Strength and Honor: Why a Strong Nerd is the Best Nerd

“Strength and Honor.”

Young or old, big or small, being strong is the best attribute you can give yourself. Just as Maximus Decimus Meridius tells his army in the movie, Gladiator, there’s a true sense of honor that comes with being strong.

Back in high school, when I was cut from the basketball team – mostly because I sucked, but also because I was weak – I signed up for a gym membership to get strong. Maximus taught me there was honor in strength, and I wanted it.

Thus began my torrid love affair with strength training. Here I am, twelve years later, more enamored with being strong than ever before.

Whether you’ve never done a push up or you live to deadlift, you plan on running a marathon, or you simply want to be a better parent to your kids, being strong is the best gift you can give yourself.

It needs to be part of your existence as a nerd, and I am going to tell you why.

There are no extra lives. Make this one count.

Lives Remaining: 0

Before I started Nerd Fitness, I worked for a company called Sixthman, which produces floating music festivals. Although I no longer work for them (and even have a full team here at Nerd Fitness now), I still attend one event every year without fail:

The Rock Boat, a floating music festival where you spend five days with music fans and 25+ bands.

It’s my one chance every year to truly disconnect, reflect, and embrace my love of music. While at sea, I received word that one of my former co-workers from Sixthman had passed away due to complications from surgery for lung cancer (despite never having smoked a cigarette in her life). Tiffany was only 31.

Here on Nerd Fitness, I often talk about how we don’t get to pick the “level of difficulty” we have to play on in the game of life. Some people get to play on “Easy” while others have to play on “Legendary.” Tiffany played on a level two steps above Legendary, forced to deal with a tremendous number of issues throughout her life, never once failing to sport a smile or positive attitude.

She simply played the hand she was dealt to the best of her ability, smiling ’til the very end. She never complained or asked “why?”

It broke my heart, and I am really going to miss her.

It’s a shame that it generally takes a tragedy to remind us how short and unexpected life can be, and that we need to enjoy every day. The stark realization is that in order to live our lives fully and happily, we have to remember we have no extra lives.

This is it.

Captain America Teaches Us Why Old School is the Best School

“New workout designed to target your stomach and obliques!”

“Revolutionary new supplement that speeds up fat loss!”

“The recent discovery about optimal performance scientists don’t want you to know!”

It seems every day, there’s a new workout plan, piece of equipment, or plan to get you more in shape than ever before. It usually involves BREAKTHROUGH technology, a scientific discovery, or patent pending workout strategy that is gripping the nation. These things make me laugh (and weep) for humanity.

It’s no wonder we act like cats chasing shiny objects, with our brains being subjected to this all day every day. These products and systems aren’t designed to actually get you healthy – they’re designed to target your insecurities and make the companies MORE money – until they create the next break-through to get you to spend more money.

Today I’m gonna share some harsh truths about the trend of mainstream modern fitness, and encourage you to see through the bullshit… and start thinking old school.

Here’s your soundtrack for the day (old school hip hop for the win).

It’s time to think more like Captain America, and less about what the latest and greatest is. (Yes, I see the humor in the fact that he was turned into Captain America with a super serum, but hear me out!)

It’s time to learn why Old School is the best school.

How Fast Can I Build Muscle Naturally?

I get it. We all want to look like super heroes and stars, be it Captain America, Daniel Craig, or Katniss Everdeen. And like Homer Simpson, we want it NOW.

Fortunately for us, there is no shortage of magazines, products, and supplements promising us those results in just a few short weeks/months! UNFORTUNATELY for us, reality doesn’t agree. Yes, we can eventually get the results we’re after…provided we put in the time, energy, effort, discipline, and dedication.

So how DO we get there? For most people – the superhero version of themselves would require a loss of fat and both increase in muscle. We covered the weight loss side of this last week.

If you’ve read that article, then you know our recommendation is usually to start with trimming the fat before we pack on some muscle, which is the focus of today’s article. If you’re a person on the thinner side of average looking to bulk up, this article will cover you too.

Here are some of the most common questions we get that we’ll be addressing today: 

  • How fast can I build muscle?
  • If I’m new, can I gain more quickly?
  • I’m worried about getting too bulky, help?
  • Can I target specific body parts?

Just How Fast Can I Get the Body I Want?

Be honest, you’ve said the following sentence before:

“I want to lose 20-50 pounds, and I’d like to pack on some muscle too…but not too much! Can I do this in 2-3 months?”

