How LEGO and Minecraft Will Help You Get In Shape


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

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

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

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

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

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

Become a Bricklayer


I was reading something from my friend JC Deen and in it he shared a quote that I fell in love with:

“Get obsessed with consistency in the actions that feed the goal. Getting obsessed with the goal won’t work and neither does having moderate goals. It’s like thinking about laying down the perfect brick after perfect brick rather than going nuts over when you’ll see a building emerge.”  -Amir Siddiqui

I then thought of all of the creations in the world built out of bricks: the Pyramids of Egypt, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, and LEGOLAND’s Model of New York City.

Heck, somebody went through the effort to create a replica of the famous Elven city of Rivendell in Minecraft (which is but one of million epic creations in the game):

There’s something pretty cool about looking at something so grand on such a seemingly microscopic level: “Don’t worry about the brick you last placed, or the brick you must place next. Instead, put 100% of your focus on where THIS brick is supposed to go…and things will work out.”

In order for these creations to withstand the test of time, every brick, stone, or LEGO piece had to be placed in the perfect spot, next to the previously perfectly placed piece (say THAT three times fast).

I was recently introduced to an 85-year-old sushi chef named Jiro (h/t Ramit), widely known as the world’s best. Jiro is known as a master for seeking absolute perfection in each piece of sushi that he is creating. Not the one he already made, nor the next one. But rather, Jiro takes true joy in mastering the piece of sushi in front of him:

Jiro doesn’t concern himself with that final product. He knows if he can pour his all into THIS piece, and then repeat that process – the rest will take care of itself. (If you’ve seen the new movie Chef, from Jon Favreau, it’ll make you fall in love with the process of preparing a great meal, too.)

Look at a final plate from Jiro. Or take a walk through the Notre Dame. Watch that fly-by video of Rivendell. It’s incredibly easy to focus on the finished product: “Wow that looks amazing, and it look like it took a crazy amount of work…there’s no way I could possibly do that.” But that’s not how great things are built. Great things are built one brick at a time.

I see the same thing every single day in health and fitness. We have readers that have long journeys ahead of them, needing to lose hundreds of pounds. Or we see some people who can only focus on the finished product; they see somebody else they want to look like, or they think what’s in front of them is too daunting.

It’s quite easy to look at the plans for a cathedral, or the blueprints for a LEGO skyscraper and get overwhelmed.

Today I want you to stop worrying about that final plan, and instead focus on just putting the next LEGO brick in the right spot. THAT’S IT.

Forget what happened yesterday, what has to happen tomorrow, an hour from now, or even five minutes from now. All we have to worry about is putting that next brick where it belongs. Once that brick is placed, we can move onto the next brick. If we can put our faith in the plan that’s in front of us, we don’t need to worry about what it will eventually become or how quickly we’ll get there.

We just need to do the one thing, and do it well. And enjoy it!

Enjoy the process!


Remember when Forrest Gump ran and ran and ran? He wasn’t worried about the great distance. He wasn’t running for a particular cause…he did all of it simply because he just liked running:

“That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean.”

In nerdier terms, Frodo didn’t concern himself with destroying the ring in Mordor, but rather asking “Gandalf, is it left or right?” and then putting his faith in his feet to get him there.

I want you to do the same. Get really damn good on focusing where that next brick is going.

  • Don’t worry about the 100 pounds you need to lose, instead focus on making a better decision while in the lunch line today. Or be like Jiro, and try to make your next meal a masterpiece – even if it’s just chicken stir-fry. We are building towards something epic, and every individual decision is something we get to control – that’s pretty awesome. Like building a castle out of LEGO bricks, building is most of the fun. The finished product is just a bonus!
  • Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to look like a year from now, instead focus on the completing that next set of push ups with great form. Or how you can cook an epic meal for dinner. Or how you can get a tiny bit closer to doing a pull up! When Joe lost 128 pounds in 11 months, he didn’t step on a scale for half a year – he just put his faith in his brick-laying, every day focusing on his next meal, his next workout.
  • Don’t worry about the 26.2 miles you need to run in a marathon, instead focus on running past the next tree as smoothly as possible. And remind yourself why you’re running: because you enjoy it! Enjoy the wind in your hair, the ability to place your next foot anywhere, and the freedom it brings you.
  • Don’t worry about all of the things you need to get done before the weekend, instead focus on the NEXT thing and do it to the best of your ability. Get that done with focus and precision, and then move onto the next task. Repeat.

