The End of a Challenge and the Beginning of a Rebellion


Today marks the official ending of the first ever Nerd Fitness 28-Day challenge.  What started out as a challenge for myself to get in great shape for a vacation quickly turned into something far bigger – 50+ people pledging to take the challenge along with me.  Well, my vacation didn’t end up happening (sh** happens), but I still took care of business and managed to get through the challenge.

Did you?

Steve’s Challenge

28 days ago, I put out a challenge on NF to pick two or three things and stick with them for the entirety of the challenge.  Let’s see how I did!  Here were the three things I wanted to work on for these 28 days and why:

  • Gain at least five pounds, hopefully all muscle – I know you’re saying “damnit steve you suck, who wants to gain weight?” Well, I’m a skinny mofo and I want to be bigger and stronger.  The only way to do that is by eating lots of good, healthy food over these next four weeks.  I’ve gained 18 pounds in 30 days before, but this time I’m going to do it in a much healthier fashion.
  • Hit the weights hard three times a week – If I’m going to get bigger, I need to lift heavy weights with consistency, so I’ll be working out at a gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Sleep more – I never sleep – I stay up way too late answering emails and writing articles (like this one), which is great for the site but terrible for my health.  I’m never going to get bigger and stronger if I don’t take care of myself.

Overall, I give myself a solid B+. I ended up gaining six pounds, which was more than I was hoping for.  I checked my body fat percentage this morning and it remained the same, so looks like most of the weight gain was muscle (woot).  I did hit the weights hard three days a week.  My schedule was supposed to be Monday-Wednesday-Friday, but for the last two weeks I ended up going with Monday-Thursday-Saturday due to life getting in the way.

There were definitely some days where I didn’t feel like going to the gym (early on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day comes to mind), but I got my ass out of bed, sucked it up, and pushed around some weight.  Why?  Because I knew that 50+ people were doing this thing with me – if I skipped a day then what would stop everybody else from skipping?  I looked at this as a team effort.  Woohoo for public accountability – it absolutely works.

The only thing I didn’t manage to do extremely well was sleep more.  There were a few nights where I managed to get some extra sleep, but too many nights where I stayed up too late for whatever reason and paid for it the next day.  I feel like this is something I will always struggle with I feel like.  Oh well, it’s still a work in progress

Your Challenge

So how did YOU do? Did you make it all the way through the challenge? Quite a few people were posting on their own sites, while others were posting on the Nerd Fitness message boards.  I think the best part about this challenge was that it gave the boards a great kickstart – now there are over 120 members, 1500 posts, and some kick-ass conversations going down.  I really want this community to succeed, as I think it’s doing a lot of good for quite a few people.

If you’re on there, thank you for helping.  If you’re not, why not join us!

I did say I’d be awarding some awesome(ly average) prizes for the winners of the NF challenge.  If you want to be considered for the prize, post in the comments your goals and how you did with them.  I’ll be checking the boards too, but it would be easier for me to hear if you made it all the way through instead of scanning the 50+ threads.

Make sure you leave your comment with your proper email address in case I decide you’re the winner.  I’ll be scanning everybody’s threads this week and I’ll make a choice before the weekend.

A Rebellion Begins

NF Rebellion2Last week, an idea popped into my head when talking about how I wanted to build Nerd Fitness into an empire.  Then I thought to myself, “hmmmm, maybe people would rather join a rebellion than an empire.”  Regardless of the name, I think we all need a flag to rally around, a cause that we can all support, and a unifying message that we can all believe in.

So, after asking “Rebellion or Empire?” on Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments section of the last post, the votes came in overwhelmingly in favor of joining a rebellion.  I feel like the NF crowd is a bunch of underdogs  anyway (I love a good underdog story) who are eager to prove typical nerd stereotypes wrong, which sets up quite nicely for a worldwide rebellion of epic proportions.  I’m gonna go all-out with this idea coming up in the next few weeks, so be patient.  Your rebel leader is working on a master plan, it’s just going to take some time to execute!

Even though it’s Monday, I’m feeling pretty good right about now. If you were in the 28-Day Challenge, leave a comment and let me know how you did, and also let me know if you’re cool with being part of a rebellion 🙂

Oh, and one more question: should I do ANOTHER challenge right away?  Have people to sign up for their own personal challenges on the boards?  What’s the best thing to do from here on out?  I want to keep pushing people to level up, and I want to keep the boards growing, so I think I’m going to start another one on next Monday, April 5th.

Stay on target.

Rebel Leader of Nerd Fitness
(has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)


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photo: Jayneannd

9.5 Reasons Why I Exercise – Your Help Required!

Why are you here?

Maybe your boss made a fat joke at work today that sent you over the edge.  Maybe you got dumped and you want to look good for the next time you run into the ex.  Maybe your wife just had a baby boy and you realized you won’t be around to see him grow up if you don’t start taking care of yourself.  Maybe your doctor told you that you need to get in shape or you don’t stand a chance of living to 2011.  Hell, maybe you stumbled over here by accident.

Whatever it is that got you here, thanks for coming.

Everybody has different reasons why they’re trying to get in shape, and that’s awesome.  I want to give you 10 reasons you why I’m here and why I decided to start a fitness website, and then I’d love to hear why YOU’RE here, what you hope to accomplish, and how I can help.

1. I exercise because there is a direct correlation between my success in the gym with my success in life. A great day in the gym makes me feel like I’m going to have a great day outside of the gym…and I usually do.  Establishing a routine that makes me stronger and faster has helped me make great strides in both my job and Nerd Fitness as well.

Remember: momentum is a powerful thing.

2. I exercise because one day I want to be on the cover of Men’s Health for building an empire of healthy nerds. Last time I checked, they don’t put people eating doughnuts on there.  I have no doubt in my mind that I am going to change this world for the better before I leave.  Whether it’s helping people improve their own lives, or helping out those who really could use it (don’t worry, I haven’t forgot about my pledge for the warrior dash, more details coming soon), I feel like I’m in a great position to really make a difference.  This is both scary and exciting.

3. I exercise because I don’t want to be the skinny, weak kid anymore. Growing up, I was always short, skinny, and weak.  After that, I was tall, skinny, and weak.  Once I got to college, I made the decision that something had to change.  I’ve been able to pack on some muscle over the past few years, and I want to continue that trend.  Although I have no plans on becoming the Incredible Hulk, I would still love to be strong as hell.  I’m not really that skinny any more (thanks to years of hard work), but I still have a ways to go before I’m where I want to be.

4. I exercise because it helps me forget the bad day I had. Everybody has bad days.  Life sucks sometimes, and sh** happens.  As Bruce Wayne said in Batman Begins, “It’s not who we are, but what we do that defines us.”

Amen, Bruce.

Whenever I have a crappy day or things don’t go my way, I choose to look at life like a challenge.  I can curl up on the couch and watch Arrested Development re-runs (actually, that sounds awesome) while drowning myself in a case of beers, or I can MAN UP and take that sadness and anger and channel it into something productive.  Ever pumped iron or gone for a run when you’re mad as hell?  Try it next time – it’s awesome.

5. I exercise because I’m inspired. After watching 300, I wanted to look like Gerard Butler.  After watching Blade 3 (which was awful), I wanted to be Ryan Reynolds.  Casino Royale had me sprinting to the gym to look like Daniel Craig.  I get inspired when I see somebody who has turned himself into a machine, and it makes me want to go and do the same.  I realize I don’t have the time, money, or resources that these guys do, but it’s awesome to know what’s possible if you are truly dedicated.

I know a lot of you guys are runners and don’t like lifting weights (or aren’t ready to start yet), but please take 10 minutes and read “Iron and the Soul,” by Henry Rollins.  This article is a constant source of motivation and inspiration for me, and will help you understand the appeal of pushing around some plates at the gym.

6. I exercise because I want to be around for my kids and grandkids. Now, I don’t have kids yet.  Hell, I’m not even married.  However, I do know that taking care of myself and creating good habits now will allow me to live a long and healthy life, raising children and grandchildren who have the same appreciation for this whole “living” thing that I do.

I love life, and I plan on sticking around for as long as possible.

7. I exercise because I freaking love you guys. I love getting emails from you (Big thanks to Pedro from Chile for one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received last week), I love reading your comments, I love answering your questions, and I love reading your posts on the NF message boards.  Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been overweight, I’m still constantly striving for a leveled-up version of myself, just like you – I’m just coming at it from the other end of the spectrum.

Every time I feel like skipping a gym workout, I know that there’s a NF reader out there who is toughing it out because they don’t want to let himself or his fellow nerds down.  Thanks for keeping me accountable.

8. I exercise because I want to look good without a shirt on. So I want to look good naked.  Shoot me.  I want to look good when I go down to our neighborhood pool this summer to play cornhole, I want to look good when I’m down in the Caribbean for work, and I want to look good because it makes me feel better about myself.  Self-confidence and high-self esteem are things that I’ve always struggled with in the past (hopefully you can relate), but it’s gotten much better in the past few years since I started exercising and filling out my frame.

Provided you’re doing it the right way and not putting yourself in danger, getting in shape to look better is okay in my book.

9. I exercise because I want to be an inspiration. I want people to come to this site and say, “that Steve character, he’s got this whole thing figured out.  I want to be like him some day.”  I have no doubt in my mind that there is a better version of yourself hiding within you – I want to inspire and motivate you to get to that level.  I feel more confident about my articles and my recommendations when I’m in shape, and I feel like my words and videos will make a bigger impact when they’re coming from the best “version” of Steve possible.

9.5. I exercise because I’m inspired by YOUR reasons for exercising. So, how bout it: what gets you going in the morning?  If you need some ideas, here are 32 ways to kick-start your life.

Let me know what your reasons are, and if there’s any way I can help.


ALSO: Just out of curiosity, would you rather join the Nerd Fitness Empire and be able to give yourself some ridiculously awesome title like “Supreme Vice Chancellor of blah blah blah”…or would you rather join the Nerd Fitness Rebellion and stick it to the man?  Both names are awesome, both make sense, but I can’t decide which direction to go with it.  If your answer is “how about let people pick either, and then have competitions between the two,” yes I thought of that, I just have no idea how I could actually get that to work.


