oftentimes it’s our lack of knowledge (or lack of confidence) that can keep us on the sidelines or struggling to win the battle.

If you’re new to fitness, or you’re stuck in a middle ground and trying to get further ahead, have you considered enlisting the help of a mercenary or finding a strategy guide?

Although it would be GREAT to have a mercenary in our party at all times yelling, prodding, educating, and helping us get results, just having somebody to help for a single session or a single week can be the difference between long term success and long term frustration!

Have you met my friend Adam Baker? For the six years that we’ve known each other Baker has struggled with getting healthy (and he’ll tell you the same thing). He knows what he’s supposed to do, but it’s been very easy for him to slip back into old patterns and habits after a week or two of success.

He continued to attack his problem in the same way every time, the equivalent of going into a boss battle with the same tactic and not catching on to the boss’s patterns.

Baker needed a new strategy, so I recommended that he hire a mercenary and use a strategy guide. For the past month, Baker has been working virtually with somebody that provides him with a specific workout plan to follow and feedback on his progress. Instead of wandering through the gym or not going at all, he feels like he has a strategy guide to follow.

Unsurprisingly, Baker has made consistent progress over the past two months, actually completes his workouts now, and has the confidence to stay on track. 

Will Baker work with a coach forever? I doubt it! Instead, he’s using this opportunity for a few months to learn from a mercenary, to follow the patterns laid out in a strategy guide, so he then has the confidence to attack his current boss battle unassisted.

A win is a win


When you are trying to win a boss battle, all that matters is that you still have one hit point when the boss has none. It might be an ugly fight, you might look back and say “I can’t believe I had to use ten potions to survive that guy.” But it still counts!

This is the whole reason you buy potions! And upgrade your armor! Because it makes the fight easier for you…and can be the difference between victory and throwing your controller against the wall.

Life is no different. Yes, it would be AMAZING if you decided to get in shape, created your own workout plan, cooked three healthy meals every day, went to bed at 9 pm, didn’t drink alcohol, played less video games, and your children were all well-behaved.

But life is life. And it comes down to organizing priorities for success.

  • Baker had a conversation with his wife about finances before committing to hiring a coach for a few months
  • I spent months saving up before buying a great blender, and adjusted my life in other places so that I could afford to eat out for lunch every day.

We’re prioritizing our fitness goals over many other aspects of our lives right now, as that’s the only way we’ve been able to find the momentum to survive the boss fight.

Like diverting power from one conduit to double up the power in another, we’ve shifted our focus, energy, and effort temporarily to put everything into this boss battle.

This works with eating healthy, exercise, and many other aspects of life too. What are some boss battles that you’re currently fighting with 50% health?

Struggling to meditate every day? Use and follow a 2 minuted guided mediation (strategy guide!).

Want to start doing yoga? Sign up for a month of yoga classes to learn the movements so you’re more confident when you do them at home (mercenary!).

Struggling to eat better? Check Craigslist and see if you can find a chef to prepare meals for you at a reasonable cost for a month (inventory upgrade!).

Want to walk more? Grab a fitbit and train your body to get used to walking 10,000 steps every day until you can do it tech-free (armor upgrade!).

Want to learn how to squat and deadlift? Hire a coach for ONE session and have them perfect your squat and deadlift form (mercenary!). Check back with them in a month.

Want to learn to speak a new language? Go to and speak with a native speaker in exchange for teaching them english (improve your group).

Yes, it’s possible, through trial and error and perfect practice to accomplish all of the things above…but it can also be a big struggle!

Don’t be afraid to temporarily use a buff or divert resources to the important stuff for a few months until you have the boss’s patterns memorized so well you can win blindfolded!

Survive and thrive

Health Pot

Nerd Fitness has been a free resource for the past six years and will continue to provide free resources until the eventual robot uprising or zombie apocalypse.

Although we’ve provided you with dozens of free workout plans, recipes, and a free community…we also know how valuable and how things can change when you make a commitment to invest and prioritize your health.

It’s why we have so many great success stories that come out of the Nerd Fitness Academy.  Making a decision to prioritize your health and wellness, and adjusting parts of your life to make success in a boss battle can be the difference between “holy crap I did it” and “how did I backslide so much?”

We have a limited amount of money and time to spend on things in our life. Once we get beyond the basic necessities of existence, every other dollar spent, and every minute spent, is a vote for what’s really important in our lives. When you have an opportunity to win a battle, don’t be afraid to use temporary buffs to make it happen.

Eventually, I plan on eating out at restaurants way less than I do. Baker hopes to get to a point where he doesn’t need a coach to help keep him on track.

However, in the meantime, these ‘investments’ are acting as temporary buffs that allow us to succeed instead of failing. I’d rather win ugly than fail perfectly!

Let’s hear it:

What’s a “boss battle” in your life that you’re struggling with, and what’s one buff or health potion you can use to allow you to build that habit?

Let me know in the comments below!


PS: We’ve opened up a limited number of early bird spots for Camp Nerd Fitness 2015! We started with 150 and we’re down to just 29 spots left – check out the new site for all the details and watch our video recap from last year’s camp.

Make your fully refundable deposit to secure your spot today - and see you at Camp!


photo source: Nina HelmerZelda Strategy Guide, fisherkiller: potion, Seth Reineke: Cover potion, Sarah: Health Potions, ario_: Tyson, Zelda Wiki: Ganon, phobus: bowser

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How to Make Healthy Holiday Sides Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:48:16 +0000 This is a post by Rebel Chef Noel.

