Nerd Fitness Level up your life, every single day. Tue, 05 May 2015 19:13:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Have Your Parents Decided Your Fitness Fate? Happy Star Wars Day! Mon, 04 May 2015 14:34:00 +0000 “[Luke,] I am your father.”

I bet you can remember where you were when you heard that famous line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching this as a small child and my jaw dropping at this revelation: holy crap! The bad guy is the dad of the hero! Han is frozen in carbonite! How the heck do they get out of this?

With today being Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you!”) and a recent trailer dropping that took the internet by storm, I felt like this would be a good chance to explore our fate and what we really get out of our time on this planet.

Ultimately, do we have to follow in our parents’ footsteps? Am I predestined to be like them? 

Star Wars explores this very question, and I want to talk about our own fate today. It’s probably best you listen to Duel of the Fates in the background while reading.

Destined for the dark side?


“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.”

When Luke discovers Vader is his father, you have to feel for him. The guy he’s been chasing, the guy who killed his mentor, the guy who is trying to kill him…is his freaking DAD. Luke is wondering “if he is capable of this great evil, am I capable of it as well? The same blood that flows in his veins flows in mine.”

I’m sure we’ve all been there, parents especially – when growing up we saw our parents do something and said, “when I’m a parent I’m not gonna be like them!” And then you have kids, and realize things are more complicated. Or maybe your parent was a smoker, or struggled with addiction/obesity, and you vowed to be different. But can we?

We have to face facts first: genetics and the habits we were brought up with do matter. Whether they are healthy habits or unhealthy habits, learned from great parents or parents who didn’t pass along a solid foundation – they matter. Maybe you have anger management issues like your dad, a sugar addiction like your mom, or you had parents who struggled to hold a job (or, parents who are doctors or scientists)!

We can’t pick our parents, just as Luke didn’t pick for his father to be Darth Vader. We also can’t pick how we were brought up (good or bad), or go back in time and change how we were treated or raised:

  • If you have overweight parents who thought trying to get healthy was a waste of time (“my dad was overweight, so was his, and you will be, too”), or they ate unhealthy foods and never gave it a second thought, it’s challenging to break free of that destiny.
  • If you had parents who placed values on the wrong things, or shamed others for being different, there will be a STRONG pull to go in that direction.
  • If we had parents who struggled with addiction or abuse, it can feel like ‘history will repeat itself.’

Ultimately, it can feel as though the deck is fixed and it’s going to play out in a certain way regardless of what decisions we make, which can make us feel helpless.

But there is (a new) hope!

In my years of running Nerd Fitness, I have seen thousands upon thousands of people buck the trend, break free of their fate, and change the ‘predetermined path’ they were on. The pull towards the dark side is strong, but with the right strategy you CAN turn out differently.

And only you can alter your path.

It’s something we need to learn before it’s too late.

You are not your father


In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, do you know what the #1 regret was of people who were on their deathbed?

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 

Maybe you grew up in a family where obesity is par for the course: fast food, diabetes, and heart attacks at an early age are part of the plan. Maybe now you feel like you dying young of heart disease is a foregone conclusion, as it happened to your dad and your grandpa. Heck, it even applies to your career, education, and other life choices!

I was fortunate to be raised by loving parents, and I subconsciously led myself to follow a particular career path because I thought it would make them (and thus make me) happy; I figured that they were both in sales and thus I should get into sales too. It turns out, they just wanted me to be happy, but I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I thought this was what was expected of me.

But let me tell you something that Luke learned long ago:

You are not your father.

You are not your mother.

Luke was aware of his father’s path, and had the choice to join him. In a what is surely a 20 seconds of courage moment, instead of seeking his dad’s approval, he chooses to stand on his own:

As Henry Rollins points out in The Iron and the Soul:

“I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.”

You get to pick if you want to go to the light side or the dark side: Become the Jedi you want to be, not the person you think you’re supposed to be. There might be a very strong pull in one direction, but ultimately it is never too late to start your training, or change course. Villains can become heroes, second-tier characters can become major players, and futures can change. But it requires honesty, a bit of bravery, and taking bold action.

Just know you’re not alone - We have about 33,000 Rebels on our free message boards who are here to support you, help you, and offer up words of advice as I’m sure many of them have felt the same.

Remember, true courage is living a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.

Motivation goes both ways

Although we spend three full movies absolutely loving to hate Darth Vader, he redeems himself in the Return of the Jedi when he chooses to sacrifice himself and destroy the Emperor in order to save his son:

There are few tougher conversations to have than one as a child telling his or her parents, “I’m worried about you, and I want you to be healthier.” Parents are often set in their ways (see Vader), but deep down it doesn’t mean they’re not listening (see Vader).

We grow up seeing our parents as invincible….until the day they’re not. My parents weren’t the healthiest people – raising three kids and both working jobs resulted in them putting on a few unhealthy pounds over the years. After starting Nerd Fitness, I started to worry more about them, but struggled with finding a way to bring it up the right way.

So I did the next best thing: I got myself in the best shape I could. I asked for healthier foods when I came home to visit, laughing at the “wait, but I thought you only ate pizza and spaghetti?” jokes. Unbeknownst to me, it had an effect on my parents – they actually started to apply some of the principles I chose to live by as well! It was really cool to see and I’m glad to see my choices have influenced their choices.

Having a conversation with parents about making changes, when it comes to being healthy or happy, is never easy. This is especially true if your name is Luke Skywalker, and your dad is trying to chop your head off with a lightsaber. If your name isn’t Skywalker, then you’re still up against the people who changed your diaper – tough.

Use the Force: If you still have parents and talk to them regularly, then your best bet is to become a model Jedi. Be ready, willing, and able to have a conversation with them about being healthier and happier when they bring it up, and offer support when they ask. The pull can be strong on you – but know that the pull can work BOTH ways, so use that to your advantage!

What are you giving to the next generation?


This Winter, Star Wars Episode VII will be released, and a whole new generation of Jedi, X-wing pilots, storm troopers, and Sith lords will do battle. Oh and the freaking Millenium Falcon is back. And a whole new generation of Star Wars fans will be born.

You have an opportunity to change the fate of the Galaxy as well. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics said the factor that puts children at greatest rick of being overweight is having obese parents.

If you want to give your kids the best possible chance to live the life of a healthy Jedi, taking care of yourself (and ‘selfishly’ making your health a priority) is the first place to start. Your kids are watching not what you say, but what you do, and you can drastically impact how they treat others, how they feel about themselves, and how they take care of themselves through YOUR actions.

The choice is yours. I hope you pass along the great qualities you’re building in yourself. And please, don’t blow up any planets.

I want to hear from you: have you bucked the trend of unhealthiness or unhappiness in your family? Have you broken out on your own against the path set for you? Or did you end up following a “pre-determined path” and now realize it wasn’t the path you wanted for yourself?

How about inspiring your parents to live better lives through example? Or have you gotten in shape and helped your kids make the connection with healthier choices too?

May the fourth Force be with you.


PS: With a bunch of new campers signing up over the weekend, we have something like 25 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Hope to see you there :)


photo source: JD Hancock: Luke vs Darth, JD Hancock: Han vs Luke, Kenny Louie: Luke Lego, JD Hancock: Snake Eyes vs Luke

]]> 24
The Avengers Workout Challenge Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:32:57 +0000 The Avengers are in need of a hero.

Tony Stark created an artificially intelligent being by the name of Ultron, and Ultron decided to go off the rails and attempt to take over the planet. He and his minions have incredible intelligence, lightning-quick speed, tons of raw power, and are hell-bent on destroying his creator.

If the robots win, then we’ll end up in a future not unlike the Matrix. Suck!

Fortunately, despite dilly dallying across multiple movies and ridiculously fantastic plot points, the Avengers have assembled yet again, and are ready for the challenge to defeat Ultron and save Earth yet again from calamity.

Are you ready?

You have been presented with a unique opportunity to join the Avengers, but you’ll need to complete a trial to show the world you’re worthy of joining the cause.

Ultron is going down! Sorry James Spader.

The Avengers Workout Challenge


Complete the recommended reps of each exercise in as few sets as possible while following good form. (Any time you rest and put the bar down, that is considered a set). So, the best possible score would be to complete each movement in a single set, for 6 sets total across the challenge.

Complete all of the first exercise before moving on to the second exercise. Remember – we would rather you do the exercise spread across more sets with great form, than less sets with form that breaks down. If you can’t complete the prescribed movement, try the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of the movement.

As always: warm up before, and cool down after! Complete each of the movements below with great form and not focused on time.

This is a full body routine, so make sure you take a day off from strength training the day after. No gym access? Complete one of our other workouts that don’t require equipment, like the beginner bodyweight routine.

This isn’t meant to be a full workout routine to be done multiple times a week, but more as a one time challenge.

1) BLACK WIDOW MAKER SQUATS: 20 reps of barbell squats with the bar remaining on your shoulders. You can’t kick ass like Black Widow if you don’t have killer legs (see what I did there?), and there’s no better way to build leg strength and power than with a widowmaker set of squats.

Complete 20 reps at a weight on the bar that equals your bodyweight. You can rest for a moment, but the bar must remain on your shoulders.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: Complete 20 reps at a weight that’s comfortable for you, taking as many sets as necessary (instead of one 20-rep set).


2) HAWKEYE PULL-UPS - 20 Archer Pull Ups (10 each side). You need serious back strength to launch arrows with the power and accuracy of Hawkeye. And what better way to get that strength than with the appropriately named Archer Pull-up?

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Unable to do archer pull ups? Do regular pull-ups, assisted with a band or on a machine.


3) IRON MAN BOOSTS – 20 Box JumpsImagine you have a rocket propulsion system strapped to the bottom of your feet. Stand in front of a box or bench at least 24 inches tall, and launch yourself as high as possible, landing softly on the bench or chair. And then STEP DOWN (don’t jump down).

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Step ups onto the bench.


4) CAPTAIN AMERICA SHIELD LAUNCHES – 30 Plyometric Push-ups. Imagine you have a shield made of vibranium, and there is a robot on the other side of it trying to get through. You want to push that robot 100 yards away with your super soldier strength. Complete plyometric push ups as if you were launching your shield into an enemy.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 40 regular push-ups, or knee push-ups.


5) HULK LIFTS – 30 barbell deadlifts at bodyweight. The Hulk has tree trunks for legs (though thankfully his shorts increase in size when he transforms). If you’re going to pick up cars and throw them at people, or toss enemies around like rag dolls, it’s time to level up your barbell deadlifts.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 30 deadlifts at half-bodyweight. Reduce the weight – a great place to start is half bodyweight, but don’t be afraid to try less!


6) HAMMERS OF THOR - 30 swings of a sledgehammer into a tire. Thor can call the power of lightning, but it’s his strength that allows him to wield his famous hammer.

No access to hammer and tire? Do Kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses, as if you were picking up Thor’s hammer and raising it to the heavens.

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: 30 kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses of 30 pounds (or less depending on your skill). No prescribed weight.

How did you do?


