Nerd Fitness Level up your life, every single day. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:32:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Life is a Game: A Major Epic Quest Update (Plus, a Request!) Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:19:02 +0000 As kids we have all sorts of dreams and fantasies…defeating the dragon, visiting far off lands, going on grand adventures.

As adults, we continue to dream, but more often than not, we never act.

This was me, five and a half years ago when I started Nerd Fitness with the tagline “Level Up Your Life.”

Having never traveled outside of North America, and being generally risk averse, a picky eater, and quite shy…I decided to turn life into a giant video game.

I wanted to prove that any regular Joe Steve could improve their life by applying game mechanics to it and having fun along the way.

That’s the idea behind my Epic Quest of Awesome, to send myself on epic adventures and challenges, and inspire other desk jockeys to leave our cubicles and create unforgettable experiences.

So, what’s going on with my epic quest these days? I’m glad you asked!

Seeing as I went and had crazy adventures in Croatia this summer – where I completed three quests - I figure today would be a good day to talk about my making a game of life, how it works, and what’s next for me.

On top, of that…I have a request for some help on a super secret project I’m working on!

Shall we?

What the hell is an Epic Quest?

Steve Jump
Everybody has a bucket list.  

I did things a bit differently.

Instead of just creating a massive bucket list of things that would never get crossed off, I build my list like a game.

The earth is my video game, and I am the main character. Each quest carried a certain amount of experience points, each continent was a themed video game zone, and I had to progress through levels by completing increasingly challenging missions..

As I read more books, visit more places, and have more experiences, my list and goals are constantly changing.  I kind of think of it like an MMORPG (like World of Warcraft). There are expansion packs, patches, updates, upgrades, nerfing, buffing, Master Quests, and more.

Taking this mindset to heart, here are my five of my favorite quests that I’ve crossed off my list:

1) Exercising Around the World. I’m really proud of how this video turned out, as it took about 150,000 miles of flying and 18 months. I’m sure I could have gotten more views had I just taken a video of a cat wearing a shoebox, but I maintain this experience was worth it :)

2) Living like James Bond for a Weekend.  I have an obsession with becoming an international secret agent. Step one was living like James Bond in Monaco, because why the hell not. Believe it or not, I actually MADE money on my weekend!

3) Exploring Machu Picchu. This was my first real adventure outside of the US. Channeling my inner Indiana Jones, I spent a few weeks on the Gringo Trail and ended my trip at the fabled Machu Picchu. I’ll never forget that first moment the sun crested the hills and the clouds parted to reveal these ancient ruins. That was the moment I decided to explore the world.

4) Finding Nemo on the Great Barrier ReefFinding Nemo is one of my favorite Disney movies ever, and Australia was a big stop on the beginning of my world tour. I spent a week getting scuba certified and on my final dive, managed to swim up, over, and around various coral formations until… I ACTUALLY FOUND NEMO!

5) Complete 5 straight muscle ups.  I’ve been working on Muscle Ups ever since completing my first swinging muscle up in March 2012.  Since then, I’ve slowly built up my back muscles, grip strength, forearm strength, and improved my technique.  This was the first time I had EVER tried to do more than one muscle up in a row, and I managed to do 5 straight (while hanging off the boom of a yacht in Croatia).  Not a bad way to cross a goal off my list!

What’s next: A renewed focus


As I said before, my Epic Quest has taken less of a priority in my life up since returning from my Around-the-World trip.  

I spent almost all of 2013 and the first half of 2014 focused on growing Nerd Fitness – sure I’ve traveled to visit friends around the country, attended weddings, and spent a few weekends donating money to the great state of Nevada through their lovely casinos – but none of my trips have truly focused on Adventure.


I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time to travel, that there were other more important things to do, that things would fall apart the second I stopped working.  Honestly, for the past few years any time I spent NOT working made me feel guilty. 12-14 hour work days flew right by, because pretty much everything I do at Nerd Fitness doesn’t feel like work.

Without realizing it, I had fallen into the old rhythm that I worked so hard to get out of: working all day, not doing new things, and spending my free time and energy on the unimportant.

About five months ago, I decided that I had gotten too far away from the stuff that inspired me to start Nerd Fitness to begin with. I talked about the importance of a work-life balance and focusing on what’s TRULY important…but I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching!

So, I made a decision:  I’ve spent the past eight months building a team at Nerd Fitness to help me keep this place running at top speed and take Nerd Fitness to the…next level (heyo!).

Not surprisingly, once I removed myself as the bottleneck for many of the daily decisions, we got a lot better (and I got a lot less stressed out).

So, I’ve challenged myself to cross off at least one big thing from my list every three months.  My hope is to spend less time on small trips, and instead focus on those big wins.

Here are my big wins for the next few months:

  • Kiteboard certification, most likely in the Dominican Republic.
  • Complete a 60 second freestanding handstand. Held one for 40 seconds the other day!
  • Continue to take weekly violin lessons – (I’m coming for you Promentory!)
  • Start taking voice lessons (October 2014)
  • Reach 250,000 email subscribers on Nerd Fitness.
  • Build a bug-out bag.
  • Start work on learning a third language through (French!).
  • England and Scotland in Spring 2015? MAYBE!

This is in addition to some of my goals and work for Nerd Fitness: publishing two articles a week, launching our first expansion course for the Nerd Fitness Academy (which we’ll announce soon!), getting Camp Nerd Fitness 2015 rockin and rollin, and continuing to work on a few secret projects.

Why Start Your Own Epic Quest


It’s been a shift for me over the years to focus on gathering experience points and experiences rather than possessions.  

I realized it was important to dump my time and money into adventures rather than spending all day on my couch gaming (though I still play plenty of games!), to remind myself how amazing it is to be alive rather than living vicariously through somebody else.

To borrow from the Most Interesting Man in the World, I wanted to start living vicariously through myself.

I want to encourage you to get started with your own Epic Quest, and hope you will consider the 3 most important lessons I’ve learned from my quest over the last few years:

1) More stuff won’t make you happier.  In 2011, I sold everything I owned and lived out of a backpack for two years. I didn’t own a TV, I didn’t own any video game systems, and own much of anything… And I couldn’t have been happier. My time went into meeting new people, doing more things, or just relaxing and enjoying the day.

Now that I live in Nashville and have a proper HQ, I have to constantly remind myself that more isn’t better. Stuff is far too easy to collect, and incredibly difficult to get rid of. Unfortunately, this means more money spent on things (and maintaining those things), and less spent on adventures and experiences.

Now that I have some of those luxuries that I didn’t have while traveling, things aren’t necessarily better for me, there’s just more space for me to fill up with more stuff!  Don’t fall into this trap :)

2) There’s always stuff to be done.  For the past 18 months, I’ve crossed very little off my Epic Quest List. I blamed it on Nerd Fitness getting too busy (a great problem to have), but the reality was because I stopped making adventure a focus and priority in my life. I constantly told myself there’s too much work to be done, and I can get to it when things get less busy. This trap can be equally ensnaring!.

I’ve recently reestablished priorities in my life, reminding myself that it’s these very adventures, experiences, and challenges that provide me with motivation and ideas for Nerd Fitness.

3) Things generally work out.  I’ve been stranded in foreign countries with no phone, spent time in back alleys in third world countries, and entered countries late at night with no place to sleep (nor knowledge of the current language!).  EVERY SINGLE TIME, things have worked out.  With few exceptions, I have only encountered nice people who are willing to help.

Yes, there’s always the occasional attempt to scam tourists, and certain parts of cities that should be avoided (which is true here in the US), but my experience across 20+ countries has been overwhelmingly positive.

Don’t let your negativity bias (like the news) scare you into not having adventures and trying new things. You’re probably more likely to die driving to work than you are flying to a foreign country and traveling. Be smart, use common sense, and do some basic research before you enter a country.

Don’t let your fears throw you off!

Approach your adventures with an open mind, and remember that no trip or new experience will be without its hiccups. Lean in and enjoy the ride. Tomorrow is no guarantee!

How To build Your Own Epic Quest


As previously stated, my goal with my Epic Quest of Awesome is to inspire you to get started with your own, and provide you with all of the inspiration (and examples) you need to get started!

So, here is a step by step guide to building your own epic quest:

1) Decide what type of game you want to play - I’m a fan of Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, Uncharted, and Assassin’s Creed. Thus, the game I decided to build was an globe-trotting action-adventure game!  For you, it might be a dancing game, or a cooking game, or a language learning game, or NES Track and Field (remember that gem!?). It’s your world, and thus your game to build.

2) Identify a list things you’d like to accomplish - These can be goals that aren’t related, or goals that increase in challenge as you go. The important thing is to spend 15 minutes or so writing down all the stuff you want to do.  BE SPECIFIC (“Learn to speak French in 6 months” vs “learn a new language”, “run the Boston marathon” vs “run more.”)

3) Place them in order of difficulty if possible - Most people build bucket lists, very few people actually cross things off of them. It’s VERY easy to get overwhelmed, and spend more time adding things to the list than completing them. So, if you’re the type of person that struggles to actually complete adventures.

4) Surround yourself with people doing awesome things – If there’s a particular goal I want to accomplish but appears too challenging, I find people who are already doing what I want to do, or have done what I want to do, in the way I want to do it. Make your list public, and add due dates to the things you want to accomplish, and give yourself a chance to succeed.  We have a community of people doing awesome things if you need support :)

5) Pick one thing on the list, and get started. Today.  Once you’ve built your own list, I want you to pick ONE thing on your list (preferably the easiest thing), and do ONE concrete specific thing today to get you closer to completing that item.  Here’s step-by-step instruction on how to actually cross stuff off your list.

Have you started your own epic quest?

quest map

I have a favor to ask.

I know we have people reading this article that have been reading Nerd Fitness since Day 1, while others have just discovered the site (and thus My Epic Quest) today.

I’m working on a super secret project, and I need your help.  If you are somebody that has developed your own Epic Quest of Awesome, or used the idea of gamification to level up in your real life thanks to Nerd Fitness, I want to hear from you.

Have you gamified your weight loss and can now do things you haven’t done before?

Have you drawn inspiration from your favorite game/movie/book and used those things to learn a new skill or try a new class/activity? 

Have you made adventure/travel a bigger part of your life and visited new locations?

Have you gamified life or your passions in a way other than just adventure? How?

IF SO! Can you please fill out the following survey and tell me about your adventures/successes?  The more unique/creative, the better!

Tell us about your Epic Quest here!

Due to the number of responses I won’t be able to respond to all of them (but I will read all of them for sure!), but I’ll be reaching out to a handful of people with unique “life” games to hear more.

Make sure you put your email address so I can contact you!

Even if this is your first exposure to the concept of an Epic Quest of Awesome, I want to hear from you too!