Rebels! It’s time for a little roleplaying game. This is a solo adventure, and you’re armed with a few cooking skills that you’ve managed to pick up along your journey…

Situation 1: You’ve been asked to bring a side dish to a family gathering or workplace potluck. In years past, you’ve run out to the store last minute and picked up a bag of dinner rolls, a pre-made pie, or a few cans of creamed corn. But you’ve dedicated this year to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and you’re determined to stay focused during the holidays.

Situation 2: You’ve been invited to a gathering or party, and you know what they’ll be serving as a main dish. It works for you (turkey, ham, brisket, etc.). You’re armed with a battle plan for avoiding willpower-diminishing-foods, but you would still like to eat something besides a pile of meat while you’re there. You decide to bring a healthy dish to share so that you’ll definitely have something to put on your plate, and so you don’t show up to the door empty-handed!

What do you do?

First of all, remember you’re a hero!

Secondly, don’t panic! We’ve got you covered.

Today, we’re going to add two new side dishes to your arsenal. They’re both pretty darn easy, and both can be made vegetarian.

The holidays are already a stressful and busy time. The last thing we want you to do is worry about what you’re going to eat at or bring to a gathering. Here are two options for you to sink your teeth into:

Sauteed Green Beans and Spinach with Lemon and Almonds – Okay, so green beans are legumes and technically not paleo…But as far as legumes go, they’re not half bad. If you want to make this 100% paleo, sub broccoli for green beans and chop it fairly small (1″ or 2.54cm pieces). If you want to make it vegetarian/paleo, sub olive oil for butter/bacon grease.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts – I like to call these “Brussels Sprouts For People Who Hate Brussels Sprouts.” This will turn the most cautious sprout eater into a sprout lover. Seriously, my family has asked me to bring this and only this to holiday dinners for the past three years. You can eliminate the maple syrup in this recipe to make it no-sugar, but I highly suggest that you don’t. Use less if you want to go low-sugar. And, if you want to make it vegetarian, simply omit the bacon!

Green Beans

Total time: 15 min
Serves: 4 (Multiply the recipe for more servings. If your pan isn’t big enough, make it in batches.)



Noel_Green_Beans6Spinach - 3 cups (709 mL) fresh spinach (packed). Spinach is a leaf, so it doesn’t fit well into a measuring cup. It’s okay if there are a bunch of leaves sticking out of the top. In this recipe, 100% measurement accuracy isn’t necessary. Relax! My cups of spinach looked like this:

Green beans - about 1/2 lb (.22 kg). I measured this out at the store because they have green beans available in bulk this time of year. Places like Trader Joe’s have them pre packaged, and that’s okay too. Do you see something called a French-style green bean? That just means they’re cut in half length wise. These will work too!

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

Fat - 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of butter/olive oil/bacon grease, or your other favorite fat

Slivered/chopped almonds - 1/4 cup (59 mL). I like the texture of almonds in this dish, but any nut will do. Alternately, if you don’t like nuts or have an allergy, omit this all together and use chopped bacon or sauteed mushrooms instead!

Garlic - 2 cloves or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pre minced. My mom gave me a jar full of minced garlic recently. This is totally okay to use if you don’t feel up to buying and chopping your own cloves.


1) Rinse your green beans and chop the tops off. (If you have French-Style green beans, you won’t have to do this.)

Take them out of the bag and make a pile with the stems at the top. Use your knife to cut the top 1/4 inch off of them. For my 1/2 lb it took about 2 handfuls and 1.5 minutes to do this. Since you have the knife and cutting board out, now would be a good time to cut your lemon in half also.


2) Pre-heat your pan over medium heat. You’ll want to heat the pan for about 5 minutes (depending on the power of your stove). Generally, if you hold your hand about 6 inches from the pan, you should be able to feel heat/warmth. This means your pan is ready for cookin!

3) Melt your fat in the pan. Put your oil or fat in the pan and let it melt. Grab the handle of the pan and move the pan around at different angles so that you can coat the pan with oil (kind of like one of those maze games with the ball). Having the oil all over your pan will make it easier for you to then coat your veggies in oil…

We’re going to cook the green beans first because they will take a little longer than the spinach to cook. Toss your green beans into the pan and coat them with oil (they will look shiny when they’re coated). Sprinkle some salt and pepper on if you like. Stir them around every couple of minutes so that they cook on all sides.


5) Now add your garlic and stir it into the green beans. Be sure most of it sticks to the beans.


6) After about 5 minutes, toss in your spinach. You might have to do this in batches. Three cups is a lot of spinach and, depending on the size of your pan, the pan may overflow and your spinach might fall out. So if it’s too much,wait until the first cup shrinks down before adding the next cup, and so on…


Mix that around and get it coated in oil. Wait another five minutes, stirring occasionally. When the spinach has started to cook down, it’ll look like this:


7) When the spinach has wilted and the green beans are a bright green, you’re almost done! Now we’ll add the lemon juice and almonds.


Stir it all together really quick, then toss it into a serving dish, tupperware for transporting to a gathering, or directly onto your plate and enjoy!


*Pro-tip! Don’t Lemon your dinner! Munching down on a bitter, crunchy lemon seed after you’ve taken a bite of delicious food sucks! (I know because I always forget about lemon seeds until I’ve already squeezed them into my food. Do as I say, not as I do.) To avoid this tragedy, squeeze the juice into a bowl first and then remove the seeds. Or, if you have a juicer that gets rid of the seeds for you, use that!

Brussels Sprouts:

Total time: 50 minutes
Serves: 6-8 (feel free to multiply the recipe if you need more.)