You can download a PDF of the workout here: Avengers Workout.

So, Avenger…how did you do? Keep track of how many total sets it took you to complete all of the movements above.

  • 6-9 total sets: Avenger Hero
  • 10-15 total sets: Avenger Recruit
  • 16-20 total sets: SHIELD Agent
  • 21+ total sets: SHIELD Agent in training



photo source: Meet the Chembeques: lego avengersJD Hancock: Universal AvengersmarvelousRoland: Black Widow

]]> 13
What’s Your Avengers Superpower? Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:03:03 +0000 I freaking love the AvengersIf you’re reading this site, chances are you do too, and you’re probably freaking out with excitement for the release of Age of Ultron.

There’s something just inherently badass about taking a posse of amazing characters who have lead their own films and comics, and bringing them all together to take on an even greater challenge no one Avenger could defeat alone. Whether they’re facing an invading alien race, or artificial intelligence gone rogue, these heroes need to find a way to work together and become greater than the sum of their parts.

In the Game of Life, turning yourself into a healthy ass-kicking superhero can seem like a monumental task worthy of joining the Avengers. Having the right attitude, unwavering mental fortitude, and laser-sharp focus might feel impossible with our day-to-day responsibilities.

However, if you can take the best parts of each Avenger and apply each of their abilities to your own journey, I guarantee you’ll emerge a real life superhero yourself. Seriously!

And then you’re going to contribute your own super power and help The Nerd Fitness Rebellion take over the world.

Avengers, assemble!

The Incredible Hulk’s Alter ego


Bruce Banner is a quiet, thoughtful, bumbling scientist.

And then he gets angry.

And sure, the Incredible Hulk often gets out of control (hence the need for Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster), but the Hulk can also do some incredible things nobody else can. In fact, many Avengers would have lost their lives and the world might have ended if it weren’t for Bruce’s power to become incredible:

Do you spend your whole life like Bruce Banner? Or do you take advantage of opportunities to become somebody else?

For most of my day, I’m a quiet shy nerd who sits at a computer and writes articles about Minecraft, The Matrix, and Deadlifts. But when I’m in the gym, my headphones are blasting music, I hang from gymnastic rings like a monkey, and I grunt during heavy deadlift sets.

Socially, I’m usually a pretty risk-averse and shy person as well, but I know sometimes it’s important for me to come out of that shell. So I channel the alter ego of somebody who’s much more outgoing, talkative, and friendly when I’m in situations where I know it would improve my evening. Yup, it often takes 20 seconds of courage for me to go up to talk to somebody.

Be more like the Hulk: What’s your alter ego? You might be a scientist, or a janitor, or a doctor who struggles with social anxiety. At the gym, you can be somebody strong, fast, and powerful. You can train like somebody who’s drastically different than the person you spend most of your time living as. You can actually be a superhero!

Next time you’re on a vacation or headed out for a night on the town, adopt the alter-ego of somebody incredibly confident and make decisions based on what they would do. Who cares if it’s not really you? Confidence, social skills, and strength are all skills that can be learned with enough practice.

Tony Stark’s Tinkering


Be honest, you would give anything for a fully functioning Iron Man suit.

Every time we see Tony Stark, he’s in a newly upgraded Mark suit, all the way up to Mark XLV in Age of Ultron. With each iteration his suit gets a bit stronger, more durable, smarter, faster, sleeker, or more efficient. And thank goodness: his movies and his role in Iron man wouldn’t have worked if he stuck with the hunk of junk that was his first attempt of his suit in the original Iron Man movie:

From the first suit to the most recent, Tony is constantly shaving off millimeters to become more aerodynamic, or tinkering with the suit to get a single percentage point of efficiency.

Tony is a perfectionist, always in search of improvement. However, he doesn’t let that get in the way of progress, because he knows the rule: you can’t edit a blank page, and you can’t improve a machine that hasn’t been built yet.

Be like Tony: Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Instead of drastic sweeping changes each time, Tony makes teeny tiny adjustments that result in breakthroughs and improvements.

If you are looking to get in shape, look for small tweaks that you can repeatedly improve. If you want to learn how to squat, start with just the bar and work on your form. If you want to lose weight, make a single adjustment to your diet this week and then make another adjustment next week.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with the perfect diet or the perfect workout plan: they don’t exist.

Start. Build. Learn. Change. Adapt. Repeat.

Captain America’s bright lines

Captain America Toy

It’s no surprise Captain America is often referred to as “The First Avenger.”

And if you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know he’s my favorite Avenger. Heck, we even have shirts in the NF Store that pay homage to this superhero.

That’s because Cap doesn’t have to waste precious mental bandwidth on deciding what to do in conflicting situations. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong, and it’s these rules that allow him to quickly decide what action to take… even if it goes against popular opinion.

See Captain America: The Winter Soldier for proof:

Be like Cap: If you struggle with saying no, or can’t get yourself to start working out, stop saying “I can’t” and instead make it part of your identity:

  • “I do [this].” “I don’t do [this.]”

“I probably shouldn’t eat that cake” suddenly becomes this idea you can’t get out of your head until you eat cake. “I can’t eat cake” is you restricting yourself and depriving you of something you want.

Compare that to a Captain America rule: “I don’t eat cake.” This one change takes the guess work out of what you need to do, and removes the need to have “just one” or “only a little.” My friend James Clear refers to these rules as “Bright Line” rules.

Black Widow’s mental flexibility


Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanova) is often praised for her deadly skills as an assassin, along with her flexibility to beat the crap out of bad guys, even when restrained or under attack.

(I’m more interested in her mental flexibility! I promise.)

Whenever the situation changes, she adapts quickly and then crushes her opposition:

Have you ever been in the gym and found that the equipment you needed to use was already taken? Or gotten ready to go for a run and realized it was pouring rain? Did you leave the gym, or give up on your run? Did you plan on eating healthy but on a business trip decided “well, if I can’t eat healthy for every meal, might as well eat whatever I want!”

Suckers look for the slightest excuse to say “Damn, can’t do my workout today!” or “Looks like I’ll have to eat fast food!” Avengers prepare for any situation and have plans B and C and D in case Plan A falls through.

Be like Black Widow: Don’t look for excuses to skip your workout and nutrition – instead look for solutions. Have a plan in place for every scenario when things don’t go according to Plan A. It works for MacGuyver, and it works for Black Widow: If you can’t get to the gym, can you do a bodyweight workout at home? If there isn’t access to any healthy breakfast options while traveling, can you do some intermittent fasting? Stay agile, like Black Widow.

Thor’s Confident humility


“Confident humility? That’s an oxymoron Kamb!” you might be saying right now.

I love Thor, as I feel like he’s gone through one hell of a transformation on his journey to becoming an integral part of the Avengers. In Thor’s first film, his arrogance and naivete get him banished from Asgard and stripped of his power:

Which is a bummer, as Asgard is freaking gorgeous, and I want to live there.

Anyways, Thor has to question everything he deemed important, and radically adjust his view of the world, from cocky arrogant demi-god, to redemption song. Sure, he remained strong and confident, but it was his humility and questioning of his deeply held beliefs that gave him a chance to regain his power and become worthy again. Although he’s surrounded by “mere mortals,” he’s learned to exist among them, including a love of coffee:

Like Thor, we all have beliefs we hold deep within us; when somebody questions those beliefs it can shake us to our core and cause us to put up our defense mechanisms. Read the comments in any article on the internet, and you’ll find people who lash out at the opposition when their own views are called into question.

Be like Thor: When it comes to getting healthy, we are all fighting decades worth of conventional wisdom that has cemented itself in your brain. If we are trying to do something different with our life, social pressure might make it hard to make a big change.

It’s time to look at our own deeply held beliefs and question everything (a Rule of the Rebellion).

Hawkeye’s phoenix-like redemption


Hawkeye is a deadly marksman with a bow and arrow: one hell of a shot and a valuable member of the Avengers. Unfortunately, in the first Avengers flick, Hawkeye’s brain is hijacked by the trickster Loki, and is forced to do the bidding of the enemy.

During that time, he kills tons of “good guy” S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and struggles internally with the damage he’s done. He feels deeply remorseful for those actions, even though he was a puppet with somebody else pulling the strings. This wrecks him:

Fortunately for Hawkeye and for the rest of the Avengers (and us fans), Hawkeye is set free and gets a chance to redeem himself, bailing out his friends and helping save the world:

He can’t fix what happened in the past, even though it eats away at him. He can only learn from it and do his best to redeem himself moving forward. I want the same for you.

Be like Hawkeye: Be your own redemption story. Regardless of who you were yesterday, today is an opportunity to change, to atone, to redeem. If you’ve been a bad friend, or a bad husband, or a bad daughter, a bad team member, you can’t fix yesterday. You can however, fix what you’re doing right now, and change your actions moving forward.

It’s time for you to show the world what you are capable of and make your contribution. As they say: “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

If yesterday you were a 400-pound, unemployed, unhappy person, today you have an opportunity to start day 1 of a new life. Sure, you might be 400 pounds and unemployed today, but the difference is that today is a step towards superhero status… And tomorrow? Anything is possible!

avengers assemble


If you couldn’t tell, I’m quite excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But I want to hear from you: what superpower are you bringing to The Nerd Fitness Rebellion?

Get creative. Give us your backstory. Tell us about your superpower and why it’s going to help us take over save the world!

I’ll start:

My superpower is the ability to combine abilities and skills from others, whether it’s combining the philosophy of Nassim Taleb with video games, or combining the complexities of a paloelithic diet with Legos, or intense bodyweight training and heavy barbell training. I like taking complex or seemingly unrelated things, and bringing them together to form a super idea, or super training plan, or super power. This skill has translated to team building! I like to think I helped assemble a unique group of misfits and underdogs here at Nerd Fitness, and the same with Team Nerd Fitness.

What about you? We’ll pick two commenters at random and give away free Nerd Fitness shirts!


Rebel Hero: My friend Jason Lengstorf in Costa Rica, striking quite the superhero pose himself here in his Nerd Fitness shirt.


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


photo source: Varlin: Captain, marvelousRoland: Hawkeye, Wacko Photographer: Ironman, Jay Malone: Thor, marvelousRoland: Black Widow, JD Hancock: Universal Avengers

]]> 49
Want to Crush Your Inner Demons? Use the Skywalker Strategy! Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:40:23 +0000 In most fantasy or sci-fi movies, there’s a big epic battle between the forces of good and evil.

However, before that battle can happen, an even more important battle must take place: between the ears of the protagonist. Oftentimes our hero or heroine has an inner demon to slay before he or she can go slay the dragon/save the princess/galaxy/world.

There’s probably no more famous nerdy example than Luke Skywalker in the Cave on Dagobah:

A few other great examples:

Often life is no different: getting healthy, like most other things in our life, is more about fighting our inner battles than anything else – that voice that tells us to eat bad food, drink and smoke, avoid confrontation, or skip our workout. Even when we WANT to do something like asking someone to go on a date, we must overcome the fear of rejection and that internal voice of insecurity.

