4 Steps to Become an 80’s Action Movie Hero. You’re Welcome.

Rocky statue

The 80’s were the best.

Specifically, 80’s action movies. Larger-than-life characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, the Ninja Turtles, and international superstar Ralph Macchio (yeah you heard me!). Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the hundreds of hours spent watching these movies instilled within me a lifelong philosophy that has helped me level up my life, my health, and my wealth. Thanks, 80’s action heroes!

Hopefully you’re looking at me like I’m crazy at this point. Which is why I’m going to teach you how to become your own 80’s action movie star, and use your new identity to level up your life.

You can thank me later.

Now, clearly the first step is find a grizzled mentor PRONTO. Ideally, somebody old and weathered, who preferably speaks in half-sentences and riddles.

Yoda and Danbo Fitness Skeptics

Although Yoda started the trend in Star Wars, a grizzled mentor can be found in nearly every 80’s movie. Think Mickey in the Rocky films, Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. (Quentin Tarantino paid homage to this coveted role with Master Pai Mei in Kill Bill Vol 2.)

Seriously. One of the best things you can do for yourself, whether you’re trying to get fit, or build a business, is find a mentor who can have a profound impact on your life.

What to look for in a grizzled veteran mentor:

  • They have done what you hope to accomplish. Regardless of how radical you are, a coach can make you better… but make sure you are taking advice from a master who has been there, done that. Far too many people teach without first having had success.
  • They aren’t afraid to call you on your bullshit. If ever want actual advice or a strong critique, don’t ask your friends and family. Your mentor should be someone who can call you on your b.s. (especially if you’ve hired them!). Yes, you have time to train. Yes, working on your mullet is important. Of course, neon spandex are fashionable. Etc.
  • They are always teaching you.Wax on, wax off! Paint the fence!” Your mentor should be challenging you in different ways. Find should be someone you respect beyond the narrow skill-set you’re seeking. (Van Damme being goaded into dancing and fighting in Kickboxer was maybe the most ridiculous scene of the 80’s).

Although I run a fitness website, after creating my own exercise programming for well over a decade, I hired my own Mr. Miyagi (Anthony Mychal) who has been virtually mentoring me for the past two years. It’s been a game-changer.

Do you have a mentor in your life? Along with practical advice here from Art of Manliness on finding a mentor, here’s how you can find one:

  • Check your current network or social circle.
  • Check the Nerd Fitness message boards. Look for people in similar circumstances who have succeeded. Reach out to them and start with a basic question or ask to take them out to coffee. Expect rejection or a polite “thanks, but I’m really busy.” Thank them profusely either way, and learn whatever you can from everybody you can.
  • If you can’t start an informal mentorship, and you have the means, hire somebody! It need not be expensive. Ask for recommendations on coaches before cold calling.

Gather Enough Footage for a Montage

Steve RunRailay

80’s action stars were ripped, but they didn’t always start that way.

They had to endure years of training with their grizzled mentor, start at square one, be okay with sucking, and slowly get better over time. Of course, we don’t have years to wait, which is why we have training montages.

As this South Park song, “Gonna Need a Montage” hilariously points out:

“A sports training montage.
Show a lotta things, happening at once,
Remind everyone of what’s goin’ on.
With every shot show a little improvement,
to show it all would take too long.
That’s called a montage.
Even Rocky’s had a montage.
in any sport, if you want to go
from just a beginner to a pro.”

Or, as Steven Furtick puts it: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

So, if you’re going to build a montage showing you getting better at something (I imagine your goals are “get fit and be a badass,”) you’re going to need lots of footage. Like, years and years worth. After all, who wants to see a montage of somebody who’s in shape just get more in shape?

We need the struggle! We need dramatization! We need transformation!

So start today! Take measurements, take photos. And start training. Because you’re gathering footage for a montage, don’t expect results overnight. You won’t notice the changes day to day, but over many months the montage will start to take form.

And hopefully this is already common knowledge, but the most dramatic montages involve training with old school methods (namely, strength training).