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photo source

Lessons From a Former Fat Guy

This is a guest post from my friend Jim Hodgson.  Jim went from being a really big guy to a really in-shape guy, completing a freaking Ironman Triathlon this past July.  When he asked me about writing a guest post about the fat guy perspective when it comes to food and fitness, I said hell yeah.  Here’s Jim!

This web site, Nerd Fitness, is great. I’ve known Steve in real life since around the time he started working on it, so I have a little real-life perspective to share. Here is why it’s good: because Steve really wants it to be good. He works very hard on it, and it shows.

However, for all his hard work and enthusiasm, Steve has never been, nor will he probably ever be, fat. He does not know what it’s like to hear Kool and The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” in his head every time he eats like I do. Oh yeah baby, food time is party time to me.

Yes, I have intimate knowledge of fatness and nerdy-ness, as I believe the following photo will adequately attest:

Note that not only am I one half of the above photo, my dad and sister taking up the other half, but I am wearing a Perl shirt to boot. I was around 320lbs at that time, and as of March of 2010 I was 210 lbs, so I’ve lost over 100 lbs since beginning my journey. I’m still working every day on eating right and being more fit, but this photo is pretty much a textbook case of fat nerd.

The thing is, I have a extremely slow metabolism. It seems sometimes that if I eat a single leaf of lettuce, I will see a pound on the scale as a result. Contrast that with Steve, who could probably eat pretty much whatever he wants and never gain a pound.

Fortunately, good advice on healthy living works for both the fast-metabolism-Steves of the world who wish to put on muscle as well as for the fat Jims of the world who wish to lose weight.  After all, being healthy is being healthy no matter what.  The challenges can be different along the way though, so I’ve talked Steve into letting me write a guest post from a fat guy’s perspective.

I believe that overeating is just like drug or alcohol addiction in that you never really shake it. What’s more, you can give up cigarettes or booze entirely, but you can’t give up food for long.

Keep in mind that I am neither a nutritionist nor a doctor, so you should ask licensed, trained professionals about everything I say to make sure you don’t explode or get a bad case of the farts or something.

You can’t outrun a bad diet

This is something I once tried really hard to do. When I started exercising to lose more weight, I bought a HRM (heart rate monitor). It tracks calories in addition to timing workouts, but no one’s really saying the calorie counts it keeps are exactly accurate, so I’d advise taking them with a grain of… caution, not salt, because we need to watch our sodium intake! Zing!

Anyway, when I got my HRM I figured a pound was 3500 calories, so I’d just do 3500 calories of cardio per week and lose a pound. Easy!

Well, that actually might work IF I ate the same thing in a week of no workouts as a week WITH workouts, but doing the equivalent of 500 calories of exercise a day is nothing to sneeze at. I usually burn around 1100 calories per hour running, 900 or so for an hour of cycling, and 6-700 for an hour of swimming, so any way you slice it that is a half hour plus per day, every day, for a whole week with no rest days.

The problem comes when I eat more because I have worked out hard and I’m hungrier, or worse, when I tell myself that pizza is okay because I just burned 1000 calories in a workout. Sometimes this is true, but it can easily get out of hand – running to the fridge does not earn me a burger.

If you are like me and you have a super slow metabolism, there is probably not a functional level of exercise where you will be able to eat whatever you want and be slim. To me that’s like saying there’s no such thing as true love — because believe me brother, I LOVE food — but that’s where I’m at right now on weight loss philosophy, or “weilossophy”.

I cut out alcohol entirely for nine months leading up to my race. I gave up sodas as well, even diet sodas. I believe that diet soda keeps you fat, or at least hampers weight loss, though I have no scientific data to support that belief.  I also used a food diary to calculate my intake of calories, and hardest of all, watch my carbohydrate intake.

Whenever I thought about cheating, or letting it slide just this one time, I said to myself “No, this time I’m going to do it right.”

Pick a course, stay the course, and do it for you

Life change can be a real pain in the hind parts. Sometimes it feels like you’re just slogging away with no measurable results, and for
what? Isn’t life too short to be miserable? Well, yes and no. Its my personal belief that some suffering is good for you, but you have to suffer smart.

I observed a big bump in people exercising alongside me in January of each year due to New Years resolutions. By June they were almost all gone. I knew I had been that person before, but not this time. This time I knew I had to stick with it.

110 lbs later, I am so dreaming of a cheeseburger here.

Originally I started losing weight because I wanted to have more success with girls. I’m ashamed to admit it because I should have done it just to be a better me, but that’s the truth of the matter. As time went on, other factors came into play. My mom passed away, and as a result I had a highly increased sense of my own mortality. I’ve always thought that I would someday lose the weight and become more athletic. I just finally realized that the time had come.

During the middle of this last summer I was fighting a severe case of burn out with only a few months to go until my Ironman race. It sucked. All I can tell you is that I just made myself do my workouts anyway. I had been working for it for a year, my dad was coming to see me race, as well as my sister, girlfriend, and a bunch of other friends. I couldn’t let them see me fail, but more importantly I couldn’t let ME see me fail.

I told myself, okay, if you’re hurting or tired or whatever, that’s fine, but you have to show up. Everyone has bad days or feels unmotivated, but I made myself show up every time.

I knew if I let myself skip workouts entirely I was finished, and I found that once I got myself to go I was usually okay.  Just moving my feet and starting the workout was usually the hardest part.

I think that is the biggest difference between me now and me then. I might not be at my best every day, but I’ll be on time and in the game.

Wow, if only there were a handy forum where people who are working on fitness and weight loss gathered to discuss these sorts of things. Oh wait, there’s one right here! My name is Jim on the Nerd Fitness forums, and I want to hear about your goals.

Be mentally ready for change

One of the things I noticed after I lost the first 60 or 70 pounds was that I was no longer invisible. I would say something in a group of people and someone would laugh or agree with me and I would be shocked. I hadn’t even realized until that moment how disregarded I was when I was a wobbling stack of ham.

I’m not sure if this happens to people who gain muscle or not, but I suspect that it does. I can only speak from my own fat experience.

Mind you, I am not a fatness apologist. I try not to tell people their business, and I believe that increased kindness and understanding between human beings is ultimately a good thing, but I also think that if I can lose over 100lbs, anyone can.

After all, in many ways I am a buffoon.

For better or worse, though, when you go through your body shape changes, people will treat you differently. Don’t let it shake you.

You picked a course for yourself and now you will stay on it. The people who love you for you are still going to love you when you’re more fit, and you’ll be alive longer to enjoy it!


For more adventures and gripping philosophy, you can find Jim practicing the manly art of writing every weekday on his own blog. Check out the RSS feed or subscribe via email!

Stop Looking At Me, Swan – Life Lessons Learned From Billy Madison

I realize that my last few posts have been quite heavy and serious, but don’t think that means I’m all done with making ridiculous connections and analogies between healthy living and seemingly unrelated movies. For today’s article, I decided to draw inspiration from one of the funniest and dumbest movies of all time:

Billy Madison

If you haven’t seen this gem of a movie, well…shame on you.  Here’s a quick synopsis: Billy Madison (played by Adam Sandler) is waste of space 20-something who lives with his billionaire father in a mansion.  He finds out that his father had paid of all of his grade school teachers so that he could graduate.  In order to prove that he’s fit to one day take over the family business, Billy goes back to school and repeats each grade, first grade through twelfth, in the most comedic way possible.

I watched this movie for the eight-millionth time this past weekend, looking at it through the eyes of a motivational fitness blogger, and realized there’s quite a few lessons to be learned from Mr. Madison.  I’ve pulled my favorite quotes and turned them into motivational moments…because that’s what I do.

Here we go!

Stop looking at me, swan!

At one point in the movie, Billy is sitting in a tub and decides to yell at the swan faucet fixture for looking at him.  Now, what the hell does this have to do with self-improvement?  This.

Are you like Billy every time you go to the gym, paranoid that everybody around you is a staring ‘swan’? I get one or two emails a week from people who are either afraid to go to the gym, afraid to take a group class, or too afraid to use anything other than the treadmill because they’re worried people will stare at them for being out of shape or uncoordinated.

Don’t worry about the swan Billy!

Besides, they’re just people – you’d be surprised how many of them are so vain that they hardly notice anybody other than themselves anyways.  Or, they’re just like you and too busy being self-conscious about themselves to worry about you.  So, get out of your head, put in your head phones, and do what you need to do at the gym to take care of business.

If you want to try free weights, take a fun dance class, or go to yoga for the first time, do it because it makes you happy.  I guarantee the people around you will either:

  • Not notice you because they’re just as self-conscious as you.
  • Admire you for taking control and trying to better yourself.

If they ARE giving you funny looks, I’d recommend not free-balling it to the gym next time.

First and second grade were easy, but social studies, division? This is gonna be tough.

Sure Billy breezed through first and second grade, but as soon as he made it to third grade he instantly became nervous about all of the new things he’d have to learn.  Do you spend all of your time on a treadmill or elliptical simply because you’re scared to wander over to the free weights section?  Maybe you’re not afraid of ‘swans’ looking at you, but you simply don’t know what weights to lift or how to lift them.

It’s time to graduate sucka!

Weight training has been proven to be more efficient at burning calories than straight cardio. Don’t be scared, the weights won’t bite.  Unless they’re killer zombie weights, in which case you have bigger problems to deal with.  Let’s assume they’re not.  You can start here:

If you’re not ready for weight training, you can start with body weight training instead.  Think of this as grade 2.5:

Veronica, I thank you, for kicking the sh** out of me!

Every once and a while, you need somebody to tell you like it is.  After getting screwed over, Billy drank himself stupid and gave up on his quest to graduate high school.  It took an actual ass-kicking by his first grade teacher, Ms. Lippy, to realize that he wasn’t living up to his potential.  Billy pulled his head out of his ass, stepped up his game, and ended up winning the competition.