I know you have, because I certainly did when I started training.  Men want to know “the secret” to a thinner waistline, but also get bigger arms and chest… Meanwhile, women ask how they can lose weight while getting more toned, without getting too bulky.

If you’ve had those same thoughts, then today’s article is for you.

Today we’re going to dive into these goals, and how to best go about them. Keep an eye out for Part 2 later this week.

How to Make Mini Paleo Pizzas

This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

There is a demon I battle on a regular basis: The Pizza Demon.

Pizza is my favorite food of all time. I am not a college student, nor am I a fourth grader who gets a day off from learning for a pizza party. I am a fully grown adult who just freakin’ loves pizza. I also have a feeling I’m not alone in my love for this particular Italian invention.

But we all know eating tons of bread, sauce, and cheese isn’t going to help us much in our quest to become a superhero (unless you’re a Ninja Turtle).

If you’re looking for an easy paleo alternative to pizza, we’ve got you covered. It’s not a totally perfect replacement, but it might help you get through any pizza cravings (and it’ll help you get more veggies into your day).

Why You Need to Be Selfish and Put Fitness FIRST

Imagine what you could accomplish if your fitness came first?

Like famous actors and actresses that get in INCREDIBLE shape for their movie roles, pretend you only had to focus on eating healthy foods, sleeping plenty of hours, and exercising in order to get in peak physical condition.

Would you look like King Leonidas leading the mighty 300?

Or Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games?

Would people confuse you for Chris Evans in Captain America?

It’s fun to think about “what if” – what would we be capable of if we put our training and nutrition over everything else?

Most people would answer the question above with something like “I would end up in the BEST shape of my life…except that’s not possible. You see, I have…”

  • A wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/OS
  • Kids/dragons/pets
  • A job
  • No money
  • Friends/obligations/etc.

Ask anybody, and they’ll provide you with any and every reason why fitness can’t come first. I get it! Heck, I RUN A FITNESS SITE, and I spent five years not putting fitness first; I would find a way to make some small progress here and there, but ultimately I found myself treading water due to “life getting busy.”

Today marks my 13th straight month of putting fitness first, and I am a changed man. Despite putting fitness before every other aspect of my life, I was able to accomplish more outside of fitness than I’ve ever been able to accomplish.

I feel like my mind has been opened when it comes to what I’m able to accomplish in a day – like Neo cracking the code of The Matrix.

Shall we?

Star Wars Explains Why We’re All Fat

Stop trying so damn hard!

If you’re somebody who has tried to lose weight and exercise more, spend less time watching TV and more time reading books, or eat less candy and more real food – you’re not alone.

However, if your solution for any of those problems above is to “try harder” or “do more,” I’m here today to smack you in the mouth as if I were Neil Diamond.

STOP beating yourself up for lacking the willpower and motivation to make changes, and instead realize you need a new plan.

After all, you’re reading a site called “Nerd Fitness,” a community composed of computer programmers, rocket scientists, doctors, engineers, and everything in between.

We need to stop trying harder and instead start trying smarter.

It turns out that the part of our brain that allowed us to survive as a species for hundreds of thousands of years is the same part that can make us overweight, unfit, and unable to get ahead in life.

It’s just like The Force: Once we have the knowledge, we can either use this decision making process to push us further down the path to the Light Side…or we can become a slave to it and head further down the path to the Dark Side.

In today’s post, we’re going to discuss the importance of delayed gratification in getting healthy, and how we can use this information wisely, for the good of the Galaxy.

Dodge This: How the Matrix Can Help You Take Control of Your Life

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?

Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

We’ve all seen that amazing scene in the Matrix, where Neo learns how the Matrix works… and when you heard that quote above, you probably said “whoa.”

Believe it or not, our pal Morpheus here is teaching Neo the same lesson you’re going to learn today. By the time I’m done with you, you’re going to accomplish more in one day than you accomplished in all of last week.

I have spent the past few weeks living like Neo, seeing how the Matrix works, and operating at peak efficiency. Instead of dodging bullets and putting out fires, I’m now more in control of life than ever before.

If you feel like your life is in shambles or you want to get healthier and happier but never have the chance to work on it, then today is for you.

It was a rude awakening, but I now feel like Morpheus, which means you get to be Neo.

Instead of learning how to dodge bullets as they’re shot at you, we’re going to stop them from happening in the first place.

Within a few weeks, you’ll be crushing every Agent Smith that stands in your way.

Hacking the Matrix is NOT a Band-Aid


When it comes to getting healthier, stronger, happier with work, or more productive with your time, a band-aid is a temporary or fragile solution to a problem without addressing the underlying cause.