Your future 80’s action star self thanks you:

Feel free to add some gnarly tunes to the montage you’re building too. After all, would Karate Kid be the same without Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best?” or Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love?” No way. And don’t even get me started on Rocky’s “Eye of The Tiger” or “Gonna Fly Now

Identify Your Arch Nemesis


Rocky had Apollo Creed, and then Clubber Lang, and then Ivan Drago.

Conan the Barbarian fought to avenge his family’s death, seeking out the evil sorcerer Thusla Doom.

Daniel-san trained to right the wrongs of the privileged Johnny Lawrence and Cobra Kai.

In order for you to become the best version of yourself, you need a villain of epic proportions to direct your anger and motivation towards. Whenever possible, seek out a villain that has wronged you or your family at a young age, defeated your best friend in battle, and has an overblown sense of superiority and self-worth.

Now, if you’re not lucky enough to have had your family wiped out by an evil sorcerer, you’ll have to make due with what you have. Are there any people in your life that have told you that you can’t be what you want to be? How about an all-powerful disease that claimed the lives of your ancestors (namely, heart disease or diabetes)?

Like John Rambo, you need to adopt a “me against the world” attitude if you’re going to be a kick-ass 80’s action star. Nobody believes in you, the odds stacked against you are insurmountable, and chance for success is minimal.

Fortunately for you, the deck IS stacked against you, even in the 10’s:

  • You are bombarded daily with food that is designed to get you addicted and craving more.
  • You are surrounded by advertisements for things you don’t need, to keep you complacent.
  • Most people choose to knock others down rather than elevate themselves. Haters gonna hate.

Sounds like a pretty solid bad guy to me. Rather than getting disappointed about how dire things seem, you need to realize that this is how great movies are made!

Instead of seeing challenges as hopeless situations, realize that they are opportunities for greater redemption and revenge at the end of the story. Use them to empower and motivate yourself:

  • Instead of seeing the McDonald’s every day on your drive home from work and feeling powerless (and eventually going in and ordering food), get angry. Use that anger (“They can’t control me!”) to motivate you to defeat the Empire and cook a great meal at home. Turn this into a story. Imagine yourself as your favorite hero, or create your own.
  • Are you the latest in a long line of overweight, unhappy, unhealthy relatives? Screw genetics. Get angry that you’re expected to fall in line. Be the first in a new line of healthy people. Start a trend that carries over to your children and their children.
  • Have you been told your whole life that you can’t do something (either by others or yourself?). Bullshit. Get pissed. Break the damn mold. Feed off that “nobody believed in me” attitude. Build up to that moment where you get to say, “Howdya like me now?!”

The greater the challenge to overcome, the more glorious it is when you defeat the bad guys and are victorious (aka healthy!).

Make Everything WAY More Important Than It Really Is


Ever seen the movie “Over the Top”? Sylvester Stallone literally arm-wrestles for the custody of his child.

Rocky IV? The dude single-handedly predicted the end of the Cold War, years before it actually happened!

Daniel-san wasn’t just fighting in a Karate tournament. He was fighting for all of the other kids who have ever been bullied and couldn’t stand up for themselves.

Go ahead and add a bodacious amount of importance to every decision you make daily.

It makes things way more interesting, and reminds you of the gravity of every choice. You’re not just deciding between a healthy lunch or a Big Mac, the fate of your stomach is at hand. Every time you train, you’re not doing it because your doctor prescribed 20 minutes of exercise, you’re doing it to pay tribute to the men and women who fought before you.

The more interesting and engaging your story is, the more likely you are to follow through.

Start looking at life like it’s an 80s movie. You must honor your parents and grandparents who fought hard to give you the opportunities you have today. Or, you are part of an elite group of underdog commandos (The Rebellion!) and you owe it to your brothers and sisters in arms to give it your all.

You might not ACTUALLY be arm-wrestling for the custody of your kid, but every day you decide to eat better and exercise is another day you can watch your child or grandchild grow up.

Life can be a movie if you want it to be. What’s the last step?

What’s your movie about?

movie mission complete

And just like that, you’ve turned your life into an 80’s action movie. To recap:

  • Find a grizzled mentor who will show you the ropes.
  • Find an arch-nemesis who keeps you training and vigilant.
  • Gather enough footage for a montage.
  • Make everything way more important than it needs to be.