  • 2 lbs (.90 kg) Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup (59 mL) Olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 mL) Salt1/4 teaspoon  (1 ml) Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) Toasted Hazelnuts (or pecans)L
  • 2 Slices Bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) 100% pure maple syrup – make sure it’s REAL maple syrup. Most syrups are actually “maple flavored” high fructose corn syrup, common in the pancake aisle at your local grocer. Yuck!


1) Pre heat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and heat up your frying pan.

2) It’s time for the prep work! Line your baking sheet with foil and rinse your brussels sprouts. Easy enough.

3) Take the sprouts a few at a time and place them on your cutting board. You’re going to chop off the bottom “stem” part off the sprout.


Then you’re going to chop those little guys in half. Take the halves and toss them into a mixing bowl. Discard the stems.


4) The oven should be pretty hot by now. Before we roast the sprouts, we’re going to toast the hazelnuts. Take the nuts and spread them out on your baking sheet. Place them in the oven for 1-2 minutes. Watch them VERY CAREFULLY! Once the nuts start to cook, they burn very quickly (I always burn my first batch). The nuts will begin to darken and will smell delicious and toasty. Pull them out of the oven and put them on a plate.


When the nuts are cool enough to touch, place them on your cutting board and chop them. It’s easiest to use a large knife for this.


5) Once you’ve finished cutting all your sprouts, pour in the olive oil and sprinkle your salt and pepper. Mix them around to make sure they’re all coated. Now toss them onto your baking sheet and spread them out into one layer.


6) Place the sheet in the oven and set a timer for 45 minutes. Make sure to watch the timer and stir the sprouts around with a spatula about every 15 minutes. This will ensure that all sides of the sprout get roasted.

7) Now your frying pan should be heated. Place your two strips of bacon on the pan and let them cook, flipping occasionally. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan and set it on a paper towel.

When the bacon has cooled, chop it into little pieces on your cutting board and set aside for later (it may be tempting, but do not snack yet).


During the last 10 minutes that the brussels sprouts are in the oven, Open up the door and pull them out. Carefully drizzle maple syrup over the sprouts and mix them to coat.


Then put them back in the oven and let them finish cooking.

When your timer goes off, remove the sprouts from the oven, place them in a bowl, and toss them with the chopped bacon and toasted nuts!




Share the good food!


The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year. They’re filled with busyness, shopping, stress, work parties, gatherings with friends, and lot’s of family time.

 All of those things are also what makes this time of the year so awesome! Enjoy this time with family and friends that you might not get to see every day.

Armed with one (or both) of these two recipes, combined with Staci’s guide to avoiding a food confrontation, you should feel confident at your holiday events this year.

Consider it an opportunity to show off your new found cooking skills to your friends and family. You may or may not want to talk about your new healthy habits with your Great Aunt Gertrude, but the important thing is that you brought food to the table and contributed a healthy dish to a meal!

What are some of your favorite healthy holiday sides?


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


floodllama: happy thanksgiving, Ian Westcot: Thanksgiving Dinner

]]> 23
Get Healthy Like Mr. Spock Tue, 18 Nov 2014 14:42:28 +0000 This article was written by NF Team Member Staci.

Five years and over six hundred articles published, and not a single one about Star Trek. Seems pretty inconceivable. But alas, it’s true. So today we’re going to change that by taking a look at one of Star Trek’s most famous characters – the green blooded hobgoblin, Mr. Spock.

Spock is one of the most interesting (and, in this nerd’s humble opinion, greatest) characters of of all times. You see, it’s easy to pick Spock out from the rest of the crew. He’s a nerd; he doesn’t fit in. 

If his pointy ears and upswept eyebrows aren’t a dead giveaway, his insides are pretty weird too. The blood in his veins runs green, as Spock is half Vulcan – a stoic species from the planet Vulcan, who follow a philosophy of logic, reasoning, and suppress all emotion.

Plus, Spock is a pretty awesome Rebel; he questions everything around him at all times, and never turns down a situation he can learn something from.

Fascinating Video

There are quite a few things we can learn from Spock and the Vulcan philosophy of logic and reasoning to keep us healthy in everyday life. Let’s take a look!

Remove emotion

Spock hug

One common misconception about Vulcans is that they have no emotion; in reality, they experience extreme amounts of emotion, but they have learned to control it through meditation, discipline and practice of logic.

Before we dig any deeper, lets look real quick at what logic is. You may remember doing logic puzzles in school as a child, where you are given a set of statements that help you determine the the conclusion to a question. Logic works very much like “if this, then that.”

For example:

If (we know that) all Nerd Fitness Rebels are awesome, and you are a Nerd Fitness Rebel, then (we know that) you are awesome.

There is no emotion in logic. Logic is based on fact, and making smart decisions based on those facts. So step one of using Vulcan philosophy is to remove emotion.

Spock has it especially hard, as he is not full Vulcan – his mother is human. And while he chose to adopt the Vulcan way of life, there is still the human side of him which is full of emotion, trying to come out at any given moment. But Spock, unlike us, deals with this predicament of emotion with great skill.

“What you want is irrelevant. What you’ve chosen is at hand.”

How many times to hear people say “Oh, well, I was supposed to go to the gym but I just didn’t ‘feel’ like it.” Or that they didn’t eat their vegetables because they don’t ‘like’ vegetables. Or someone ate a huge piece of cake because they really ‘wanted’ it.

See all of those words? Feel. Like. Want. These are all words of emotion.

If you remove emotion, and follow logic, good decisions are much easier to make.

Logic - New Page

Is your goal to get stronger or gain weight? It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to exercise or clean up your diet. In order to achieve your goal, you must.

Is your goal to lose weight? Then when you are presented with the opportunity to eat a huge piece of cake, you would think first and foremost: it would not be logical (even if it is your co-worker’s birthday).