What’s one quest on your own epic quest list, and what’s one concrete step you’re taking TODAY to get closer to completing that adventure?

Leave a comment and let me know!



photo source: imNicholas: skyrim, Brian Matis: Map

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Does it REALLY Matter? Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:10:01 +0000 “I have a WHAT!?”

“You probably have an ulcer. It’s like a small hole in your stomach.”

“Yeah, but I’m 27. How the hell can I have an ulcer?!”

It was 2012, the day before I was getting ready to move to Ecuador for a month.  I had just hired my first full-time team member for Nerd Fitness (Hi Staci!), and I got some news from my doctor after having stomach pains for the previous three weeks.

Now, I know there’s no TRUE evidence that says stress causes ulcers, but all I could think of was how stressed I had been for the previous few months: working 16-hour days, freaking out about the tiniest things, having absolutely no balance, etc.  I had started Nerd Fitness to help people get healthy, and I was driving myself to an unhealthy existence.

It was a wake-up call.  

Until now, I haven’t told many people about the ulcer – in fact, I’m not even sure I told my parents.  Ooops, sorry Mom!

At the time, this inspired some serious self reflection: What was I doing? Were my priorities right? Why was I so stressed?

This all came back to me just a few weeks ago when tragedy struck a close friend of mine, reminding me what’s truly important in this big game we call life.

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy

Angry face

A few weeks ago, a close friend of mine lost a relative in a tragic car accident. His life, and the life of his family, was turned completely upside down in a matter of seconds.  

I spent that afternoon counting my blessings, and realizing how freaking lucky I am.  Suddenly that stressful Friday morning didn’t seem so stressful; the five minutes of traffic I had sat in was absolutely a non-factor in the rest of my AMAZING day.

I feel absolutely terrible that it often takes a tragedy or close call to remind us of what’s really important, and is many times the only thing that can truly put everything else in perspective.

It reminded me of the incredible Louis C.K. skit “Everything in Amazing right now, and nobody’s happy,” which is well worth four minutes of your time:

Louis CK – “Everything is Awesome and Nobody is Happy”

My favorite section is the following, where he’s talking to somebody who had a flight delayed:

“First of all we didn’t board for 20 minutes (right) and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there.”

“Oh really, what happened next?  Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero?”

You laugh, and then you probably think to yourself (like I did), “oh crap…that’s me…many, many times.”  Whether it’s a delayed flight, or slow service at a restaurant (where we’ll overeat and then complain about being full) it’s amazing what we can complain about just so we have something to complain about!

I want to share with you a system I’ve created over the past few weeks to insure I remember what’s important.

Does it REALLY Matter? REALLY?

Happy Balloon

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten much better at not stressing out over the unimportant – AKA “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Whenever I get stressed out, I think, WWLD?  AKA “What would Leo Do?”  AKA Leo Babauta, mr Zen Habits.

I remember going to meet up with Leo in San Francisco a few years ago. I was a huge fan of his, and due to traffic, I was running late for our lunch/tea meeting.  I was panicking and hyperventilating, which is not the best thing in the world when you’re going to meet probably the most LAID-BACK AND HAPPIEST DUDE IN THE WORLD.

I called him on the phone and began making up excuses about traffic (boooo excuses!) and apologizing profusely for being late. He simply said, “Steve, I just want you to get here safely, please take your time and relax.” You could actually HEAR his smile through the telephone.

Suddenly, my blood pressure dropped about 50 points, I stopped sweating, and realized he was absolutely right.  Shit happens, life can get in the way, and things can change in an instant.

I now actually have a post-it note on my computer screen to remind me of this fact.  It simply says “Does it REALLY matter? REALLY?”

If I’m overly stressing about something that has gone wrong, whether its my fault or not, I ask myself if in the grand scheme of my brief existence on the planet this issue really matters.  99.9% of the time, the answer is NO.

If I’m stuck in traffic, or my cell phone call drops, or my computer crashes, I ask if it REALLY matters.

If I start to feel sorry for myself for one reason or another, I slap myself in the face and ask if what I’m complaining about REALLLLLY matters.

It’s so easy for us to stress about things at our job (that we might not even like).  We skip engagements with friends, or miss our kid’s soccer games for things that might SEEM important now but will honestly have NO significance in our lives in the big picture.

I remind myself: “Hey…did you wake up today? That’s a good start. Build on that.

And don’t worry, I don’t have all of this figured out either.  It’s so easy these days are so easy to get caught up in the unimportant rat race that we struggle to remember what’s truly important.

If you ever need a reminder as to the scale we’re currently working with, watch an episode of COSMOS to put things in perspective, as Sweet sassy molassy that’ll make your brain explode.

Enjoy Today


As morbid as it sounds, “Tomorrow is no guarantee” is something that I think of every day.

I have to remind myself that working all the time, stressing out about everything, and complaining doesn’t make my day any better, and tomorrow everything might change.  It did recently for my friend, and tomorrow it might change for me too.

I was reminded of what’s truly important in our pursuit of happiness from my friend Eric’s recent article: The “8 Things that the Happiest People Do Every Day“, which covers scientific proof about what makes us happy:

  1. They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  2. They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  3. They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
  4. They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  5. They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  6. They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  7. They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
  8. Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

I realized that without even planning it, I really focus on a lot of these things already and it’s probably why I feel so freaking lucky and happy.

I make it a point to do a few things every day purely for enjoyment (yes, even if I suck at them). For me, it’s hearing live music, playing music, reading, exercise, and adventure (you know, those lifelong challenges on my Epic Quest).

Do you make it a point to spend even a few minutes each day doing something purely for the joy of it? Whether it’s gaming, or music, or volunteering, or sitting on a bench in a blue hat…enjoy today dude!

Don’t worry, be happy

Happy face

I want you to look at that list of things above that happy people do every day.

I then want you to pick ONE thing on that list, and work on it today:

  • Sign up to volunteer once a month at a children’s hospital or homeless shelter. Remember how lucky you are to have the opportunities you do.
  • Take the afternoon off from work to spend more time with your children.
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow – it hasn’t happened yet! Enjoy today.
  • Call somebody who’s in your life and tell them that you’re grateful for knowing them.
  • Find 10 minutes to do something that makes you happy.
  • Exercise!  Stop putting it off, skip that extra 30 minutes of TV and get it done.

I want you to be happy and healthy, so I’m literally going to bribe you.  I want you to STOP stressing out about one thing that would normally drive you crazy, and instead pick ONE thing from that happiness list and get it done.

Leave a comment here before midnight on Thursday, October 23rd, telling me what you stopped worrying about, and how you’re actually going to ENJOY TODAY.  We’ll pick one winner at random from the comments to win a free Nerd Fitness shirt.

So, leave a comment, and let me know.

And freaking stop worrying about useless shit!


Oh, and smile.



photo source: J E Theriot: smiley face stress ball, Evan: You, Amy McTigue: rage, Massimo Regonati: cat

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Lessons Learned From Camp Nerd Fitness Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:37:41 +0000 “Holy crap, did that actually just happen?”

A few weeks ago I sat in my car, tears streaming down my face, as I reflected on what had transpired over the previous 72 hours. After two years of planning, months of late nights and early mornings, and more than a few “are we crazy for doing this?” thoughts…we had just completed our first ever Camp Nerd Fitness.

Roughly 200 rebels came together in the mountains of Clayton, GA, for a weekend of community, education, inspiration, and late night dance parties.  Oh and parkour, and kung fu, and yoga, and deadlifts.  Because, deadlifts.

It was like an awesome culmination of our online community, blog posts, the NF Academy, and 200 of my closest friends all together for a weekend.

Although we hit a few snags along the way, Camp Nerd Fitness was a resounding success, and the first event of MANY MORE TO COME that brings together our our online community in real life.

We’re already planning for next year’s event, so make sure you sign up on the interest list to be the first to receive more info!

We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.


When we announced Camp NF earlier this past spring, I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd we were going to get. Would it be mostly young people? Older folks? In shape people? Brand new beginners?

As the two shuttles pulled up to the camp grounds, I was more than a little nervous to see what kind of crowd would pull up. Okay, I was also super excited (as anybody that witnessed my giddy behavior can attest to).

I knew things would be great as soon as I began addressing the crowd during our opening ceremonies, as we had an enthusiastic and ecstatic bunch from all walks of life:

  • gymnasts
  • newbies
  • men and women
  • young and old
  • students and teachers
  • doctors, nurses and scientists
  • stay-at-home moms and dads
  • self-aware robots

As the weekend went on, I watched as our advanced campers supported those at the beginning of their journeys. I watched young campers and some of our older campers throwing a frisbee around on the lawn or playing lawn games…nobody cared about anybody’s age or social standing – they just wanted to have fun…so much fun that it led to a camper-made Nerd Fitness music video.  Gotta love our community:

Camp Nerd Fitness Music Video

Since I first crafted the Rules of the Rebellion more than four years ago, the first rule has remain unchanged: “We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.”

It was awesome to see this on full display at Camp.

Whether you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for a week or for five and a half years (hi Mom!), all I care about is this: “are you better off today than you were yesterday?”  We don’t care if you’re a newbie or a pro…all we care about is helping you become a leveled up version of yourself.

We’re not in this alone

happy at camp

Before Camp NF had even officially started, I was walking around the grounds and came to Hyrule Field (yes, we changed the name of every location at Camp to meet our nerdy needs), and saw a group of newly introduced campers crowded around the creek.

“What happened?” I asked another one of the Wizards (our name for the NF Team on hand to help). “One of the frisbees ended up in the river, and they’re all working together to get it out.”

In the weeks leading up to Camp NF, I wondered if there’d be any issues with Campers interacting with each other or being too shy…and here we were, 20 minutes after people had arrived, and they had already formed a team to solve a problem.

The next morning, I watched five groups of eight rebels complete a challenging team-building ropes course. Suspended 40 feet in the air, we had to traverse a course that required trust, cooperation, and courage.swords

It was fun to watch a group of “strangers” become “TEAM AWESOME (and modest)” over the course of an hour – relying on each other to stay balanced, oftentimes giving each other a death grip to move more closely through each obstacle…it was a damn good time.

I feel like these two instances perfectly personify life as a Nerd Fitness Rebel. We often tend to be the ONE person in our group of friends that’s interested in both nerdy pursuits AND living healthy, and its easy to feel like we’re on an island.


Are you struggling at getting healthy – trying to go alone? Don’t you know it’s dangerous!?

No matter what your circumstances, where you live, or where you’re coming from – remember that we are NOT alone on our journey.

Camp was a great reminder of our amazing community - Rebels from all over the world reminded me that we can lean on each other for help and guidance.