I want to hear about your 80’s movie. You’re the main character, and I want to hear about your movie. What’s your character name? Who’s the enemy? What are you fighting for? And what song will you use for your montage?

Get creative, and leave a comment with the plot to your 80’s inspired life movie.

Here’s mine (read in this voice) :

A lowly skinny boy of humble beginnings. The first of his tribe who chose to stand up against the evil and oppressive Emperor Boredemo. For decades Bordemo and his henchmen have kept the human race unknowingly enslaved: fat on Empire-sponsored food, dull-witted due to Empire-sponsored television programs, and complacent thanks to propaganda telling us “this is as good as things get.”

One day, Steve rescued an old man who had fallen down, who begrudgingly agreed to train him in the ways of the ancients. Over many years (with this song for the montage) Steve strengthened his body and his mind, ate food from the land rather than a lab, and now aspires for a better future for him and his tribe. Word has spread, and a Rebellion set on taking down the Empire has begun. The leader of this Rebellion?

Rebel-One, coming to theaters Christmas Day, 1985.

Your turn. Go ahead and make your 80’s pitch below. And then go out and get started on your training.

We’ll pick a winner and hook ’em up with a free Nerd Fitness T-Shirt


PS: I can’t write this article and not mention my two favorite things that pay homage to 80’s culture in recent years. Ready Player One, a book I read in a single sitting, and Kung Fury, maybe the most insane 30 minute 80’s homage you’ll ever see. You’re welcome.


photo source: Kristy Robb: Mission Complete, The Community – Pop Culture: Yoda Head, Josh Jansen: Runner, Stefan Ogrisek: Rocky

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25 thoughts on “4 Steps to Become an 80’s Action Movie Hero. You’re Welcome.

  1. Title: The Fire Inside Will Conquer the Cold
    Star: Flynn for the win
    Plot: A girl, a wallflower who was always interrupted and put down, who no one thought would do anything past schoolwork in life, is taken to a strange camp full of angry teachers and dry books. She thought this was her path, her lot in life, until she wandered into a class full of men and women in glorious white. They were as one, screaming together, and punching, kicking, running! She was awe-struck, and managed to get the Book Camp’s permission to join. The class was called ‘karate’, and changed the girl’s life forever. She continued on, past the class, and broke free of the camp to fight for her freedom and future. But the Book Camp wasn’t the only thing against her; Flynn had her friends, her own family, and a blackness inside that called her back to the simple vapidness of the Book Camp. She decided she had to leave, to go into hiding and rebel against the predetermined ideals of her future. Before she went underground, she found a trainer of champions called Sensei, a legend in a line of legends, who agreed to take her under his wing. Now she lives isolated in the woods of the north with a band of brothers and sisters in arms, hiding out from the evil control of The Camps and expectations of what she is supposed to be. She has fallen in love with their leader, and together the pair teach the others in the hopes that they can defeat the demons within them all that try to get them to settle, to follow along with ‘everyone’. Flynn continues to learn from her mentor from afar. And although she struggles to pool change together to make it to the buildings of strength [gyms], she relies instead on her own person and her friends to become strong, and one day go back to the Book Camp and combine her knowledge with her badass strength! They will see Flynn again, only this time… it’ll be her way, not anyone else’s.
    Montage song: “Cold as Ice” – Foreigner [a message to the Book Camps and inner demons that would see her in a sedentary desk job]

  2. Title: Phytomancer II, the Return of the Nerd

    A year ago, a stocky gnome from a distant land triumphed over his genetics and addiction to sugar. He had a mentor from Nerd Fitness website and became a beast, won over academia and became active in the rebellion against the Empire. He even trained one of his friends to run and lost weight.

    But then– a new evil appeared. Hyperthyroidae, the queen of illness cursed him for his rebellious crime. Phytomancer became weak, frail, and ridden with hormonal instabilities. He lost his muscles and most of his stamina. He tried to fight, hard, but the medicine and stress of it all had broken him. He gave in, driven off the rebellion off to the cornfields, where he hid to heal from his curse.