Let me give you a few examples:

Let’s say we’re somebody who’s overweight that decides to go on a diet. A temporary solution would be to starve ourselves and run on a treadmill for a few weeks to a month until we can go back to eating like we used to. Once we reach our goal weight and go back to how we used to eat, we’ll put the weight right back on, and have to continually repeat the process.

Let’s say we’re somebody that wants to start exercising. If we have a vacation coming up in a month, and we suddenly start going to five days a week of bootcamps (that we don’t actually enjoy), sure…we might reach our target goal weight in time for the vacation to squeeze into that bathing suit…but two months later we’re right back to square one!

Maybe we struggle with depression and wonder if we’re stuck in the Matrix with our day jobs. We come home exhausted from work and have half a dozen drinks to help us forget the crappy day we had. We stay up too late playing video games – the only part of our life in which we feel like we have control – and then we wake up exhausted to an alarm clock, and chug a pot of coffee to get us through the next day of work.

Every single thing on this list is a temporary band-aid for a serious problem that is not being addressed.

Above, we are seeking temporary solutions to major problems – like somebody trying to follow the rules in a Matrix that doesn’t want the human to wake up. Somebody else is pulling the strings, programming your movements, and you’re stuck simply going through the motions. Trying to use a band-aid when the whole Matrix is set up for you to remain locked in this “prison for your mind” is like trying to hold back the tide.

If we want to start living a leveled-up life, we need to hack the Matrix to fit OUR lives, not try to operate within its stupid rules.

As Morpheus tells us:

“Some rules can be bent, others can be broken.”

THAT’S when the fun starts to happen.

Find the Source Code


As we said above, band-aids and patches are temporary, fragile solutions to problems that have a much deeper cause.

If you’re a programmer or coder, you might have been advised by your bosses to “just get the program working again” for a piece of software you just inherited. This requires you to haphazardly patch together a solution that solves the problem, but doesn’t deal with the crux of the issue: the original code was poorly written!

So, you’re going to spend hours upon hours writing temporary hacks and solutions instead of being given the chance to fix the buggy code at its source.

Instead of buying bigger and better band-aids, or creating more elegant hacks and patches to the code, what happens if we clean up the source code instead? By identifying the problem and then implementing a solution that addresses the cause of the problem, we can systematically destroy that end result requiring the band-aid in the first place.

Let’s get even nerdier: think about it like a video game. Normally you only have control over the character, but we want you to have access to the source code as well. If you’ve ever played an Elder Scrolls game or the original Doom, you’re familiar with this: you get to be the Architect behind the game – which enemies go where, if you get double the speed, can levitate, or activate God Mode.

Want to go old school? You’re the Dungeon Master in a D&D game!

Build the game yourself, and force the enemies to adapt to you and how YOU want to play. Pretty freaking awesome huh? It turns out, life is our computer program, and we can design it like an Architect.

On the recommendation of Ramit Sethi, I read a book called Work the System by Sam Carpenter. It might as well have been called “Hack the Matrix.” Although Sam mostly discusses the use of building systems in the workplace for efficiency, I’ve been applying these systems to my very own life. It’s the ultimate argument for “proactive vs reactive.”

So, how do we attack the source of our problems and put band-aids out of business? By finding the source code that sucks and rewriting it, and applying systems to stop problems before they start.


1) Identify the overarching outcome you want to have for our program. What does the optimal version of your Matrix look like? Are you in shape, waking up without an alarm, going to a job and home by 5pm to see your kids?

2) Identify the decisions that are made or systems that are in place that are keeping you from reaching your desired outcome: If you’re not in shape, identify what is causing the problem (lack of healthy nutrition, not enough exercise, long hours at work, stress at home, etc.).

3) Identify inefficiencies or issues in ONE of those systems. “I want to eat better, but I get lazy and only eat fast food because it’s so convenient.”

4) Fix the problem or the inefficiency that’s the root cause of the problem. Prepare meals in advance on Sunday so “lazy” doesn’t factor in come Wednesday afternoon.

5) Repeat the problem with each inefficiency until the system is running smoothly (aka you have built a new habit or the system runs without your input), then attack the next inefficient system. 

Let me give you a few more examples, along with how I’ve recently changed my life to adapt the Matrix to the existence I’m building.

Be proactive with your health


Let’s take one of the systems that we’re hoping to fix, and attack our nutrition problem. If you are somebody who is overweight and struggles to lose weight, then we have a system that is operating inefficiently. Fortunately for you, because it’s a system, a few small changes to how the program operates can get to the root of the problem.