I had a good friend last year who was overweight and had recently lost his job. This is one of my best friends and favorite people on the planet, so when he had started getting down on himself for everything that had gone wrong, I gave him a virtual kick in the ass and told him that he wasn’t living up to his potential.  Of course, I only did this because I knew he could handle it, and it was exactly what he needed to hear.

This same friend, now a completely different and improved person, recently yelled at me when he didn’t think I was living up to my potential.  I needed it.

I know for a fact there’s a better person hiding inside of you (not literally, that’s creepy) – it’s up to you to bring him/her out.  Be honest with yourself, or find a friend who is willing to be honest with you, and start taking steps to improve your life.

Don’t make me send Veronica Vaughn to kick your ass.

Of course I peed my pants.  Peeing your pants is the coolest!

While on a school field trip, one of Billy’s 3rd grade buddies accidentally peed his pants.  Suck.  Now, rather than rip on the poor kid, who’s already having the worst day of his life, Billy turned the situation around by “peeing” his own pants and then claiming that “you ain’t cool unless you pee your pants!”

Sure the quote might be random, but the lesson behind it is incredibly important: never underestimate how important your friends are!

They can pick you up when you’re down, make you laugh when you’re crying, motivate you when you’re lazy, and even splash water on their crotches when you’ve pissed yourself.  If you can find somebody to try this whole exercise thing alongside you, you’ll be far more likely to succeed and get better results.  I know this is absolutely true for me.  If you don’t have anybody local who can keep tabs on you and keep pushing you, join the Nerd Fitness Message Boards, where we’re all motivating each other.

Take care of those closest you, and they’ll take care of you in return.

You get your ass out there and you find that f***ing dog.

Remember when Miss Lippy read The Puppy Who Lost His Way to Billy’s first grade class – the kid in the story lost his dog, looked for a little while, and then gave up.  Eventually the dog found his way home, and everything was happy!  Not for Billy.  He delivered one of the funniest monologues ever:

The part of the story I don’t like is that the little boy gave up looking for Happy after an hour. He didn’t put posters up or anything, he just sat on the porch like a goon and waited. That little boy’s gotta think ‘You got a pet. You got a responsibility.’ If your dog gets lost you don’t look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find that f***ing dog.

If you’re trying to get in shape, you can’t eat a couple of carrots, do two push ups, and then give up when things don’t go your way. Don’t just sit on the front porch like a goon and wait for your gut to disappear either.  It’s going to take hard work, consistency, strong will, and determination.  This ain’t no cake-walk.

You need get your ass out there, eat right and exercise, and turn your f***ing life around!

Hopefully this gave you a few laughs and the kick in the ass you needed to stay motivated.  Either that, or you thought this was one of the most insanely idiotic things you’ve ever read.  Fingers crossed for the former.

O’Doyle rules!



Here are some other ridiculous movie analogies I’ve made:

28-Day Challenge: We’re Halfway There…

And cue Bon Jovi

So here we are, two weeks into the Nerd Fitness 28-day challenge. Now, I initially created this as personal challenge for myself because I was going on vacation at the end of the month.  However, due to some unexpected circumstances I’m no longer going on that cruise (hey, sh** happens right?) – but there are now like fifty people leveling up their lives alongside me, so HELL YEAH I’M gonna keep this train rollin’.

Nerd Fitness Message Boards

Since officially “unveiling” them fourteen days ago, the Nerd Fitness Message Boards have had exploded (not literally), with over 100 members and 1,000 posts already.

I’m pleasantly surprised and incredibly excited at the amount of great content posted on there in such a short amount of time – I feel like a proud parent watching my fellow nerds helping out each other.  It’s awesome.  If you’re one of the people who has been posting on there, THANK YOU.  I have a feeling that this site and this community is going to become something pretty damn special, so thanks for hopping on at the ground floor.  Honestly, the sky is the limit.

If you haven’t got a chance to check em out yet, take a look and join us!

Steve’s 28-Challenge

So how am I doing? Let’s look back at my goals for this:

  • Gain at least five pounds, hopefully all muscle.
  • Hit the weights hard three times a week.
  • Sleep more.

As of this past Friday I’m already up three pounds – I’m on schedule to gain those five pounds of muscle by the end of this thing.  I’ve been better about eating enough calories on a daily basis – enough to build muscle but not too much to put on excess fat – and I’ve tried to be better about sleeping more.  I still spend too much time on this site and not enough time sleeping, but I am trying to be more focused in my writing so that I can get my work done more quickly and get to sleep earlier.  It’s a work in progress.

Now, I do need to pat myself on the back for this one – despite crappy weather, little sleep, an annoying cough that won’t go away, and one of the worst weeks of my life, I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed one single trip to the gym.  I knew I was being counted on for motivation and consistency, so I did what I needed to do to make it happen.  Yay for public accountability!  You can follow my 28-journey on this thread on the boards.

So, how are YOU doing? Still going strong? Struggling?  Talk it out!



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photo: CogDogBlog

Becoming Superman: Kick the Krap out of Kryptonite

When I was a little kid, I went as Superman for Halloween probably five or six years in a row.  I’m not kidding.  I freaking loved Superman, watching all of the movies on repeat and wearing a cape as often as possible.  I even wore red undies on the outside sometimes.  Yup.  So, why did I love Superman so much?

Because he’s a total badass!

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – who WOULDN’T want to be Superman, right?  Now, although the Man of Steel is pretty much indestructible, there’s one thing that can take him down quickly: Kryptonite.


Pretend for a minute that you’re Superman in a quest for weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. I bet you’ve tried to get in shape in the past, you’ve probably even had some success and watched the number on your scale get smaller and smaller.  However, there’s that one thing (or two) that eventually always knocked you off your path and sent you in downward spiral back to complacency and unhealthiness.

This failure is your Kryptonite, and if you really want to become a superhero you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it.

Identify It.

If you’ve tried to get in shape before and failed, obviously something went wrong or you’d already be where you want to be.  Did you get sick and give up?  Did you drown your sorrows in a week long binge after your team lost in the playoffs?  Did you have a birthday at work and eat an entire cookie cake by yourself?  Maybe you just ran out of steam and lost your motivation.

Think about your past experiences with fitness and wellness and write down what went wrong. Usually there’s an event or two that you can point to as the cause of your downfall.

This is important – don’t beat yourself up about having a weakness.  If Superman can have one, so can you.  Now, Superman’s weakness is easy for him to identify: it’s green, it came from a meteorite, it glows, and makes him feel like ass.  Discovering yours might not be so easy.

These are mine.

  • Traveling for work. My job at Sixthman has me traveling quite a bit on cruise ships.  While on these ships, I take terrible care of myself.  I barely eat, I rarely sleep, and I usually end up sick as a dog for the week after each cruise due to my immune system being so worn down.  This derails my efforts to build strength and muscle, every time.
  • Absentmindedness at work. When I’m NOT traveling, I sometimes that I get so absorbed in work that I often forget to eat lunch or my snacks throughout the day.  If I’m going to build some serious muscle, I need to be eating great food, all day, every day.  Whether it’s muscle gain or weight loss, diet is the most important thing and I fail more often than I should.
  • Time management. I work on Nerd Fitness in my free-time, and I’m a terrible time manager.  I don’t sleep enough and I don’t get to work out as often as I’d like because I dump all of my free time into this website…which I don’t mind because I love helping people!

Make a Plan to Deal With It.

Once you’ve figured out your Kryptonite, it’s time to take care of business, put on your cape, and make sure your Kryptonite doesn’t take you down again.  The best solution I’ve found for setting new habits comes from Leo over at ZenHabits:

  1. Write down your plan.
  2. Identify your triggers and replacement habits.
  3. Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.

If you signed up for the 28-day challenge on the Nerd Fitness Message Boards (it’s where the cool kids hang out), this is a perfect opportunity for you to kick your Kryptonite to the kur…curb.

Here’s how I plan on dealing with mine:

  • Traveling for work. I need to take better care of myself on these cruises.  I have two more cruises coming up in April and May – and I need to take at least one night on each where I don’t stay out after a long day of work and just get some sleep!  Recharging my batteries once in the middle of a cruise should be enough for me to not get sick afterwards.
  • Absentmindedness at work. I’ve set a reminder on my computer to remind me every day to eat lunch.  Yes, this sounds ridiculous, but it works.  I also make sure I put a big bag of almonds on my desk as soon as I walk in the office so my brain remembers to eat them throughout the day.
  • Time management. I need to take care of myself.  I spend too much time messing around on the internet when trying to write these articles, so I’m working on writing shorter, more concise posts that still have the same impact with NF readers.  I will always battle to be healthy if I can’t find a way to get more sleep.  This is really tough for me, so any advice would be helpful!

What’s your Kryptonite, and how do you plan on dealing with it? There’s no reason we all can’t be superheroes, so let’s help each other out!




How to Deal With Life When Sh** Happens

Last week, I received this email from a Nerd Fitness reader:

“I am 33 years old, have recently gone through a divorce, lost my job, my house, and am in the process of putting my life back together. Despite losing so much, I have decided to use this time to perfect myself as a man.”


Lesser men would drink themselves into oblivion, rob a bank, or just give up on life.  Nope.  This reader is taking his crappy situation as a challenge – “alright life, you might have knocked me down…but dam it you don’t get to win.  I’m getting back up, and I’m going to kick your ass.”

This reader is my hero. If any of you are also going through a rough patch in life, hopefully today’s post will help get you through it.  Here’s what you need to do:

Understand that Sh** Happens.

It does.

Whether your wife cheated on you, your husband divorced you, you lost your job, you ate six whole boxes of Girl Scout cookies and had to be rushed to the hospital, you got a DUI, whatever…these things happen, and they happen to the best of us.  It might have been your fault, it might not have been your fault.  It might have been something that has been building up for years or something that just happened yesterday.  No matter how it happened, when it happened, or why it happened, it happened.  You know the expression, “there’s no use crying over spilled milk”?