Removing emotion helps you differentiate what you’re trying to achieve (what you want in the long term), with what you want right now (which is the largest thing that trips us up). One thing that Joe said in his success story was, “Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now.” That was logic (and removing emotion) at work.

Have you ever had a  bad day at work, a breakup, or a fight with a friend, and then eat a pint of ice cream to make yourself feel better? We all have, but it’s not logical. You may truly THINK you really want that ice cream or piece of cake, but after the immediate pleasure of having it is over, you probably wished you never ate it at all.

Wanting and having are two different things.

Spock Video

Let’s learn from Spock. There is no want, just doing what it takes.

There is no luck

spock kirk

“With each passing moment of your life, one event precipitated another, which made each subsequent occurrence more probable.”

How many times have you looked at someone, and said one of the following:

  • “They are so lucky to be able to go to the gym whenever they want”
  • “I could never eat like that”
  • “They are so lucky to have a body like that”

The truth is – there is no luck. Yes, things can be difficult, but the vast majority of the time, not impossible.

If you watch Star Trek, every single time Captain Kirk asks Spock for the chance of something happening, Spock replies with an exact probability that it will happen. Throughout the episode, as the situation changes, the probability either gets better or worse.

The same is true with your life.

While we don’t to think about the EXACT numbers like Spock does, it is helpful to recognize that everything that we do, or want to do, has a certain probability of happening. By changing elements in your environment, and by making certain decisions, you can either increase or decrease the chances of that actually happening.

So, if you have 100 lbs to lose, and you change nothing, the chances of you losing weight are pretty slim.

However, with each positive decision you make – with each workout and each healthy meal you consume, the probability that you will achieve your goal gets better and better.

For example, if you want to go to the gym after work, but you keep forgetting your gym bag, the likelihood that you will continue to forget it is high. However, if you keep your gym bag in your car, or rent a locker from the gym (remember this from building your batcave?) you’ve removed some of the obstacles and you’ve greatly increased the probability that you will go. 

When you look at that woman or man with an amazing body working out in the mid afternoon – don’t assume that they are lucky to be able to work out all day. They could actually be quite busy, and have three young children and a full time job. But by working nights and choosing a gym that has childcare available, they have increased the probability that that they can get their workout in during the day. Don’t surrender to circumstance.

You are the master of your own fate. Tip the odds in your favor.

Pain is an emotion. Control it.

spock kirk

[Spock]: “I am a Vulcan, doctor. Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.”

[Captain Kirk]: “You’re only half Vulcan. What about the human half?”

[Spock]: “It is proving to be an inconvenience, but it is manageable.”

Now, first, if you are in actual pain, stop and see a doctor.

But there is a difference between actual pain and mental pain that comes from doing something that your brain perceives as hard – the pain of pushing through the very end of your workout, or the pain of being hungry when you start eating less.

These are things that our brain perceives as difficult, and therefore is mentally hard. But when we view this pain for what it is, simply an emotion, we can recognize that this is our body trying to override our logic.

How many times have you been hungry, and then gotten distracted, and forgotten you were hungry at all? Keeping your brain busy helps you think about something else, and then you forget what you were struggling about in the first place.

In one episode of Star Trek, Spock, so full of emotion, and not knowing how to handle it, starts rattling off multiplication tables to keep his mind thinking about something else.

Many times when I am swimming, or rowing, or doing anything for endurance (which is extremely hard for me to get through mentally), I’ll do one of two things:

  1. Put on a podcast of something extremely interesting or extremely funny – because if I’m laughing, I’m not paying attention to how miserable I am that I’ve been going for 30 minutes and I STILL have 15 minutes to go.
  2. Take a page out of Spock’s book and start doing math. With rowing, it’s easy. If my goal is 10,000m and I’ve already rowed 7,200, I can start doing math related to what I have left: I am 72% of the way done. There are 12 minutes left on the album I’m listening to. How fast do I need to average rowing each of the final 500m sections to finish my row and my album at the same time? By the time I’ve figured out all the various answers, I am very often very close to being done.
  3. If math isn’t your cup of tea, there are a million other things you could do to keep your mind busy – get an audiobook, or a language learning CD. Write, draw, whatever it takes! My lifting notebook is full of drawings that I’ve drawn in between sets.

The same thing works with food – if you’re feeling hungry, very often all you have to do is focus on something else for ten minutes, and then you will no longer feel hungry. In fact, there have been studies that show that DRAWING the food that you are craving boosts your mood.

The more stressed out you are, the harder it is to make smart decisions

red ball

“Irrational fear is a construct of an undisciplined intellect” 

As you know from reading our article on willpower, the more decisions you have to make, the harder it is to keep your willpower up and make good decisions later in the day.

This can also happen when you don’t get enough sleep or if you are stressed out. To combat this, Vulcans regularly practice meditation, and are taught this at a very young age as a way to combat the pressures of giving in to emotion. Vulcans also practice different methods to return control and balance to their minds when they are struggling. One of their chants:

“Structure. Logic. Function. Control. The structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control. I am in control.”

Vulcan Song

Now, while we can’t just dissipate all our stress (because we’re not Vulcans), we CAN understand it, and control how we respond to it. The first step is to accept the reality of present moment. Understand that everything that is happened is in the past, and that you can’t change it. Trying to, or stressing out about the fact that you can’t, is not logical, and not productive.

Many times when something bad has happened, and everyone is stressing out about it, you look over at Spock and he is already trying to come up with the next steps and moving forward. He knows that stressing out or continuing to worry over what has already happened won’t help. The present moment is a reality, and Spock always acts to make the future better. A mindfulness practice can help us humans enormously with this.