Last week on Nerd Fitness, we featured one of my favorite success stories ever. Maya lost over 70 pounds and went from “not good enough” to practicing aerialist. She said something I will never forget:

“I’m much more positive now, and much more likely to take an optimistic outlook on things. I still struggle sometimes with my inner demons – who doesn’t? – but I’m better equipped to fight them now.”

Today we’re going to win some inner battles to kick some ass on the outside as a result.

Step 1: Identify the battle first


First and foremost, it’s tough to fight an inner battle before we know what we’re up against. It’d be like trying to fight the smoke monster in the show Lost, or swinging at a cloud. Put a face on that demon, give it name, and know your enemy.

As Sun Tzu said:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

So, what the heck is it? Often we seek to treat the symptom of a problem without getting to the root of the problem, which is usually this inner demon we are trying to slay. This is like trying to patch faulty code instead of hacking it at the source.

Until we identify the demon, we might struggle to make consistent progress on our goals, consistently backsliding and berating ourselves for sucking. Or worse, spending our days thinking back on what might have been, rather than finding out what could be.

  • Struggling with a food addiction or a sugar addiction?
  • Addicted to caffeine?
  • Drink too much?
  • Maybe it’s unhappiness!
  • What about a fear of inadequacy or rejection?

In each of the situations above, it’s important for us to take the time to dig deep – go into our Dagobah cave – and put a face on the demon holding you back. This part can suck – it requires 100% honesty with yourself and owning up to what’s really at the root of the issue.

Step 2: Stay Away Until You’re Ready

Level Up

It’s no secret that I love role-playing games as metaphors for life.

The tagline for Nerd Fitness is “level up your life,” and I love thinking about these games and how we can apply their lessons to living better lives outside of fantasy land.

Imagine you are a Level 1 noob in a new game, and you stumble across a Level 10 Orc Chief. You pull a Leroy Jenkins and run screaming at him and attack. Unsurprisingly, he absolutely demolishes you.

You are then faced with two options:

  • Continue to charge the chief, getting your ass kicked every time, and then tell yourself “I’m not good enough” and mope.
  • Recognize the fact that the chief is a Level 10 and you’re a Level 1, so maybe you should find a different path and come back when you are better equipped to handle him.

Unless you are a masochist, you’re probably going to go with option 2. Doing all of these things will give you a chance to level up and prepare yourself. Build some momentum, level up, get better armor, and THEN come back.

When you return at Level 15, that once-menacing Orc Chief is now a peon that you can destroy with two clicks of the mouse. It’s not that he’s any less strong than he was when he started, it’s just that you’re much better prepared to battle him.

Why do we do things the hard way when it comes to life, but the easy way when it comes to video games?

  • If you struggle with drinking too much, then continuing to put yourself in bars where everybody binge drinks is a recipe for disaster.
  • If you struggle with portion control, going to an all-you-can-eat buffet is asking for trouble.
  • If you struggle with fast food, driving past a row of fast food joints every single day is a hopeless endeavor.
  • If you can’t get yourself to eat just one piece of candy, then putting yourself within arm’s length of more than one is a terrible idea!

My thoughts on Weight Watchers can be found here, but man they really nailed their latest ad campaign:

So, stop facing the Level 10 Orc Chief before you are ready! Go explore a different part of the world and level yourself to Level 15 before you consider putting yourself back in a fight with him.

  • Get all of the junk food out of your house until you’re better equipped to handle it.
  • Drive a different path to work so that you don’t drive past Burger King and Taco Bell and McDonald’s twice daily.
  • Take a month off from going out to bars and get your life in order before inserting yourself back into that environment.

While you’re avoiding the Orc Chief, you can set out to fight increasingly difficult bad guys to level up your character and become better prepared for the inner battle. Maybe you are afraid of public speaking, or you’re afraid of talking to a stranger you’re attracted to. You don’t jump straight to speaking at TED conferences or asking out Scarlett Johansson. You take baby steps and slowly level up:

  • Speaking: start by giving a talk to your friends. Then on a street corner. Then volunteer to talk at a local school or shriner’s club.
  • Asking out somebody you’re attracted to: Start by talking to people you’re not romantically interested in, or people you find easy to talk to. For me, this might look like: dudes, married women, old folks, kids. Get comfortable with having conversations. Then offer up a drive-by compliment. Then build up to asking somebody out.

Just like with all of the examples above, that inner battle you’re facing never goes away completely, it just becomes easier due to the fact that you are now leveled up. Thanks Einstein!

Step 3: Study the pattern of the boss and memorize it


Ever played Mike Tyson’s Punch-out!!?

I remember playing this as a kid and really struggling to defeat Bald Bull – every time I got close to defeating him, he would run back and then charge me and knock me out with one punch.

This went on for WEEKS until I learned that you could send a properly timed punch right into his face and it would knock him out cold:

After, that…the fight became a breeze. And this pattern continued for each fighter after that. Initially impossible, each battle would result in my TKO. However, after dozens and dozens of attempts I would learn the opponents triggers, mannerisms, and tells before certain types of punches.

Again, it wasn’t because these guys got any easier…it was because I got better at pattern recognition and had the perfect counter punch for each situation. How can we apply this to our inner demon fight?

Prepare as much as you can ahead of time, and have a plan in place for every time that inner demon comes out to fight! If you are struggling with smoking or eating unhealthy foods, think about the triggers that cause your brain to crave these things:

  • Do you smoke when you are nervous or anxious? When you drink?
  • Do you eat when you are bored or unhappy?
  • Do you chug a six-pack of Mountain Dew in the afternoon to stay awake at work?

Your demon has a face, and now you’re properly leveled to fight him. You still need to study his patterns and prepare yourself to fight him each and every time. He won’t get any less strong, but you’ll be better equipped to go through his patterns and counter attack and crush him.

Here’s an example:

I know that at work in the afternoon I go eat snacks and get a 20 oz soda because I’m tired and bored, not because I’m hungry. Therefore, when this feeling kicks in, I will follow the pattern of victory:

  • I will walk around the office to wake up, while drinking a black coffee.
  • I will eat an apple and stay away from Fran, who keeps a bucket of candy on her desk.
  • I will emerge victorious.

What inner demon are you fighting?


There’s a common theme running through each of the sections and paragraphs above:

Non-judgmental analysis and adaptation.

When you come across a Level 10 Orc Chief, you might lose a few times before retreating and realizing you need a different game plan. You then go find a new path around him, or you don’t come back to fight him until you’re properly equipped to battle.

Heck, maybe you come back with two friends who can help you win – we have a community of rebels looking to group up to help you win your battle.

None of the above is possible without that first initial defeat: “okay I have an inner demon that is beating me.” However, the second step is more crucial: “I need to change my strategy or I’m going to keep losing.”

If you are struggling with an inner demon, it doesn’t make you weak or a bad person. People die in video games all the time; it’s part of the game. The satisfaction in the game is learning the patterns or leveling up high enough to deliver that finishing blow.

I want to hear from you:

What is an inner demon you are currently battling? And what are some concrete steps you can take IMMEDIATELY to help defeat it more often?

If you’ve successfully quit smoking, or overcome a fear of rejection, or finally got the courage to try something you’ve always held back on, please share your story. I know about 260,000 people who would love to hear your story and learn from you!

Because I like giving away stuff, we’ll randomly give away a Nerd Fitness shirt to a rebel who leaves a comment before Wednesday April 29th at 11:59 PM.

Ready player one…FIGHT!


PS: In case you missed Monday’s announcement, we have less than 30 of 300 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Check out to see our first group of announced speakers – hope you can join us :)


photo source: artnoose: Level up, alan: Jedi, phobus: bowser

]]> 105
8 of My Favorite Fitness Resources (40 Spots Left for Camp Nerd Fitness!) Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:43:40 +0000 I want to introduce you to some of my favorite resources on all things health and fitness. 

I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for over six years now (holy crap!), and along the way I’ve had a chance to meet and connect with some pretty cool folks: nerds who have inspired, educated, or motivated me to better myself and pass along that knowledge to the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Because the fitness universe is so massive, and there are so many different ways to get fit, it can be quite difficult to know where to get your information. Although we cover a wide variety of stuff here on Nerd Fitness, I can’t do it all.

So, I’ve put together a list today of my favorite resources – people who are incredibly knowledgeable in their respective fields. These people are online fitness coaches, gym owners, travelers, adventurers, and gurus in subjects that often go far deeper than I can cover with Nerd Fitness.

NOT COINCIDENTALLY, these coaches are all going to be coaching at Camp Nerd Fitness, starting September 29th! Even though the event is over five months away, we’ve already sold 260+ of our 300 spots and expect to sell out pretty soon. Hope you can join us!

Regardless of whether or not you can join us at Camp NF, make sure you check out our coaches below and their sites.

Jim Bathurst – Gymnastics and strength training


I first stumbled across Jim Bathurst as I read Convict Conditioning (mostly for the conditioning part, I swear Mom!). Although Jim wasn’t the convict who wrote the book, he was the fitness instructor who did each of the exercises in the photos, including one-handed push ups, pull ups, one-handed handstands, and more. I became an instant Jim Bathurst fanboy.

Jim runs both (home to some fantastic tutorials on advanced bodyweight movements) and Crossfit Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C. Jim is also the guy who taught me how to do my first muscle up!

I’m proud to call Jim a friend, and always look to him for what is possible when it comes to pushing the limits on performance – Jim won Men’s Health Magazine’s “How Fit Are You?” contest…twice.

Last year at Camp NF, Jim taught everything from slacklining to handstands to grip strength to olympic lifting. I’m so excited he’s going to be joining us again.

You should follow (or train with) Jim if: you are interested in learning things like handstands, Olympic lifting, muscle ups, and other bodyweight movements.

Anthony Mychal – Powerlifting, Tricking, Gymnastics

Hero Goku

Meet Anthony, the guy who trains me.

Over the past 15 months I have been working virtually with Anthony Mychal, a friend who I convinced to help me with my programming and nutrition to find out what I’m capable of (turns out WAY more than I had ever thought).

Anthony is the creator of – don’t let his serious photos fool you; Anthony is Yoda and Socrates trapped in the body of a Greek God. Oh, and he’s a massive nerd and goofball, as evidenced in the photo above from a theme night at Camp last year. Anthony trains in a way that lines up perfectly with Nerd Fitness: strength and fun are paramount. Gymnastic movements, powerlifting, and fun, totally functional movements like tricking are his specialty.

As for his credentials, along with a background in performance and training, here he is at camp deadlifting 550 pounds (at a bodyweight of 205 lbs) and making it look easy.

Anthony digs into some deeply philosophical content on his blog (it was his love of antifragility that got me hooked), in addition to advanced body composition topics. He also loves Dragon Ball Z.

You should read Anthony‘s site if: you are interested in no longer being “skinny-fat,” you enjoy getting deep into topics on human performance, or you are interested in learning about tricking. Here’s Anthony landing a crazy move:

Instagram Photo

Kate Marolt – Yoga


Kate is one of the happiest people on the planet. She’s also one helluva yoga instructor, and has been a member of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion for years and years – serving as a Druid moderator on our Nerd Fitness message boards. How’s that for “Nerd Fitness” credentials?