So, looking at our five steps above, let’s see what we can do.

1) Identify the overarching desired outcome: a clean bill of health from the doctor and a smaller waistline.

2) Identify the decisions that are made or systems that are in place that are causing the issue: although we know not all calories are created equal, we know that eating less is a step in the right direction for weight loss. So we need to identify WHY we are overeating or how we can start to eat less:

  • Do you eat more food when you are bored? Are you eating when you are doing other things (watching movies, sitting at your computer, etc.?
  • Do you eat more food when you are unhappy? It might be time to dig into the cause of that unhappiness, and your relationship with food.
  • Do you opt for junk food or drive-through meals when you are “too busy”?
  • Do you simply not know how to cook healthy food? Maybe you’re afraid of your kitchen and need to prove to yourself you can cook a healthy meal.

3) Identify inefficiencies in that system. We need to educate ourselves on what’s missing or how we can make an adjustment to that system.

NOTE: Just saying “I need to eat less” or “I will try to eat less” is a recipe for disaster. Remember, we are building systems here! If you leave it up to “willpower” or “when I’m inspired” you will NOT make permanent changes. You need to write better code from the start; vague or abstract doesn’t work when you have to dial it down to 1s and 0s.

So, using the example above, let’s put some rules in place to take action.

4) Change the inefficient part of the system:

Eat when you’re bored? Make a rule that you are not allowed to eat when doing another activity. Don’t eat while working. Don’t eat while watching TV. Don’t eat while playing games. This is the part of the system you are changing – otherwise you can eat normally.

Eat fast food when you don’t have time to cook? Pick a handful of healthier fast food options (like a salad bowl from Chipotle) that you restrict yourself to when you find yourself needing to get a quick bite.

5) Track your progress and repeat until you reach the desired outcome. After a month of focusing on your new system, check your results. Is it working? Keep doing it! Then pick another system and attack that with equal vigor. It’s working but not as fast as you’d like? Pick another part of that system and make an additional adjustment.

Put agents Out of Business

agent smith

I can see you reading all of the above, and I can see you saying to yourself, “Steve, I know I need to make changes. I know my “Matrix” is broken. That’s not the problem. I just can’t get myself to do the stuff I need to do. I’m too lazy, too busy, and too good at procrastinating.”

To that I say: these feelings are all merely symptoms of a massively inefficient system! Remember, “F*** motivation! Cultivate discipline.” We need to build ourselves an environment that sets us up to win (Like a Batcave!), and we need to build our lives in a way that we can effortlessly operate at peak efficiency within our program.

I’m reminded of the following quote:

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” S.Somerset Maugham 

If you’re truly interested in changing your life, the more you can break it down into systems and then get to work on improving those systems, the more long-term success you will have. No “motivation” or superpowers required. Just results.

So enough with accepting the Matrix for what it is and trying to be a dutiful slave within it! Hack the Matrix, and start to build your own rules within it:

1) Stop dieting. This is a band-aid. Make fundamental changes at a deep level.

2) Find exercise that you enjoy. Changing your life at the source code means finding long term sustainable activities, not temporary miserable bouts to lose a few pounds.

3) Build systems at work too – go to work excited and come home proud. Here’s how to become more efficient in the office.

4) Start insanely small. Think big, systems big. But when starting to change, you can only change one line of code at a time. Pick one habit to build, make it incredibly simple and basic, and stick with it for weeks. Five minutes of walking every day for 30 days is more powerful than 2 hours of walking for two weeks and then giving up.

With each system that you change, with each update to the source code in your Matrix, you get one step closer to Neo status.

This is coming from somebody who used to stay up way too late, spend way too much time “being busy,” procrastinating ’til the last minute, and never getting to accomplish the things I wanted to do.

Now? I’ve hacked the code at its source, stopped fires from happening instead of constantly having to put them out, and I’m able to accomplish more than I have ever accomplished in the past. I haven’t quite learned how to fly yet, but the Agents ARE scared.

I want to hear from you and how you plan to hack the Matrix:

What’s ONE problem in your life that you are currently dealing with reactively, and how do you plan on taking a birds eye view of the situation and finding a proactive solution?

I want a concrete example with the NEXT STEP you plan on taking to hack your source code to stop putting out fires and running from agents, and stack the game in your favor.

Be specific. And take action!

Wake up, Neo…



photo source: Sam: Band Aid, Jonathan: Matrix, stefan tarnell: morning workout

How LEGO and Minecraft Will Help You Get In Shape

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved to build stuff.