A few other ways to not let stress get you down?

Sometimes showing emotion is logical.

spock vs data

[Spock]: “I am simply choosing to display emotion at those moments where it seems most appropriate, and likely to assist in achieving my objective.”

[Nimoy]: “In other words, you’re emoting when it seems like the logical thing to do?”

[Spock]: “Precisely.”

Being aware and controlling our emotions can be extremely helpful in actually following through and achieving our goals, but that doesn’t mean we need to ignore them when it comes to setting our goals and deciding how we want to live. In fact, emotion can be quite helpful in crafting our ideal level 50s.

And when it comes to emotion in our daily lives, this logic stuff can sound pretty boring. If I truly follow that chart, the following items would definitely be big no no’s:

  • Going out and getting a few drinks with friends
  • Staying up all night playing the new video game you just bought.
  • Having a piece of cake at your best friend’s wedding

Here’s an example of when Spock thought that he had killed Captain Kirk, and shows an outburst of emotion when finding out that he is still alive:

Spock Video

The truth is, that like Spock, no matter how logical we train ourselves to be, our human side needs to come out, and we have emotional needs. Sometimes constantly suppressing our emotions can be our downfall; the turmoil within us and the constant thinking can bring us down.

Remember, our ultimate goal is to achieve the triforce of awesome – happy, healthy, and confident in your own skin.

Just like it’s okay to do something that’s not so healthy, sometimes you will need to let your emotions rule the day. Remember, we don’t call this cheating – but rather view it as a conscious decision and then return to our regular scheduled programming.

Sometimes it is only logical to take a night off from being so logical. And not only is it logical to let your emotion come through sometimes, but it is healthy as well.

Live Long and Prosper


Live Long and Prosper Video

Ahh, it couldn’t be a proper article on Spock without the classic Vulcan salute.

The overall philosophy of leading a logic centered life and controlling emotion logically can be a major tool for Rebels throughout our journey. If you give your life an honest review, you might be surprised how often emotion controls you.

Being in control of it doesn’t mean you need to be emotionless – it just means that you can make smarter decisions, weighing in all of the elements that go into it (including the emotional elements). It’s why getting healthy is a whole lot more complicated than “eat less and move more.”

We are an emotional, illogical species, and we could learn a lot from Spock and the ways of the Vulcans.

What do you think? Can you remove emotion and use logic to help you make decisions? How do you think Vulcan philosophy could help you?



photo source: Amy Mctigue: stress ball, Sonny Abesamis: Kirk and Spock, Iaian Heath: Spock Lego, Blake West: Spock Art, JD Hancock: Data vs SpockEveryone Calls me Dave: Original Spock

]]> 34
Ditch the Sorting Hat. Choose Your Own Adventure! Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:22:18 +0000 Imagine you’ve just arrived as a first-year wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

You’re scared, you’re alone, and you have no clue what’s happening. At your first dinner in the Greart Hall, complete with four incredibly long tables, floating candles, and headless ghosts, you’re sheepishly lead to the front of the room where an oversized hat is placed on your head. You’re told you’re to join one of the four houses.

Whether you’re put in the house of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, you’ll spend the next seven years in that house, living with other members, competing against other houses, and so on. Ultimately, this initial selection is a BIG deal.

But, if we actually think, the Sorting Hat was only part of the equation. The Sorting Hat was seriously considering sticking Harry Potter into Slytherin, but sent him to Gryffindor because that’s what he chose – he wanted to be in the House of his parents. Hermione too, because of her intellect, was well suited for a different House (Ravenclaw). However, valuing friendship and bravery, Hermione also had her say.

When it comes to books like Harry Potter, video games, or real life, our “class” selection is a pretty big deal. It’s easy to end up heading down a certain path, thinking our decision is out of our control – that we fit in to a particular box because we think that’s what we have to do.

But today we’re going to learn from Harry and Hermione and challenge the “Sorting Hat.” Today we’re standing up for ourselves and choosing our own damn adventure.

Avoid the Sorting Hat Trap

Sorting hat table

Maybe you went to college you knew you always had to attend, and majored in what you always thought you were going to study.

Or maybe, after college you took the job that you thought you were supposed to, or that your parents advised you to take, and now you’re known as the “girl that’s really good at sales presentations…” or “great in Excel,” and a decade goes by before realizing the job you’re currently in isn’t anything like what you set out to do.

Once we start doing something, heading down any path – it’s like we end up as characters in The Breakfast Club: the soccer player, the gamer, the powerlifter, the runner, the nerd, the academic, the ____. It’s as if we’ve been permanently sorted into a House at Hogwarts and we’re stuck with it!

We get scared that if we lose the identity that has been chosen for us, we won’t have one; we won’t know who we are anymore, and we’ll be shunned by the group we just left! It all results in us being an outcast because people’s expectations of us will differ from the new reality (or so we think)…so we keep ourselves pigeonholed in that role.

I remember in High School, and I wanted to play basketball. My brother was the captain, my friends all played, I had just grown from 5′ to 5’11″ (yay puberty!) and I got cut. I thought to myself, “if I’m not a basketball player with my friends, then what the heck am I?” I felt like a Gryffindor student that got kicked off the quidditch team…lost.

When I started applying for colleges, I was so excited to follow my brother to Duke University, one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. When I got rejected, again I felt like my world was over. “If I’m not the kid that goes to Duke on early acceptance, and the smart kid, what the heck am I? My life is over!”

When I moved to California after college, I took a job in sales because both of my parents were in sales and they were damn good at it. After six months I learned that I was terrible at sales, but continued to force myself down this path because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I cried weekly asking myself why I wasn’t happy and how I could get better at that gig.