Kate runs – Soul Wild Free, a site dedicated to helping women level up their bodies and minds. She does online personal development coaching, leads retreats, and has even partnered with us here at Nerd Fitness for an upcoming project we’re going to be revealing in a few short weeks – spoiler alert: it involves Yoga and nerds :)

Last year at Camp NF, Kate led some fantastic yoga and mobility sessions, including Rock and Roll Yoga at a lakeside pavilion. How epic is that?

You should read or work with Kate if: you enjoy yoga and mobility work, you are interested in learning more about handling depression/anxiety, or just interested in learning more about yourself and where you fit in on this planet.

Amy Clover – Bootcamps and Personal Development


If Kate is one of the happiest people on the planet, then I think Amy Clover is probably the happiest person on the planet.

I met Amy years ago at a conference when she was just getting started with her own fitness site. I remember encouraging Amy to share her full story of how she overcame depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts through exercise. She even shared her story on Nerd Fitness, which is a must read. 

Amy Clover runs, a fantastic resource and blog built around fun, functional fitness, overcoming depression and anxiety, and building a better life. She runs events all over the country, and even teaches a weekly class in San Diego where she lives.

Amy taught bootcamps last year at Camp Nerd Fitness, and had the entire camp screaming “I’m a HERO!” by the end of it. She also led some fantastic discussions on depression and exercise that helped quite a few people start to feel better about where they are.

You should read Amy’s site or attend her live events if: you are somebody who enjoys being around positive people, you aren’t afraid to sweat and have fun, and you want to learn more about how exercise impacts your body’s physiology and psychology.

Dakao Do – Parkour, Medieval WeaPons, Kung Fu


Meet Dakao Do, the guy who’s more “Nerd Fitness” than anybody you’ve ever met.

Dakao first entered the NF world when he offered to write a Beginner’s Guide to Parkour for Nerd Fitness, which to this day remains one of our most popular articles of all time.

At Camp last year, Dakao taught Parkour, Medieval Weapons training (with an Assassin’s Creed angle), and even freaking Kung Fu! What’s more Nerd Fitness than that?

When he’s not training nerds at Camp, Dakao is a member of Sword to Sword, a group dedicated to the study of Historical European Martial Arts. Based in Houston, Dakao shares his 14 years of experience in medieval and Renaissance swordsmanship, and teaches people in the disciplines listed above. He’s an absolute delight to work with as a coach.

Dakao Parkour

You should work with Dakao if: any of the subjects above interest you. And come on, who isn’t interested in parkour, sword fighting, or Kung Fu!? He is funny, nerdy, and his range of knowledge is eclectic. Hell, he can even show you how Argentine tango combines with good kung fu to make effective movements for fitness and fighting.

Jason Fitzgerald – Running


Jason is a USA Track & Field certified coach and founder of Strength Running, one of the largest coaching sites for runners.

His running advice has been featured in Runner’s World, Competitor, Lifehacker, and even Nerd Fitness! We partnered together on the Rebel Running Guide (which is no longer available but might – spoiler alert – make a comeback in different form!)

His real passion, however, is helping runners set monster personal bests and avoid injuries.

Jason escaped from the Dark Side of injuries in 2009 and has only had one minor injury since then. This consistency (which he loves calling the “secret sauce” of successful running) has allowed him to improve his marathon time to 2:39, and place first in the 2012 Maryland Warrior Dash. When he’s not running up mountains in the Colorado Front Range, you can bet he’s getting jacked up on coffee or enjoying a good IPA.

You should read or work with Jason if: you have any interest in becoming a better runner, or simply learning to run in a way so you never get injured again.

Dave Ursillo – Yoga and Writing


Dave Ursillo is a writer, poet, professional communicator, vinyasa flow yoga teacher and aspiring superhero. He can also do a crazy good Boston accent when required.

As a kid, Dave dreamed of saving the world and could often be seen in costume as his favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (Raphael). He carried the passion for helping others into a short career in public service. Dave quit his job in 2009 and began to use his words to serve others without anyone else’s permission.

Dave is now a multi-published author, workshop leader and yoga teacher, who believes in using self-expression and body movement to discover the superhero in each of us. He teaches regularly in Rhode Island. He has published over 400 essays on, and has been seen on CBS News Sunday Morning, Psychology Today and

I’ve known Dave’s for close to four years, and I’ve never had a bad time hanging out with him. Well, there was that one time we watched the Boston Bruins lose a hockey game together, but I still had fun despite the outcome. Dave was even at our first NerdFitness meet up ever.

You should read Dave’s site or attend one of his retreats if: You are interested in yoga, movements, and learning about what your particular super power is. If you have any interest in becoming a better writer or learning about what life is like as a writer, Dave is your guy :)

Roger Lawson – fitness fundamentals and Personal Development


Just saying the name “Roger Lawson” (AKA “Rog Law”) puts a smile on my face. I bet the picture above did the same for you.

The only things Rog Law loves more than fitness are Cinnabon, Dragon Ball Z, and laughing like a 5-year-old on the playground. Using his unique style of hilarity, gaming references, and an unyielding sense of positivity, his goal is to show people how to use fitness as a tool to not only get in shape and feel amazing, but to enhance ALL areas of their life.

I guarantee if you meet Rog in person, you will want to give him a hug. Unless he hasn’t already given you one. Which he probably has.

He writes about all of this stuff at, aka “the Art of Sexification.” Come on, how can you not love that subtitle!? Legend has it if you turn off the lights and say “Rog Law” in the mirror three times, he will show up and eat all the food in your refrigerator.

You should read Rog’s Website if: you love strength training, building social skills, getting sexificationed (that’s a real word), and are interested in using gaming skills to level up in real life.

[editor’s note: I haven’t told Rog yet that there won’t be any Cinnabon at Camp NF, so shhhhhh]

More to Come!

This is our first round of speakers who will be coaching at Camp Nerd Fitness, which I am so freaking excited about. Last year’s event was truly a game-changing moment for the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, and for me personally.

If you can make it, we’d love to have ya! Here’s a quick video that shows what happened last year:

Camp Nerd Fitness Video

If you can’t make it to Camp, bummer, but that’s okay! We’re going to start coordinating more meetups and smaller events to bring the Nerd Fitness community together throughout the country (and the world?). In the meantime, please check out the sites from the awesome people above and level up your life!

And hopefully see you at Camp :)


PS: I have no clue how quickly these final 40ish spots for Camp Nerd Fitness are going to sell, so if you’re on the fence about joining us, now might be a good time to put down a deposit! If we happen to sell out, we’ll open up a waiting list in case we have any cancellations.


photo pin: michael kmak: mario powerups

]]> 11
How Maya the Aspiring Aerialist Lost 70+ Pounds! Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:45:01 +0000 I want you to meet Maya, known as StarsApart on the NF Boards, a proud member of the Rebellion and one heck of a success story.

Like many folks, Maya was fairly fit her teens and early twenties, but when she entered grad school, that all fell apart. She graduated completely out of shape, and the weight piled up: 30 lbs, 40, 50, and beyond.

Maya got stuck in a cycle, and for years let a poor diet add pounds to her waistline. She was in a place in her life where she wasn’t happy with herself or her situation and had spent a year doing hours upon hours of cardio only to see no results.

Finally, after a contest at work (and becoming a Rebel armed with the right tools) got her kick-started, Maya began to turn things around.

Just over a year later, she’s accomplished a TON. In her own words, here’s what Maya has done:

  • I lost 70+ pounds.
  • I went from a size 14 in dresses/pants to a size 2.
  • I cut almost all processed foods out of my diet and began home-cooking everything.
  • I threw away my fear and tried parkour.
  • I balanced Crow pose. For a record of 20 seconds so far. With a freaking boot on my leg.
  • I can now deadlift 170 lbs. That’s more than I weigh.
  • I rehabbed a broken bone to almost perfect health (still a work in progress, but I’m at the tail end).
  • I tried aerial and discovered I love acrobatics.
  • I can climb a rope (or silks) up to a 25 ft ceiling. I could never climb anything before in my life.
  • I ran a 5k. Only a month after my foot came out of its brace.
  • I can go snowshoeing up a mountain in the snow for 2.5 hours without losing my cool – or my breath.
  • I have abs. They still shock me when I look at myself in the mirror. Actually, I’m just shocked by the person I see in the mirror.

Today she’s 70 lbs lighter, and a whole new person. Let’s take a look at how she did it.

Maya’s Story


Steve: Hey Maya! Or Should I call you StarsApart? Can you tell the Community who are you, and what you do?

I’m Maya, and I do so many things that I hardly know where to begin! My alter-ego is a marketing analyst who spends her days dissecting data, but by night I turn into a professional singer, or an amateur aerialist, or sometimes just a tea-obsessed gamer, dreamer, and cat mom. I wear a lot of hats, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m always off chasing something shiny.

Steve: I know what that’s li…OOOH a butterfly! Anyways, let’s go back in time: What was the old you like?

It’s a pretty sad picture: wake up exhausted, having stayed up far too late the night prior. Consume several cups of black tea with an embarrassing amount of sugar, pull myself together, and make my sleepy way to work.

Take a mid-afternoon detour to the cafeteria for cookies…. because cookies seem like the best temporary medicine for emotional troubles. Sometimes hit the at-work gym for some cardio, sometimes not. Go out to dinner several times a week because cooking is just such a hassle.

Go to rehearsal, come home, and zone out in front of my PS3 until it’s suddenly 3am. Rinse, repeat.

Steve: I know there are a lot of Rebels who can relate to that lifestyle, myself included. So what flipped the switch? Was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change? 

At the start of 2014, I was at my lowest emotional point in years. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I felt completely hopeless and helpless for a variety of reasons: my self-esteem was at an all-time low, and just going through the motions seemed exhausting. Fast forward to April 1, 2014 – there was a challenge going around my company which required 5 days of workouts a week for 2 months. There was a $20 buy-in and the winner would collect the pot.



At that time, I was already visiting the gym a few times a week, but with utterly NO success because I had not yet realized that I couldn’t out-Zumba my cookie habit. I have pretty extreme willpower when I choose to apply it, so I don’t renege on commitments.

I thought: maybe I can’t control much in my life right now, but at least I can win that money (spoiler: I did). We were asked to track our workouts in MyFitnessPal, so I made an account and figured, why not try tracking my food intake, too?

On my 30th birthday in May, which I had approached with dread, I woke up and thought, “why am I torturing myself? Why do I have to be unhappy all the time? Why do I care what everyone thinks of me?” The first positive thoughts I’d had in months, and I clung to them. I rocked a job interview (which would lead to a new position shortly after!) and started living. I kept calorie counting and exercising even though I believed that I wouldn’t lose any weight. I made myself not care – at least I was taking care of myself…and the weight started to come off.