The best part about all of the scenarios above: if you can lay enough bricks consistently, the cathedral takes care of itself. Falling in love with the process we are completing will allow us to build the best damn thing ever, but it requires us to take a brick-by-brick view of life.

Nerd Fitness has provided the blueprints for your leveled up life, so let US worry about that. All I want you to worry about now is where to place that next brick, and how perfectly you’re going to place it.

My cathedral, and my brick: 

I am not good at the violin, and it’s intimidating me so much that I opt out of practicing a lot. So, I’m going to stop worrying about playing like Kiana in Gaelic Storm, and instead just focus on playing the next song in my song book today.

On the fitness side of things, I’ve also been putting my faith in my bricks, and falling in love with each workout. It’s working! Plus, it allows me to do cool stuff like this 🙂

What about you? What’s your cathedral? And what’s the next brick you’re going to place?

I’m feeling particularly generous today, so let’s give away some free stuff! I want you to leave a comment: tell us what kind of Cathedral you’re trying to build, and how instead you’re going to focus on the placement of your next brick. How can you fall in love with the method with which those bricks are being placed?

We’ll pick 3 winners at random and send them a Nerd Fitness shirt from the NF store.

Tell us about your bricks before 11:59pm on January 22nd to be eligible!


PS: Seriously though, if you haven’t read it, check out The Pillars of the Earth. It’s a monster at 900+ pages but it surprised the hell out of me and I’m about to start reading it again.


photo source: Patrick Louke: lego

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    193 thoughts on “How LEGO and Minecraft Will Help You Get In Shape

    1. My cathedral is pull-ups! I was having a hard time figuring out where I would work on them (our table just isn’t suited to it), when I realized I was doing a little baby pull-up every time I get out of my Sky Chair. Bonus! So I’m going to focus on my bricks of practicing pull-ups in my chair, until I get strong enough that buying a bar for the doorway makes sense.

    2. My cathedral is living a life I enjoy in a body I’m content with, which is not only a beautiful piece of human architecture, but a comfortable and safe place to live! I started university for the third time a year ago, and this year I’ve taken on too much work, trying to prove something, just like I always used to do, the other 2 times I dropped out. The most recent bricks I’ve laid down are in the foundations of the building! On Friday I finally stopped procrastinating and took matters into my own hands, and contacted my student support team to halve my courseload for the year. For the first time I’ve made a proactive decision to take it slow and steady and continue with my 90% results, instead of just letting myself fail. Workload will now be manageable with my job and fitness mission and everything else going on in my life. In fact, making a decision on this at all was part of my first full NF challenge, with the Assassin’s guild! I’ve also been focusing on laying down more bricks of intuitive eating, which helped me overcome binge eating disorder a few years ago and lose 30lbs which I’ve kept off, though I haven’t made it to Mount Doom just yet! I just had a rest from that part of the cathedral-building for a while. Plus, I’ve finally learned to love the gym, through Stronglifts, braving a weight room full of guys, and, well, Spezzy. Naturally! I am slowly getting strong enough to carry slightly larger bricks, and I couldn’t be happier with the slow but deliberate progress of the building! It’s great to be following some kind of architectural plan, rather than just throwing all the bricks into a pile and wondering why a building doesn’t magically appear. Thanks to NF (which I’ve been reading for a few years now) and my awesome fellow rebels! They like to toss me bricks when I’m tired, help me put up the scaffolding, put an umbrella over me when it’s raining (I don’t have a roof yet) and bring me snacks when I’ve been working hard. I’m done with deadlines – any cathedral is a constantly evolving creation that takes care, love and maintenance, and my life is no different 🙂