In each of the situations above, I had sorted myself into a category, or felt like I had been sorted…and then panicked when I didn’t fit or wanted to get out. It turns out, I was the one doing the sorting, not my family or friends. It was pressure I had been putting on myself: I struggled with losing my identity that I THOUGHT I needed to have, that I thought others had of me.

I turns out, none of those things were true:

Basketball. I actually didn’t like playing basketball, I just played because I had been playing since I was a kid. I didn’t like the coach either! On top of that, I sucked! I was legitimately not good enough. So, I instead got a gym membership and started training, and discovered a love of health and fitness. Heyo, Nerd Fitness! And my friends on the team? They still liked me!

College. I didn’t know much about Duke other than my brother went there. For any number of reasons, many of which were outside of my control, I wasn’t accepted. WHO CARES! Going to another school allowed me to create a new identity: “Steve” instead of “Jack’s Little brother,” I made tremendous friends, and fell in love with Vanderbilt and Nashville, which is where I currently reside.

Sales. I hated sales! I sucked at it! Once I let myself get over that fear and anxiety, I allowed myself to start thinking of things I actually enjoyed. Marketing, community building, and health and fitness. So far, so good.

If we’re not careful, it’s very easy for us to fall into a path we never envisioned (or wanted!) for ourselves, and it’s very tough for us to get out. That path and that training and that attitude can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we spend our time trying to fit more into this path we’re on, rather than asking “do I even belong on this path?”

And this isn’t just a problem in life – this is a HUGE issue in how we go about fitness and health as well.

Maybe you were the “skinny runner” in high school, or the “fat funny guy” in your group of friends. Pretty soon, you had your group of friends and your way of life, right?

Whether in fitness or in life, it’s time to stop sorting ourselves into the house we think we belong to, or forcing ourselves to live up to the expectations we think others have set for us, and instead start doing stuff that we want to do…for OURSELVES.

Choose your Own Adventure

Hogwarts sign

Our Master Wordsmith Taylor was a runner throughout college and for years after. He was intrigued by the idea of strength training while, but never gave it a try.

It wasn’t until a running injury FORCED him to find another form of exercise that he discovered strength training was something he loved…  In his words:

For years I was reluctant to start to strength train because I was ‘the runner.’ I was the nerdy, sci-fi reading, Star Trek watching, guy who couldn’t touch a weight for fear of becoming a meathead. That was THEIR domain.

At the same time I wanted to be stronger and see what my body was capable of…I wanted to be able to carry heavy boxes for friends, maybe even do a pullup, and and develop a part of my body that wasn’t below my waist.

But this seemingly immutable self-identity paralyzed me. In fact, it wasn’t until I found Nerd Fitness that a crazy idea entered my mind: I could be strong AND be a nerd? What a revolutionary idea :)

I wasn’t JUST a runner, or a nerd, or anything else. All of that was just an illusion – and I soon discovered that I get to choose what type of hero I want to be.

The best part of this giant game of life that we are playing is that WE are the hero, and we get to play the game how we want. What you classified yourself as yesterday doesn’t mean you need to classify yourself as the same thing today.

On top of that, we often classify ourselves, and we expect others have these same expectations of us, when in reality it’s all in our mind. We get to determine who we are, and what we want to become.

If we want to change how we train or what we want to accomplish, then we can do that.

If we want to shed the “fat funny guy” tag and instead just become the “funny guy,” we can! If you’re sick of “you’re pretty [fast/quick/flexible]…for a big person,” you can change that.

If we want to mix up our career, there’s nothing stopping us. After all, as Stephen Kellogg says, It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.

When Harry encountered the Sorting hat, the hat was fairly insistent on placing him in Slytherin…and yet Harry fought for, and ended up, in Griffyndor. He chose his own adventure…and I want you to do the same.

The path you’re on


Our whole goal with Nerd Fitness is to remove every barrier, physical and mental, that exists between the current YOU and the YOU that you want to be:

  • You can train in a way that interests you and makes you happy.
  • You can look in the mirror with pride and confidence.
  • You start choosing adventure over the safety confines of your hobbit hole.

If we’re not careful we can end up blindly following down the path we’re currently on, because we THINK we’re supposed to be on it. Before we know it, we’re living a life we never wanted to live.

There may be no literal “Sorting Hat” in our lives, but through our parents, friends, peers, tv, movies, and every other influence in society, there surely is a “Sorting Hat” in our minds.

Last week, there was a post from a 46-year old guy on Reddit that absolutely blew my mind; he reflected back on the past 26 years of his life, and realized he opted for the safe track he was supposed to be on.  This is an absolute MUST-READ.

Listen – you might have always been the “skinny guy” or maybe you were always the “big” one in your group. Thousands and thousands of Rebels have broken free of their old identities and chosen their OWN fate. If they can do it, so can you.

I saw the path I was on, and decided that I didn’t want that path anymore, so I created my own.

It turns out the only regret I have about making those changes is that I didn’t listen to myself sooner. I wanted to choose my own adventure, and after ignoring that path for years and years, I did.

Choose your own class and own adventure

Garden of Forking Paths

Earlier this week, we started a new Six Week Challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards (now ~30,000 people strong).

In it, we encourage people to join a guild, select some challenges, and begin (or continue) your journey. We understand the importance of getting started and picking a class to begin your training.

Heck, our Nerd Fitness Academy allows us to pick a class based on our preferred training style and actually complete quests to earn experience points and level up.

However, we’re also aware that most of us don’t fit perfectly into a particular category.