I discovered Nerd Fitness in July and finally found an online community where I fit in – the final missing piece.  Then, in early August, the stumble that inadvertently changed everything: I broke my ankle.

So I started lifting, because what else could I do in a boot? And that’s how I discovered strength training.

Steve: I love that attitude! “I can’t fix everything, but at least I have control over my body, so let’s start there.” What’s a typical day like now?



I’m still not an early bird, but I wake up fairly refreshed because I make it a point to get 8 hours of sleep a night.

My tea is as likely to be green or white as black, and there’s no sugar in it anymore. My breakfast and lunch are already packed and ready to go. In fact, chances are I’ve planned the whole day’s meals in advance.

Instead of taking a lunch break, I head down to the at-work gym for lifting or a group class, depending on the day. The cafeteria ladies don’t know my name anymore, nor do the restaurant servers at my old favorite haunts.

After work, it’s rehearsal or aerial, followed by ravenous devouring of a protein-rich dinner and an early-ish bedtime. Though I’ll still vegetate with a game or a book some days, if I have time!

Steve: Sounds like the leveled-up Maya to me. Freaking awesome. You mentioned it earlier, but tell us a bit more about your exercise strategy? 

I started out trying to cardio my way to fitness, and boy oh boy, that didn’t work. These days, most of my workouts have a strength component, though I try to cycle through muscle groups to give my body enough recovery time.

I build my weekly exercise schedule around the idea of 2 days at the aerial gym (soon to be 3!), 2 days of barbell lifts, and at least 1 day of yoga. I still enjoy the occasional Zumba class, but I’m more likely to take one on an active rest day…. or on an aerial day as a bit of extra activity.



Steve: I’m not gonna lie, I love that you love barbell strength training. So, we know that diet is a much bigger component than we often give it credit for. What has been your diet game plan?

I jokingly call my way of eating “paleo plus,” although I guess I fall more in the “If it fits your macros” camp if you want to be technical. I eat mostly whole foods with an emphasis on meats and veggies, with moderate amounts of legumes, fruit, and dairy.

I have no adverse reaction to lactose, and I always neglected calcium in the past. A recent broken bone really drove home to me the fact that I ought to be more careful about that – besides, as someone who once lived in France, I cannot envision a life without good cheese! I also eat grains a few times a month, particularly on heavy workout days.

In any case, I have few hard and fast rules other than a complete, 100% avoidance of HFCS, but functionally this means that I don’t eat almost anything processed.

I also count every bite (or sip) that goes in my mouth and stick to my calorie limits. I’m a data geek anyway, so I’ve taken to calorie counting with relative ease. I like the feeling of balancing my macros – for me, it’s kind of like putting a puzzle together. Besides, it’s amazing how much stronger I feel when I get it right!



Steve: Being strong rules! Looking back, what was the toughest change for you to make?

Giving up (most) sweets. I have such a sweet tooth! In the past, I could easily mow through a package of cookies in one sitting. Just thinking about that now makes me a little queasy……

I ratcheted the sweets down over the course of a few months, and I still allow myself small servings of dessert occasionally, provided I can still balance my macros. That way I don’t feel too deprived, which makes my system sustainable for me.

Steve: As a data nerd, how did you track your progress? 

I didn’t start out taking photos, or measurements, or even weighing myself. When I first began to change, it was with the self-defeating thought in mind that I could not actually make a difference. Remember, I just wanted to win that pot of money… and prove a point to myself.

Then I visited the doctor a couple months later and realized I had lost some weight and I was shocked – and hungry for more results. I now take progress photos at the beginning and end of every Nerd Fitness challenge cycle.

I also weigh in and do measurements weekly.



Steve: What would you say was the most important change you made?

Lifting, absolutely. It’s embarrassing how terrified I used to be of free weights, but in August of last year, just as I was starting to really see results from my diet changes and increased activity levels, I broke my ankle.

I refused to quit working out, but almost everything I had done up to that point was off the table. I finally swallowed my fear and engaged a trainer for a few weeks to provide me with a lifting regimen that I could follow while I was limping around in a boot.

By the time the boot came off, my weight loss had taken off, my arms and back were looking significantly more toned, and I was completely sold on free weights!

As soon as the doctor cleared me, I moved on from my cobbled-together dumbbell program to Stronglifts 5×5. I can’t say enough positive things about lifting – I love love love feeling strong and capable!

Besides, when I finally followed a longtime dream of trying aerial acrobatics, the base of strength I’d built allowed me to progress much more quickly to more advanced skills and combinations.



Steve: You mean you used free weights and didn’t bulk up? Who knew! What did your support system look like?

I started with nobody. Then, slowly, I got my spouse on board.

A friend introduced me to Nerd Fitness around the same time and I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring people via the forums!

The message boards really are my home away from home. If not for the forums, I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to try things like parkour or aerial silks.

Now I’m always up for a new adventure, and I can usually find someone on the forums to offer advice and geek out with me about my progress. What a wonderful community!!!

Steve: We’re proud to have you in the community. Seriously. Thanks for being you, and being here :) So, had you tried and failed to get healthy before in the past? What made this time different?

I’ve definitely failed before. After a few months of cardio (and unknowingly eating back everything I’d burned) I’d get frustrated and quit. This time was different because I finally figured out the root of the problem, and the universe tossed me an opportunity disguised as a setback when I broke a bone. A combination of sensible eating and strength training brought results – and once I saw results, I refused to quit!



Steve: What would you tell somebody in your situation right now to help them? Somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Find a way to have fun with it. But most importantly, show up. Show up every day. You’re going to have bad days and sad days and painful days, but tenacity will get you everywhere. I promise. Just keep showing up and trust the process, and someday, you will look down and realize you’ve climbed higher than you ever believed possible.

Steve: You’ve already accomplished so much! What’s the next challenge for you? 

I’m adding aerial hoop to my repertoire of skills! I’ve had a bit of introduction to the apparatus, but focused mostly on silks until now. And speaking of the silks, I’m starting to choreograph simple sequences for myself now.

I’m not aiming for Cirque du Soleil or anything, but I’d like to perform someday. There are plenty of local opportunities for aerialists – all I need to do is keep working on my skills until I’m up to par!



Steve: LOVE IT! What a unique activity and I love your attitude towards it. So, your physical appearance has changed. What else has changed about you?

My attitude is completely different. Most of the difficulties in my life weren’t a direct result of my fitness, but my fitness journey has taught me that I have more control over my life than I ever thought possible.That was the first building block to putting myself back together.

I’m much more positive now, and much more likely to take an optimistic outlook on things. I still struggle sometimes with my inner demons – who doesn’t? – but I’m better equipped to fight them now.

They’re never going to win, because I’m stronger than they are.

Steve: That last line is absolutely incredible. Thank you for sharing that…ugh look what you made me do. Okay, anyways! On to the nerdy stuff: Jason Bourne or James Bond?

James Bond. He’s a classy guy.



Steve: Favorite video game of all time?

Dragon Age: Origins wins by a narrow margin, with honorable mentions going to almost every game in the Final Fantasy franchise.

Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?

Although I’ve pared it down considerably, I still have a pretty massive collection of anime and manga. I read a ton of fantasy and occasionally write some of my own, though my most recent noveling project, Against All Odds, is about space pirates. Go figure? Also, true nerd cred: I stood in line for midnight releases of every Harry Potter book or movie. There may have been costumes involved.

Steve: You’re full of amazing nerdiness and now you’re strong as hell too. What else should we know?


I’m a trained opera singer, though these days I sing only part time in a professional classical chorus. Life took me another route and I no longer regret it, but if you ever want to geek out for hours about Mozart or Puccini, please contact me. Seriously. I need more music nerds in my life.

Steve: Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your story. Seriously. And thanks for making me cry a bit…not even kidding.

Why Maya Was Successful


After several failed attempts, Maya finally found a recipe to get healthy. What was the key to her success?

  • She realized she couldn’t outrun her diet: Maya didn’t realize it until after the fact, but she was sabotaging her work in the gym with her choices in the kitchen. This is why hours upon hours of cardio never resulted in progress! It’s no surprise that this is Rule #4 of the Rebellion! In our humble view, exercise is actually the LEAST important part of the equation. If you put your focus on eating right, you’re already 80-90% there.
  • Maya focused on eating less AND eating real food: Not only did Maya focus on eating less and tracked her macronutrients, but she also focused on eating real foods – whole foods. It’s easy to overeat when you’re eating foods filled with sugar, or munching on foods out of boxes and bags all day. While many people can successfully lose weight through only a focus on eating whole foods or tracking their intake, Maya did both. She loved data, and turned the process into something she could truly nerd out about. Win.
  • Maya took baby steps: If we took Maya from a year ago and had her immediately start training 5 days a week in the gym with a drastically different nutrition plan, she might have run away screaming. Instead, she started with counting calories, and then mixed in some new classes and built up confidence. And then she made small adjustments to her diet, and hired a trainer to learn barbell strength training. And then she tried aerial and fell in love with that, giving her a purpose for her training!
  • Maya knew where she was headed: Once she proved to herself that she could do this, Maya was extremely diligent in tracking her workouts, and tracked every calorie consumed too. She eventually started tracking her progress in almost every way possible: photos every challenge (as you can see from the photos throughout the post), measurements, and weight. If she was headed in the wrong direction, she would have known quickly. Tracking her progress allowed her to put her faith in the process, and just show up day after day.
  • Maya found something she enjoyed – After realizing that hours of cardio didnt work for her, she tried something different. She started strength training, and training at an aerial gym. Before long she was diving into barbell training, and today she is looking forward to mastering advanced aerial moves. If you’ve failed to get healthy before and had a miserable time, it’s probably no wonder things didn’t work out.  Finding something you enjoy is an essential part of this process. Find something you can nerd out about – something you look forward to!

Questions for Maya?


We don’t believe in true before and afters. Maya has dedicated herself to this quest for life. She a moves forward to slay her next dragon: aerial training!

Maya broke through where many have failed, and I hope her story inspires you to keep trying. But that’s why we’re a community; we’re here to figure out what works and what doesn’t – and then share those lessons with one another. When Maya dove into the six-week challenges, she had a community behind her to support her, answer her questions, and keep her moving forward.

To recap Maya’s journey and success:

  • She counted calories and learned how crucial nutrition is in the health equation.
  • She slowly shifted her diet toward real food and cut back on sweets.
  • She discovered a supportive community that encouraged her to push herself and take challenges (Nerd Fitness!).
  • She discovered barbell strength training, and fell in love with it!
  • She found an activity she loves and that encourages her to get even stronger and more fit (aerial silks and sing).

So stop by the comments, leave some kind words, and ask questions! Are you struggling with something that Maya has overcome?


PS: It’s no secret we LOVE strength training around here, and hope you do too. If you’re new to strength training, check out our free Strength Training 101 series!


]]> 81
What Can You Actually Get Done in Six Weeks? (A New Six-Week Challenge Starts!) Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:36:46 +0000 “30 Days to a Better Body!”

“I just did a 21-day Detox.”

“___ will get you shredded in 90 days!”