If you are somebody that doesn’t have a great support system at home to help you on your journey, we’re here for you. There’s close to 30,000 of us on the NF message boards :)

Growth happens at our limits

Rope course

There was one point on the Ropes Course when I looked ahead to the group in front of us as they prepared to go down the zipline.

I saw one of our campers, Devyn, strapped into her harness, with a look of absolute terror on her face (I found out later she is deathly afraid of heights).  With dozens of people watching, I watched Devyn muster up 20 seconds of courage (okay it was more like 3 seconds), and jump off the platform and zipline to safety.

This was one instance of people pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, which became a theme throughout the week.

There were Rebels… 

Throughout these activities, it was amazing to watch Rebels feel 100% safe and at home.  For each individual person, where that “scarecrow” lived was different, but we all knew we had to pass him in order to advance.

I watched my friend Saint throw himself into a 1-handed cartwheel attempt and land flat on his ass: he laughed, got up, and tried a few dozen more times.

I watched other campers struggle to complete their first bodyweight squat, and see a light go off in their brain as the proper form and confidence to do them finally kicked in.

It was a great reminder that failing at something and trying again isn’t a reason to be embarrassed – that it’s okay to look foolish and have fun doing so. That when you’re surrounded by people that want to see you succeed, it’s okay to be 100% yourself.

Camp was nearly a group of fit nerds acting 100% like themselves.

It was amazing to witness in person, and a great reminder that we spend far too much time worried about what others think of us; that we let complete strangers keep us from doing things for fear of looking foolish.

I say embrace the weird. Certainly better than blending into obscurity!

Train because it’s fun

fun at camp

If your idea of fitness is miserably running on a treadmill for hours every day and then eating bland food…you’re doing it wrong!

That’s why another rule of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is that “we train because it’s fun.”

I came home from Camp more sore than I’ve ever been after any workout, and I never actually completed a workout!  I was too busy trying cartwheels, throwing around a frisbee, hiking, doing handstands, balancing, and dancing my ass off every night on Hyrule Field under the stars.

Other campers pushed themselves with yoga, kickball, pickup basketball, hikes to the waterfall, Kung Fu, parkour, and so on.

Campers were moving all day, but rarely did this activity feel like a workout.

If you don’t enjoy fitness, it simply means you haven’t found the type of fitness that works for you…it’s time to redefine what “fitness” means to you.

Here’s the truth: we are genetically designed to move!

So, get off your ass and go have some fun.  Whether it’s martial arts, yoga, dancing, parkour, strength training, running, yoga, or whatever…there’s something out there for you.

Give Yourself a Break

friends at camp

Sure, we spent most of the day doing crazy fun physical activities at camp, but we didn’t forget rule #10 of the Rebellion: Fitness can become part of what you are, but not at the expense of who you are.

For that reason, we made sure our evenings and days had plenty of nerdiness mixed in.  

Every night, we had a massive game room with every board game imaginable (and two Nintendo 64s!) laid out, with massive games of Cards Against Humanity being an opportunity to get to know our fellow campers INCREDIBLY well.

cards against humanity

Along with that, we had two killer theme nights and a DJ to allow us to loosen up and unwind after a long day of physical fitness.

Our first night was a Costume night, which resulted in some absolutely EPIC photo opportunities:

Hero Goku

Hero Turtles


Hero link

Hero Batman

And our last night, a Rubik’s Cube themed party, was probably one of the greatest parties I have EVER attended (not even kidding).  All campers arrived in six different colors of clothing, and had to trade clothes with other campers until they ended up all one color.Jim Handstand

As there were more women than men at camp, this resulted in some hilarious costumes, including yours truly in at least two different colored tutus, and a fun opportunity for our Gymnastics and Grip Strength Coach Jim Bathurst to do handstands in a wedding dress (pictured to the right).

The lesson learned: Life is way too short to not have fun.  It’s okay to use physical fitness to live a better life (provided you are having fun with it), but don’t forget that tomorrow is no guarantee, so enjoy today.

Camp is 365 days a year

camp costume party

While camp took place over a period of only 72 hours, weeks ago, I believe that campers now feel closer and more connected to each other than they did while at camp!

Our camp campers now post online to each other multiple times a day – their stories, successes, struggles, plans to visit each other, and general awesomeness. The hashtag #CNF365  soon was developed by campers: Camp might have only been a few days, but the ideals and lessons learned at camp need to be applied 365 days a year.

I freaking love it.

Nerd Fitness and the Rebellion is so much more than blog posts, push-up instructions, and links to comical goat videos.  It’s a community, a way of life, and a movement of people working hard to live better, happier, more fulfilling lives.

Camp Nerd Fitness was just a 2-day event, but the lessons learned and friendships made at camp will carry throughout the next twelve months.


Every day, we are presented with choices and options on how we choose to live our lives.  Are these lives lived in untapped potential, what ifs, and “good enough?”  Or are these lives lived in constant improvement, challenging adventure, and happiness?

Do we look in the mirror and say “I wish I could have done…” – or do we look in the mirror, proud of what we accomplished, and in the immortal words of Camp NF Instructor Amy Clover, scream “I’M A HERO!”

I think Camp was the kick in the pants a lot of people needed to get out of a rut, or to bust out of complacency and fear.  I’m excited to see where these campers are when they return to camp next year.  For me, Camp was an opportunity rededicate myself to my handstand and meditation habits. Because I know a crazy supportive group of campers are checking in daily, I’ve been kicking ass since camp.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a MASSIVE shout out and THANK YOU to our instructors that came to Camp.  They truly went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver incredible talks, teach fantastic classes and workshops, and truly embrace life at Camp Nerd Fitness. It wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Thanks to:

Thank you instructors for leveling up the experience of our Campers.

I also want to share some of the write-ups from Campers so you can get a first hand experience of what Camp was like for them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some meditation and handstands to work on!


PS - If you’d like to check out the rest of the photos from Camp Nerd Fitness, visit our Camp Photographer’s website at And yes, we did have a film crew at Camp as well, so we’ll be sharing a fun recap video in the upcoming weeks.

PPS – If you’re interested in joining us at Camp Nerd Fitness 2015, head on over to and sign up for the interest list. Once we nail down our location and exact dates, we’ll be first announcing to Camp NF Alumni and then to that interest list, giving you the best chance to grab a spot!


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If You Start, Go All the Way Thu, 09 Oct 2014 17:39:43 +0000 I want you to think back to the last time you truly threw yourself 100% into transforming your life (which is different than this transforming).

If you’re like me, that might be difficult. You see, I don’t know what it is about us nerds, but we’re often afraid to try with all of our effort. We’re afraid of failing, that giving our all and not succeeding is a knock against who we are at our core. If we don’t put it all on the line, then “we” are protected.

So, instead of going all in, of giving everything we’ve got…we kind of half-ass it. We give half an effort, and then when things fail, we’re quick to say “this system doesn’t work,” “well I didn’t really try,” or “I knew it would fail.”

Well, Charles Bukowski has something to say about that.

If you watch one thing today, let it be this (hat tip to Anthony):

Charles Bukowski: All the Way

Although Bukowski probably wasn’t talking about physical fitness and training, I think it’s perfectly applicable to everything we do at Nerd Fitness.

For some reason, we hold back – almost as if it’s preferred to actually going ALL IN on something. Why? Because if we’ve given our all, and we still fail…what is left? If we go all in and fail, we tell ourselves that we are failures. We aren’t good enough.

In reality, giving our all and then failing is one of the best things that could possibly happen to us. When we give max effort and we fail, we’re only setting ourselves to level up.

When we put it all on the line and then fail, we’ve taken the first step to true improvement.

If you half-ass your way through a job interview or college application and things don’t go well, you’re stuck wondering “what if I had actually tried?”

If you go ALL in on either of those things and fail, you can quickly move onto the next opportunity, making improvements to your strategy and tweaks to your resume.

In the same vein, if you half-ass your way to transforming your body and things don’t work, you’ll never know why it didn’t work.

If you are going to get in shape, go all the way.  Actively work towards bettering yourself, every day, and see what you’re capable of.  Don’t think in terms of days or weeks, but rather for the rest of your life. You’re not dieting, you’re not just exercising to look good in a bathing suit for a few weeks each summer. You’re doing it to build a better body for the rest of your life.

This is all, of course, assuming things don’t work out when you go all in.  The far more likely scenario is that…things will work out.  Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has found ways to succeed through going all in and refusing to consider failure.

So remember: If you’re going to try. Go all the way:

It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.”

And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

Of course, our little green friend Yoda said it more succinctly: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Yes or No, Not Guess So


To this day, I still remember a powerful lesson that Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san in The Karate Kid.

When Miyagi asks Daniel if he wants to learn Karate, Daniel replies with a half-assed “yeah, I guess so!”

Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: Get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”  [makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: Just like grape. Understand?
Daniel: Yeah, I understand.

For Daniel-san, this was an easy lesson to understand.  He could either NOT do Karate, and thus avoid fighting Johnny Lawrence (NO MERCY!), stay safe, and spend the rest of his life scared…or he could go ALL the way, apply himself and focus on the lessons learned from Miyagi.

If he were to only go half-way, “yeah, I guess so,” he could find himself in a world of trouble when his half-training gets himself hurt.

Oftentimes, we think that just dipping our toe into the water or going halfway is an easy way to “try” something without the fear of failure or having to put forth max effort. This doesn’t mean adopting 50 new habits at once, but rather truly committing to some new small changes in your life.

With karate, with deadlifting, with building a business…”yeah I guess so” doesn’t give you a chance to succeed – doesn’t show you what you’re truly capable of, and can oftentimes do more harm than good.

I remember a lesson my mom taught me when teaching me to drive.  When I got ready to pull into traffic for the first time, she told me: “Stephen (yeah she still calls me that), you either pull into traffic, or you don’t. Go half-way and you’re screwed…so if you’re gonna go, GET YOUR ASS OUT THERE!”

Thanks, ma!

Go All the Way, and Don’t Half-Ass It

go all the_way

I wish Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation was a real person, as I would very much like to hang out with him.

Sure, he’s full of amazing quotables, but there’s one in particular that always stuck out:

“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

Anytime you can draw a brilliant life lesson from a quote that says “ass” twice, you better listen up.

Be more like Swanson!  WHOLE-ASS YOUR LIFE.

We get one shot at life on this planet, and half-assing things for fear of failure or rejection (or worse, fear of success) isn’t going to get you what you want. It’s time to step outside that comfort zone, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m not saying you need to go FULL PALEO and strength train 7 days a week and burn yourself out. Instead, I’m saying see what happens when you full dedicate yourself to a plan, don’t allow self-sabotage, and find out where it takes you.

What are you currently half-assing, and what are you afraid to go all the way on?