What’s done is done.

At this point in your “sh** happens” plan, you’re probably thinking that you’re the only person in the world that is dealing with this.  You’re not alone.  We all have baggage we’re dealing with – it’s how we deal with that baggage that makes us who we are.


Get it out of your system.

Call up your best friend and bitch.  Go to a bar with some buddies and talk through it.  Cry, scream, yell, drop as many “what the f***’s” as you need.  Like the Hoover Dam exploding in Super Man, let it flow.  Go climb a mountain and yell profanities at the top of your lungs  Beat the crap out of a pillow.  Run sprints until you’re blue in the face.  Do whatever you need to do to vent, as long as it doesn’t put you in danger or the people around you.

Whenever I get angry or frustrated, I find that exercise is the best medicine.  In fact, I wish I could find a way to get angry more often because I can lift more weights, run faster and farther, and hit things harder whenever that happens.  If only they bottle this stuff up…oh right, it’s called steroids.

I think I’ll just stick with loud, angry music.

Realize That It’s Not That Bad.

Do you still have a pulse?

Good!  Things could be WAY worse.  Even if you lose “everything,” you’re still alive and you can still turn things around.  Please remember this: it is NEVER too late, and things are never as bad as they seem.  Everybody has crappy days, but few of us have real perspective on what a crappy day actually feels like.

I’ve been volunteering at the Atlanta Children’s Hospital on Thursdays for the past year, and it has been one of the most amazing and humbling experiences I’ve ever had.  Whenever I think I’m having a bad day, this place slaps me in the face with huge dose of reality.  If terminally or chronically ill children who can’t leave their bed can put on a smile and make the most out of life, you can too.

You woke up today.  Find a way to build on that.

Learn From It.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Whatever happened yesterday is now officially history – LEARN FROM IT.

  • Lost your job? Start looking for a job you actually love, or start your own company!  You have the unique opportunity to only pick something that makes you happy, while the rest of the world can’t get away from jobs that they probably don’t like.  You are lucky.
  • Got dumped by your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend? They didn’t appreciate you for who you are, and now you can find somebody that is 100% right for you.  And if it was going to happen, better that it happened today than years from now!  Learn why it fell apart, and use that information to make your next relationship better.
  • Maybe you’re the one who screwed up. Own up, take responsibility for your actions, and move on with your life.  Learn from your mistakes, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.  I guarantee it’s a lesson you won’t need to learn twice.

Whatever happened, find a way to make it a learning opportunity.  If you’re smart – and you are, because you’re reading this site – you can use your Sh** Happens moment to become a better person.

Put It Behind You.

It’s done.

You cannot change what has happened, you can only change how you deal with it.  In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne tells us, “it’s not who you are, but what you do that defines you.”

Amen, Mr. Dark Knight.

This is what you need to tell yourself: “This is the best f***ing thing that could have happened to me!”  Whether or not that’s true is 100% irrelevant.  Perception becomes reality, so your Sh** Happens moment suddenly becomes a welcome change.  The NF reader previously referenced is looking at his misfortune as a challenge and I find that to be extremely admirable.  He was fired from a job that he probably hated, and is now going to pursue a career as an actor, something he’s dreamed about since he was a little kid.

I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. I spent two years in California pretending like I was happy before realizing how important it was for me to have friends that I care about around me at all times.  I gave up that life out there and made the decision to move to Atlanta with two college friends, where I now work for the greatest company in the world.  I don’t look at those two years in San Diego as wasted time, but rather two years of my life that had to happen to get me exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

Whatever has happened to you in your past, be it yesterday, a month ago, or a decade ago, it’s time to move on.  Whether it’s a lost job, broken relationship, tremendous weight gain, or anything else that is threatening to pull you down, know that it happened for a reason – it’s a step that had to happen so that you can eventually get to where you need to be.

It’s all in your mind – make that a positive thing.

Don’t Dwell On It.

Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and playing the “woe is me” card certainly might make you feel better temporarily, but it’s freaking useless in the long run.  Don’t be a victim, and get creative

  • Pick up a new hobby.
  • Make a list of things you want to do before you die, and then start crossing them off.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Volunteer at a hospital or homeless shelter to get some perspective.
  • Get smarter.  Start reading books like crazy.
  • Start working out, and get in the best freaking shape of your life.

The more time you can spend improving yourself and staying busy, the less time you can spend on destructive thinking that will destroy you.  As an added bonus, you get to transform into a better version of you.  Once you start to see a positive change in yourself, you can build on that momentum and make positive changes in other aspects of your life as well.

Make Optimus Prime proud.

Man Up.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to level up your life, so get it done.

If you lost a job, dedicate yourself to finding one that makes you happy.  If you just got dumped, dedicate yourself to becoming a better person.  If you screwed up yesterday, learn from it and dedicate yourself to not making the same mistake today.  Whatever happened, learn from it, build on it, and move on with your life.

Now go do some push ups.



photo: FabioLuiz

How to Lose Weight Without Doing One Minute of Exercise

Screen shot 2010-03-04 at 1.16.53 AMThis picture has absolutely nothing to do with today’s article.  I just love Homer, and I wanted to get your attention…although you might be eating a doughnut right now as you read this.  Let’s hope not.

Before I start, I want to let you know I’m not condoning zero exercise.  In fact, exercise is freaking awesome and something you should try to do every day. However, I am here to tell you that if your primary concern is weight loss, exercise is merely the icing on the cake.  90% of your waistline battle is won or lost in the kitchen (or at the restaurant table, or at the drive-thru window, etc.)

Warning: this will ask you to possibly make some substantial changes to your diet – are you up for it?

Eat Real Food

I’m a huge fan of the food philosophy presented in books like The Paleo Diet, Good Calories Bad Calories, and sites like Mark’s Daily Apple. Why?  Because they make this diet thing so simple and logical even a caveman could understand it.  My apologies if you’re a caveman.  If you’re new to the “Paleo Diet” concept, here it is in a nutshell.  Rather than list what you can’t eat, here’s what you CAN eat:

REAL foods – veggies, lean meats, fish, eggs, fruit, and nuts.

Why does this work? Because you’re only eating foods that you’re genetically engineered to thrive on: high quality, high energy REAL foods.  Not from a box, not from a bag, not from a window.  Food from the earth.  Yay nature.

Cut Way Back on the Rest

Bread, cereal, pasta, fried food, rice, bagels, doughnuts, waffles, chips, tortillas, candy etc. – these things are all loaded with carbs (and if they’re processed – refined carbs and sugar), and I’ll bet a million Monopoly dollars they’re the cause of 99% of the population’s weight problem. I’m not telling you to give all of this stuff up completely – I’m just telling you that this is probably the reason the weight isn’t coming off of your frame.  Here’s why:

Most grains, refined carbs and sugar were nonexistent way back in the day, which means our bodies never quite adapted to properly process them.  If you want to understand more why our bodies have such an issue with grains and carbs, this is the best article I’ve readHere’s a great video to explain why refined carbs make you fat:

Video – Why You Got Fat

Today’s general recommended diet ratio of 50-60% carbs, 30% protein, 10-20% fat is so far off it’s ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it is.  This ratio has been pushed on the public for decades, and new “low fat” items continue to pop up every day…and yet the country continues to get wider and bigger and fatter.

Something’s not right.

How I Know it Works

Although I’ve recently added some grains back into my diet to bulk up (oats, flaxseed bread, and brown rice), I can attest to the fact that the Paleo Diet absolutely works.   In the four months that I switched to a Paleo diet (my ratio was probably 40% fat, 40% protein, and 20% carbs), my body fat percentage dropped from 12% down to 5%.  Besides myself, many NF readers have lost quite a bit of weight from making this change as well.

If you’re interested in giving the Paleo Diet a shot, check out this GREAT resource.  Pick a few things on the list, put together your meals, and you will lose weight.  If you’re interested in learning more about ‘going paleo,’ Mark’s Primal Blueprint 101 is a great place to get your feet wet.

Cut Out Liquid Calories

Soda, beer, juice, margaritas Gatorade, vitamin water, cappuccinos, fruit coolatas – avoid them whenever possible (except for beer on St. Patty’s Day…come on.) These beverages are all loaded with sugar which immediately turn to fat in your system.  And switching from a 12 pack of Coke to a 12 pack of Diet Coke might not solve your problems either.  Read my article why Diet Coke might make you fat. My advice: chug water like it’s your job.  It will curb your appetite, keep your insides running properly, and give you an excuse to get up and go for a walk to the bathroom every thirty minutes.

No Paleo? Eat Less Than Before!

Don’t want to change what you eat?  Welp, you’re just going to count calories (using a site like DailyBurn).  It’s a pain in the ass, but it works.  Here are the three equations you need to know:

  • Calories consumed > Calories burned = weight gain.
  • Calories consumed < Calories burned = weight loss.
  • 3500 less calories per week = 1 pound of fat weight loss.

As explained in the video above, the types of you food you eat is more important than these equations let on, but just creating a caloric deficit will still produce weight loss (although far less efficiently).  Tyler over at has had incredible results by continuing to eat his favorite foods in moderation.  However, along with eating his favorite foods in moderation, Tyler also spends hours and hours in the gym burning off all of those calories, which is incredibly time consuming.  I just don’t have that kind of free time and I guess that you don’t either, so why not work smarter instead of harder? Rather than eating bad foods and spending hours working it off, instead eat GOOD foods, put in only 20-30 minutes of solid exercise, and then enjoy the rest of your day.  Life’s too short to spend it doing stuff that’s just not necessary.

The Choice Is Yours

I’m not going to yell at you and force you to only eat grilled chicken and steamed vegetables for every meal – I’m not your mom (phew, that would be weird).  Besides, you’re a grown individual and you can make choices for yourself.

I AM, however, telling you that if you want to see results without spending hours upon hours in the gym, you need to get your diet under control, and this is the most efficient way for you to get there.  The more you can change to what’s been listed above, the quicker you’ll get to your goal weight.  Switching to a 100% Paleo Diet after years of eating bad carbs is a recipe for disaster.  Instead, try finding a way to implement a change or two along the way until you start to see those results.