    Phytomancer wanted revenge– even now that he was weak and soft. His mental power against sugar gone, but he was ready to try again. Flashfighter, his now superhero friend who he had mentored now had grown powerful and agreed to be his mentor. Can Phytomancer return to his glory and take down Hyperthyroidae, so that he could be among the rebellion again?

  3. Point of order: It’s not South Park that features “Gonna need a Montage” but “Team America: World Police”. It is by Trey Parker and Matt Stone as directors, but it’s not animated, but puppeted.

  4. One year ago the Unholy Trinity made up of the portentous Professor Blood Pressure, the dreadful Doctor Diabetes, and loathsome Lord Liverfat ruled the world, ruined lives, reigned supreme. The time was dark, the hope was gone. Thousands around the world accepted the rule of the Unholy Trinity. Until one day, at his bleakest moment, an overweight video nerd in Knoxville, TN decided “NO MORE!” and justintfirefly was born…

    You saw him in JTF Pt. 1: JTF Begins when he single-handedly released the icy cold grip of the Unholy Trinity on his life over the course of a year, running, spinning, and boxing his way to the top. Now follow him as he remains a rogue in a world still controlled by those heinous rulers that continue to extend their powers worldwide! This year he continues to step on the heads of the Unholy Trinity by strapping on his boxing gloves three days per week and training for a 10K, cooking delicious meals every night – blocking the advances of evil each time he throws a jab, defending his fortress with every mile he runs, and maintaining his efficiency every time he arms himself with his trusty cast iron skillet!

    When the montage song of choice, AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” kicks in, you’ll witness JTF pass along his knowledge and motivation to his yet-to-be-named wife and sidekick through intense training sessions! Watch in amazement as every advance by the Professor, the Doctor, and the Lord are thwarted by pure motivation and hard work! When JTF stares down the unhealthy carbs and sugars in a donut and declares “You work for ME, now!” you’ll be motivated to do the same!

    You’ve kicked serious ass over the last year, now this fall: DON’T SCREW IT UP!

    JTF Pt. 2: Sugar in the Blood – RATED R

  5. That’s the original use, but do they use the “Montage” song in the 80’s ski adventure spoof?

    I think that might have been a source for confusion.

  6. Micheal is right except they initially used it in South Park’s Asspen, and then used it in Team America a couple years later.

  7. Title: Vault to the Stars

    Summary: Meet May. She’s had an unfortunate childhood – tragically lost her parents at an early age. One from cancer, one from suicide. Both illnesses run rampant in her family. When she was young, everyone told her she could be whatever she wanted in life. There were so many options, she just couldn’t decide! When she turned 18, she decided what her dream was: to go to space.

    As she announced this to her friends and family, they laughed. They said it wasn’t going to happen. They said she had to not just be fit and smart, but she needed to be the MOST fit and smart. That just wasn’t going to happen, not for May, they said. She told herself that she didn’t need their help. She would make it on her own, and prove the world wrong. She’d prove to them that she’d beat the odds.

    Two years later, life hits an ultimate low. Depression caught up with her, and she’s failing her courses. She’s lazy, and can’t stay motivated for more than a few weeks for anything. At a chance encounter, she meets a group of nerds that does parkour. She decides to join up with them, and things start turning around. *cue training montage to Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen* She becomes stronger, faster, and smarter through renewed hard work and dedication, backed by new found friends who encourage her to be active. She retakes her courses and not only passes, but excels this time. She keeps doing parkour in her free time, and trains for her future.

    [Epilogue] In 2030, May is an accomplished fighter pilot. This year, there’s a call for new astronauts. This is her chance; what she’s been dreaming of her entire life! With a knot in her stomach, she submits her application.

  8. The story of a girl who was raised in a library, who always expected to become some sort of scribe/bookish profession. Which she loved, but she really wanted to BE the heroine instead of just reading about them.