Next, what’s one step you can take TODAY to move closer to going all-in, whole-assed, on those things?

My answer: I’m working on a super secret project that I have been putting off for too long, and it was due to too many frequent trips (that I couldn’t say “no” to). So, I’ve essentially cleared my travel schedule for the next few months to stop half-assing the travel, half-assing the projects (which I was afraid to start for a few reasons), and half-assing my training (yes, that’s three half-asses, but BARE with me…ZING!).

Instead, my focus is on two key Nerd Fitness projects and building strength.  And still sucking at the violin.


Today’s Rebel Hero: Dane! Dane completed the Alcatraz Shark Swim this past summer. Every swimmer makes their escape from Alcatraz by swimming the 1.5 miles to safety – here’s Dane in his wet suit (and his awesome NF tshirt) after the swim. Congrats Dane!Dane B

Want to be the next Rebel hero?  Send a photo in your NF shirt doing something epic at


photo source: abdulla falz: Karate Kid, Ian Broyles: Air, Jess Loughborough: Holiday









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Strength Training 101: The Deadlift Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:17:52 +0000
This is a post by NF Team Member Staci Ardison, who recently deadlifted 405 lbs at Camp Nerd Fitness.

Deadlift day is my favorite day.

And it’s Piglet’s too. 

When my story came out in July of 2011, I said that I’m simply happier on days that I deadlift – and that holds true to this day.  There’s really nothing more satisfying than picking up a ton of weight off the floor and holding it in your hands.

Jón Páll Sigmarsson, the Icelandic Strongman/Powerlifter once said (while deadlifting 1005 lbs), “There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do deadlift.”

Now, that may be a bit extreme, but deadlifting is truly a romantic lift.

On deadlift day, I don’t need assistance or a spotter – it’s just me, the barbell, and the weight.  I love nothing more than to put my headphones in, put on a favorite playlist, and focus on nothing but me and that weight.

But even with so much going for it, many people are afraid of the deadlift and avoid it at all costs, citing fear of injury.

However, deadlifting in itself is not dangerous – but like with any movement, deadlifting wrong can be. Properly executing the deadlift will allow you to build a stronger posterior chain, less fragile joints, and a body that can handle whatever life throws at you.

We love the Deadlift, and it’s a key component of the Barbell Battalion section of the Nerd Fitness Academy.

Today we’re going to fall in love with the deadlift, and make sure you can do them right!

Why Deadlifts?

Staci Deadlift

The deadlift is a true full body movement.

While most people would consider it a “back” exercise, others will argue that it’s a “leg” exercise. In my book, it’s an everything exercise.

When you deadlift, you use every single muscle in your body:

  • Your arms, forearms, and hands hold onto the barbell and make sure the bar stays in the right position and stays stable throughout the lift.
  • Your shoulders and traps hold the weight and hold it stable.
  • Your back and core help keep your entire body tight and stable to help keep your spine secure.
  • Your posterior chain and legs to act as a lever and lift the weight.

Whenever anyone asks me where I got my shoulders/abs/etc, I answer the same: deadlifts.  Why do a million crunches when I can just do deadlifts instead? Way more fun! Plus, deadlifting is actually more effective.

On top of that, the deadlift is a basic human movement. Other than the squat, there might not be another movement that is more “functional.” From the grocery store, to moving a piece of furniture, to picking your child up off the floor – you are deadlifting (and probably with poor form!).

As you build solid form deadlifting in the gym, using better form when picking things up in real life will become second nature. This means you’ll be less likely to injure yourself now and later down the line (not only because you are stronger, but because your body knows how to properly handle weight).

And this goes further than just picking up objects – how you move while shoveling snow, doing yard work, and doing other basic every day life tasks will all dramatically improve from deadlifting. Don’t be that guy/gal with back problems from lifting that random object years from now!

Oh, and by the way, the effectiveness of the deadlift isn’t limited to an age or gender – even grandma thinks they’re cool.

The deadlift is awesome – perhaps the purest measure of strength: either you can pick the weight off of the ground, or you can’t.

Let’s take a look at how to do them right.

Choosing a Deadlift


NOTE: Before we begin, if you have a spinal injury (or really any injury), please check with your doctor before you start.

In the deadlift you’ll be lifting dead weight (motionless) off the ground hence the name).

More specifically, you take a loaded barbell (which is not in motion on the floor), grab it, and stand up with it until your shoulders, hips, and knees locked. Your arms will stay straight throughout the lift. At the end of the lift the weight, depending on the length of your arms, will be at about hip height.

There are many different kinds of deadlifts.  The most common are:

1) Conventional Deadlift – Your hands are just outside your feet, standing at about hip width apart.

2) Sumo Deadlift - Your hands are inside your feet with a wider stance.

3) Hex or Trap Bar Bar Deadlifts – Use a specialty bar made just for deadlifting which changes the biomechanics.

4) Snatch Grip Deadlift – Your hands will use a wide grip like in the Snatch.

5) Romanian Deadlift, Stiff Legged Deadlift, Straight Leg Deadlift -These are variations that are all commonly confused.  Bret Contreras has a great post where he goes into the differences between these variations in detail here.

6) Deficit Deadlift / Rack Pulls: These are movements that increase the range of motion or decrease the range of motion (respectively) and are used as accessory movements.

7) Dumbbell Deadlift Variations: For either accessory work, or if you don’t have access to a barbell and weights.

Today we are going to cover principally the conventional deadlift (we will cover variations in future articles).

Other than a barbell and weights, there are two optional equipment items you should consider:

  • Flat shoes, if your gym requires shoes.  Chucks work great.  I personally prefer to deadlift in either socks or Vibram 5 Fingers.  Many powerlifters wear deadlift slippers – which are basically just a fancy sock that’s approved footwear for competition.
  • Chalk is optional and initially won’t be incredibly useful. However, after you start to put some weight on the bar chalk will be enormously helpful for hanging on to the bar.

The deadlift can actually be taught in one sentence – however, each piece of the deadlift has little intricacies that need to be done right, or you will hurt yourself.  So – lets dive in!

The Conventional Setup

While your choice of deadlift may vary depending on your body type or training goals, the conventional deadlift is a great starting point for just about any situation.

Let’s dive into the basic conventional deadlift setup:

*NOTE: Always warm up properly, and start with just the bar, even for deadlifts!

first3_front first3_side

  • Load the bar and secure the plates with collars.  If you are just starting out with the movement, begin with 5-10 lb plates, using boxes or blocks to elevate the bar to about where it would be with 45 lb plates attached (if your gym has training plates that are this size, even better!). You may also be able to use your gym’s power rack for this.
  • Stand with your feet about hip width (8-12 inches) apart, and your feet slightly angled outwards (5-10 degrees).
  • Look down – the bar should be over the middle of your feet.  If you’re wearing laced shoes, the bar would be approximately over the tied part of your shoelaces.

Now, from here, until you are actually lifting, don’t move the bar!

  • Next, without moving the bar, or your hips, lean over and grab the bar. Your legs should still be straight at this point. Your grip width will be slightly outside of your legs, but not so they touch.For now, a simple double overhand grip will work.  We will discuss options in grip in more detail later!
  • Now that you’re holding onto the bar (and not moving it), move your hips down. While you do this, your shins will come forward until they touch the bar (stop moving your hips down when your shins touch the bar). Squeeze your chest up. As you do this, your back should flatten, and your back should go into a neutral spine position.

This is the final starting position of the deadlift.

We don’t want your back to round or hyper extend. If you’re just starting out, getting into a neutral spine might feel like you’ve gone too far (hyper extended), so don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or to record yourself so you can see what you’re doing.

Keeping a neutral spine throughout the lift is vital, and thus it is important you set up right. Note that while your spine has a natural curve to it, that curve should not be over exaggerated.

In addition to your spine, use the muscles in your upper back to help lift your chest up (Think about what King Kong looks like when he’s ready to pound his chest).

At this point: your shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar, and your arms should be straight and perpendicular to the floor. This is where the fun part comes!

Depending on your specific body, the set up position may look different from the person standing next to you. This is normal! Think about it – since we want our arms to be straight, someone with super long arms will have a different look to their setup than someone with short arms.

The Deadlift

If your setup looks and feels good, you’re ready to lift. Make sure that before you pull there is no slack in the bar – your muscles should already be slightly engaged and your entire body tight.



Take a deep breath in, and while keeping your entire back and core tight and your chest up, drive through your heels and pull! A popular cue that helps many lifters execute the right form is to visualize the deadlift not as a pull, but rather a push. Imagine you are pushing the world away from the bar… rather than pulling the bar up.  Like you’re holding onto the bar and driving your feet down through the earth.

As you pull, remember:

  • All of your weight should be on your heels and mid foot.  You should be able to wiggle your toes the entire time (though that is not a part of deadlifting!).
  • During the movement, your entire body should move upwards at the same speed. This means that your butt should not rise faster than your chest, or vice versa. You may have heard of the term “stripper deadlift” – this is when your butt rises first before your chest.
  • Think about leading with your chest as you drive through your heels, and make sure you keep it up and tight.
  • Your arms should stay straight the entire time. They are literally just there to hold onto the bar – they are not bending or pulling at all.
  • The bar should stay in contact with your body the entire time – you will literally be dragging it up your thighs.  This is why you see many powerlifters with chalk or baby powder covering their legs (and why they typically wear socks that cover their shins, to prevent cuts and scrapes).  Do not let it come forward. If you were to draw a line that follows the bar’s path from the floor to lockout, it should be a straight, vertical line.
  • As you are pulling, you should be squeezing your glutes.  Once the bar passes your knees, think of getting your hips under the bar by squeezing your glutes.  So while you’re pulling with your arms, you’re pushing through the floor with your feet, pushing your butt under the bar.
  • At the top of the movement,you should be standing tall and proud with your chest open, like if you were King Kong getting ready to pound his chest.
  • At the top, do not hyper extend and lean back.  You want to keep your spine neutral and everything tight.

Now, at this point, the first thing I want you to do is do NOT lose tightness in your body.  We are going to practice putting the bar down (not dropping it).

Setting the Bar Down


Your body should descend all at the same time, just as it ascended, only backwards.

Unlock your hips and knees and slowly lower the bar to set it down (make sure you unlock them at the same time. Unlocking your knees first will cause a lot of awkward movement, and possibly your lower back to round).

Don’t lose tightness until you let go of the bar.  This is extremely important – a large amount of deadlift injuries come from people getting super excited about making a lift, losing tightness, and then putting the bar down wrong. You want this to be a quick movement – lowering the deadlift slow will take a lot out of you and leave you sore for days.