    3. From a first year maths student, good luck! I agree that NF has much more appealing bricks than I’m used to! Now it’s not about hating my way through workouts to get to a beautiful building at the end, but “ooh! pretty bricks! why do I love the gym now?!”. Anyway yes, before I go on a tangent, keep on keeping the anxiety under control, one thing at a time, and congratulations in advance from a freshman! 😀

    4. My cathedral is a six-pack, since I started reading NerdFitness some 3 years ago I’ve been able to drop my weight from around 200 lbs to about 150, although I’m back at 160. I’ve really wanted to have a six-pack, since I never thought I could even dream about it, but now i see it a hard but achievable goal. My next brick is in the kitchen where I’m going to start making my lunch to take to work, so I can control my diet. I see a lot of chicken stir fry in my near future 😛

    5. My cathedral: someday in the maybe-not-so-distant future, I hope to be able to audition and be accepted into a student performance company at a circus studio! Aerial fabric is my current sport of choice (and, frankly, obsession). That said, I’m only a few months into my training………. BUT! I’ve been laying bricks steadily for many months prior. 1) Slimming down – almost finished! Down about 60 pounds, and close to my goal size to make lifting myself into the air easier. I’ve completely transformed my way of eating; now it’s habit. 2) Flexibility training – doing this steadily and regularly. I started out pretty flexible, coming from a dance background, but I’m aiming to get even better and push my limits! Now a habit. 3) Strength training – in addition to the strength component of silks (and it is pretty massive), I’m lifting heavy twice a week and doing accessory strength work 1-2 times a week. Now a habit. 4) Consistency – going to open aerial gym every week and working through tough tricks until they are effortless….. so as to level up and be accepted into a higher level class, and eventually….. someday……….. a performance group. This one’s the newest thing I’m tackling, and so far, so good. Headed to habit-land! Brick by brick, I’m getting there! Fueling myself well, putting in the work 7 days a week, and celebrating incremental improvements.

    6. My Cathedral: Being financially fit. I have a budge, which is my blueprint to financial freedom. If it isn’t in the budge, I don’t buy it. There’s a beer release party I want to attend, but its not in the budget. BRICK LAID. There’s DLC coming out for Call of Duty, but its not in the budge. BRICK LAID. I don’t look at the daunting task of paying off bills, I look at the “simple” task of sticking to my budget, and pretty soon, I have a stack of bricks that start looking like a cathedral.

    7. I’m building a cathedral of a healthy, fit body and the next brick I’m going to lay is to stop binge reading Nerd Fitness until after I pack a lunch for tomorrow!

    8. I love this article! One brick at a time (baby steps!) I just put the Pillars of the Earth on my ‘to read’ list.
      My cathedral is trying to be the strongest I can be. I just competed in my first powerlifting competition this past weekend so I’m setting a solid foundation! My next brick is to eat a healthy protein filled snack here in a few minutes. Followed by getting a strength training workout in tonight.
      I’m slowly working on eating healthier (and more) so that I can build strong, lean muscle! I’ve found that making all of my meals at once during the week has helped a lot. To continue to place my bricks, I would like to find more healthy protein packed recipes so I don’t get bored with my food. Suggestions welcome 🙂

    9. I’m building a strong healthy body and mind as my cathedral – because hey, that’s where I live: in my body and in my mind.
      The bricks I’ve been laying since Respawn Day have been my 3 strength workouts and 1 cardio workout per week. I’ve loved laying almost every one of those bricks (I’ll be adding the 30th brick today), and the few I haven’t loved while placing, I’ve loved after they’re in place.
      There are some blueprints/plans forming that involve changes in food and speedier running, but those are secondary to today’s brick, the next little increment to my foundation.