There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there about what you can get done when it comes to transforming your body, and how long that transformation should take. We’ve already covered “How fast can I get the body I want?” in an article, along with “How fast can I build muscle?” – but today we’re going to talk about what you can expect to get done in 6 weeks:

  • Can you work on something every day for six weeks and build a habit?
  • How much weight can you drop?
  • Can you make any lasting changes?
  • What’s possible?

Why six weeks? Because today on our Nerd Fitness message boards, we’re launching the next Six-Week Challenge!

We’d love for you to join us, set some kickass goals, and make great progress.

What can you do in 6 weeks?

Calendar where will you be

It’s weird – we often overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can get done in a year.

We think in the short term, and so we scramble to where we need to go as quickly as possible (get in shape for a wedding, drop weight for a vacation a month from now). Then we go back to “normal” life afterwards. Back to all our old habits.

Next time, this process repeats itself. The scramble, the return to our old habits.

In my own journey, I realized I had been treading water and making minimal to no progress for years! It took a rededication to fitness, a focus on antifragility, and putting fitness first for me to finally break out of that rut. Although I now think in terms of years for where my personal fitness is heading, I break everything down into 6 week chunks.

So what’s the point of a six-week challenge then? It’s not to lose as much weight as possible as quickly as possible. Instead, the point of a six-week challenge is to focus on creating quality habits and accomplishing small goals. When you can do this consistently and sustainably in those six weeks, you build up something really freaking powerful within you:


Like stringing together a combo in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, when you can start to string successful, SUSTAINABLE weeks together to complete a six-week challenge, you build momentum. When you string together multiple six-week challenges, you complete ultra-combos and your life shifts from “building new habits” to “this is my new normal.”

It’s kind of like Walking to Mordor. Sure, Frodo knew Mt. Doom was hundreds and hundreds of miles away, but it wasn’t hundreds of miles of nothing. There were specific milestones and markers along the way to tell him he was walking in the right direction. First, from the Shire to Rivendell, and then to the Mines, and then Lothlorien, and so on and so forth.

When you put your faith in the process and do this consistently, you fundamentally change your life. Not just for short periods of time, but permanently.

So yes, you can lose weight in six weeks, but it might not be as much if you took six week to starve yourself and work out at a ridiculous pace. That’s okay! That’s expected!

Yes, you can build muscle and strength, but perhaps not as quickly as if you worked out seven days a week and pumped yourself full of supplements. That’s okay! That’s not what we’re going for.

We’re not interested in “get fit quick”, we’re interested in “get healthy permanently.”

And that’s how you’re going to build your challenge. That’s how you’re going to get the results that have eluded you all of these years. And that’s how you’re going to level up your life.

What our rebels have accomplished in six weeks

NF Dallas Meetup

So, what can you REALISTICALLY get done in six weeks?

We reached out to the Rebellion community and asked for the accomplishments some of our Rebels made during the last six-week challenge. Few of them revolve around how much weight was lost, but rather the mental hurdles overcome or the new habits built, or fears conquered. Win.

Click on each for the full report :)

BlackTezca ate vegetables with every meal, six days a week. Focused on building arm and core strength with her workouts, and paid down the debt completely on one of her credit cards!

QuothTheDragon put a strong focus on taking care of herself, and learned a lot about her physiology and how ADHD affects her daily life. Level up :)

Milo learned barbell strength training, read a fitness-focused book, and maintained a caloric deficit. As a side effect of the training and eating healthy, he lost 12 pounds!

Catspaw realized it was time to: “Just relax and trust the process, kids.” Love that attitude :)

ShadowLion learned about mental victories! Back and Knee rehab! “Small sustainable victories in the face of a lot of change.”

DrFeelGood achieved a 13-pound weight loss, complete with data trend analysis and forecasting. This is Nerd Fitness after all!

Rowan Caldecott focused on momentum building, learned about what her body tells her, and stuck with flexibility and mindfulness practice. Booyah!

If you read through any of the challenges above, you’ll notice a WIDE variety of quests, missions, goals, and targets. However, each of them have one thing in common: they are building momentum! Each six-week challenge is an opportunity to build on the previous challenge – instead of running out of gas at the end of the six weeks, we want to pick goals that build up our top speed and allow us to make progress towards our main goal.

This is like finishing a race in a sprint with a smile on your face instead of crawling across the finish line :) 

How to Participate

Challenge yourself

If you’re brand new to the Nerd Fitness message boards, we’d love to have you on there!

Here’s how you can join the Six-Week Challenge (starts Monday April 13th, but even if you read this late, join us all week and catch up!).

The FULL instructions are here, but I’ll give you the abridged version too:

1) Pick your goals. First start by determining your main quest – where do you want to be by the end of the year? This can be general and non specific. Do you want to get stronger? Faster? Lose 30lbs?

Now, take that quest and pick three specific goals (diet and fitness related) that will help you get there, and think about what you are going to do to complete those goals over the next 6 weeks. These goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).

Note the realistic and timely aspects – these should be small goals that can be completed in 6 weeks. You do not want to pick goals that require you to completely flip-turn upside down. You want them to be hard enough that you need to focus on them, but they should fit into your life so you can make habits and changes that stick.

We would rather you consistently walk for 10 minutes every day than for you to have an “extreme challenge” and lose 30 lbs, while waiting every second for the challenge to be over so you can go back to your old lifestyle.

Here are some helpful references:

2) Pick a life side quest (optional). The optional side quest is not related to diet and fitness, but would help you level up your life. Examples would be to create and follow a budget, to keep your house clean, or to read one book every week for the duration of the challenge.

3) Pick a guild based on your main quest. Your guild will be your “team” to help hold you accountable! You can switch guilds every challenge if you want – so this is not a permanent decision!

  • If you are a first time challenger, are new to Nerd Fitness and the challenges, are new to fitness and your goals, or don’t want to specialize, you are a Recruit.
  • If you are doing your first challenge and want to be grouped with other first time challengers, post your thread in the Recruit subforum.

For everyone else – click here for more information on the guilds.

4) Post your thread in either the recruit section or in your guildInclude a little bit about yourself, what your goals are, and how you are going to accomplish them. Some people do a full background, some don’t. How much information you choose to put in here is up to you!

5) Update as little or as much as you would like throughout the challenge. Some people find it helpful to update every day, some people find it better to update every week.

If you’re curious, here’s my six-week challenge and what I’ll be working on! Feel free to follow along as I try to build some new habits I’ve long struggled with and cross a big “I’m terrified” challenge off my Epic Quest.


PS: It looks like we now have over 12,000 members in the Nerd Fitness Academy! This is our premium course we’re really proud of, and I’d be honored if you checked it out. If you’re brand new to health and fitness, consider this the closest thing we can get to holding your hand through the first year of your journey :)


photo source: ElDave: Wrestler Lego, wenzday01: calendar

]]> 6
Struggling to Reach a Goal? Turn it into a Boss Battle. Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:00:21 +0000 When was the last time you had a real boss battle in your life?

If you’ve played board or video games, it might seem obvious that competition and “survival of the nerdiest” can help us hone our skills:

  • Playing Call of Duty or League of Legends with an elite squad and watching your kill/death ratio climb.
  • Playing Mario Kart against friends and enjoying the rollercoaster of emotions that comes from climbing from last to first just before crossing the finish line.
  • Leveling up high enough in World of Warcraft to get to take on dragons and guild raids.
  • Playing chess online to see if we can rank up in our skills.
  • Playing Magic the Gathering, CarcassonneSettlers of Catan, or Cones of Dunshire with friends or in actual competition.

So, the idea of a boss battle might be something you are familiar, but as nerds, it tends to be with a controller or board game.

If you want to stay on target, and level up your life (and make some friends in the process), taking these boss battles into the physical realm creates the kind of positive stress that can lead to growth in our body and mind.

Boss battles (and the treasure that comes with victory) can help you level up your life.

Why Should We create boss battles?


When we set ourselves up with a real life Boss Battle, it makes the day-to-day exercise we perform that much more meaningful. 

Whatever it is, a great boss battle has three specific things:

  • It’s challenging. It’s something that will make you push and reach and sacrifice and work hard to actually complete. Nobody likes a boss battle you can defeat without breaking a mental sweat. The satisfaction from defeating a boss that took all of your energy and brought you to your final heart container is thrilling.
  • It has a specific date and time or place. Regardless of the challenge, the boss battle is going to happen in a certain place at a certain time. When you put all three pieces of the Triforce in the right place, Gannon will show up. When you enter this room, the door will lock behind you and you need to defeat a particular boss. You know it’s coming, so you better be prepared for it.
  • There’s a treasure associated with it. Yeah, boss battles are fun, but they also serve a purpose. When you defeat a boss, you earn something rewarding: the key to the next dungeon, a new item, a better sword, stronger armor, and more.

Now, you may be thinking: “But Steve, why should I care about having real life boss battles?” Boss battles can help keep us on track with our goals, ensure we’re moving forward, and set us up for success:

  • Boss Battles give us a unifying goal to work to build our workouts and nutrition around. “Ugh, another workout” becomes “I am gaining strength points to level up my avatar until my powerlifting boss battle.” Like the game Journey, you can always see the top of the mountain in the distance, guiding you towards the goal like the North Star guided sailors. Every workout, every meal, every decision is done in the name of leveling yourself up to be as prepared as possible for the boss battle.
  • Boss battles give us instant accountability. We can lie to ourselves all we want, and we can listen to our friends tell us “come on, you look fine, skip this workout.” We can skip the end of our workouts and make up excuses to ourselves justifying poor eating. But when you sign up in advance for a boss battle, the accountability of “I have to do this, whether I’m ready or not” can be the reason that gets you off the couch.
  • There’s a reward! Completing the boss battle is an opportunity to give yourself positive rewards to keep you on track (aka treasure): a new pair of running shoes for a marathon completed, a one-month training mentorship with a great teacher if you actually test for your next belt, new lifting shoes if you hit your 6 month goal, etc.
  • It’s a good kind of stress. Whether it’s the morning jitters before a race, or that moment before you step on the stage to complete your complex training routine for judges, those extra beats per minute in your heart are telling you you’re doing something important that you care about. This is called eustress, and it’s good for us :)
  • Because of the added stress and anticipation, you learn what you’re truly capable of. You’ll always push yourself harder in a boss battle. You’ll run faster, lift more, and perform at higher levels because of the atmosphere and situation.

So what does a “real life boss battle” look like? It could be a formal competitive atmosphere, like a 5k, an IRONMAN competition, or completing your first power-lifting competition. It might be also be a major milestone, like testing for your blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Heck, it might even be a decision to summon 20-seconds of courage and go out to finally play that first ultimate frisbee game with new friends. Or maybe you set a goal to nail a 225 deadlift or 8 minute mile by May 31, and that’s your boss battle.

Are you in? Great. Let’s create some bosses.

How do i build a boss battle?