If I was in the back yard, I was building a treehouse. If I was in my basement, I was building a pillow fort. If I was anywhere near LEGO pieces, I was building a masterpiece! Or a random hodgepodge of multicolored blocks that I called a spaceship. This is why most photos on this site are of LEGO characters!

It’s no surprise that my favorite book of all time is The Pillars of the Earth, which follows the construction of a massive cathedral over many decades in a small town. What sounds like a weird concept and boring story turns into one helluva mystery and adventure.

Needless to say, I love building stuff and learning about building!

Now, sure, the LEGO photos are cute, but they’ve actually been serving a far deeper purpose – I’ve been slowly brainwashing your subconscious with each picture – showing you the true secret to a healthy body, stronger muscles, and a better life…one brick at a time.

So, when I recently stumbled across a quote that hit me like a ton of bricks (sorry, pun TOTALLY intended), I knew it was time to teach you everything you need to know about getting fit with LEGO pieces.

How Daryl the Fast Food Manager Dropped 100+ Pounds Following Nerd Philosophy

Daryl is a self described simple guy. Just a nerd who loves lifting and video games (hey, he’s in the right place!). Working in fast food management, Daryl has his share of willpower-challenges throughout the day.

Previously drinking well over 100 oz of soda each day and skipping meals to…drink more soda, it’s safe to say that he lived a fairly sedentary life:

I was a complete slob and all I did was eat and play video games. On the average day I would get up (if I had even gone to bed) and go to work, come home and not even bother to contact any of the few friends that I did somehow have, and go right to playing video games…that was my life for quite a while.

But Daryl decided to make a change, and today finds himself over 100 lbs lighter with a whole new outlook on life. Let’s take a look at how he did it.

Going Paleo? 5 Things You Need to Know.

“Alright, I’m in. Let’s do this Paleo thing.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the Paleo Diet. Actually, if you’re living under a rock, you probably are doing a pretty good job at living a Paleo lifestyle…and I’m impressed you’re reading this.

Anyways! Today’s article isn’t going to dig into what the Paleo Diet is, as I’ve already covered that extensively in the “Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet,” which has been viewed 9.5 million times.

If you’re not sure which foods qualify as Paleo or not, our Paleo Central mobile app takes out all of the guess work.

And if you’re somebody that’s quick to point out “the Paleo diet is flawed for [insert some reason about cavemen eating something]” or because you read the China Study, check out our “Paleo Diet Debunked?” article, where we explain our stance on the diet (and why we’re fans).

Today’s article is for those people who have already decided they want to go Paleo or Paleo-ish, but aren’t quite sure what that means or how to officially get started.

We’ll dig into the different ways to go Paleo, if there’s a WRONG way to do it, what pitfalls to avoid, and how you can set yourself up for success.

Getting Started With Nerd Fitness: Ready Player One.

Life is an adventure game, waiting to be played.

I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for six years now (!), helping people live better lives any way that I can. The NF tagline has been “Level Up Your Life” since then, and Team Nerd Fitness has been focused on finding ways to inspire, educate, and entertain with the help of our favorite movies, books, games, and comic heroes.

Maybe this is your first day ever seeing Nerd Fitness, and you’re trying to figure out what the heck this site is all about, and if it’s for you.

Maybe you’ve been reading for years, but you’re still learning and interacting with all the different aspects of our community.

Either way, I’m glad to have you here. Now, I tend to be wordy, and with over 650 articles published on the site, it’s tough to encapsulate what Nerd Fitness is, what the Rebellion is, and what we stand for.

Today, I’m presenting you with the “too long;didn’t read (tl;dr)” version of Nerd Fitness to share with friends, or help you dive in if you’re interested in learning more about what we do.

Here’s Nerd Fitness, in a nutshell.

The State of The Rebellion: Nerd Fitness 2014 In Review


2014 was a game-changing year for Nerd Fitness. What started nearly six years ago as a simple blog to help a few people has transformed into something far greater than I ever could have imagined.

We’ve gone from a one-man-band (imagine this guy) to a team of full-time members working for the Rebellion. We had a freaking Summer Camp, and finally my dreams of creating a place for people to level up in real life has been realized (though we’re just getting started on that front).

While we’re gearing up for a monster 2015 (where the Rebellion truly takes steps towards world domination), I wanted to take a look back at 2014 and where we’ve been before we plot out where we’re going!

What do you bench? Strength Training 101: The Bench Press

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.)

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