Train Like A Secret Agent: Becoming Bond and Bourne

In honor of my “How to Blog like James Bond” post over on CopyBlogger (hey CopyBlogger readers!), I figured I’d keep the good times rolling and teach you how to train like a secret agent.

When you think of any movie featuring James Bond or Jason Bourne, you know what’s coming: a mysterious plot, espionage, incredible skills, risky maneuvers, great chase scenes, and a bucketful of action.  Whether you’re a guy or girl, it’s practically impossible to leave the theater and not say “damn that was cool, I want to be able to do that!”

I’m obviously not talking about the assassinations or constant risk of dying, but rather the way that these two characters carry themselves: they are in peak physical condition, prepared for any situation, comfortable in any environment, and ready to to kick ass at a moment’s notice.

Let’s do this!

Be a jack-of-all trades

James Bond isn’t some scrawny dude that only runs marathons (my apologies if you’re a scrawny dude who only runs marathons).  He can crank out twenty pull ups, sprint a mile, kill a guy for the fun of it, and then do fifty push ups without breaking a sweat. Similarly, Jason Bourne spends his free time scaling buildings, swimming through rivers fully clothed while being shot at, speaking 15 different languages, scuba diving, and karate chopping bad guys.

Bourne and Bond are good at LOTS of things that allow them to never get caught in any situation unprepared.

How to be like them: Acquire new skills, diversify your fitness portfolio, and be ready for anything.  As you become proficient at one skill, your training will carry over to the next one making it less difficult to get started.  Here are some ways for you to become more well-rounded:

Train with conviction, and train quickly

Jason and James exercise consistently because they know it can mean the difference between life and death out in the field.  They don’t cut their workouts short when they’re tired or skip a day because they’re lazy.  They train hard, they train with purpose, and they train as if their lives depended on it (because they do).

Secondly, they train quickly: secret agents don’t have time to go on four-hour fun runs or spend seven days a week in the gym.  They have other sh** to do – assassinating bad guys, drinking martinis, flying around the world, gambling in Monte Carlo, and so on.  Their workouts are quick, intense, and designed to build functional strength for real-world use.

I prescribe to the “train with conviction” method, which is one of the cornerstones of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.  My workouts last less than 45 minutes, involve compound exercises that work out my entire body, and prepare me for any situation.  I can bench 200+, deadlift 300+, do 15 pull ups, and run a 5k tomorrow if you need me to – nothing to write home about, I know, but I exercise less than four hours a week and I’m getting stronger every day.  The rest of my time is spent doing stuff I love: writing articles, traveling, answering emails from NF readers, reading books (currently Atlas Shrugged), and playing video games – I got sucked into four hours of Halo Reach the other night…oops.

How to be like them: Challenge yourself with each workout – try to spend LESS time and push yourself HARDER.  Yeah it’s less fun than “working out” while chatting for two hours, but it’s a lot more effective and efficient.  The best part is, after you’re done training, you don’t have to kill anybody!  You can come home to your wife/kids/family/dog/imaginary friend and do the stuff you enjoy.

Remember: fitness can be part of what you are, but not at the expense of who you are.

Take calculated risks

When Jason Bourne jumps off a building, he knows he’ll stick the landing.  When James Bond drives his Aston Martin at 100 mph on a windy road, it’s because he’s done it before.  These agents take risks that would make most people poop their pants, but it’s just another “day in the office” for them because they’ve been there and done that.  What would scare you and I hardly bothers them because they’re built up their risk tolerance.

How to be like them: Start doing one thing every day that scares you.  Take risks, both with your workouts and your life – they don’t need to be life threatening, but they do need to be outside of your comfort zone.  For some people, that might be skydiving out of an airplane.  For others, it might be doing a triathlon.  For you, it might be building up your confidence by finally approaching a cute girl in the coffee shop.  For me, it’s traveling outside of North America – I’ve never been.

Do things that are slightly more risky than where you feel comfortable – adapt, grow, survive.

(Just don’t take any really stupid risks, I don’t need any Darwin Awards on my conscience.)

Have a mission

Bond always has some awesome objectives: fly to the Bahamas, gamble at this casino, win this game, beat up that guy, and save the girl.  Bourne, on the other hand, creates missions for himself on the fly based on his predicament.  Both of them always have a plan A and a plan B. They know exactly what they have to do, and then they go out and do it.

How to be like them: give yourself daily missions to stay on track.  If you’re going to work out in a gym, make sure you do so with specific goals and a routine (you don’t want to suck at working out).  If you’re going to start training for a half-marathon, don’t just start running without a plan – take the time to actually plan things out.