    So she leaves her little library and ventures out to a new, free land (and at one point, joining a circus along the way) until she meets a grizzled, tough old man who’s trained many in the way of the sword – and he agrees to teach her too (he says “yes” even before she finishes the first sentence of the speech she had prepared). Lots of “advance” and “retreat” stances follow in a mini-montage. She’s not very good yet but she loves what she does. She is learning a whole new world, trusting people outside the characters in her books! Then one very stupid day unrelated to her training, she falls – and injures her knee. She’s set up on crutches, dragging her leg around and definitely no sword holding for her. Her mentor is sorry to see it, even though she wasn’t the strongest student, she was his most determined. Not that an injury is about to stop her.

    Cue the actual montage! (Either ‘500 Miles’ by the Proclaimers, or ‘Stardust’ by Louis Armstrong) Over a few months/one song, she learns how to walk again through repetitious advance and retreat footwork. The effort of pulling her leg along actually helps her gain muscle – and it shows when she finally gets to pick up a sword again and is awesome at it.

    (Thus end the mostly true but fictionalized tale of my life two years ago).

  9. Title: The Hidden Master
    Star: Gogor, Eternal Disciple of the Flowing River

    Plot: He was a sensitive kid. Big boned, they said. Worries too much. Never picked for sports activities by his peers, he ended up in libraries and before glowing screens, fascinated by the might and glory of ancient warriors. And then he saw something that will change his life forever. His father took him to the play of “The Tale of the Superior Shadow Warrior” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyrToqw1N34 ). From that day on, he decided to train in the way of martial arts.

    This has been many years ago. From the masters of Shotokan he learned kicks and punches. In the temple of Kempo, he mastered the Iron Shirt technique, and honed his skill to mastery. In the Spring temple of Wing Chun, he developed lightning speed. But, one can not live alone on martial arts. So he became a teacher and guardian in the Spring of Youth kindergarten.

    To maintain his vigor, he looked to the aid of the Internet- and found a secret society of Nerd Fu Chuan rebels, led by the master Steve of Thousand Travels. He used this knowledge to maintain his body, his mind and his spirit.

    A teacher by day, martial artist by night, Gogor found new quests. New challenges in the ever flowing river of life, and the rapids of awesome adventure…

    Background song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE3UITVqrl8

  10. Down but Not Out

    A man, short and chubby, nears his 40th birthday and looks back on all the ups and downs of his life. His ups never went as far as they could have gone, and his downs were expected to eventually return by his friends and family. Years of bad habits call him back like a magnet. A new chapter of life is upon him, though, and he is determined to take his life to a level never reached before. A woman, older and wiser, has entered his life. She slowly begins to chip away at his sad past and push him further than he has been before. She dismisses his excuses – in diet, in excercise, in work, in life. She wants results, and she teaches him that he will never be truly balanced until he has given his all and left nothing undone. Together they support each other through changes in gym, diet, sleep. They adopt a minimalist lifestyle to cut distractions. In addition to the dream of looking and feeling better than he ever imagined, the man even sets an insane goal of dunking a tennis ball on his 40th birthday. The world may have doubted him, but the woman and her children believe he has what it takes…

    80’s theme song: “Lunatic Fringe”

  11. In the year 2015, the world is filled with people in a zombie state, constantly texting, mindlessly eating, glued to their televisions. The evil lord Ad Diction has enslaved the human race (insert evil laugh). One day a girl awakens from a deep sleep. “Why are we letting Ad Diction control us?” she says. All those around her tell her to stop asking questions and just stay in line.

    But she can’t. (Fight Song by Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo1VInw-SKc)

    As she ventures out, she finds a group of Rebels (:p) with a wise leader that builds her up and trains her in the fight the evil lord Ad Diction. Join her in her journey to find her self worth, gain strength, and KICK ASS! “Lord Diction, she has done it. She has brought the Rebellion back with her to free the human race.” (says lord Ad Diction’s enslaved advisor).

    The OVERCOMER: Coming to theaters soon.

  12. Question…

    What happens when it is the voice in your head telling you that you can not do it despite everyone else encouraging you and saying you can?