Bronwyn Deadlift

Okay, ready to compete in your very own boss battle? Grab your Master Sword, put on your green tunic, and use the Master Key to go fight Gomha. Kidding. It’s a little bit different than that, but the sentiment is the same. What’s important is that is has the three parts of a boss battle:

  • A specific date and time for completion – “yes I succeeded” or “no I didn’t.”
  • Some level of accountability (public competition, friends, etc.)
  • There’s a reward associated with it!

Ultimately, it comes down to you having a big goal to complete or milestone to cross on a specific date and a reward associated with it. I’m a big fan of public accountability and pre-paying for an event so you’re “pot committed.”

Let’s start building your boss battle! 

  • Identify the discipline you want to learn, the milestone you want to reach, or the type of tournament you plan on competing in.
  • Get pot committed as quickly as possible. Build up your 20 seconds of courage and sign up before you can start thinking too much about it and back out.  Mail your check and figure out the rest later! The competition/event/whatever is infinitely more real when you have financial skin in the game. Is your Boss Battle free? Then find another way to get committed: tell friends, have others help keep you accountable, etc.
  • Identify your reward for completing the boss battle. As Legend of Zelda taught us, reward yourself with things that reward you back. A new pair of shoes, a shirt you’ve always wanted in a smaller size (or a larger size), a month pass to a rock climbing gym, a new video game, whatever works for you!
  • Reverse engineer your training plan. If your boss battle is 10 weeks from now, then you can determine how often you need to train and what level you need to be after 2 weeks, 5 weeks, 8 weeks, etc. If you are going to deadlift 405 at the next Powerlifting meet, you can figure out what sort of strength increases you should be making weekly in order to bring it to life.
  • Get started. If possible, start yesterday. As that’s not an option, today will have to do.

Once you have built your boss battle, suddenly every decision you make each day carries just a bit more importance. With a boss battle looming, is skipping your workout today a smart decision? Sure, if you eat two entire pizzas nobody will be the wiser…when the battle comes your armor might not fit and you’ll get squashed by Bowser!

We never leave our post in the Rebellion :)

Public boss battles


While boss battles don’t have to be public and competitive, there is a huge benefit in making your boss battle something that can be experienced with others.

Remember: It doesn’t matter if you take first place or compete perfectly. After all, when you finish a boss you don’t expect to come out with 100% life. All that matters is you killed the bad guy.

Public competition can work in your favor – helping you to stay accountable and to put your best foot forward when the time comes to slay the dragon. The types of competition listed below are the good kind – the kind in which you might be competing against others…but really your boss battle is like the Water level in Level of Zelda Ocarina of Time: you are battling yourselfIf you’re interested in public boss battles, look below: 

Powerlifting competitions: we have a ton of NF rebels who compete regularly in powerlifting competitions. Our very own Brownyn, mother of two who lost a ton of weight while gaining strength, now competes in powerlifting competitions.We even have quarterly virtual powerlifting competitions on our Message Boards if you don’t live near a place that you can compete. Search here for lifting competitions in your area.

Running races: 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, sprint triathlons, etc. Sure you’re competing against the racers around you, but you’re actually competing against your previous best time for that distance! Never run one before? Your boss battle can simply be completing the race. Races can be a serious part of your journey to a healthy life! It worked for Robin!

Adventure races: Spartan Races, Obstacle Courses, Tough Mudders, Glo Runs, Warrior Dashes, …it’s the type of race I can get behind. Scared to try? Level up and turn your boss battle into a group raid! Gather a team of friends, put on matching themed costumes, and run together.

Martial Arts: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a favorite of Baker, the Gamification Juggernaut on Team NF. There’s a belt ranking system, regularly scheduled tournaments and good natured competitions. Plus, it’s one hell of a workout. Karate, Tai Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Capoeira – there are so many different martial arts style to choose from, and many boss battle opportunities within each!

Boxing: Just because you don’t plan on making it to the level of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao doesn’t mean you can’t box for fun! We have a success story from Dave who now competes as an amateur boxer!

Crossfit competitions: If you love to lift and miss collegiate athletics or simply want a supportive community, Crossfit is a great place to look. Heck, they’re even televising the CrossfFit games on ESPN these days. (Our thoughts on Crossfit are explained thoroughly here.)

Other competitions: Ballroom Dancing, Swing Dancing, etc!

WHAT’s Your boss battle and treasure?


You know the drill at this point. I want to hear from you – what’s a Boss Battle you can add into your life to keep you focused and targeted? And what’s the treasure earned upon delivering that satisfying fatal blow?

Share it in the comments below. Feel free to add an epic name to your boss battle, and dress up the treasure, and give it some character. I mean, come on, this is Nerd Fitness! Also, feel free to share your favorite game boss battle of all time!

“As a scout, I will battle my fellow competitors for the sacred running of the Spartans. Upon completion of this test that will challenge me mentally, physically, and emotionally, I shall finally earn the Boss Battle’s treasure: the winged Sandals of Mercury (new Nike running shoes).”

Bonus points for being creative.



PS: This boss battle/treasure stuff works outside of fitness too! I’m currently using it to level up on my Troubador quests in my Epic Quest :)

photo source: Steven Mosel: Bowser, Zelda Wiki: Ganon

]]> 35
How to Spice Up Any Meal. Literally. Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:30:36 +0000 This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Remember those diagrams of the tongue that you learned about in school? They told you the tongue tasted different flavors depending on the section. The back tastes bitter, the front tastes sweet, and the sides taste salty and sour.

1. Bitter 2. Sour 3. Salt 4. Sweet

Most of us now know this is wrong. Your whole tongue tastes all flavors, and it’s not just your tongue! The roof of our mouth and your nose help out too! In fact, there are more than just the four flavors we learned about in school.

There is another lie that has been circulating the fitness world for years. It’s a lie that says healthy food is boring and bland. It drives me crazy. And in this nerd’s opinion, it’s one of the most damaging lies told about getting healthy.

We know diet is 80% of the battle when it comes to achieving our health and fitness goals. And when we tell ourselves eating healthy food is boring, flavorless, and downright gross, we put ourselves on the fast track to failure! Just like exercise can and should be fun, cooking meat and veggies should be delicious.

Just like the squat and deadlift adhere to the 80-20 rule, today we’re going over some basic skills that will allow you to see maximal benefit for minimal effort.

How? Simple flavors. Think of these like the compound movements of cooking.

Here are 6 fool proof spice combinations to help you level up your cooking skills, explore the world with your tongue, and (hopefully) get you out of your food rut!

The Core Six


Tons of rebels looking to level up their cooking have asked about re-creating their favorite dishes from around the world. I’ve got good news for you! It’s not as difficult as most people think.

Regional dishes taste the way they do because they are made from the spices and ingredients local to that community. Your ancestors didn’t need Super Processed Stir Fry Sauce™ to make dinner. They used whole foods to create delicious dishes, and we’re going to do the same. 

Here are 6 simplified spice combinations that you can use to take your healthy meals from bland to bold. Each is measured for a pound of food:


  • Mexican: 1 Tbsp (15ml) Chili powder, juice of 1 Lime
  • Greek: 1 Tbsp (15ml) Oregano, 2 tbsp (30ml) Olive Oil, 2 tbsp (30ml) Lemon juice
  • Italian: ½ Tbsp (7ml) Oregano, 3 cloves (½ tsp/2.5ml powdered) Garlic, ½ tbsp (7ml) Basil, 1 can diced Tomatoes
  • Indian: ½ Tsp (2.5ml) Cumin, 1 tbsp (15ml) Curry, ½ tsp (2.5ml) Coriander
  • Chinese/Japanese (this makes a marinade or stir fry sauce): ¼ tsp (1ml) Ginger, ¼ cup (59ml)Tamari (coconut aminos or soy sauce), 2 Tbsp (30ml)Rice Vinegar, 3 cloves (½ tsp/2.5ml powdered) Garlic, dash red pepper flake, 1 tbsp (15ml) Sugar (honey)

 Bonus flavors! 

  • Thai (this makes a marinade or stir fry sauce): 1/2 cup (118ml) Coconut milk, 1/4 cup (59ml) Tamari (coconut aminos), 2 tbsp (30ml) Fish Sauce, 1 Tbsp (15ml) Green or red curry paste, handful fresh chopped Cilantro

For the complete set, add these to your shopping list(herbs and spices are dried): 

  • 2 limes
  • 2 lemons
  • Can or jar of diced tomatoes
  • Coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Chili Powder
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Garlic Powder (or fresh bulb of garlic, your choice)
  • Curry powder
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Ginger powder

If you go to the store and buy these 15 items, you’ll be set to make a wide variety of dishes from all over the world. These spice combinations can be used for chicken, fish, eggs, beef, or pork; roasted, sauteed, steamed, or microwaved veggies; stir fries, and more!

For a very minimal monetary investment and one trip to the grocery store, you can have a different dish from around the world every day of the week!

Spices in action!

Okay, you’ve got your spices. Now how do you put them to work? Glad you asked!

We’re going to take one of your favorite recipes and put your new spices to the test! Grab one of our many recipes and take one of the above spice combos and put them together.

My suggestion is that you omit the suggested spices from the original recipe posts and replace them with the ingredient measurements above. Remember, the above suggestions are by the pound, so if you’re using two pounds of chicken or veggies, double the spices!

Here are just a few examples of how you can these spices for almost any dish:

  • Roasted veggies – Anyone up for some Mexican chili lime or Indian curry spiced veggies?
  • Chicken Stir Fry – Try the Asian spices out to level up this classic!
  • Shepherd’s Pie - Indian curry shepherd’s pie sounds like an unexpected and delightful combination.
  • 7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies – Eliminate the spices from the original recipe and try an Asian twist!
  • Lettuce Wrapped Burgers – Make some Italian spiced burgers, and top with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil!
  • Scrambled Eggs and Veggies – Try a different spice combo on plain old scrambled eggs each morning this week to see how the flavors differ!
  • Easiest Chicken Ever – Toss the chicken in some Greek spices, lemon, and olive oil instead of the spices prescribed in the original recipe.

After a while, you’ll learn which spices you like in a dish and which ones you can live without. Maybe you like cinnamon in your curry or maybe you can’t stand the taste of ginger. That’s totally cool! Your food is YOURS!

Soon you’ll be able to spice your dishes without having to measure them every time. Be sure to use your nose and mouth to smell and taste what you’re making as you go! (Unless it’s raw meat. Never taste raw meat.)

Tips to master the core spices: 


So you’re heading to the store, or you already have your spices. Awesome! Here are some tips to make shopping and cooking a little bit easier.

1. Does buying individual spices and mixing them sound intimidating? The spice companies make this easy for us. Check out the spice aisle in your grocery store. Lots of companies make pre-mixed spices for regional dishes:

  • Italian Seasoning
  • Greek Seasoning
  • Herbs de Provence
  • Taco/Fajita seasoning
  • Curry powder
  • Chinese 5-spice powder

To experiment with these, buy a couple and try a new one every time you cook something. Put it on something basic like eggs or baked chicken so you can begin to taste the difference between spices from different areas of the world.