I realize this is much easier said than done, which means this isn’t really about your diet: it’s about your will power and finding a good balance of changes that you can successfully manage. Whenever somebody says “I can’t give up that food” or “I just don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal” all I hear is, “I don’t want it badly enough yet.”

I’m okay with that.

If you’re not at that point yet to take control of your life, I’ll do my best to inspire and motivate you to get there…but the desire to change has to come from within you.  If you ARE at the point where you really want to make a change, I’m here to help, along with a community of people on our message boards who are there to support you.

Do we have any Paleo Dieters here? How did you successfully make the transition from a modern diet to a healthy one?  Do you have concerns about giving up carbs and eating more fat? I’m only writing from experience and my own research, but would love to hear some stories on your weight loss successes or failures and I know others would too.

Let’s hear it!


28 Day Challenge UpdateOn March 1st I put a call out for people to join me on a 28-challenge.  Over fifty new people signed up for the Nerd Fitness Message Boards and about a dozen bloggers signed up to post their challenge results on their own websites.  Sounds like a dedicated bunch of fools to me.  You can follow my challenge here – I’ll be writing every day throughout.  Join us!


photo: Greg Easton Photography

The 28-Day Challenge: Are You Up For It?

What’s with the beach?  Keep reading and find out.

While I was out at sea last week, I had an article published over on Art of Manliness: 8 Reasons You Need to Rediscover Your Passion for Exercise.  I feel really honored to be a part of that site, so thanks Brett and Kate! If you’re new to Nerd Fitness, welcome!  Here are the best ways to connect:

Site Update

I realized I did a site update a two weeks back, but it’s time for another quick one:

I now have over 1,000 email and rss subscribers!

If you run your own blog and are currently trying to build a following, I want you to know that it took nine months of writing every single day to get my first 100 subscribers.  It then took three months to get to 500 (after I cut back to two high-quality posts a week and started putting major effort into building relationships with other bloggers and websites), and then a month and a half to go from 500 to 1000 (with a big bump from my guest post on Art of Manliness).

Moral of the story: Whether you’re building a website or losing weight, remember – momentum is a powerful thing.  Stick with it.

The Four Week Challenge

Four weeks from now, I’ll be back out on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This time, however, it won’t be for work – I’ll be going on an actual vacation!

Because of this, I figured it would be a great opportunity to challenge myself to get in great shape over the next month.  If I’m going to be sitting on a ship deck or the beach in board shorts every day, might as well try to look damn good doing so.  I plan on taking some updated pictures and shooting a video or two for Nerd Fitness while traveling, which is all the motivation I need to stay on target.

Here are my goals for these upcoming 28 days:

  • Gain at least five pounds, hopefully all muscle – I know you’re saying “damnit steve you suck, who gains weight before going on a cruise?”  Well, I’m a skinny mofo, and I want to be a little bigger.  The only way to do that is by eating lots of good, healthy food over these next four weeks.  I’ve gained 18 pounds in 30 days before, but this time I’m going to do it in a much healthier fashion.
  • Hit the weights hard three times a week – If I’m going to get bigger, I need to lift heavy weights with consistency, so I’ll be working out at a gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Sleep more – I never sleep – I stay up way too late answering emails and writing articles (like this one), which is great for the site but terrible for my health.  I’m never going to get bigger and stronger if I don’t take care of myself.

Rather than fill up this blog with daily ups and down of my 28 day challenge, I’ll be posting my journal in the 28 Day Challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards.  I’ll be posting my meals and complete workouts on there so you can follow exactly what I’m doing.  Yup, this is you getting early admission into the GREATEST MESSAGE BOARD EVER!!

Warning: the previous statement was a blatant lie.

Join Me.

Starting today, I want you to make a pledge to do two or three things that level up your life with 100% consistency over the next 28 days.

I’ll be taking a picture of myself and all of my measurements this morning (bicep, chest, legs, waist, and weight).  I encourage you to do the same – even if it’s just a picture and your weight.  – You don’t have to show anyone your pictures either – they’re more for you to see your results, but if you ARE okay with showing them that’s okay too.

Next, I want you to come up with a list of two or three obtainable goals or new habits you’d like to develop over the next month.  Preferably one diet related and one fitness related.  Don’t be too ambitious, but make sure your goals will be a challenge for you.

And then get it done, one day a time, for the next four weeks.

Why 28 days? Other than the fact that my vacation is four weeks from now…28 days is the perfect amount of time to see the start of great results (if you are completely devoted to the task at hand), and it’s also the perfect amount of time to develop a new habit according to Leo over at ZenHabits (one of my favorite sites).  Also, 28 days is enough time to build up some serious momentum going into April and May – which leaves plenty of time for you to get ready for the summer and swimsuit season.

Join the NF boards and start your own thread/diary on the 28-Day Challenge section along with me. Public accountability is incredible for keeping you going when you feel like giving up; plus, you’ll have a community of people to lean on when you’re not strong (cue “Lean on Me”).

Note: when you sign up for a new account, it should email you an activation link.  If it doesn’t email you anything after an hour or two (and it’s not in your spam), please email me at and I’ll make your account active.  Still trying to work out the kinks.

Win a Prize – OMG!

To make things interesting – I’m going to award a prize to the person who is the most consistent and a prize to the person who has the best results (biggest transformation – either weight loss or muscle gain…this is where pictures really help).

Please note: I’ll be picking my winners from people that post their goals and results on the NF message boards and people who announce their acceptance of the challenge on their own website and track progress there.  If you’re in, let me know a.s.a.p!

Now, because this is all on the honor system, and because I’m broke as hell – the prize isn’t going to be “1000 dollars cash!” or anything like that…OR IS IT!?!?!

(no, it’s not.)

I was thinking more along the lines of a Nerd Fitness t-shirt (not even available yet!) and an iTunes gift card. Maybe I’ll even pick you up a souvenir down in Mexico when we stop in Cozumel…I hope you like comically oversized sombreros!

To preempt your questions or concerns that this 28-day challenge isn’t very well organized or thought-out, that’s because it ISN’T very well organized or thought-out.  I came up with this idea at 11:15PM last night when I should have been going to bed, so cut me some slack 🙂

Alright, let’s do this:

  • Post your goals on the Nerd Fitness message boards (preferred method).
  • Post your goals on your own website and send me a link (I’ll take it).

Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself today, and another picture of yourself at the end.  I encourage you to write down as much as possible, every single day – it will help you stay on track – and it will make it easier for me to pick you as a winner!

Let’s see what we can get done in 28 days as a fellowship.  I don’t care if I’m the only one doing it or if all one-thousand of us are leveling up during the month of March…either way I plan on kicking ass and getting stronger and healthier.

How bout you?



If you liked this post and you want to keep flexing your brains and biceps, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email.

photo: JeffPro57

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?

I just bawled my eyes out while watching MTV.

Now, before you judge me (boo pre-judgement), please hear me out.  I just finished watching the latest episode of The Buried Life, a show that has quickly become my favorite 30 minutes of television every week.  What the heck is The Buried Life, you ask?

The Buried Life Trailer

If you can’t access YouTube, here’s a quick rundown:

Relying on goodwill, guts and gumption Duncan, Ben, Dave and Jonnie travel the globe in a purple transit bus to complete a list of ‘100 things to do before you die’. For every item they complete on their list, they help a stranger achieve one of their dreams. Everywhere they go they ask the question: What do you want to do before you die?

I’ve only seen two episodes of the show and I’m already hooked.  I’m absolutely in love with the premise and the show itself is highly entertaining and motivational.  Sure, the crazy things on their list make for some excellent television – but the best part of the show is clearly their weekly attempt to help a complete stranger cross something off their own list.  On the episode that had me crying, the guys raised enough money to fly a young girl out to Colorado to visit her mom’s grave for the first time.  It was unbelievable.

When you break it to the simplest terms, this is what life is all about – making memories, finding a way to be happy, taking chances, and helping others do the same.

I feel like I have an opportunity to do some pretty awesome things in my life, and Nerd Fitness is allowing me to help others cross things off of their own lists.  Whether it’s losing 100 pounds, running a marathon, or sticking around long enough to watch your kids graduate college, I want to help you with your list.  I’ve seen what getting in shape can do for somebody’s self-confidence and drive – If I can help you turn things around in your own life, you’ll hopefully inspire others to do the same.

I realize it’s really uncool to watch MTV these days, but this show is worth a watch – it’s a half-hour reminder to have some fun, do things you love, and help other people along the way.  Whether they’re trying to party at the Playboy Mansion, make a toast at a stranger’s wedding, or compete in a Krump contest in L.A., the Buried Life are living proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

If you want to check out the show, you can watch full episodes over on

Now, while I’m helping other people level up their lives, I’d like to eventually cross a few things off my own list (which I just started making myself).  Here are six things I’d like to do cross off my list:

  1. Become a published author.
  2. Visit New Zealand.
  3. Skydive.
  4. Get in the end credits of a movie.
  5. Save somebody’s life.
  6. Compete in Ninja Warrior

Some of those things seem relatively easy given enough time and money, others not so much (Ninja Warrior, saving somebody’s life), but I honestly feel like nothing on this list is off the table.  That’s why it’s on my list!

I want to hear five things from your list in the comments – nothing is considered too easy or too hard.  Make sure you put down your correct email address (it will remain private) when posting a comment, so I can reach out to you if there’s anything I can do to help you cross something off your list.

Let’s have some fun, and let’s help each other.



The Lord of The Rings Guide To Getting Sh** Done.

Nerd alert!

What can be said about The Lord of the Rings trilogy that hasn’t already been said?  It’s easily one of the greatest literary achievements of our time and one hell of an underdog story (which I love).  Sure it’s fun to lose yourself for an afternoon in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but have you ever considered taking a few lessons from these imaginary characters and applying them to your own life?