Notes on dropping the deadlift:

The eccentric part of the deadlift (lowering it) is actually riskier than the concentric (picking it up) part of the deadlift, and it is the part of the deadlift that will give you the most DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Because of this, many coaches will advocate dropping your deadlift (especially with advanced athletes where they can’t afford to sacrifice performance later in the week).

I would recommend putting the bar down (especially if you want to powerlift – the lift does not count if you drop it). So, practice on putting the bar down properly. It’s just as (if not more) important as practicing picking it up.

How to Grip The Bar, Straps, and other Equipment


Grip strength is a huge part in the deadlift, because if you can’t hold on to the bar, you can’t lift it!

There are two main grips that you see with the deadlift.  The first is the double overhand grip.  With this grip, your palms are both facing towards your body.


The second is an “over-under” or “mixed” grip, where one hand is flipped (one of your palms is facing away from you).

The double overhand grip is the safest grip, and the best grip for beginners.

The mixed grip offers quite a few disadvantages – it places uneven stress on your shoulders, can aggravate problems in the biceps on the side in which your palm is facing outwards, and its easier for your lift to be uneven as you’re literally gripping it uneven.

So why do it?  Well – you can physically lift more using this grip.  At first, you won’t notice a difference because your grip strength is most likely stronger than your back.

However, as your back gets stronger, your back strength will eventually outmatch your grip. This is when you would consider adding in a mixed grip, but be sure to use the double-overhand throughout your workout until you get to the point where you need to switch. Consider doing grip strength work as well.

Finally, there is the hook grip – Hook grip is a grip where you put your thumbs under your fingers.

What about gloves and straps? Straps can help you lift more than your hands can hold, but could cause your grip to be undeveloped later down the road. Personally, I only use straps if I’ve got a ripped callus or if my hands are just exhausted from a long day of training.

Consider using straps strategically, but not regularly.

While many people wear gloves to get a better grip on the bar, gloves actually create space between you’re the hand and the bar, and it reduces your grip security, increases the diameter of the bar, and makes the bar harder to hold on to. I don’t recommend using them unless you have an injury like a ripped callus.

Speaking of ripped calluses – make sure to take care of your hands and they are less likely to happen!

“Do I need to use a belt?” When starting out, don’t worry about a belt. However, as you get into heavy weight, it may be something to look into. Belts need to be worn correctly in order to be effective.

Note: While you may be able to lift more using a mixed grip and a belt, they’re definitely not necessary to lift heavy.  Here’s a video of Anthony Mychal deadlifting 550 lbs at the powerlifting competition at Camp Nerd Fitness – double overhand with no belt.

Common Faults


Rounded Back – not keeping your spine in neutral the entire time. Letting your lower back round at all is a huge no no. (Note: there are some powerlifters that purposefully round their upper back to decrease range of motion, but this is a sport specific move, still a fault, and something you should not consider as a beginner.)

Looking up (with your neck) – Along with keeping a neutral spine, hyper extending your neck to look up is also something we want to stay away from.

Hyperextending at the top - It became popular to over exaggerate the top of the deadlift in fitness competitions, where you needed to quickly show a judge that you achieved lockout. This hyper extending at the top is actually not something we actually strive for – the spine should still be in neutral even at the top.

Treating the deadlift like a squat with the bar in your hands. You are not starting in a squat position and standing up – it is a different movement.

Letting the bar come forward - The bar needs to stay over your midline and be dragged up your body the entire lift – any movement forward of your midline should be avoided.

Butt rises faster than your chest (also known as the “stripper deadlift”) – your chest should lead the movement, and your entire body should move upward at the same pace.

Bending your arms – your arms should stay straight. Don’t bend your elbows to try to get the bar up faster.

Frequently Asked Questions

Athena Deadlift

What do I do if I can’t get into the proper starting position?

While you are getting the mobility to get into the correct starting position, you can put the bar on blocks to raise it up a few inches to help you get in the right position.  Each workout, start with the bar a little lower, until it is just on the floor.

What weight do I start with?

Just the bar :) Then progress as described here.

What is the difference between doing multiple reps from dead stop and touch and go reps?

Touch and go reps are easier – for a few reasons. First, we get a stretch reflex (think about the “bounce” you get at the bottom of the squat). Second, when you lower the bar it is already in motion, so it’s simply easier to lift something that is already moving than it is to lift something that is completely stopped. If you are at a gym that has rubber bumper plates, these plates actually will bounce a little when they hit the floor – helping you lift the weight.

However, while touch and go are easier, they are also more dangerous. It’s easier to mess up your form if you aren’t resetting every rep, and easier to get fatigued.  It is in the eccentric (lowering) part of touch and go deadlifts that most people get hurt. Resetting every rep is preferred for general strength programs.  This allows you to reset, get your form right, and get your breathing right on every rep.

“Okay, I get it.  Deadlifts are great! I should do them ALL THE TIME, right?!?”

Woah, hold on there. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but there are some things we need to take into consideration when adding deadlifts into our program.

Heavy deadlifts are extremely taxing on the central nervous system.  This means your body needs more time to recover. In fact, it’s so taxing that some coaches recommend taking the deadlift out completely for their more advanced, sport specific athletes.

Most good strength programs only deadlift once a week – and it’s lighter volume than with your squats. Both starting strength and stronglifts only include ONE set of 5 deadlifts. Meanwhile, they program 5 sets of 5 for squats.

Get Out There and Pull


The deadlift is a taxing psychological exercise. Unlike in other lifts, keeping mental focus and staying in the right frame of mind is especially important.

Think about it – when you’re at the bottom of a squat or underneath a bar in the bench – you need to finish the lift so you literally won’t be crushed. Finish the lift or fail and be pinned.

With the deadlift, the weight doesn’t work in your favor – it works against you. As the deadlift gets heavy, you know how easy it is to just not pick up the weight. You have to want it. You have to know you can get it.

As Mark Rippetoe said:“The deadlift also serves as a way to train the mind to do things that are hard.”

Or, as  Henry Rollins emoted:

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs.

Friends may come and go.

But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds

What do you think? Do you jump for joy or cringe when it’s deadlift day?

Big or small, what questions do you have on the deadlift?


PS: If you want workout plans involving the deadlift to follow along with, along with a character/quest leveling system, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy – we make sure you don’t overdo it on the deadlifts, as we think LONG term success (for years), not in monthly bursts.

PPS: Check out our other free articles in the Strength 101 Series:


photo source: AKLuLu: Rapton and Emcee at 4T NF Meet, Bigm141414: thisisseth deadlift

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Don’t Escape. Get Inspired. Thu, 02 Oct 2014 14:23:56 +0000 In my nearly six years of writing for Nerd Fitness, I’ve come to a big realization that has guided my daily decision making process.

Books, games, movies, and our own experiences are a chance to do one of two things: temporarily escape our own existences, or get inspired to improve ourselves in real life.

These decisions start innocently at an early age. 

As kids, we use those books, games, and moves as both a fun escape and inspiration. When our parents asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and we mentioned things like:  “I’m gonna be strong like Popeye!” or “I’m going to travel like Dora!” – the response was always “you can be whatever you want, you can do anything!”

I remember playing Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as a kid; I would go out into my backyard, imagine it was the Lost Woods, picture myself as Link, and feel like the fate of Hyrule was truly in my hands.  It was a great mixture of imagination AND adventure.

Then, something happens: we grow up.

We stop thinking of what’s possible and instead think of what’s rational, responsible, and realistic.  Anything outside of the norm (which is bizarre term) is an opportunity to be judged by our peers, our family, our friends.

And damnit, we’re busy! We tell ourselves that we can’t do the things we want to do. We tell ourselves we don’t have the time, money, or the genetic gifts to accomplish our goals.

Those games and books and movies that used to provide a chance for our imaginations to run wild and inspire us to LIVE our fantasies are just a chance to escape a dull existence.

In fact, I was in trouble of getting caught in this cycle until deciding to flip reality on its head.  This was the subject of my 2012 TEDx Talk.

Luckily, I found my way out, and now I’m a part of a group of folks that have found their way out too: The Nerd Fitness Rebellion.  We love these games, books and movies - but they’re used as inspiration, rather than escape.

Don't Escape

Remember, we are presented with two choices as Nerds and Rebels:

We can daydream about becoming Superman, the man of steel, or we can find a way to get stronger.

We can wish that we could run like the Flash, or we can work on getting faster.

We can lie awake imagining life as Indiana Jones, or we could set aside five dollars today for that trip.

We can be jealous of Tony Stark’s Ironman suit, or we can decide to rebuild ourselves.

We can admire the honor of Captain America, or we find a way to embody his spirit.

We can watch in awe as Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow moves gracefully through any environment, or we can start to train like him.

We can complain that we don’t look like that other person at the the gym, or we can make the comparison to ourselves from yesterday.

We can admire the courage of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins from the comfort of our couch, or we can learn what courage really means, and then step past our own scarecrow.

Every time we make a decision to get lost instead of inspired, we are telling ourselves “imagination land is better than reality.”

We choose to remain trapped in the Matrix – trapped in our own dream, like Cobb in Inception.

In The Two Towers, when Aragorn asks Eowyn what she fears, her reply is perfect:

“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.” 

Nerd Fitness is a community of Rebels who know this all too well, and have chosen to break free of that cage.

We’ve chosen to be unplugged from the Matrix.

We use our characters as inspiration for what is possible.  We use those books and movies as blueprints to start planning our own adventure.

And then we get off our asses, step outside our hobbit holes, and see where the road takes us.

Game on.

What character or story have you used as an escape in the past? How did you turn it, or plan to turn it, into your inspiration?



PS: Nerd Fitness was featured in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. If you happen to be a new reader thanks to that article, welcome to the Rebellion!  We’re glad to have you :)

photo source: @ambrgarnr: Don’t Escape, Get Inspired

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Stay Healthy on Vacation With This Simple Hack Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:27:54 +0000 Vacation: a chance to relax, unwind… and completely fall off the “healthy living” wagon!

How is it that we can go months and months in perfect routine, dutifully eating healthy, never missing a workout, and staying on target, but a single week of vacation can be enough to throw us completely off balance and send us back to square one?

Sure, it’s one thing to try and stay on target while traveling for work (which we cover here), but it can be a completely different beast to tackle while we’re on vacation.

Late nights, early mornings, funky travel schedules, alcohol, and “once in a lifetime” moments all seem to take priority over healthy decisions.

And… the thing is… generally these things SHOULD take priority!  

Normally, a single bad meal or missed workout is not cause for alarm. However, when that one day of unhealthy decisions becomes 7-10 days of abnormal decisions, it can make it almost impossible to get back on track once we return home.

And soon enough, a week can very quickly turn into months of poor decision making.