When I go for a walk every morning, I come up with three manageable missions for the day that I need to accomplish.  I come home, write them down on a post-it note, and hang it above my computer until I’m complete them all or die trying (so far so good).

Today’s a rest day for me, so here are my three non-fitness missions for the day:

  1. Finish a guest post that’s been sitting in the draft stage forever.
  2. Record a video talking about the Rebel Fitness Guide to put a face and a voice behind the product.
  3. Start posting my DVDs on – I have over 100 that I need to start selling!

Start Today

Your mission is to start being more awesome today. Train hard, train diversely, and do more of the stuff that you love.  And take a risk every once and a while dammit! It’s good for you.

So let’s hear it: What are your three missions for today, and who’s your favorite: Bourne or Bond?


PS – Speaking of becoming more awesome, I have a big announcement on Monday, where I’m going to need your help designing something epic.  It will involve exotic locations, risky maneuvers, a ridiculous amount of fun, and all kinds of ACTION.  I’m excited.



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  • Tyler

    Oh, that’s jack of all trades. I thought it was something else the first few times I read and reread it. Good read, Steve.

  • I loved this article … I wish I had written it myself. It’s got a great theme :-).

    Interestingly, I had already set my own fitness goals to meet this kind of a thing anyway. A lot of my interests in general are similar to what an international superspy might be into: rock climbing, shooting, poker, fitness, being charming, and so-on. In fact, I sort of just realized my own blog is about becoming rad.

    Thanks for the fun article!

  • Craig Tucker

    I love rock climbing, but sadly it is not the best thing for getting fit. Its really hard on the forearms and hands, but really is not a good full-body workout. That being said, it is, however, an amazing motivator as you realize less body fat means easier climbing and as you get better you realize just how weak your core really is. A lot of climbers supplement with crossfit, p90x, etc for general tone.

  • Haha hey Tyler,

    Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Good thing I only put one F in there!


  • Hey Craig,Point well taken – I’ve adjusted the article to be more clear. I think it’s a great way to “level up though” provided you mix in some of the other skills I’ve listed. As you lose weight, build back strength, you can climb longer, more difficult climbs, which will in turn build more confidence, cause more weight loss, and so on.The other thing I like about rock climbing is that it really helps pull your shoulders back. Everybody only does bench presses and push ups these days while neglecting their back muscles, which can contribute to really poor posture (as will sitting hunched over a computer all day). Remember, diversify. Thanks for the comment!-Steve

  • Zabeman

    Hey Steve! GREAT ARTICLE! i’m very greatfull that I found this site, I get motivational articles like these. and like you, I went outside north america as well to get some confidence, and step outside my conmfort zone…. and MAN HAS IT WORKED FOR ME! keep up the great work!

  • Love this! Thanks for sharing Steve!

    – Josh

  • Excited for the announcement 🙂

    Also, can you run the 5k now without dying?

    p.s. you should add Michael Weston to the list =) [he’s so cool]

  • Anonymous

    It’s a funny coincidence to read your james bond post as pussygallore was on TV Earlier today

  • Anonymous

    Travelling outside North America is GREAT. I lived in Japan for a year, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done to level up my life. Granted, it’s not for everyone… but visiting a place with wholly different cultural values is an eye-opener within a few hours at most.Daily missions:1) Learn some new Japanese vocabulary, kanji, and Japanese grammar patterns, then make a post on Lang-8 using them.2) Watch at least a couple of Babylon 5 episodes (I’m working on rewatching it. >:D God bless Netflix!)3) Hula hoop for at least 15 minutes.

  • From that scrawny dude who only runs marathons: This a great post. It reminds of what I loved about fitness before I got really into running and dropped weight to get faster. Now that I’m more into trail running where the hills are tougher and more agility is required, I’m trying to get myself in James Bond shape and use that to improve my running.

    I’m with you on training quickly. Although 3- and 4- hour runs are part of my training, I do them only when absolutely necessary and try to workout hard and fast other times (and to make good use of those 3 or 4 hours by listening to audiobooks).

    Agrain, cool post. And congrats on getting on Copyblogger!

  • From that scrawny dude who only runs marathons: This a great post. It reminds of what I loved about fitness before I got really into running and dropped weight to get faster. Now that I’m more into trail running where the hills are tougher and more agility is required, I’m trying to get myself in James Bond shape and use that to improve my running.

    I’m with you on training quickly. Although 3- and 4- hour runs are part of my training, I do them only when absolutely necessary and try to workout hard and fast other times (and to make good use of those 3 or 4 hours by listening to audiobooks).

    Agrain, cool post. And congrats on getting on Copyblogger!

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  • Fantastic article!