      When motivation runs low, I rely on discipline to lay the next brick, and then I look to the to top off the motivation tank.

    10. My cathedral is a body with less than 25% BF. I’ve been placing a lot of bricks but the next one has to be focused on the upcoming weekend and making sure I eat home cooked meals. I love cooking but always find myself too lazy to cook on the weekends. To make myself fall in love with the process this weekend, I’ll make one of my favorite meals, chili!

    11. I’m not only building a cathedral, I also building the house the pastor stays in. The pastor’s house is my body, or physical appearance. My soul’s dwelling place. The other building, my cathedral, is my ultimate nerd goal of owning my own independent video game development studio. Brick by brick, I learn the skills needed to complete my education and experience to making that dream happen.
      I ensure I properly learn every aspect of the art of game design/development before moving on to the next part.
      Same with my body. I can’t yet do a pull up so I work with bent over dumbbell rows and dips regularly. Perfectly. Each time I increase the number I can do or the weight I row.
      One day, I’m going to have one hell of a cathedral and potter’s house.

      By the way, I will be in a Medium shirt by the end of 2015, so please send me that size. Thanks.

    12. The Cathedral I’m trying to build is to be an inspiration.

      It may seem a bit selfish to want to be the one that people talk about, but I’ve already found 3 of my friends who have started changing their lives and their children’s lives because they saw what I was doing and how it positively affected my life and they want that for themselves so they have started eating better and taking care of their bodies and watching how their children eat and encouraging them to be better.

      Today my brick was going to the gym and making it worth my time. I love weight lifting days, but I loathe cardio days. I sucked it up and went and tried the stair machine for the first time. I was also reminded how nice it is to zone out and listen to podcasts and not think about work/life for 30-60 min a day. With that I am able to breathe and jump back into work.

    13. My cathedral is to build a healthy body and mind. My bricks are the choices I make when feeding my body and mind. The next brick I will place for my healthy body is the dinner I am going to have comprosed of protirn and veggies. The next brick for my healthy body is to read another inspirational article on Nerd Fitness

    14. My cathedral is running the Boston Marathon. Crazy for an 18 year old, right? I started running a long time ago to just sort of escape. Not necessarily to be alone with my thoughts, but to go to this pond that held drainage water in the middle of a bunch of rice fields and just sit. The faster I got there, the longer I got to spend there, thus the running. As time went on, I learned to love running as a way to enjoy the trail to my little piece of nature. As a freshman in college, I have discovered that running gets put on the back burner. (Being a music major isn’t exactly a walk in the park as far as difficulty commitment.) So in my college day-dreams, I decided to make running a priority again and set a goal for Boston. I didn’t really have to get back into shape (flag line and martial arts kept me going pretty strong), but distances very much over that 5 kilometer mark is completely uncharted territory. So, my next brick is working in endurance. I have gotten to the point to where 3 miles isn’t daunting, meaning my next step is getting mile 4 comfortably under my belt -or my shoes. I’ve got a while to go, but my first marathon that I’m planning on racing is in December, so I have plenty of time to lay out these bricks by then, and hopefully be pretty close to that looming marathon qualifying time of 03:35:00.

    15. The Cathedral I’m trying to build is a body I’m more comfortable with. To set a concrete goal, maybe gain 10 to 15 pounds. The next brick I’m going to place down is to increase the number of reps in my workout since it’s currently literally around five minutes. Laying down these bricks should be fun since I’ve been slowly but consistently increasing the intensity of my workouts for almost two months. This is the longest I’ve gone without backing down, so I’m excited to see where I’ll be in the next two months.

    16. Nice article to remind us to keep the present in perspective 🙂

      My Cathedral is to become a better Pole Dancer (maybe even compete). To do that, there’s so many moves to learn! But my current brick is to master a move called inverted V, and the way to do that is to practice leg raises (I don’t have a pole at home). Bonus is that I can progress through these and they’ll help ALL my future moves too 😀 Once I nail this down, then I can focus on laying down other bricks (like pointed toes/straighter legs/arms, control ascent).