Over the years of traveling, both for work and pleasure, I’ve devised a game that keeps me in shape, despite far too many late nights, eating off schedule, and missing workouts.

Here’s how I stay in shape while also enjoying the spoils of vacation and having fun.

The Vacation Workout Game

Steve boat

A few weeks back, when I spent seven days at sea with friends in Croatia, I knew I was going to be going out each night, drinking, and staying up far too late.  Sure, I could have “opted out” of those nights, gone to bed early, and dutifully got up to exercise each morning at 6 AM.  Instead, I chose to go to BED at 6 AM, stay up with new friends, and watch the sun rise.

So, instead of being forced to choose between skipping the fun stuff or skipping the workouts, I devised a game to allow me to have both.  This didn’t allow me to have workouts the same as when I was home, but as a result of doing SOME exercise, I maintained some momentum and got back on track easily when vacation was over.

Here’s the Vacation Workout Game. The guiding principle is that every “bad” action must be accompanied by a “good” reaction:

  1. For every adult beverage consumed, complete 10 push ups.  These push-ups can be done as you consume your drinks, before you drink, or the morning after.  It’s a rough morning when you have to do 100 push ups (in my case, on the deck of a wobbly boat) as a result of the night before, so be strategic!
  2. For every unhealthy meal consumed, complete 50 bodyweight squats.  My recommendation for this is to actually do your 50 squats BEFORE your meal, so your calories are at least partly going towards rebuilding muscle and replenishing glycogen stores. You can break this into however many sets or reps you need.
  3. Every time you walk past a low-hanging structure, complete five pull ups.  If you can’t do five pull ups, then do inverted rows whenever you have the chance to do so.
  4. Elevators don’t exist.  Whenever possible, use the stairs. Skip the elevator.
  5. If it’s within a mile, walk.  I love traveling to new cities, as its a chance to explore and get a ton of miles on my legs without it really feeling like exercise.

That’s it. Seriously.

My advice: GET EVERYBODY THAT’S TRAVELING WITH YOU IN ON IT.  They certainly don’t need to exercise with you (though they can), but tell them that you want their help in keeping you accountable. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, friends love to help make their friends “suffer” with exercise. Trust me, this can add to the fun of the vacation.

At first, my friends thought I was crazy, but by the end of the week they got really into it and were excited to make sure I completed my reps. “Steve, how many push ups are you behind now?” “Steve, don’t you owe us squats?”

Not only that, but I had people on other boats noticing my crazy morning (somewhat hungover) workout routine and ask me about it. When I told them the reasoning, they couldn’t help but chuckle and some even joined in!

No matter what, here’s the important thing: DO SOMETHING.  

We all know that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion (thanks Newton!). If you’ve been crushing your workouts before your vacation, do everything you can to tread water (thanks De La Soul!)

Minimize Diet Damage


Okay – you have the Vacation Workout Game under your belt. But just because we’ll be employing this trick doesn’t mean we need to COMPLETELY abandon our diet.

For some reason, as soon as we go on vacation, it’s like a flip gets switched.

We go from the Paleo Diet to pancakes and pizza, from water to margaritas and daiquiris, and from veggies and protein to lasagna and Haagen-Dazs.  We eat ourselves into a food coma, and end up with a food hangover that extends far beyond the end of our vacation.

Here are some tips to avoid destroying yourself (and your momentum) completely while on vacation:

  • Break the “Boom and Bust” Vacation Cycle.  Most people follow this cycle: starve yourself for weeks, eat NOTHING but “healthy” foods for weeks leading up to vacation (and be miserable)…and then go BUCK WILD while on vacation.  Return home feeling like garbage, abandon any sort of rational decision making, and stop “getting healthy.”

Here’s the truth: there is no “after,” and there is no “end.”  There’s only “During.”

  • Intermittent Fasting is your friend.  I love intermittent fasting while traveling and while I’m on vacation.  My friends look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner…but strategically skipping meals allows me to not go too overboard on calorie overload while on vacation. If you go crazy on one meal or one day, consider employing IF to help moderate your caloric intake over the whole trip.
  • Follow an unhealthy meal with a healthy one.  This is part of the Nerd Fitness “never two in a row” rule.  If you eat a bad meal, make the next one a healthy one…no exceptions!  Opt for the side salad instead of extra french fries. Get grilled chicken instead of breaded chicken.  Eat a healthy snack instead of more cookies and crackers.  The goal here isn’t to stay 100% on track, but rather to keep your momentum so it’s easier to get back on track at the end.
  • Load up on water.  Want to eat bad food but worried you’ll eat too much of it? Load up on water before you eat – it can help curb your appetite!
  • Drink your carbs. If you’re going to be drinking a lot on your vacation, don’t compound it with lots of carb heavy unhealthy foods. Instead, factor in the carb intake from drinking and be extra diligent with your food.  Easier said than done…but it can be done. And please, (obviously) drink responsibly.

Relax, Have Fun, Do Something


To recap, here’s your workout plan:

  • 10 push ups for every drink.
  • 50 squats for every bad meal.
  • 5 pull ups every time you pass something you can hang from.
  • Skip the elevator, skip the taxis whenever possible.

If you have friends that want to do it with you, great. If they don’t want to, ask them to keep you on track – don’t worry, they’ll LOVE reminding you in the morning you owe 50 push ups!

If you’re going to drink, try to minimize the damage by being smart in your beverage choice.

For your diet: If you end up eating like an idiot, who cares! Just make the NEXT meal non-idiotic :)  Make protein a focal point, and add a vegetable to the meal whenever you can.

The overall goal is to maintain momentum, and keep your mind thinking: “I am leveling up my life.”

Do something every day, and remember that every decision and every little thing counts.

What about you?  When you go on vacation, do you check out COMPLETELY? Do you try to keep exercising even though you’re “off?”

I’d love to hear your vacation “stay healthy” strategy.

Leave a comment and let’s hear it!



photo source: Doug Wheller: Sea Shell, Christian Senger: Alcohol

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How Dave the Radio Host Lost Over 170 lbs! Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:51:51 +0000 Meet Dave Ferguson, a 23 year-old Canadian living on the Gaspé coast in Eastern Quebec.

Dave is currently working as a webmaster, radio host, and as the assistant to the music director at a local radio station. Plus, he’s a volunteer firefighter.

Dave started his journey at 418 lbs. Stuck in a cycle of weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle, Dave decided to try something new. He didn’t go about getting healthy like he had the millions of times before. This time was different, and he’s been documenting his progress through Nerd Fitness along the way.

After losing 170 lbs, he’s a different person. 

His transformation is freaking amazing, so let’s find out how he did it!

Dave’s Story

Dave During Boxing

Steve: Hey Dave, thanks for being here and also for being awesome. What was the less awesome version of you like? What was a typical day?

Dave: I’d drag myself to school or work, eat, and do social activities. Lather, rinse and repeat. One of our favorite activities in the summer was basically driving up to the nearest village to a drive-in restaurant where they serve you in your car. Social activities were often around food, and not often the best choices! You ever hear about poutine? Fries, gravy, cheese curds.

I was wearing some 4xl shirts (being happy when I found some), size 48 or 50 pants. Being really tall is hard for finding clothes, but being as wide as tall was making that even harder.

Steve: Wow, you’ve come quite a long way. Was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change?

Dave Before and After

Dave: Well it’s hard to say, but I always remember a moment when I was with some friends in the hot tub, and they were talking to me about their concerns for my health and trying to convince me to move a bit more each day.

The next moment came when I need to see a doctor for a medical paper to start my firefighting course: he told me everything was ok, except for my weight (which I did not realize at that moment). I weighed 418 pounds.

My father died 7 years ago from heart failure after a firefighter competition. And there I was, not being able to do common activities having to say no to certain things. It sank in.

Steve: That’s pretty powerful man…so how did you get started?

Dave: I started as I am sure everyone did…with running start  and going to the gym to use the stationary bike. Eventually I got fed up with the bike and clueless weightlifting.Then a good friend of mine suggested I go do some cardio boxing with her and a local coach in courses. I tried it…it was HELL, but I pulled through, and continued once per week for the first month or so. Then I started going twice a week, then 3 times a week. As of now I can box 5 to 6 times a week.

There came a moment when everything went not towards my weight loss but towards my goal of being better at boxing. It was a progressive start, but I gained speed over time. Being well surrounded by my family (notably my mother who follows me in all of this), friends and a super boxing coach, it all got me going even faster.

Steve: Sounds like you slowly learned to embrace leveling up and striving to be better. That’s awesome. So, what’s a typical day like now?

Dave: Well, I work a lot. I spend 8 hours a day in an office, doing what I love in a GREAT environment.

Afterwards, I mix it up. It can be running for about 10 km’s, biking, or 2 hours of boxing (which includes so many burpees, pushups, sit-ups, HIIT stations, and sparring and mitt work).

I started amateur boxing fights (3 already) and about 3 weeks before one, I cut off all alcohol, eat clean foods, train even harder than usual. The keyword here is discipline. I have new habits, but still get a chance to listen to my favorite tv series and play video games with friends, but these have become optional overall.

Steve: Sounds like you really found something you love. How did you do that? dave mid journey

Well, my exercise strategy is to try as many new things as possible and to not back down before hand. Last summer I decided to climb a 1500 m mountain (the tallest in my region) back when I weighed 330 pounds. If I would have listened to myself I would have not done it, but still I tried, and accomplished it. Whether it’s boxing, running, lifting, or even gardening or playing airsoft outside, I try to keep this philosophy.

Steve: Awesome, no sense in spending hours on a treadmill if you don’t enjoy it. So, what about your diet? 

There is no such thing as a cheat meal for me. If I feel like eating something that wasn’t the best, I won’t call it a cheat meal, and will keep on training. Over time my eating habits changed…now what is a big meal for me is only a fraction of what I used to eat, and that’s when I eat ‘’a lot’’ according to my new self.

I love chicken, I have a bunch of chicken breasts in the freezer, throw it in a pan with rice or potatoes, maybe add some veggies, and a lot of different spices (which saved me). A lot of credit has to go to my grandma who prepared me A LOT of food which I freeze. I never really followed Paleo strictly. Though, when in doubt on the ‘’healthiness’’ of food, I ask my self…Can a caveman have it? And that question has often solved grocery dilemmas I’ve had.

Steve: Sounds like you found a winning strategy. So where did you struggle? 

Staying constant in my habits. Temptation is hard at first, it’s ruthless, it wants you to fail! Staying on target became much easier as time went on. Luckily I had good friends and family to keep me on the path, and also a lot of personal motivation. Stopping excuses was something I had to work on really hard. Another tough challenge was getting over my fear of ‘’ you can’t do that’’ It’s crazy how the human mind can be conditioned to NOT wanting to try new things, and I eventually got a thrill from challenging myself to new activities.