I know I don’t fit into one or the other! The bottom half of me would be a Warrior: heavy squats and deadlifts, while the top half of me would be an Assassin: gymnastics, handstands, and bodyweight exercises. On top of that, I’m trying to be a druid and learn meditation and created a bard class for my musical passions. You can follow how THIS is going if you want! Yay accountability.

We have people that have started as Warriors and have transitioned into Scouts for a challenge or two!  For example, Stacdogi is taking swimming lessons and goes on runs with her dog now. Though if you see this dog, you’ll see why you couldn’t say no.

Every time I start a new challenge, my goals vary. It might be gaining weight, or getting more flexible, or getting stronger. Sometimes I feel like an assassin, or a ranger, or a warrior. It’s always changing.

So, I want you to stop sorting yourself into a path and blindly following it. Instead of perpetually moving forward with your head down and your eyes closed, choose your own adventure. This applies to not only your training, but even your life decisions.

If you want to change paths, climb different ladders, or play entirely different games, you have the power to do so. Identities are things we often forget to make for ourselves. We have that power. You have that power. And only you.

Audit Your Path


Your mission today is to take 10 minutes and reflect on the path you’re on. Are you blindly reading the book in order? Making decisions based on what you think somebody like you is supposed to do?

Or are you choosing your own adventure?

  • Are you a yogi that always wanted to try strength training, but is using your “yogi” identity to rationalize staying in your corner of the gym?
  • Are you a lifter who is afraid to incorporate cardio (in the form of sports or steady state) because the brofessor told you that’s how it’s done?
  • Are you a girl who can’t possibly lift weights, because girls don’t do that? Don’t wanna get bulky!
  • Are you a runner who only has ever known running, and is using your “runner” identity to stay in your lane?

Don’t wait for a major life event to think critically about what YOU want. Train for you from the get go.  Ask yourself: is staying on this track the best way to make you happy, build your confidence, and improve your health?

Build your class around YOU, not the other way around.  

Question everything means everything - especially your own BS!

YOUR MISSION: Spend 10 minutes auditing your path, both for life and for training:

  • What does your current path and class dictate how you’ll spend your day? Are you happy with the Sorting Hat?
  • What would somebody (you) who is CHOOSING their own adventure do instead?
  • If you have recently rejected the Sorting Hat and switched things up, please share with us!

We rebelled against the Empire for a reason. To think for ourselves. So THINK for yourself. You don’t have to “be” anything – a powerlifter, runner, or even a nerd. Just be you.

Let me know how you plan on branching out and forging a new path. Be specific, and share your story!


PS: Don’t forget, next week we’ll be opening up a small number of early-bird spots for Camp Nerd Fitness 2015, along with full details of the event (which will be taking place in Georgia Sept 30-Oct 4th, 2015).  Sign up for the interest list to get early access, as spots are sure to go fast!


photo source: Peter Asquith: stone path, Bart Everson: Fork Path, Denise PS: Sorting Hat, Andy Castro: Hogwarts Sign, Sarah Ross: Scarf, viviandgnuyen_: sorting hat

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5 Rules When Eating Out to Stay Healthy Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:59:26 +0000 What is it about eating out at restaurants that can derail months of hard work?

Sure, it’s easy to prepare meals at home when you are in control of your batcave and all of the ingredients that end up on your plate, but once you head out to dinner it’s like a switch is flipped and suddenly we’re eating like Cookie Monster because “we’re eating out.”

If you tend to eat out a lot for whatever reason, making a few key changes to how you order off the menu can drastically contribute to your success in staying (or getting) healthy.

Today, we’re going to provide you with specific things you can do to keep you on track no matter where you are eating.  Before we jump into that, there’s one key piece of advice that I’m going to provide you with that will help you stay on target.  It comes to us from the 26th president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Let’s dig in, shall we?

How to Level Up at a Restaurant


Pop quiz hotshot: you’re at a business dinner, out with friends, or stuck eating at the Chili’s across the street from your hotel on a Tuesday, and you want to eat healthy. 

What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!?

Well, the first rule of eating out is you don’t talk about eating out!  Kidding. I just feel like that’s a requirement to say when you mention “First Rule.”

Use these five techniques to help you eat healthy when you’re out on the town:

1) Choose wisely. Like Indiana Jones trying to select the true Holy Grail, whenever you have the opportunity to select the restaurant where you’ll be eating….take it, but choose wisely! Choosing poorly won’t melt your face off like the false grail, but it can set you up to fail.

We’re fans of keeping things simple and allowing us to stay on target with our goals, so we hate having to use willpower at unhealthy restaurants. For that reason, we encourage you to select restaurants that fit into the following categories:

  • Steakhouse: If there’s a steakhouse nearby, there’s an opportunity to eat a high quality piece of protein and pair it with some amazing vegetables for a great dinner. My go-to at a steakhouse is a filet paired with asparagus.
  • Seafood: If you’re a seafood fan, then it’s quite easy to find a healthy option when it comes to eating things that live in the water. Note: places like Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s don’t qualify :)
  • Mexican: Although Mexican food is usually considered unhealthy, Mexican restaurants have some incredible healthy options if you know what you’re looking for. A salad bowl covered in salsa, guacamole, chicken, and sauteed veggies? Sign me up, sucka!
  • “American” food: Okay, maybe not the best choice, but even if you’re stuck at Chili’s or a TGIFridays, there are options that can keep you on target.
  • Breakfast Food: Eggs and bacon. Still hungry? Ask for all of the bacon and eggs they have.