    17. The cathedral I’m building is one that focuses on strength, activity and healthy eating. I’m already taking the classes at my gym that support strength and activity. Now it’s time to plan a week’s worth of meals and keep the fridge stocked so I won’t eat out and waste money and time. I also plan to invite friends over for dinner to enhance my friendships and introduce them to more healthy eating and dinner camaraderie. I know a couple who always orders out pizza. Practically three or four times a week. Hell, I can make a better pizza than they can order out. The dinner thing is completely new and I’d also have over another friend with them. So it’d be five for dinner. Semi-paleo. Lots of salad. A main protein dish of lean fish, meat, interestingly made vegetable dishes. I’m excited. When you love yourself, you can spread that to others through great meals where there’s fun discussions, comments on the food. What the next dinner will be. (every three weeks is my goal) I’m stoked.

    18. When I first found Nerd Fitness I didn’t really have a cathedral in mind, because I never thought I could be the kind of person who was capable of a perfect body or impressive feats of strength. Then I thought of an old DnD character I created years ago, Tobias, a monk with a philosophy on life that I ended up adopting as my own. While I like to think I inhabit the mental side of Tobeyism (as I call it), I never thought I could inhabit any of his other traits. Then I read about the Assassin path in the Academy, and the journey toward acrobatics and parkour seemed like something I could reach. I’m working a little at a time, currently just working on handstands against the wall in my dining room until I feel safe trying to kick up into one unassisted. The way I see it, if I can keep impressing myself with small gains, I’ll keep up the motivation and I’ll be doing backflips and swinging around the park in no time!

    19. My cathedral is definitely strengthening my back. Two years ago I hurt my back and it has completely derailed me. Now, here I am, under the age of 30, and dealing with back issues on a regular basis. I have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. I have recently hired a personal trainer because I want to learn more about free weights (deadlifts, squats, bench press), but, to minimize the chance of getting hurt, I want to make sure I am doing it with proper form. I will continue to work on strengthening my back with the goal of getting back into rock climbing. I’m not going to worry about having the perfect back, I am just going to focus on taking one step at a time towards a stronger ‘anti-fragile’ back. It is usually frustrating and sometimes depressing to have to deal with this, but it is something I can handle one brick at a time. And I refuse to let it define me any longer.

    20. My cathedral is a 24hour Adventure Race in August. I was worried about running, biking, orienteering, repelling, and hiking for 24 straight hours. I already laid a few bricks to get prepared. I set a training schedule and quit worrying about the entire race just the smaller traing goals. Now as I get closer to that Race, I know I will be ready if I only focus on the brick in my hand.

    21. My cathedral is a body that I’m proud of, and that I feel comfortable in. I want to be able to complete fitness challenges and feel proud of my accomplishments, not weak and slow and miles behind everyone else (which is how I currently feel). I have set myself small goals for each weekday over the next few weeks, mainly as an exercise to prove to myself that I can do what I set out to do and to increase my self-belief and self-esteem, but having read this article I also see these goals as the bricks I need to place in order to make my long-term goals come to fruition. Today’s goal is to complete a 15-minute high-intensity workout, so I’m going to go do that right now!

    22. My amazingly epic Lego fortress (of the future) is
      a body that is strong, capable of running long distances (like Forest Gump!)
      & lifting heavy stuff like a superhero
      + eating patterns which make me feel healthy every single day.

      My Lego brick today is eating all of the food I have planned to eat, and thinking positively about myself and my body.