You can learn at lot more from Frodo and the Fellowship (wow that sounds like a really crappy tribute band) than you might realize.

I’m going to teach you how to use the Lord of the Rings to help you get sh** done in your life, whether it’s losing weight, getting a new job, winning a competition, starting a side business, and more.

Let’s do this.

What’s Your “One Ring”?

While trying to destroy the One Ring, Frodo ran into orcs, giant spiders, ring-wraiths, traveled thousands of miles, and almost died approximately a million times.   Through all of this adversity, he managed to keep his eye on the prize and eventually save all of Middle-earth.

Oh, and he did it barefoot.

What’s your “One Ring” – Is it something like “lose fifty pounds?”  Maybe it’s “run a marathon,” or “pack on fifteen pounds of muscle.”  Whatever your goal is, find a way to take one step towards that goal every single day.  Frodo always knew exactly where he needed to go (Mordor) and exactly what he needed to do (throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom), so all of his steps and goals were in that direction.  Once you’ve decided where to go and what to do, it’s much easier creating a plan to actually get there.

Now, as for the kind of steps you take – I don’t care if they’re “What About Bob” baby-steps or massive hops, skips, and jumps – just find a way to make a little bit of progress.  If you backtrack or get lost, find the path and keep going.

One step at a time my friend, my one step at a time.

Push Yourself

As Sam and Frodo were making their way beyond the Shire, Sam stopped moving at one point and declared, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” For somebody that’s never been outside of his comfort zone, this must have been terrifying.   He later found out that he’d have to go all the freaking way to Mordor to protect Frodo.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam was wearing diapers under that tunic because he was so scared.  Doesn’t matter.  You know what DOES matter?

He did it.

You might have never run a 5k before.  You might have never been in a gym before, or lifted weights, or taken a yoga class.  Hell, maybe you’ve never asked out a girl before.  Whatever it is, everything outside of your “Shire” will scare you – that’s part of life.  Until you step outside of your comfort zone, unless you push yourself harder than you pushed yesterday, nothing will change.  There’s nothing wrong with staying safe, but I’d like you to challenge yourself whenever possible – you’d be amazed what will come of it.  Small victories over small fears can help build momentum towards bigger challenges.

And momentum is a damn powerful thing.

Have a Fellowship

Frodo had Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, his three hobbit buddies, and Boromir (booo!) to accompany him on his quest to destroy the ring.  They protected him, motivated him, listened to him, inspired him, befriended him, told him when he was wrong, and even let him go do his own thing when necessary.  Without this crew, there is no way in hell Frodo survives more than ten minutes.

Who’s in your fellowship? Do you have friends to confide in, parents to hold you accountable, a wife who will ask you how your training is going?  Find a way to get positive people around you who will make you a better person.  I have been fortunate enough to have a great circle of friends, and I owe a lot of my success and happiness to having them around.

Now, what if you don’t have a great group of immediate friends who are supporting you in your quest?  Thankfully, the internet is here to help your ass out.  I’ve met some AMAZING people through this website, dozens of other bloggers and hundreds of other readers who are helping each other improve their lives from half-way around the globe.

You keep me accountable, you motivate me, you even pick me up when I miss a workout.  It’s fascinating and a great thing to be a part of, and I encourage you to find people to help you do the same.  Start a free blog, tell your co-workers about your goals, email me and let me know how I can help.  We’re all in this together, and we’re more powerful as a group than any of us could be alone.

Do the Best With What You Have

While traveling through the desolate and dangerous Mines of Moria, Frodo started complaining about his situation to Gandalf, talking about how he wished the Ring and this crazy quest had never fallen into his lap.  Gandalf came back with a line that will stick with me forever:

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

And THAT’S why Gandalf is the man. No matter your age, no matter your appearance, no matter your genetic history, no matter your current predicament, you have to remember that your hand has already been dealt.  You can’t cry over spilled milk, you can’t complain about the past, you can’t worry about what happened five minutes ago.  You can only control what to do from this moment – right now – onward.

Draw a line in the sand today and tell yourself that from now on you’re going to be a different person.  You can’t control what’s already happened, but you sure as hell can control what’s going to happen from now on.  You’ve been given the opportunity to live a life on this planet to the best of your ability.  In the grand scheme of the universe, that’s pretty freaking awesome.

Make the most of it.

Set Out Today

You’ve got your quest laid out in front of you, you’ve got a good fellowship of friends to support you, and you’re willing to push yourself further than you’ve been.  Now it’s time to take action.  No matter how daunting your quest might appear, find a way to take one step closer.

Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  Do what you can with the time that has been given to you today.



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photo: Dan Taylor

The State of Nerd Fitness – 2/18/10

We’re approximately an 1/8th of the way through 2010, so I thought today would be a good time to update you all on the state of Nerd Fitness.  Next week is both busy and awesome, so I wanted to fill you in before things get crazy.

Good times!

Big Week Next Week

What’s the big news, you ask? For starters, I’m headed back out to sea with my company Sixthman for Cayamo, a 5-day singer/songwriter cruise with some incredibly talented musicians.  Fortunately, I’ve already written my two articles for next week and I have them queued up to post on Monday and Thursday (a Steve Kamb first).

And that’s not even the biggest news of the week!  While I’m out at sea, I have a guest post going up on one of my favorite sites in the world, a site through which many of you have discovered Nerd Fitness.  Hopefully this guest post will lead to some newly enlightened individuals making their way over to my little site here.

Now, because I’ll be out floating on a boat I won’t be here to greet any of these new people. That means I need your help!  Beginning on Tuesday, if you start to see some new faces in the comments, please be extra nice and make sure they stick around.  If you’re extra nice, I’ll even bake cookies and send them to you (NF note: Steve refuses to do any sort of baking ever, so don’t expect cookies).

Oh, and I apologize in advance for being two weeks behind on my email responses coming up…these cruises really back everything up.  Poor me.

Nerd Fitness Update

Thirteen months ago, I created without really knowing what I was doing.  I feel like over the past few months I’ve really hit my stride, writing articles that are resonating with NF readers and making an impact.  I’ve had conversations with people in Spain, New Zealand, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and China…and that’s just in the past two weeks.  Seriously, how cool is that?

This site is building some awesome momentum – watch out world, because the Nerd Fitness brigade (fellowship? tribe? still haven’t figured out what to call us yet) is coming in hot.

Honesty and Integrity

I’ll be the first to tell you I am not an expert personal trainer. I’m only 25 years old, and really didn’t find my passion for fitness until a few years ago.  I do have a personal trainer certification, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time in a gym training people on specific exercises and helping people with 100% perfect form for exercises to consider myself an expert.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I want to be honest with you.

There are way too many people out there pretending to be the world’s greatest trainer, and there are way too many sites selling “the best fitness routine ever!”  These people and their websites are a slap in the face to guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Craig Ballantyne, Jason Ferruggia, Mike Rickett, and Jason Varley – guys that I respect who have been in the personal training business for over a dozen years each getting actual results with hundreds of clients.

For this reason, I don’t want to be pretend to be something I’m not..I just want to be me: a normal guy with a day job and a life who just happens love fitness and wants to make a difference by motivating and helping others.  Hopefully you read my post last week: I miss workouts, I skip meals or overeat on occasion, and I definitely don’t get enough sleep.  Just like you, I’m down in the trenches every day just trying to be a better person.

That being said, I want you to know that I will continue to go out of my way to research all of my articles to the best of my ability.  If I’m discussing a topic that I don’t feel completely confident in, I’ll open the floor for discussion or defer to the opinions of my educated mentors.  I may not be an expert, but I guarantee I care more than anybody else (other than yourself) about helping you get what you want out of life, which means I’m going to bust my ass to make sure you’re inspired, motivated, and informed.

Remember, everybody loves a good underdog story.

NF Message Board

As many of you know, I’ve been working on building a Nerd Fitness message board for the past month or so: nothing super fancy, but a place for NF readers to connect, ask questions, and motivate each other.  I’ve met so many cool people through this site and it’s pretty awesome to see them starting to connect with each other.

I still have some kinks to work out, but I’d like to get as many people posting in there as possible who are interested before opening it to the general public.  Let me know if you’re interested (email me at so I can add you to the community.  We’re up to about 30 “beta-testers” at the moment, but the more the merrier!

Nerd Fitness as a Business

Before I get into this, I want to make one thing clear: no matter what happens, you can expect to read new, well-researched, entertaining, and informative articles completely free of charge on this site for years to come.  That will not change.

I’ve decided after thirteen months of daily writing, I’m at the point where I feel confident in my skills and direction to start taking steps towards turning this site into a business.  I now have my own LLC (Level Up Enterprises,), a business bank account, and even business debit card with my name and company on it.  Steve’s all grown up!

For starters, I’d like to create an E-book for readers who really want day-by-day workout plans and diets. Now, because I don’t consider myself an expert on program development, I’m planning on partnering with trainers who ARE experts at program development.  Now, before you start thinking of those lame “lose 40 pounds in 4 weeks” crappy online fitness programs, remember that this is Nerd Fitness, and you’re dealing with Steve Kamb.  This book will be bad-ass, incredibly unique, and well worth it.

I took down the download for my free E-book, because it’s time for a re-write…I’m now six months wiser!  I’d like to update a few sections, add in fresh content, and make some adjustments to a few things here and there.  Hopefully I can get this back up soon – yes it will still be free!

I’m also tossing around the idea of getting sponsors for the site, but I haven’t convinced myself completely that this is the path I want to take. I do know that I only want to work with sponsors who line up with my values as a person, which means I’ll be turning down 90% of the companies that come to me looking to promote their products through the site.  Oh well.

I’ve selected what charity Nerd Fitness will be partnering with for the Warrior Dash Costume Dignity-Massacre! There are quite a few things that need to happen before I launch the fund-raiser, but the first big hurdle is out of the way.  Expect an official announcement around early April.

Lastly, I signed up for a online small-business class with Chris Guillebeau over at the Art of Nonconformity. If I had to model my website and eventual online business after somebody’s it would be his, so this is a really cool opportunity for me.