2. Salt and pepper don’t do the same job. Salt makes your food taste MORE like what it is. It enhances the flavors of the food that are already there. If you over-season with salt, of course it will make your food taste salty, but that’s not salt’s function in the culinary world.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have a little extra cash, buy some fancy looking sea salt. There’s Hawaiian pink sea salt, fleur de sel, coarse sea salt, fine sea salt. There’s even weird stuff like truffle salt, grey sea salt, and black pyramid salt!

The best advice for pepper is to buy whole peppercorns and a pepper grinder. They even sell disposable ones with peppercorns already in them at the grocery store. You don’t have to get fancy. This is what I have. Fresh ground pepper makes all the difference in the world. If you like pepper on your food, this is the way to go!

Sometimes the most simple combination of coarse sea salt and coarsely cracked black pepper is all I use to season a steak, and it’s freaking delicious. Never discount simplicity.

3. Buy a pre-stocked spice rack. I might get some flack for this tip from seasoned (pun intended!) cooks. But when you’re first starting out, instead of buying all your spices individually, sometimes it’s nice just to have it all done for you. Spice racks are relatively cheap, they give you a lot of spices and herbs that you may not have thought about picking up at the store, but you’ll be glad you have it when a recipe calls for paprika and voila! You already have it!

Admittedly, spices and herbs that come in a pre-stocked spice rack from a department store may be older and therefore less flavorful, but it’s better than having no spices at all!

4. Get acquainted with acid. By acid, I mean vinegars and citrus juices. You’ll be amazed at how much adding a little bit of vinegar to a plate of sauteed veggies or your paleo spaghetti sauce makes it pop.

Acids brighten the flavors in your food and help minimize some of the bitter flavors in certain foods (like dark leafy green veggies). An acid can also help you bring down the heat if you added too much red pepper flake to a dish.

5. Fry the spices first. This is called “blooming” your spices. When your oil is heated in your pan, add your spices to the oil first and mix them around for 3-5 seconds, then add your veggies or meat or whatever you’re cooking in that oil. This is a quick and easy way to deepen and intensify the flavor of your spices.

Spice it Up


We’ve all heard people say eating healthy food is boring and bland. If you ask me, the people who are telling you this are doing it wrong.

When we force ourselves to eat the same foods over and over (like plain baked chicken and steamed veggies with minimal seasoning), it can deplete our willpower bar if we crave more flavors and variety.

Companies design Frankenfoods to make us crave the sugars and chemicals they’ve created, so they can profit off of us indefinitely. How can we fight against that? By mastering the art of using spices and sauces!

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. Armed with these basic concepts and combinations you can defeat cravings and actually enjoy and look forward to your healthy meals!

So, what flavors are we missing?

Are there any other spices in your cabinet that you have NO IDEA what to do with? Let us know in the comments! Maybe we can help!


PS: We’ve recently added more recipes and meal plans (including vegetarian) to the Nerd Fitness Academy! If you haven’t joined us yet, come on and check it out – we got over 11,000 members so far in there that would love to join!  


Spices: Gavin BellWikipedia: Tongue Map, Boring: Strevo, Pirates: Pascal, Bored Spaghetti: Steven Feather, Spice Jars: enigmachck1

]]> 60
How to Cut and Roast Vegetables Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:39:42 +0000 This is an article from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Last month we covered a recipe that was a bit more advanced for our rebels that love a challenge. This month, we’re getting back to basics and doing something super, duper easy.

My favorite way to eat vegetables is to roast them. The reason I love it is because they get somewhat sweet and crunchy, you can prepare a bunch of them at once. Oh, and did I mention its super easy? Pretty much all you have to do is cut them, toss them in olive oil and spices of your choice, throw them in the oven, and wait.

Now, I said we’re getting back to basics here, so for those who are experienced cooks, this might be more information than you need. If that’s the case, close your computer and bang out some push ups! If you’re new to cooking, then we’re glad to have you.

We’re going to be taking this back to pre-level one. Level 0.5.

Let’s get started!

Roasted Veggies: Ingredients and Equipment


Basic Roasted Vegetables
Total Time: 45 – 50 min
Serves: 2-4

The great thing about roasted veggies is that you can use whatever veggies you prefer. Here’s what I used:

2 Bell peppers

1 Head cauliflower

1 Red onion

4 Button mushrooms

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Equipment needed:

  • Aluminum Foil (optional) – For lining your baking sheets. This makes cleanup easy peasy.
  • 1-2 Baking Sheets – Flat baking sheets (like the ones you make cookies on) are best. You can use a cake pan, casserole or baking dish with higher sides, but it’ll trap more moisture and make your veggies mushier rather than crisp and roast-y.
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) measuring spoon
  • Large Bowl
  • Spoon or spatula for mixing


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 C). Since this is cooking level 0.5, let’s talk about what this means for a second. Preheating means setting your oven to a certain temperature and letting it heat up while you’re getting your ingredients ready.

We may not have readily available hover boards or food hydrators just yet, but we are living in the future. As long as there is nothing spilled in the oven and you don’t leave anything inside it when you turn it on, your oven is safe to preheat ahead of time. It will regulate itself by turning the heating coils or burners inside on and off as needed to maintain the correct temperature.

2. Wash your veggies. Just rinse them with cold water to remove any dirt. Also remove any stickers they might have on them at this time.

3. Cut your veggies. The best advice I can give you is to cut all your veggies to about the same size. This way, they cook at the same rate.


Start by cutting the top off of the pepper. This allows you to grab the innards and seeds before slicing it further.

After you have cleaned it out, place the cut part down on the cutting board and slice the pepper in half.

From here, you’ll have two relatively flat pepper halves to cut into bite sized chunks.


Toss your cut peppers into your mixing bowl.


For roasting, we want relatively larger chunks of onion. If we dice the onion like we did for paleo spaghetti, the pieces of onion will be too small and they’ll burn before the larger pieces of vegetables are cooked. This is no bueno.

So, start by cutting the top and bottom off of the onion. This will make it easy to peel later on.

Then cut the onion in half so that you have a flat surface to work with.


Cut it in half again to quarter it.


Now we can take the peel off easily.


While you’re at it, go ahead and separate the layers of onion and toss them into your mixing bowl too.



Most cauliflower comes with the leaves and part of the stem still attached. Go ahead and remove that. Just pull it off with your hands.


Once you’ve cleared most of it, take a knife and cut off the rest of the stem.


Now you have a thing that looks like a white brain. Sweet. Cut that sucker in half so that you have a flat surface to work with.


Now cut it in half again to quarter it like we did with the onion.


Next, we’ll cut some of the middle stem out of the inside of the cauliflower. Place the knife near the stems of the florets, angle the knife away from you, and cut the middle piece out. You can cut this into a couple small pieces and roast it too if you like.


Now use your hands to tear apart the large chunk of cauliflower into smaller florets.



When roasting, I like to cut these into quarters. Bigger chunks are less likely to burn. Simply cut them in half.


Then cut the halves in half. Remember to place the flat, cut side down on the cutting board when cutting your veggies. This will keep them stable and make it less likely for the knife to slip and cut you.


4. Put all your veggies in a bowl
and drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over them.


Use a spoon or spatula to mix.

5. Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil. You don’t have to do this, but dishes are a big obstacle to cooking for a lot of people (including myself). Covering your baking sheet with foil makes the clean up so much easier (just toss the aluminum foil once you’re done!)


6. Dump them out onto a baking sheet or two. For this many veggies, I used two baking sheets. Spread the veggies out on the baking sheets so they’re not piled on top of each other and so most of them are not touching. If they are piled on top of one another, they will steam rather than roast.


7. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any other preferred spices. Just salt, pepper, and olive oil is simple and delicious.


8. Place them in the oven for 30-45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes and stir them up with your spatula so that they get roasted on all sides. This is what they should look like when they’re done. A little crisp and toasty (and brown) on the edges, and they’ve shrunk from releasing water.


Pull them out and pack them up for later in the fridge or serve immediately. You can use roasted veggies as a side or even serve them cold, tossed in with salad to make the flavors a little more interesting.


There you have it: your basic veggie roasting lesson! Roasting vegetables has been a go-to method of cooking for me since I first started cooking for myself, it’s my absolute favorite way to cook and eat plants.

When we’re dedicated to making positive food choices, we can get into a routine of eating the same things for every meal. Steamed spinach, microwaved broccoli, raw carrots… As much as we don’t like to admit it, all that stuff can get boring after a while, and being bored can deplete our willpower bar. Trying a new method of cooking can help! And I promise, if you’ve never roasted vegetables before, if you do it right, you won’t regret it.

Bonus Veggie FAQ round!

Here are some questions and answers you might have about this method of cooking veggies. Don’t worry! I had a lot of questions like these when I first started cooking too. Through some experimentation and a lot of cooking fails, I’ve managed come up with some answers for you. Let’s hope this helps. And if I didn’t cover your question here, feel free to ask it in the comments!

Can you use frozen veggies?

YES! Some folks prefer buying frozen veggies. In many cases, they are cheaper and keep for longer amounts of time. That’s totally cool. Defrost them under some water,  pat them dry with a paper towel, and follow steps 4-8!

I don’t like [insert veggie here]. What else can I use? 

You can roast almost any vegetable. The only ones I would suggest staying away from are the leafy greens. Those are best steamed, sautéed, or mixed into soups! Here’s a list of some of the veggies that lend themselves well to roasting:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Mushrooms (button, portobello, crimini)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Fennel
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant

Basic roasted veggies are boring. How do I make it more interesting?

I’m glad you asked. Here are some suggestions:

  • Change up the fat. Olive oil is a basic fat that most people have lying around the house, which is why I always suggest it. You can also use ghee, rendered bacon fat, coconut oil, lard, butter, or duck fat if you can get your hands on it (I hear it does magical things for roasted veggies).
  • Use different spices. Check out the spice aisle at your local grocery store. Most places have pre-mixed spices (Italian seasoning, Greek seasoning, Herbs de Provence, etc.). Even Old Bay, taco or fajita seasoning or a chicken or beef spice rub would work. Grab something that sounds tasty to you. Like always, check the labels to be sure there’s nothing weird like MSG or gluten in your seasonings.
  • Toss in an acid after its done cooking. Red wine, balsamic, or sherry vinegar are good choices. Don’t underestimate the power of plain ol’ lemon or lime juice either!

My veggies turned out mushy and gross! What did I do wrong?

I’ve mentioned the two most common veggie roasting mistakes already in this article, but let’s go over them again in case you missed them.

1) You put too many veggies on the tray at once. If they’re overlapping and piled on top of each other, they’re gonna get soggy. Veggies release a lot of moisture when they’re cooking and if they’re piled on top of each other, they’ll steam instead of roasting and end up mushy.

2) You used a tray with high sides. Instead of a cake pan, try a cookie sheet. It’ll trap less moisture.

So, what other questions or troubles do you have when it comes to roasting veggies?

What are some of your favorite roasted veggie combos?

Are there any other or basic cooking skills would you like to see?

Let’s hear it in the comments!



]]> 70