  13. Title: The Call of the Heart

    In an ancient kingdom, a young farm boy lived a quiet, contented life, free from evil or strife. Every day was spent working in the fields with his family, and no thought of another life troubled the boy. But one day, the boy’s father told him that he had a great destiny to fulfill; to journey to a far-away land and lead the people to greatness. The boy began his journey, but many distractions, especially the evil Lord Electronics and his sadistic lieutenant, Count Laziness, sought to destroy the boy. With the aid of his faithful companion Healthy Eating and inspired by heroes such as Stephen Amell and Hugh Jackman, the young boy vowed to fulfill his destiny.

  14. His Father once did battle with Nicotius – the trickster money thief. And though he defeated him in battle, the scars had laid deep in his heart. The wounds grew and finally destroyed the Father.

    Though weakend, Nicotinius, survived to haunt the Son. Weaving his magic around the son, he grew to take over his life. Soon he was accompanied by his evil henchman “Sir DrinksAlot” who had murdered the brother of the father.

    There is a constant battle, and though weakened, neither of them have achieved the upper hand. Watch as the son grows in wisdom, finding others who have defeated these gouls in the past and out run them.

  15. 2053. Smoke is still rising from the rubble of an America that collapsed under its own weight, drowned in its own vices, reduced to a smoldering wasteland of silent strip malls and fire-gutted skyscrapers. Survivors flock to the fortresses and strongholds of Despotic New Lords, who keep them fed on vat-grown food full of pacifying chemicals, gathering them into the blue light of their prized relics -scavenged television screens, a potent, addictive escape from the harshness of the world. Outside the stronghold walls, rogue bands of feral raiders wage war, and lone wolves, those with a vision of the future or a dream of the past, are hunted and killed.

    In the shattered carcass of the island of Manhattan, a lone figure clambers up onto a rooftop, slipping into the shadow of a water-tower. Raising a jury-rigged antennae on a tripod, she wipes sweat from her forehead as she tunes the dials on a portable radio set, checking over her shoulder for the band of raiders that she had just managed to lose. Had she run fast enough? Had they managed to track the location of her bolthole? She is exhausted staying one step ahead of the hunters, but forces her hands to steady as she adjusts the headpiece, gripping the transmitter in a sweating hand. She hoped she’d climbed high enough to catch a signal.

    “Hello? Hello?”

    The radio hisses and whines, but no voice answers. She checks over her shoulder one more time, then bends to the transmitter once more.

    “Alright. Alright anyone who’s listening, anyone who’s out there, who’s still alive and still striving for a better world…this is Radio Rowan, broadcasting from New York City…and you are not alone.”

    Under the guidance of Luz, a fellow lone wolf and aging traceuse, our heroine runs through the city, evading hostiles and raiders, resisting the allure of the Safe Strongholds, and learning to climb to the places where she can catch the signal and send her broadcast out into the world. She will face anxiety, the strangeness and difficulty of connecting after so long alone. She will face fear and self-doubt as she pushes her physical limits in search of the Signal, but she will continue seeking to connect, to call out, to begin to bring the world to life again.

    “You are not alone.”

    Title: Spirit of Radio
    Montage song: Message in a bottle

    Nemesis: The Screen Lords
    Mentor: Luz the Traceuse

  16. I’m so happy you tagged Kung Fury in the PS. I was going to do that! It’s seriously the best 30 minutes on YouTube, and the David Hasselhoff music video is a close runner-up.

  17. Rebellion
    It’s the year 1983.
    The working populace is controlled by the global conglomerate, MegaUltraCorp. They manipulate billions of people using propaganda about health, food, and life. From birth, MegaUltraCorp controls the population’s mind, training them to think like the Corporation and, to eventually support it.
    MegaUltraCorp maintains all of this under a secret program code-named, Level Zero, wherein people are born, work, live and die without ever realizing their potential or following any of their own dreams.
    Quietly and with gaining strength a Rebellion has begun. Using a secured communication channel a network of common people are arming themselves with knowledge, support for one another and a desire to follow their own dreams.
    In various regions across the globe Sentinels are rising, surreptitiously helping others to join in the Rebellion and to fight against the status quo. To fight against Level Zero. They operate under a common banner, known only to trusted members of the Rebellion, called Level Up.
    In the Midwest, one man stands alongside other Sentinels to bring the message of Hope to the masses.
    This is his story.

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