    My risky things lately have been team sports and running. The former is anaerobic (win!) and is exercising different muscle groups than weight lifting, but I keep having flash backs to 7th grade gym class. It’s not pretty. I’ve also been getting up early to run, which isn’t really risky for me but it is risky to anyone who crosses my path before I’m done as I am not a morning person.

    Oh and Bourne is sexier because he’s smarter and because he totally beat the crap out of a guy with a book. A BOOK!

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  • Davidsedbrook

    I love this post. What a creative way to look at a workout regimen inside or outside of the gym. I think my favorite part of your post is to ‘train with conviction’ and to ‘have a mission’. As a personal trainer and a fitness franchise owner I always find that the hardest part of starting a fitness regimen with someone is trying to get them motivated (‘training with conviction’) and also having people come in with realistic goals (‘have a mission’ you can complete).

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  • Asdsd

    Krav Maga!!!! Fight like a spy (from Mossad!)

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  • Nice guide. BTW, should I wear a tuxedo while doing this stuff?

  • Nice guide. BTW, should I wear a tuxedo while doing this stuff?

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  • Xxxx

    this is a terrible article you should have given a realistic background/stuck of the characters and been realistic about it, what you did was compromise 10 years of training to halfass attempts to pretend like someone you’re not.

    1- take language classes
    2- join the military as an information specialist
    3- take foreign assignments

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  • Notazesty1

    Wondering what your workout consists of compared to Jeff Mastersons Weight Gain Blueprint?

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  • Abhishek

    nice article man, keep it up.

  • james

    great article, i’ll try to learn phil. martial arts or jeet kune do.

  • Mottledfox

    Bourne rocks, completely! He is a believable, all rounded individual. Those films come across as much more real than James Bond (in my opinion, though James Bond is good), and have depth!

  • b2f117

    cool article. def helps with my agent life.

  • Frenchi bond


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  • MLRS

    Day ‘A’ – a set of burpees, then a 200 meter wind sprint.. repeat 4 times
    Day ‘B’ – A set of dips, a set of chinups, a set of bodyweight squats, jump rope for a minute, repeat 4 times.

    all sets above to momentary failure with 60 seconds between a set

    Mon, Wed, Fri Week 1 – A B A
    Mon, Wed, Fri Week 2 – B A B

  • James Bond 2

    Great post, I am doing heavy weightlifting, always end it with cardio, do some cardio in the morning, I am a kickboxer (for 2 years now), I force myself to talk to and have fun with chicks and go out every saturday to hunt for girls… it’s always fun and after a while I got really skilled at it and had great one-night stands.. I had to really push myself to it though, break through some barriers that the old lazy me wouldn’t dare break… and action heroes like James Bond really motivated me, but that’s a secret nobody knows.. people say I’ve changed but I never tell them that that’s my motivation, lol, they wouldn’t understand.. but it works for me! Also, I’m following driving lessons and getting my license soon and I’ve signed in for the police academy and am running through the tests now.. to think that 3 years ago I wouldn’t even have the balls to approach a girl! 😛 My very first step into becoming a better man was getting into fitness though.. It really build up my confidence when my body changed, the confidence helped me to get further and develop myself more.

  • signupforshittyarticlecomments

    whoever wrote this is fucking stupid

  • Nimrod

    Hmm. I ponder about the “Well Rounded” part. I mean, I have martial arts training 3 times a week. How do I add, on top of that, Parkour, Crossfit and Rock Climbing?!

  • Shashi Suryawanshi

    wonderful information…. matt damon workout plan

  • James Bond

    Nice article . Helps me a lot .

  • Jason Bourne

    I love Jason Bourne better because of his highly skilled martial arts. Kali martial arts are great. Believe me, this dirty way of fighting could save your live in a situation like Bourne is always in. It’s fast, efficient, and can be deadly.

  • Preet Singh

    Bad experience

  • Jeremiah

    As an avid climber, I would say that if you are only working your hands and forearms, your technique may need some work. I find that using your legs to move yourself upward while using your grip to stay upright is far more effective and gives one’s climbing more flow. Also, if you mostly climb in a gym, try to get more exposure on real rock. It is far more versatile and offers the chance to employ more advanced techniques like stemming, compression holds, hand jams, lay backs, and heel hooks. When your technique can encompass all of these things, you will get a full body workout for sure!

  • Adam

    I AM so happy that i read this because i practice parkour and the moment i knew that secret agents do parkour i decided to train parkour more often to be more an awesome secret agent than a normal
    parkour athlete

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  • Jordan Williams

    Im starting today! I would actually add something here about fasting, since these dudes may not always have access to food and still need to stay sharp! ps Bond all the way.