In all of the options above, there are really healthy choices to be made, just as there are really unhealthy choices. Which brings us to Rule #2:

2) Scout the menu first!  If possible, scout the menu for the restaurant online before hand (research FTW), and pre-select your option so you don’t have to spend any willpower points wavering what you’re going to order.  Don’t even look at the menu!

If possible, ask to order first. Whenever the server asks who wants to go first, SPEAK UP! If you are the one person in your group of friends that’s eating healthy, you’re going to some haterade for your healthy order after your friends all order pizza/lasagna/pasta/etc…or you might get influenced into making a worse decision to fit in (and “you know, live at a little”).

If you get to order first though, the reverse could happen – you could end up actually influencing your friends positively! Captain America would be so proud.

3) Enlist the help of your server! See something you like that’s 80% of the way there? Don’t be afraid to ask them to modify the order or ask them what they would choose if they were trying to eat like you – it happens all the time, and the server really won’t mind.  A chicken sandwich or a burger without the bun can easily turn into a plate of meat and vegetables.

99% of the restaurants I’ve ever been to will give you a plate of “chicken and vegetables” if you ask for it, even if it’s not on the menu.  Their goal is to make you happy.

One time, when NF Team Member Staci couldn’t find anything on the menu she could eat, she just talked to the waitress, and ended up with bison, bacon, and sweet potato fries (this was a greasy burger joint and they legitimately didn’t have any vegetables).

4) Ditch the starch! For starters, many restaurants will have a protein and starch/carb option.  Steak and potatoes, fish and rice, etc.  They’ll also have a vegetable option, usually something broccoli, mixed greens, asparagus, spring veggies, etc.

  • If you’re Paleo, simply swap out the starch/carb option with more vegetables.  Aim for grilled, not breaded and fried (duh). DING, victory. If you get two sides – just get double vegetables. They never say no!
  • If you’re not Paleo, and you want a starch with your meal, see if you can get them to swap out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes. Go for baked instead of french fries, and avoid loading it up with sour cream. Just butter!
  • If you order a salad, get the dressing on the side (especially if it’s a Caesar). I don’t know what it is about restaurants, but salad should not be soupy, and your lettuce shouldn’t be floating in dressing.  Get the dressing on the side and add it yourself.  Oil and vinegar is usually the safest bet here.

5) Skip dessert. I have a confession to make – I never order dessert at restaurants. Ever. Rather than having to rely on willpower to make that decision each and every time “I probably shouldn’t, but I might, but maybe I’ll look at the menu,” I’ve conditioned my brain to say “no dessert for me, thanks!” It’s not that I’m depriving myself of it, I simply don’t eat it.

Calories count, and I choose to use mine on foods that help me level up or the occasional adult beverage.

If everybody else at the table is getting dessert, get yourself some coffee and enjoy the company of the people at the table with you. You can do so without stuffing your face :)

Tips, Tricks and Hacks


Outlined above are the steps I personally use to stay healthy when I eat out at restaurants. However, if you feel like you need a little more to stay on track, check out these rapid-fire bullet points to keep you on track (which are more fun and helpful than rapid-fire bullets):

  • Always order water instead of soda or other sugary drinks! Sugar is bad news bears. Need something with flavor? Iced tea (unsweet!)
  • When on the road, ditch the fast food and go straight to a grocery store or Wal-Mart instead. Look for hot food items!
  • Avoid fried when possible (duhhh) and get baked, steamed, or grilled.
  • Ask your waitress to NOT bring you chips/bread/popcorn if you know they usually do. Don’t waste your willpower on a battle you can avoid entirely!
  • If it’s a big entree, don’t be afraid to split it - Oftentimes portion sizes are naturally so huge, that a regular meal is 2000+ calories.
  • Eat slowly – It takes a minute for your brain to realize that your stomach is already full. So SLOW DOWN. Enjoy the conversation of the people you’re eating with!
  • Pull a Staci: Explain that you have an “allergy” or “weird reaction” to certain types of foods. They’ll stop hassling you to “live a little” and instead get on your side - it’s a health thing (hey, it is!).
  • You don’t have to eat the whole thing, you know - Depending in the culture you came from, it might be considered rude to not clean your plate, but at certain restaurants that can be a massive undertaking. Put your napkin on your plate, and ask to take it home. Heck, sprinkle a crazy amount of salt on it so that you stop eating.
  • Traveling a LOT? Stuck on the road quite a bit? Here ya go :)

Play It Cool


The more you can prepare, the less likely you’ll be to deviate and fall apart.

And most importantly, remember that you’re human. If you decide to eat a bad meal, it’s not a cheat meal and you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re human, schedules get crazy, and sometimes maybe you just want to eat pizza – that’s fine. Remember that it’s not something wrong, it’s a conscious decision you’ve chosen to make. But then get right back on track immediately with the next meal.

One bad meal doesn’t ruin a day, but saying “well I ate a bad lunch so today is ruined so I’ll eat poorly for dinner and try again tomorrow” does.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll stay on target.

What about you?  What are your favorite tips for eating healthy while dining out? What sorts of advice do you have for your fellow road warriors and travelers that eat out more than they eat in?

Let’s hear it in the comments!


PS: Next week we’ll be opening up a small number of early bird spots to Camp Nerd Fitness 2015. Make sure you sign up for the CNF2015 interest list to be among the first to be able to reserve your spot :)

PPS: I got a chance to go on Fox Business a few weeks back for a whole 2 minutes (haha!) and represent the Nerd Fitness Rebellion. It was my first time ever on live TV, so I’m just glad I didn’t throw up on myself.  Here’s the footage!


photo source: Vanessa Pike-Russel: Platter, Thomas Hawk: Candle, Kevin Dooley- Pizza, Stephan Geyer: Sushi

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