Steve: What about tracking your progress. Did you weigh yourself? Take photos? 

At first, the doctor’s scale set me at 418….then I guess a few solid months later, I went back and BOOM 75 pounds less. Then 85, and so on and so on. Once I got to 330 pounds my scale stopped saying O-LD (overload) and started showing numbers.

I regret not taking measurements and more accurate stats on the first 75 pounds, but hey I lost it so, that’s what’s important :) The fact I had to buy 2 full new wardrobes and for a while wear clothes too big was a measurement in itself, going from 4xl to L and Medium sizes. I learned not to be obsessed by the scale, it’s a tool in measuring progress, NOT a torture device! Remember that.

Steve: What kind of support system did you have?

The number one reason why I’m still here today is friends and family. Someone once told me, ‘’you are the average of the 8 closest people to you.’’ I can say I was very well surrounded, my now 51 year old mother started boxing, hiking, running, and anything else I would do. Even though at first she said ‘’I’m too old for that.” Even with a half knee replacement she follows me.

The community boards are a really nice place where every step was important along the way! Here’s a thread I’ve been posting on since last year.  Seeing others push their limits is an additional motivation.

Steve: Here’s what I’d love to know: what made this time different? Why did you succeed this time where you may have failed in the past?

I learned that trying to implement drastic changes for a fixed amount of time can never work. Instead I slowly changed the foods I ate and added activities gradually. The secret, for me, was to work on what I enjoyed. THEN add what you like less. I almost resorted to trying those miracle diets, but instead I took the time to not rush things.

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?

Dave Headshot After

Find something you like doing, find people who like doing that too, work with people, and don’t let it all rest on your shoulders – it can be a heavy burden. Good friends and family will never let you down. OH and buy a spice rack, you’ll thank me when you start cooking.

Steve: You’ve accomplished so much already…what’s next, brother?

As i’m writing this I am at 245.  M goal is to go down near 230, cut off some body fat percentage, add more cardio. All of this is for my future boxing fights; it’s just amateur boxing, and it’s just 3 fights, but it gets me to another level. I have dreams of traveling (Europe), opening a boxing gym with my coach, and eventually coaching others…the weird part, I would like to run for politics before my 30’s.

Steve: Your physical appearance has changed…did anything else change?

My outlook on life. I am much more optimistic, now it’s not a question of having goals…it’s knowing which one I want to attack first. I have to say my confidence has gone WAYYYY up, buying a suit helped that out too.

Steve: Ok, on the the important stuff: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

Star Wars all the way! Lord of the Rings is great…but choking people with the force? Try and beat that Frodo :)

Steve: Jason Bourne or James Bond?

Come on….James Bond, 1..he has the gadgets, 2..he has the ladies 3..he is a spy

Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?

Too many to mention! I do LARP’s here in Quebec (medieval-fantastic, even trying out an apocalyptic zombie one this summer), I collect trading cards MTG, hold minecraft events at home, dream of getting a full sized vader suit for home, and I have a level 14 cleric in D&D who flies a magic carpet.

Steve: Favorite quote to live by?

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life. I believe this is from Star Trek. I find it uplifting, even though it speaks of failure.

STEVE: Here are Dave’s weight loss stats, for those that are curious!

  • 418 - 08/01/2012
  • 337 – 07/22/2013
  • 330 – 08/10/2013
  • 328 – 08/20/2013
  • 318 – 09/13/2013
  • 297 – 11/10/2013
  • 289 – 12/12/2013
  • 278 – 02/06/2014
  • 273 – 03/03/2014
  • 268 – 03/26/2014
  • 262 – 05/15/2014
  • 251 – 06/10/2014
  • 245 – 07/12/2014

Why Dave Was Successful

Dave During Workout

Remember, we’re all in this together. When one Rebel succeeds, we all have the opportunity to learn something.

Dave broke the cycle and found a path to get healthy that didn’t leave him discouraged and wanting to revert to his old habits. Let’s take a look at what exactly led to Dave’s success.

Dave had a strong “why”: Having a powerful “why” can keep you going even in the most difficult of times. When Dave was told by his doctor that he needed to lose weight, it struck especially hard. At 418 pounds and looking to get his medical papers to start his firefighting course, he thought of his father who died 7 years ago from heart failure in a firefighting competition. Thinking about his own sedentary life, this sprung him into action.

Dave focused on activities he loved: Dave had an amazing philosophy: try everything, because something is bound to stick. And guess what? It did! Eventually he found boxing, found in love with the sport, and all of a sudden “exercise” didn’t feel like “exercise.” It was just having fun.

If you hate the treadmill, get off the treadmill. If you hate lifting weights in a dark gym, stop lifting weights in a dark gym. There are a million different ways to move more. Find one that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself in the foot, as exercise is a SMALL part of the equation. Your diet is 80-90% of the battle, no joke.

Dave fell in love with leveling up: Dave failed in the past because he tried to adopt drastic changes very quickly. This time, he did things differently. Instead he fell in love with the concept of leveling up. Instead of doing everything at once, he took small steps and leveled up at a pace that was sustainable and enjoyable.

Dave had an awesome support team: Dave’s support team was world class. Not only did he have a community of nerds supporting him from the start of his initial 75 lb loss, but his friends and family were with him all the way.  In fact, when Dave tried a new activity, his mom learned it too. Even boxing. According to Dave, this was the biggest component of his success.

Dave focused on the process, not the daily ebb and flow: Dave did not put his focus on his daily weight or micromanaging his progress in workouts. Instead he put his head down, tried to do a little better every day, and found himself down 50, 75, 100+ lbs months later. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Keep it simple and focus on the big wins. Dave fell in love with the process – he loves the thing that gets him out to move more. You too can fall in love with the game, I promise.

Level Up Like Dave

dave after

Dave is like a real life character from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Like Little Mac, he fell in love with the idea of getting a bit better and pushing himself further, increasing the challenge, and upping the levels of difficulty as he went.

Although we’re big fans of leveling up and strength training (which is what we do with the Nerd Fitness Academy), one of the major philosophies of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is “do what makes you happy.”  Dave found boxing, and that fueled his drive to be fit and fast.

How about you?  Instead of focusing on “I need to lose weight,” where can you throw your energy?  What activities truly bring you joy and don’t even feel like working out?  Remember, as your diet is 80-90% of the battle, the exercise should be stuff that makes you happy.

What sort of questions do you have for Dave?


PS: This past weekend close to 200 rebels descended upon the mountains of Georgia for Camp Nerd Fitness. We’ll be posting a full recap with TONS of videos and photos in the very near future, but I wanted to share one photo that encapsulates the energy and excitement from Camp Nerd Fitness:

Camp NF

This weekend changed my life.  I have never been more proud to be part of the NF Rebellion. We did it all: kung fu, parkour, tricking, yoga, healthy eating, late night dance parties, power lifting, bodyweight training, video games, handstands, and more.  I seriously cried twice on my car ride home on Sunday because I didn’t want it to be over.

If you are interested in joining us at next year’s Camp, make sure you sign up for the Camp NF interest list

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The Super Simple, 7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:01 +0000

This is a post from Rebel Chef Noel.

It’s confession time. Ready? Here goes…

I have always hated water levels.

I hate them because I totally suck at them. That music still haunts me. (I’m not alone in this, right?)

My very first game system growing up was the NES, and my favorite game was Super Mario Bros. 3, but every time I got to World 3: Ocean Side, it was Game Over. It wasn’t until I teamed up with friends who could show me how to make it through the levels that I was able to make it to World 4. Go team!


Cooking can be the water level of getting healthy for some folks. You’ve completed other levels, you’ve gotten active, set up your batcave, and maybe even figured out how to make healthy choices in restaurants.

But when it comes to cooking, it’s Game Over for you.

Well, I’ve got good news, gang. I’m here today to be your player 2 and show you how to get past this mega challenge.

This fish tastes like fish. I’m not gonna lie to you.  It is a mild recipe, but if you don’t like fish, look away (or try one of our other awesome recipes…). But if you do like fish, and have never tried to cook it because it seems difficult, listen up. This one’s for you.

This colorful recipe takes about 20 minutes (15 of those minutes are just waiting for it to cook!), and only uses 7 ingredients.

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a printable recipe and shopping list.)

It’s easier than stomping goombas.

Fish and Veggies


Active time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 1

  1. Tilapia or any other white fish filet – cod, mahi mahi, or trout all work just fine. Check out for your best environmentally friendly options.
  2. 1/2 a lemon
  3. 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  4. 1/2 zucchini
  5. 1/2 yellow squash
  6. 5 cherry tomatoes
  7. Spices: salt, pepper & red pepper flake (okay, so maybe I cheated a little with this 7 ingredient thing…)



  • Baking tray
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels – to dry the fish off
  • Aluminum foil or parchment paper – if you’re new to this cooking thing, I strongly suggest using aluminum foil.


1. Wash your hands and your veggies.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F (207 C)

3. Cut the zucchini and yellow squash into quarter pieces. They’ll be kind of like triangles but the side with the skin on it will be rounded.


4. Cut your lemon in half. Set it aside. We’ll use this later.


5. Cut a piece of parchment or aluminum foil about 2 ft (2/3 meters).


6. Place the cut zucchini, squash, and whole cherry tomatoes down in the center of the parchment. Now you have a pile of geometric shapes!


7. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some red pepper flake.


8. Now take the fish out of whatever package it came in and place the filet on top of the pile of veggies.

9. Pour your remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) of olive oil on top of the fish, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake.


10. Now find your lemon. Did you lose it already? Awe man! But really, squeeze the juice from half of the lemon onto the fish.


11. Wrap the fish up. Origami was always really hard for me as a kid (and I guess now as an adult too), so I hope these folding instructions are better than the origami instructions I’ve used in the past…Start by folding the right and left sides into the center on top of the food pile. Crease where you fold it over.

If origami + cooking sounds like a nightmare, you can skip this step and just bake the fish and veggies on the parchment or foil for about 5 min longer. (Or you can use foil for easy folding!) The big plus about folding your parchment this way is that it makes cleanup crazy easy. No juices or oils leak onto the pan and you can just toss the parchment in the trash when you’re finished! Choose wisely….



Now fold the bottom into the center. Crease where you fold.


Now fold the top into the center also and crease.We want the packet to form a tiny pouch to concentrate the heat and steam the fish and veggies together, so we’ll need it to stay closed. The way I got the packet to stay closed was to fold the bottom and the top flaps where they come together in the center.

Warning: Do not use tape. Tape will probably melt or burn in your oven and ruin your meal.