Big Things

I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Every new email I get from a reader who has lost weight inspires me.  Every new comment from a complete stranger means there’s one more person ready to change his/her life.  I feel really fortunate to help bring together a community of good people who want to help each other.

I’ll be checking in occasionally next week from the Caribbean (yeah, poor me…I know).  I just want to say thanks for reading, thanks for sharing this site with your friends and co-workers, and thanks for inspiring me to be a better person every day.

So…that’s my life. What’s up with you?



If you liked this post and you want to stick around, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email!

Photo: Sam LLIC Photography

How To Build Your Own Workout Routine

What should I do for a workout?

I get this email at least once a day, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the perfect answer for everybody.  Considering that a program should be developed around a person’s biology, age, goals, diet, free time, etc, there’s a lot of factors I can’t get in ten minutes through email.

I can certainly offer up suggestions, but there’s one person that knows what’s best for you: YOU.  Developing a workout routine for yourself can be scary, but it’s really not too difficult and kind of fun once you understand the basics.

First of all, what are you doing now. Is it working?  Are you safe and is it making you healthier?  If so, keep doing it!  However, if you’re JUST getting started, you want to mix things up, or you’re ready to start lifting weights (after reading that weight training is the fat-burning prize fight victor), it’s good to understand what goes into a program so you can build one for yourself.

Let’s do this.

Determine Your Situation

How much time can you devote to exercise?

If you can do an hour a day, that’s awesome.  If you have a wife, three kids, and two jobs, then maybe you can only do thirty minutes every other day.  That’s fine too.  Whatever your time commitment is, developing the most efficient workout is crucial.  Why spend two hours in a gym when you can get just as much accomplished in 30 minutes?

Where will you work out? At a gym? Using some weights at home? Just body weight exercises?

What Exercises Should I Do?

Keep it simple, stupid.

Unless you’ve been lifting weights for years, I recommend doing a full body routine that you can do two or three times a week.  You want a routine that has at least one exercise for your quads (front of your legs), butt and hamstrings (back of your legs), your push muscles, your pull muscles, and your core.  Yes, this means you can develop a full body routine that uses only four or five exercises.  Hows THAT for efficient?

  • Quads – squats, lunges, one legged squats, box jumps.
  • Butt and Hamstrings – hip raises, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step ups.
  • Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps) – overhead press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips.
  • Pull (back, biceps, and forearms) – chin ups, pull ups, inverse body weight rows, dumbbell rows.
  • Core (abs and lower back) – planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises.

Pick one exercise from each category above for a workout, and you’ll work almost every single muscle in your body. These are just a few examples for what you can do, but you really don’t need to make things more complicated than this.

Add some variety – If you do the same routine, three days a week, for months and months both you and your muscles will get bored.  If you do bench presses on Monday, go with shoulder presses on Wednesday and dips on Friday.  Squats on Monday? Try lunges on Wednesday and box jumps on Friday.  Pick a different exercise each time and your muscles will stay excited (and so will you).

Lastly, your muscles don’t get built in the gym, they get built when you’re resting. Give your muscles 48-72 hours to recover between workouts.  A Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout works well to ensure enough time to recover.

How Many Sets Should I Do?

Not including a warm-up set or two, I recommend doing between 3-5 sets per exercise.

Keep your total workout number of sets for all exercises is in the 15-25 set range (5 or 6 exercises of four sets is a good start).  More than twenty five sets in a workout can either be overkill (doing more harm than good) or you’re not working yourself hard enough (boo inefficiency).

How Many Repetitions Should I Do?

If you’re looking to burn fat while building some muscle, keep your number of repetitions per set in the 8-15 range.  If you can do more than 15 without much of a challenge, it’s not difficult enough for you.  Add weight or change the exercise so that it’s tougher.

If you’re looking to build size and strength, you should vary your rep ranges depending on the workout.  Although I’m currently following a variation of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength (2nd edition) routine (heavy weight at five reps per set),  I’ll be switching to this type of routine in the next few weeks:

  • Low reps (5-8) and heavy weight on Mondays.
  • High reps (12-15) and lower weight on Wednesdays.
  • Medium reps (8-12) and medium weight on Fridays.

If you can keep your muscles guessing by constantly forcing them to adapt to different routines, they’re more likely to get harder, better, faster, stronger (thanks Daft Punk!).

What’s the significance of the different number of repetitions?

  • Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength (called myofibrillar hypertrophy).
  • Reps in the 6-12 range build a somewhat equal amounts of muscular strength and muscular endurance.
  • Reps in the 12+ range build muscular endurance and size (this is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).

By doing rep ranges at each of these different increments, you’re building well-rounded, balanced muscles – full of endurance, explosive power, and strength.

You can even mix up your amount of weight and reps within a single exercise.  Here’s an example of what I’d do for a dumbbell chest press on a Friday:

  • 12 reps at 65 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 10 reps at 70 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 8 reps at 75 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 6 reps at 80 pound dumbbells, done!

Always try to keep your muscles guessing, and you’re less likely to plateau (get stuck lifting the same amount of weight).

How Long Should I Wait Between Sets?

I purchased The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises, which is a great book LOADED with exercises, tons of pictures, and routines.  They have a very basic formula for how long to wait between your sets based on how many reps you’re doing for the exercise:

  • 1-3 Reps: Rest for 3 to 5 minutes
  • 4-7 Reps: Rest for 2 to 3 minutes
  • 8-12 Reps: Rest for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 13 Reps+: Rest for 1 minute or less

Now, pair this time between sets with how many reps you are doing.  If you mix up rep ranges on a daily basis, you need to mix up your rest time between sets too.  This is how you build well-rounded muscles, and a well-balanced body.  w00t.

How Much Should I Lift?

This one is easy: lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have NO fuel left in the tank at the end.  How do you determine how much that is?  Trial and error.  When just starting out, or if you’re doing a new exercise for the first time, always err on the side of caution.

Now, if you’re doing exercises with just your body weight, you need to find a way to make each exercise more difficult as you get in shape – once you get past 20 reps for a particular exercise and you’re not gassed, it’s time to mix things up.

  • Can you do 20 push ups no problem? It’s time to start mixing them up to be more challenging.  Pick a variation from the Art of Manliness Push Up Article and make yourself work for it!
  • 20 bodyweight squats too easy? Hold some weights high above your head as you do the next set.  Try one-squats.  Always be challenging yourself.

How Long Should I Exercise?

45 minutes to an hour.

If you’re doing 15-25 sets of total exercise, you should be able to get everything done within that 45 minute block.  Now, factor in a five or ten minute warm-up, and then stretching afterwards, and the workout can go a little bit longer.  If you can go for over an hour and you’re not completely worn out, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough.

Less time, more intensity, better results.

What if you don’t have 45 minutes? Maybe you want to build some cardio into your weight training.  That’s where these next two sections come in.

Alternating Sets

Let’s say you’re doing four sets of squats and you plan on doing four sets of dumbbell bench presses after that.  If you wait two minutes between each set, this will take you around twenty minutes or so (factoring in the time to get set and actually do the set).

Try this instead: Do a set of squats, wait one minute, then do a set of dumbbell presses, wait one minute, then do your next set of squats, and so on.

Because you’re exercising two completely different muscle groups, you can exercise one while the other is “resting.”  You’re now getting the same workout done in half the time.  Also, because you’re resting less, your body has to work harder so your heart is getting a workout too.  Jackpot.

Let’s see how this would play out in a sample workout:

  • Lunges alternating with incline dumbbell presses, four sets each, one minute between sets.
  • Wait a few minutes to catch your breath and get set for your next two exercises.
  • Straight leg deadlifts alternating with wide-grip pull ups, four sets each, one minute between sets.
  • 3 Sets of planks, stretch, and get the hell out of there!


This is the most effective way to burn fat when exercising.

This is also the most effective way to make you involuntarily swear at inanimate objects.

A circuit requires you to do one set for EVERY exercise, one after the other, without stopping.  After you’ve done one set of each exercise in succession, you then repeat the process two, or three, or four more times. I’ve written about two body weight circuits here on the site:

If you work out in a gym, here’s a previous article I wrote about weight circuit training. Circuits get very tricky when in a gym, so make sure you’re doing them when it’s not crowded.

Keep Track Of Everything

Keep a workout journal! You should be getting stronger, faster, or more fit with each day of exercise.  Maybe you can lift more weight, lift the same amount of weight more times than before, or you can finish the same routine faster than before.

Write everything down so that you can compare yourself against a previous workout.

Recap: Building a Workout Routine

Okay, so I realize that’s a ridiculous amount of info, but it’s all very important stuff.  Let’s break it down into easy chunks right here:

  • ALWAYS warm up – 5-10 minutes on a bike, rowing machine, jumping jacks, run up and down your stairs, etc.
  • Pick one exercise for each big muscle group – quads, butt and hamstrings, push, pull, and core.
  • Do 3-5 sets for each exercise.
  • Determine how many reps and how long you’ll wait between sets for each exercise.
  • Mix it up! Vary your reps, sets, and exercises.  Keep it interesting.
  • Increase your efficiency and work your heart by doing alternating sets or circuits.
  • Keep your workout to under and hour.
  • Stretch AFTER your workout.
  • Write everything down.

So how’d I do?  Good enough explanation?  Not enough detail?  Too Confusing? Way too long?

Let me know what you think in the comments.



photo: mdwombat

A Missed Workout

This is not the article I intended to write today.

Last night after work and going to the gym, I came home to type my blog post, and ended up writing 2,000 words on a subject that was more about life and less about health and fitness.  I decided it wasn’t a great fit for this site (in its current state), so I put it in the drafts folder, and started writing another article.  2,000 words into my second article, I realized that I didn’t love it.