      Conquered Lego bricks of yesterday: short but intense workout, that 10 minute (20 really) walk, and all those proper meals. 🙂

    23. I’m working on too many cathedrals, but I’ll pick two, one personal, one professional. I am a piano teacher, so, in a sense, each student is a cathedral for work. The current brick I’m trying out is a chart for their weekly assignments instead of the usual writing in the notebooks. This way, they have a box to check off each activity, and a box to fill in their total practice time for the day. Hopefully, A) the students will enjoy the motivation that being able to check off a box gives, and B) the amount of practice this new sheet accumulates will provide the kind of results that motivate even more practice.

      Personally, among many other things, I am tackling Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B minor. It’s a massive cathedral (Go find it on YouTube. Martha Argerich’s recording is particularly amazing). To get moving, I have picked one movement, the Finale, to begin, and I am memorizing it at turtle-tempo. I divide it into sections based on the form (and often I’ll have to divide it further, it’s quite tough). A section a day, plus maintenance of the previous sections. It’s a real amazing feeling when your hands begin to know where to go, though it takes a few days. This is probably my toughest self-assignment yet, but hey, you have to push your boundaries in order to grow.

    24. My cathedral is passing the level 2 Krav Maga exam. It’s a five hour long test of your conditioning, technique and “fighting spirit.” It’s in March, which means it unfortunately coincides with tax season (I work at an accounting firm). I’m stressing out because it’s very difficult to fit in the 2 – 3 hour workouts I need to be ready for the exam.

      My current brick is to just go to Krav everyday and enjoy it. I’ll fit in longer workouts when I can, but I want to focus on the act of getting to my Krav gym. It’s a vicious cycle: if I worry about not being prepared for the test, it makes me not want to go to Krav at all. Therefore, the best thing I can do is focus my energy on enjoying it. I love Krav Maga, and each day I go will make me better, even if I have to wait until the next time the level 2 test is offered to move up.

      Sidenote, if anyone here likes the Tamora Pierce, I’ve got a bunch of quotes from the Kel and Alanna books on my wall to keep me going 🙂

    25. My cathedral is to run the original Marathon. I’m a classicist in training, and the ancient world has always fascinated me. Running the original route from Marathon to Athens would be the ultimate feat of physical accomplishment for me (especially since I can’t run even a quarter of a mile now), and I want to take small steps to fulfill this goal. Right now, my start is to stop eating sweets. Once I’ve got that under my belt, I want to wean myself off most carbs. From then on, I’ll tackle my diet as needed. In the meantime, I’m going to try to run three times a week. On top of all the walking I do at school and work, which is a lot. Not much at first, but I want to build up a little more time every day.

    26. My future involved a fitness level that can hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Working backwards I want to hike the John Muire Trail, and before that, several smaller hikes. Before those hikes begin, I am taking small day hikes around my area, and before those began I started walking around my neighborhood. My meals have been found via trial, error and experimentation to be nutritious and fall withing a healthy calorie range without much effort or thinking so it’s very mechanical in terms of buying, packing and choosing.

      The long term goal is so far off both physically and financially I have plenty to focus on. Saving money is another big part of this venture along with cutting back on calories I have to cut back on spending. Again, many small choices made each day. Life is one calorie and one penny at a time, losing one and gaining the other.

    27. My basilica is a body that can parkour. Instead of looking at the guy who looks amazing running by me with a stupid smile on his face, I’m going to to Run for 1 minute and add a second each subsequent day, and each day get to a mile. When I hit a mile without stopping, I’ll do a similar program to run a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon. Maybe even a freaking marathon.

    28. My cathedral is that a friend called me a goddess recently. I don’t *feel* like a goddess. I have a bunch of changes to get there. Not just in my body but in my confidence level. My brick is to show up, for exercise, every day. Foundational, permanent habit.

    29. Although I cannot win the shirt any longer: My cathedral is to hold Crow Pose for six mindful breaths. Now, mind you, I’ve got many many bricks to go. I need to be able to hold plank with good form for 15 seconds, complete a BW circuit without stopping, then complete three BW circuits in a row for a complete set, and continue to work on my yoga to eventually support my own bodyweight with my core and forearms in Crow Pose.

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