Lessons Learned From Camp Nerd Fitness

Camp NF

“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 WillByington.com. 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 CampNerdFitness.com 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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46 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Camp Nerd Fitness

  1. Steve,

    Seriously, camp was one of the best experience I’ve had all year, and it’s re-invigorated my motivation to stay healthy. Since getting back, I’ve been squatting and deadlifting again, running, hiking, and generally being more active.

    Aside from that, I now have a ton of new friends and my Facebook feed is actually worthwhile to look at because of the alumni group there.

    Can’t wait for next year’s camp! Also, this write-up was excellent as always. (though there could have bee more links to goat videos :P)

  2. I’m so honored to be able to say I was apart of this experience.
    And I’m pretty sure that everyone had a similar reaction after CNF2014: “Did that really just happen?”
    It was amazing, everyone appreciates all the hard work people had put into it and we all love you, Steve.

  3. “Camp was nearly a group of fit nerds acting 100% like themselves.” And that, good sir, is all I ever wanted from everybody in this world! *sniffles* I truly hope that everyone was able to break out of their shells after this experience so they could finally put forth 100%+ of their efforts into leveling up their lives! I know for some people, interacting with others and being social is super tough! I am extremely proud of those who took that first step since CNF was an environment where I hope they felt like they could be themselves because there is nothing more beautiful and whole some in the world than that! Jessica Summers and I always went around saying, “just do you; just be yourself!” and it become motto for the weekend because to me, it is the most honest form of anything on this earth and for some people it can be one of the hardest things they can do. Not only am I proud to be myself, for myself, I do it for other people because I want to help them break out of their shell. I look at it from someone else’s perspective looking at me and thinking, “hey. If she is comfortable in her own skin then I can start to be proud of myself too.” Plus, everyone looks sane when standing next to me 😀 I’m just on another planet :p

    All of nerd fitness is my motivation and always will be. Here, it’s about helping people progress along the way so they can reach their goals. To me, goals never end; there’s always something new for people to strive for and to learn. There is no capped level in the game of life! With that said, at camp, we all had a safety net of support and encouragement so we were able to push and do our personal best. Perhaps some people found out they could do more than they originally thought they could and that is an amazing accomplishment! ! Nerd Fitness is a community where we succeed inside and outside of the fitness world! It’s a community I can comfortably call home. All in all, I was happy to be a part of it and wish I could replay that game over and over again 🙂

  4. Steve, Nerds, Countrymen – Camp Nerd Fitness was one of those life changing events. I’ve made more strides with my health and fitness – with my life – in the past few weeks than I ever have before.

    Thank you to all the Wizards who made everything on our side appear damn near perfect. Thank you to all my fellow campers who encouraged me and supported me even when I was at my limits (see above).

    What an experience. I learned more in that weekend than 4 years at college. Thank you everyone!

  5. Pleeeeease do the camp in July or August next year! I really wanted to be there but as a teacher, I don’t really get to pick my vacation days 🙂

  6. People outside of this community were like, “really? one of the best weekends of your life?” Umm, DUH. You guys are the freaking best. 80 people meditating in and around a treehouse on a Friday night made my life.

  7. This looks awesome! I’ll subscribe to the info about the next edition, but there’s an ocean between me (Belgium)and the camp, so it’ll be difficult to achieve.

  8. Just wondering, any chance of an European version? I’m a student, and would have a hard time scraping up the cash for the flight. If the camp were to be located in Europe however…. Anyway, signed up for the Interest List anyways.

  9. Have you heard that mitch hedberg bit about turkey bacon/turkey pastrami/turkey etc. “hey Turkey, stop trying to be like everybody else…just be yourself!”

    This is a game with a lot of replayability.

  10. Wow! I have total goosebumps and almost started crying in joy reading this post. I was so sad I couldn’t be there. I’m going home and talking to my wife about setting aside money every month so I can do this next year! In fact, it’s going on my Epic Quest list!

  11. Steve this looks amazing and the costumes are too boot as well! Seems like a HUGE amount of positivity and support for getting fit, being who you are, and nerding out. I love it.

    Are you thinking of doing CNF2015 around September like CNF2014 was?

  12. As I sit here in the hospital after neck surgery (delayed so I could attend camp), I am doing leg exercises in the bed to keep my legs strong! In fact, I just wrestled gabriel to lie back down after a scare…because my arms are that strong!

    Next year…i will run! But for someone with multiple surgeries on my legs, and the threat of being in a wheel chair at camp, one of my favorite victories (plural) was hiking up to the waterfall.

    My life will never be the same, thank God!

  13. this makes me proud to be associated with this community, even if i have only been lurking. i am really proud of all of you and everything that you all accomplished. congratulations, and please keep up the amazing work. if only more communities can be like this. i can feel the love and inspiration all the way across the internet in my home

  14. How many people can claim they’ve actually been in THE Deku Tree?! 200. That’s how many.

  15. Awesome! Do it, Jedi.
    I was there, and it was impossible for me to make it. I was thousands of miles away with two steady, low-paying jobs jobs I couldn’t leave. And somehow, one way or another, I made it happen!
    Where there’s a will, there’s way! Even if the way is totally unclear or hopeless. Just keep chipping away at it with your Axe of Grit and you’ll pull through one way or another.
    It was a priceless experience and you’ll thank yourself for making yourself go there next time!

  16. That’s great to hear! I was a lurker, too. I think NF has a fine community if them.
    Here’s to the lurkers!

  17. Yes please!, another vote for an European one! Air travel is cheap within Europe so I bet you would get lots of takers. I have organised kids summer camps in the UK for the last 5 years, so if you need any pointers, I’m happy to help.

  18. I nearly cried during the music video Well done and awesomeness! Wish I was able to go

  19. I can’t wait to go next year! I had a fitness conference already booked for the weekend after camp that kept me from going this time. Some of my best forum friends and I are excited to meet up at camp next year!

  20. Am I the only one who got choked up reading this? I am sorely disappointed in myself for not participating, especially considering I’ve been adoring NerdFitness for years from my little nerdy sanctuary others call a computer. I am so happy this happened and *how* it happened. Those photos are incredible. Thank you for making this happen, even if I was too daft to have experienced it. You and all your rebels are incredible people, and it was an equally incredible experience just to read about the happenings of having so many strangers come together for a shared purpose. Faith in humanity, restored.

  21. Wizards!!

    Thank you for an amazing weekend. I cannot believe that I went, I cannot believe that I did the ropes course (and didn’t die), and I cannot believe that I opened up as much as I did. I made so many new friends and really learned a lot. Steve thanks for showing me how to do a proper squat/pushup (turns out I was doing them wrong the whole time), Anthony thanks for showing me how mobility can train my feet to no longer be flat (I’ve already seen a lot of progress there), Amy thanks for being motivational support during the ropes course, thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for helping me heal. And thank you to the rest of the Wizards for being so awesome, friendly, and welcoming! I really had the best time of my life with you all and I will for sure be there next year.

    I also met some incredible people whose stories and struggles have touched me and motivated me to be a better person.

    And Will, thanks for all the ‘before’ photos – next year I’ll be closer to the ‘after’ in them. 😉

    … basically thanks. 😛 See ya next year!!

  22. I told my 19 yo son and my boyfriend that I WANT TO GO TO CAMP! They laughed, but then saw that I was serious. I’m ready for 2015!!!

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