I woke up early this morning to finish, and came to the realization that I couldn’t get it done in time with the level of polish and professionalism that you, the Nerd Fitness reader, deserve.  For the first time in quite a while, I don’t have a big-time article for you to read on Thursday.  I equate it to a missed workout in the gym.  I can blame it on my scatter-brained mind, lack of free time between my real life and my day job, need for sleep, whatever.  Excuses, everybody has ’em.

I’d like to reference Wedding Crashers and the quote “Rule #76. No excuses, play like a champion.”  Sorry, but that’s bullsh*t.  You know what?  Life gets in the way sometimes.  Last night was one of those days, and it wasn’t from lack of effort.  I went to the gym, I tried to better myself, and I wrote close to four-thousands words for the site.  They just weren’t good enough.  I’d rather not post an article than post something I’m not proud of.

What does this have to do with fitness?

We’re all human.

None of us are perfect.

Life happens. Sh*t happens.

So you ate like a pig on Super Bowl Sunday.  You skipped a workout to go watch your kids basketball game.  Maybe you skipped a run because you wanted to play Halo with your roommates.  Honestly, who cares?  Do NOT beat yourself up over it.  It happens to the best of us – it doesn’t make you a failure, or a bad person, or a slacker.   You’re not alone.

I do the best I can with the hand I’m dealt, I try to live my life to the best of my ability, and I try to have some fun every once a while.  I hope you do the same.  If you miss a workout, if you go eat a 2,000 calorie awesome blossom at Outback, if you sleep in on Saturday and decide to not run, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about yourself.  It just means that you’re human!  Like the rest of us.

Just make sure not taking care of yourself doesn’t become a routine.  I don’t plan on making a habit out of missing my self-imposed deadlines, so I’ll see you with a regularly scheduled, kick-ass post on Monday.

Thanks for listening.


photo: BitPicture

How to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably ate a ****load of food last night while watching the Super Bowl (Google definitely had the best ad, by the way).

You’re thinking to yourself, “I put on five pounds last night, how the hell do I get back on track?”  I’m going to introduce a seemingly ridiculous concept to you, one that I hadn’t ever considered until doing the research:

Intermittent Fasting.

Sounds like the worst thing ever, right?  Starving yourself on purpose?  “TOTALLY LAME,” as Awesome-O would say.

Well, if you’ve been unsuccessful at losing weight, if you’ve lost weight but you’ve hit a plateau, or if you just want to try something new, this might be the jump start you need.

Disclaimer: this is just my opinion based on my research and reading. This is less of a recommendation article rather than an eye-opener and call for discussion.  I do present my opinion at the end though, and I’d love to hear yours.

Diets – Six Meals For the Win?

For years, the concept of lots of small meals throughout the day really clicked with me.

If you space out your meals evenly, keep your calorie count low, you’ll lose weight, right?  I’ve even talked about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Lots of people follow the “eat multiple meals a day” ideology and lose weight, so it works.  Less calories, more meals, evenly spread out.  It makes sense.

However, I’ve recently done some research and reading on IF…which also makes a lot of sense to me.  By not eating every once a while, your body has to burn the fat in your system for energy, which would lead to weight loss.  Also, by not eating for twenty four hours, you’re pushing your body into a calorie deficit, which also leads to weight loss.  It makes sense.

So, how can these two seemingly conflicting ideologies both make sense? Simple – they both allow your body to burn more calories than you consume.  And, if other research on the body’s physiology while fasting is to be believed, there are multiple other benefits as well.

Let’s get down to business.

What the Hell is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you purposely avoid eating for a twenty-four hour period (or two) during the week. Why?  Because recent studies have shown that your metabolism operates more on a marathon basis (how many calories consumed over a long period of time) than on a sprint basis (what you ate yesterday).  Prior to this research, I was giving way too much credit to my stomach – it’s not nearly as intelligent as I thought.  Think long term when it comes to calories consumed and burned, not short term.

Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple has a great write-up on the evolutionary science behind fasting. Mark runs one of the most thorough and successful paleo diet blogs out there, and I highly value his opinion.  I love looking into the evolutionary aspects of diet and fitness, and I’m often very weary of any new “breakthrough” that requires a pill or drink or anything.  We’ve survived as a species for tens of thousands of years with diet, exercise, and intelligence.

Fasting is one of those evolutionary aspects that makes complete sense to me.

How Does it Work?

Our bodies are genetically engineered to deal with feast or famine.  10,000 years ago, surprisingly there was no free All-Star Slam Breakfast from Denny’s!   Our bodies need fuel to operate, and if there isn’t any food in the stomach to pull from, it uses the fat stored within the body for energy.  The fat gets burned for energy, the body keeps moving, and thus becomes leaner.

Secondly, because of these skipped meals, you are putting your body into a calorie deficit (averaged out for the week).  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so start thinking of your calories more in terms of weekly units rather than daily amounts, if that helps.  More calories burned compared to calories consumed = weight loss!

Here’s a video from Brad over at Eat Stop Eat (which reads like an infomercial, ugh…but it’s legit) explaining the similarities between fasting and exercise.  He also wrote a guest post over on Fitness Black Book.  I considered setting up an affiliate link for Brad’s e-book in case you’re interested in purchasing it, but I didn’t want you to think I wrote this article to get affiliate money.  Instead, you can form your own opinion, and then buy Brad’s book if you’re interested.

Brad Pilon – Eat Stop Eat

How Do You Do It?

Simple: pick a day (or two) per week and purposely skip breakfast and lunch, and then eat a normal dinner. Brad over at Eat Stop Eat recommends doing this type of fasting once or twice a week – for example, a fast on Monday, and then another one on Thursday.  Liquids are okay on fasting days, just not ones with calories.  Heyoooo H2O!

If you’re used to eating a LOT of food, and you normally eat a big breakfast, this is going to be a pretty big drastic change.  Start by skipping breakfast and see how your body reacts to it.  If you can handle that, work your way up to skipping breakfast and lunch.  Notice that I’m not saying you should skip breakfast and lunch every day.  Eat normally five days a week, try a fast one of the other days for a few weeks and see how your body reacts.

Eat, don’t eat, and then eat.  Got it?

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.”  This study discusses studies done with humans (not mice) specifically.

From the LA times: Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: “In normal health subjects, moderate fasting — maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week — will have health benefits for most anybody.”

I’d like to see more studies, with better controls done for more solid proof of these benefits, but I expect that to happen soon.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

So, all we see so far are GOOD things about not eating for a full day. What the hell is BAD about it? First off, I can see myself getting extremely hungry to the point of annoyance when starting out this process.  This is echoed by Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn: “You’re hungry, fatigued, irritable. Fasting is not very comfortable. People try to cut back one day and the next day they’re starving and they overeat.”

I imagine there is quite the learning curve for your body when it has to switch from using readily accessible carbs for energy to using your body’s fat stores, so I can see the first few fasting days being extremely difficult.  NF Reader Matt makes a great point in the comments that I’m reposting here for all to see:

“One thing I think people who are considering this should ask themselves – how are you at controling your hunger at the moment?  Losing weight is all about consuming less calories than you burn.   The biggest obstacle to this is hunger.  That is, uncontrollable hunger.  If you are starving yourself on 800 calories a day, then you will be much more likely to binge and go way over your calorie goal.  So it becomes important to eat when you are hungry, not when you are starving.”

Moral of the story? Don’t overdo it – if you feel light headed and you can’t function, EAT SOMETHING.  Listen to your body, and find a way to make it work for you.  We only get one chance on this planet, so make it count.

Have I tried It Yet?

Note: Years after writing this article I came back to intermittent fasting and wrote a full length guide. Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.

Honestly, I haven’t. Well, not on purpose anyway.  The idea of skipping a meal or two goes against everything I’ve done for the past seven years.  If you’re a person who is used to eating a lot of food all day long, this probably scares the crap out of you too.  However, considering the fitness gurus and researchers that I read all highly recommend this type of “diet,” I’d be stupid if I didn’t give it a shot.  After all, if I can’t practice what I preach then I’m being dishonest to myself and to you all.

My biggest concern was losing more weight and muscle mass.  Then I saw that Craig Ballantyne, another fitness dude whose opinion I really respect, gained 13 pounds, most of which was muscle, while doing IF.  If he can do it, so can I.

Lastly, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through a workout if I didn’t eat beforehand.  However, after doing my research on IF, I did a test-workout this past Saturday in a fasted state and had zero problem getting through the routine.  That was a big boost for me to move forward with writing this article and planning to try it out myself.

I’m going to try this one day this week, I’ll let everybody know how it goes. I still expect to build muscle and put on some pounds, even when skipping the first two meals of the day occasionally.

Do I Recommend It?

Note: Years after writing this article I came back to intermittent fasting and wrote a full length guide. Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.

This is tough for me. Because I haven’t done it yet, I’m cautious about throwing my whole support behind the concept.  However, I do believe that this is another system that will definitely work for many people (but not all).  It’s just like every other successful diet: eat good foods, and don’t eat too much.

This is my recommendation:

  • Is your current plan working? Good! Don’t change it!
  • Is your current plan NOT working? Give this a shot.

If you only get ONE thing from this whole article, it’s this: there is more than one way to lose weight, so don’t worry about your method being the best.  The best diet is the one that makes you lose weight and keeps you healthy.  If you’re already losing weight, keep doing what you’re doing.  If you’re not, maybe do a little bit more reading on IF and give it a shot.

My advice? Do it the day after you’ve stuffed yourself, and balance things out.  In terms of losing the most weight the quickest, I’d probably recommend the Paleo Diet and intermittent fasting with weight training in the gym.

So what are your thoughts? Have you tried fasting before?  Successful or miserable failure?  Will you give a shot?  If so, please post your stories, thoughts, successes, concerns in the comments and we’ll see if this is something we can all wrap our heads around.


PS- Message Board Update – The message boards are still in ‘beta testing,’ but I would love to add some more readers to the mix to help me test it out.  We have about 20 readers contributing already , keeping track of their workouts, encouraging each other, etc, and I want some more!  If you’re interested in helping kick start the NF message boards, email me at and I’ll get you an invite.


picture – Undronotto

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