Then, take the right and left sides and tuck and fold those under also, creasing as you go. Make sure you crease the sides really well on this step. This will hold it together. The sides being folded this way should keep the packet closed and sealed.


12. If you’re using aluminum foil instead of parchment, this step will be way easier because foil maintains its shape where you bend it. If you have the skill, feel free bend your aluminum foil into a swan or something, as long as the fish and veggies stay sealed inside. (If you do this, please send us a picture and show us your mad skillz.)

13. Throw that packet of food on a baking tray and cook it in the oven for 15 minutes.


14. When the cooking time is up, take it out and let it cool for 2-3 minutes before you chow down. You can scoop the food onto a plate or eat it straight out of the packet.


There ya go. Pretty easy meal, no?

Cue the fireworks!


There ya have it. 7 ingredients. 20 minutes. Level up.

I’m terrible at planning ahead, so quick easy meals like this are ideal when it comes to making good food choices on the fly. Knowing I have ingredients that I can whip into a healthy meal when I get home prevents me from stopping for junk food on my way home from work.

Cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating and it doesn’t have to take forever. It can be quick and easy. With a little patience, persistence, and sometimes help from a player 2, you can level up your health. Maybe you can even be someone else’s player 2 in the future and help them learn to cook an awesome meal!

What are some things you’d like to cook but are shying away from?

What parts of cooking are you struggling with the most?

What are some of your favorite quick and easy go-to meals?

Share with the class! Let us know in the comments!



PS: Note from Steve: Camp Nerd Fitness has begun, and all of Team NF is in attendance.  We’ll be sharing photos through our Facebook and Instagram accounts (and mine too!). Follow the hashtag #CampNerdFitness if you want to follow along – we’ll be posting recaps soon.  

Just a heads up that our email response time will be slow for the next week as we’re getting caught up, thanks for your patience!

7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies
Recipe type: Lunch, DInner
Cuisine: Seafood, fish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
7 ingredient, 20 minute fish dish! Easier than stomping goombas!
  • ½ a lemon
  • ½ a yellow squash
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, & red pepper flake (to taste)
  1. Wash your hands and your veggies
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (207 C)
  3. Cut your zucchini and yellow squash into bite sized pieces
  4. Cut your lemon in half
  5. Cut a 2 ft (2/3 meter) piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil
  6. Place your zucchini, squash, and cherry tomatoes in the center of the paper or foil
  7. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil onto the veggies
  8. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake
  9. Rinse off your fish and pat dry
  10. Place fish on top of the veggies.
  11. Pour 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil onto the fish
  12. Sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake
  13. Squeeze half of your lemon onto the fish
  14. Fold up the paper/foil so that it makes a sealed packet
  15. Place packet on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes
  16. When it's done cooking, take it out and let it sit for 2-3 minutes so you don't burn yourself
  17. Unwrap your meal and put it on a plate (or eat it straight out of the paper!)
  18. Enjoy your meal!
Shopping list! (makes 2 of this recipe)
2 tilapia filets
1 zucchini
1 lemon
1 yellow squash
1 package of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
red pepper flake


Photos: Great Bit Blog, Mario Wiki, Games Radar

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The Oath of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:10:03 +0000
I’ve been thinking a quite a bit lately about honor, brotherhood, and duty.

Right around the time I came up with the idea for Nerd Fitness, 300 had just hit the big screen and I was captivated by the cohesive heartbeat of the Spartan Army.

I felt the same way as I watched Spartacus lead his rebel army in the epic Starz series that left me teary-eyed by the end.

As this Nerd Fitness evolved from part-time blog to full time community, I was devouring page after page of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series, recently brought to life in the TV series.

In each of these cases, “the cause” becomes something greater than the person fighting.  They become greater than the sum of their parts.

As funny as it sounds, these awesome and epic stories seriously relate to the goofy, rambunctious underdogs here in the growing Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Let’s find out how.

Stand as one


How did mighty King Leonidas and the 300 Spartan soldiers hold the army of Xerxes at bay for so long?

By having a unified voice (HOO! HOO!), a unified cause, and a unified soul with which to fight!

As pointed out in Steven Pressfield’s The Warrior Ethos, Spartans fought for each other, for their city, for their legacy:

“The will to fight, the passion to be great, is an indispensable element of the Warrior Ethos. It is also a primary quality of leadership, because it inspires men and fires their hearts with ambition and the passion to go beyond their own limits.”

Many Spartans would often fight with the shields and spears of their ancestors; dropping those weapons on the field of battle to run away was considered far worse than death.

On the battlefield, they also fought as one.  Their actions supported and protected their brothers, and they expected the same in return.  It’s why Spartan warriors who lost their helmet or spear were fined, but punished with death if they lost their shield:  “Because helmet and spear are carried for the protection of the individual, but the shield protects every man in the line.” Thus the two options for a Spartan:

“Come back with your shield, or on it.”  

Our Rebellion here at Nerd Fitness operates like a Spartan Army…just with fewer loincloths:

  • We rely on each other for support in our quest for a leveled-up life.
  • We have friends that keep us accountable when giving up seems easier.
  • We have brothers and sisters that we teach all that we’ve learned, while looking for guidance from others that have already walked the path.

It’s that support that makes us greater than the sum of our parts.  Spend five minutes in the Woot Room and you’ll want to scream “FOR THE REBELLION” too.

It might even make you want to don a loin cloth and start yelling, if that’s your thing.

I am Spartacus


Despite its violent/sexual content (which may or may not be a plus depending on your tastes), the Spartacus series on Starz absolutely blew me away and brought me to tears by the end of the last episode.

How did a small band of slaves make the mighty empire of Rome shake?  They wanted it more.  They stood united in belief. They fought for something greater than themselves.

As Simon Sinek points this out in his incredible TED talk and book: “Start with Why,” companies, tribes, or rebellions become more powerful if they have a truly powerful “Why” that powers their every decision.

Sure, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion helps people lose weight and make better eating decisions. That’s WHAT we do.  We do it through a supportive community and corny, funny, educational articles.  That’s HOW we do it.

But that’s not why we’ve become such a force full of momentum

It’s WHY we do it that we are successful:

We want to be role models for our children and inspirational heroes for our friends and family.

We want to look in the mirror with pride, and finally feel confident and comfortable in our own skin.

We want to inspire people to stop using games and movies as escapes, and instead use them as inspiration to live adventurously in our own lives.

We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to bring our brothers and sisters along for the ride.

We want to wake up in the morning excited instead of depressed, and go to bed proud rather than defeated.

We want to feel alive, happy, and healthy.

Protect the Gate

The Wall from the south

I want to talk about an episode in the last season of Game of Thrones on HBO.

[Don't worry - no spoilers for those who aren't caught up yet.]

If you’ve seen it, I’m sure you already know which scene I’m talking about: the one in which Grenn, a brother of the Night’s Watch (a group of men sworn to defend the north by protecting a GIGANTIC wall), has to convince his fellow brothers to protect the inner gate from an impending attack.

As their courage fails them and they talk of abandoning their post, he starts to recite the oath of the Nights Watch to remind his brothers why they are doing what they’re doing:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

It’s one of the most amazing (and chilling) scenes I’ve ever seen, and it made me think a lot about the our ragtag group of brothers and sisters here.

A long time NF rebel (a mother of three) hammered the point home in an email recently: 

“I have been extremely tired since last fall, and fighting fatigue. I guess it’s ok since I am able to still do stuff, but really the only reason I get stuff done is that I make goals and wanna meet them.  Because failing myself is failing the nerds, or something, and I like when the nerds cheer for me so I want them to cheer. 

Otherwise I would just curl up on the couch…”

I honestly started tearing up.  I’ve been following this person’s story for over a year and I know what she’s gone through.  On her down days, when she wants to curl up in a ball and give up (AKA stop “defending the gate”), she thinks about all the NF rebels that cheer her on, and she feels a sense of duty to follow through with her goals.

It’s men and women like this that make Nerd Fitness what it is, and make our community what it is.

We all have friends that flake out on obligations.  They sign up for something and don’t show up, or they tell you they’ll show up and they never do.

Not Nerd Fitness Rebels.

If we commit to something, no matter how big or small, we follow through with our promises.  We hold each other together.

Our word is everything:  

  • If we say we are going to exercise with a buddy, we show up. Every time.
  • If we say yes to a friend who wants us to go run with them, we get our asses to that track at 6 AM as agreed upon. No matter how tired we are.
  • If we make a pact with a friend to eat healthy, we follow through, even when everybody else gives up.

If our “shield drops” or if we “abandon our post,” the wall might fall.

We must protect the wall.  Especially on days when it’s cold. Especially on days when an army of 100,000 shows up to tear it down.

Being a small part of this Rebellion has gotten me to the gym when I’ve been tired or lazy more times than I can count.  I feel like I have a responsibility to all Rebels, and I hope you feel like you’re an important part of the Rebellion too, and thus must follow through as well.

The Nerd Fitness Rebel Oath


As with the Spartans, the slaves of Rome, and members of the Night’s Watch, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. 

We are an army of Rebels.  Nerdy, goofy Rebels…sure.

But dammit, we’re part of something pretty awesome!

We have our rules that we live by.

We are brothers and sisters sworn to support and protect each other.

Sometimes, we have to do things that we don’t want to do, be it exercise, healthy eating, showing up to an obligation.

But we have a sense of honor and duty to those around us.  Those that look to us for inspiration.  Those that would easily fade and give up if it weren’t for us always pushing to better ourselves and encourage them to do the same.

By changing your life you are inspiring others to do the same, whether you realize it or not.

Today, heavily inspired by the brothers of the Night’s Watch, I present to you a fun Nerd Fitness Oath that encapsulates who we are and what we stand for:

I am a Nerd Fitness Rebel, and today is the first day of the rest of my life.  I shall make no excuses and hold no grudges.

I care not where I came from, only where I am going.  

I don’t compare myself to others, only to myself from yesterday.

I shall not brag about successes nor complain about my struggles, but share my experiences and help my fellow Rebels. I know I impact those around me with my actions, and so I must move forward, every day.

I acknowledge fear, doubt, and despair, but I do not let them defeat me. I pledge my life and honor for the Rebellion, for this day and all the days to come. 

We stand as one!  I’m glad to fight alongside you, and I hope you are proud to stand beside your brothers and sisters too.

On days when you want to give up, remember that you’re not alone. On nights when you want to skip out, remember you have an oath to honor. When you want to bail on an obligation, remember your duty.

There are 200,000+ Rebels counting on you.

Welcome to the Nerd Fitness Rebellion: you’re in for life!

So, are you in?



photo source: leg0fenris: 300, Spartacus Wiki: Spartacus Blood and Sand, Game of Thrones Wiki: The WallΣταύρος: Sparta

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