The 30-Day Hard Hat Challenge

lego hard hats

Today is September 3rd. This means two things:

1) Yesterday was Labor Day here in the US, which means BBQs and too many beers.

2) Yesterday was September 2nd, AKA the end of Summer.

The pool parties are done, trips to the beach are over, and WINTER IS COMING (unless you live down under!).  Okay so Winter is not that close, but for some reason, September is a signal for many people that it’s time to start slacking!

“Bathing suit season is done, skipping workouts this week won’t be bad.  Besides, this three-day weekend was rough and I’m recovering.”

“Meh, wedding season has passed, and football season has started.  I’ll just take this week off.”

All around the world, people look at September as that month where they half-ass staying on track.   Suddenly, it’s Christmas time, they’re up 30 pounds, and horribly depressed as they’ve undone all of the hard work from the spring and summer.

Not Nerd Fitness Rebels though.

We put on our hard hats, and go to work.

Hard Hat?

danger hard hat

Okay, so you don’t actually need to have a hard hat, a metaphorical one will do.

I can’t remember why I started saying it, but over the past few years I’ve been using a phrase (and here on NF occasionally) to keep myself on target:

“Put on your hard hat!”

(This also happens to be the phrase that I yell at everybody while at the craps table when it’s my turn to roll, but we’ll save that story for another time).

I want you to roleplay with me here for a second. No, not that kind of roleplay.  Nor this one.

Imagine you are a construction worker or somebody who has to wear a hard hat for their job.

The alarm clock rings at 6:00AM (playing this).

You had a rough day yesterday, and a long night.

You are exhausted and would much rather sleep in.

However, you know that if you just don’t show up to work, you’ll get fired.

So what do you do?

You put on your hard hat, and you go to work.  

You suck it up, because you need that paycheck. Maybe you drink an extra cup of coffee. Or you complain a little bit more when you’re putting up the drywall.

But you still do the job to the best of your ability, and you get through the day.

Put on your hard hat

pig hard hat

Sometimes, we have to do things that we don’t want to do.

Some days, we struggle with following through with the things that are good for us because we’d rather take the easy/comfortable/unhealthy alternative.  We sacrifice what we truly want (a healthier life, pride from looking in the mirror) for what we want RIGHT NOW.

You need to put on your hard hat, and you need to go to work:

  • Don’t feel like exercising today?  Too bad. Hard hat on. GET STARTED. Do 10 push ups.
  • Don’t feel like eating right today?  Too bad. Hard hat on. Stick some veggies on that plate.
  • Don’t want to get enough sleep tonight? Too bad. Hard hat on. Turn on off the TV, shut down, and get some sleep.
  • Don’t feel like getting work done? Too bad. Close Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, and get started.

You just spent months building up momentum, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let you lose it all. Not on my watch!  You know the thing that you’re currently avoiding is good for you, so you need to literally force yourself to do it sometimes.

Skipping your day job isn’t an option, so you go.  Skipping today’s workout isn’t an option either, so you should probably do it.

I challenge you to spend the next 30 days doing ONE healthy activity that makes your life better. One thing, every day, for the next 30 days.

Here’s how you’re going to do it.

What’s your hard hat?

hard hats

If you’re a construction worker, your hard hat keeps you safe. It’s required to get started.

When you take it off it signifies that you’ve completed your mission.

When you put that hat on, a switch is flipped. You may not like the hard hat, but you know you need it. After you wear it enough, you get used to it. It becomes part of your work, part of your success.

I challenge you to identify your hard hat – the thing that flips the switch. The thing that prepares you to suck it up and get work done.

It might be lacing up your shoes: Many basketball players only wear their shoes on the court. Why? Because when their shoes go on, it’s game time. Are you a runner? When you finish lacing up your running shoes, you are RUNNING. Period. Only running in those shoes. Are you still in your apartment? I hope the path to the door is clear. Seriously.

It might be putting on your exercise gear: Joe, the Rebel who lost 130 lbs, allows himself 5 minutes of complaining, but ONLY as he’s getting into his workout clothes. But once he was fully dressed, once his hard hat was on, it was time to go to work. No excuses, no complaining, no thinking, and definitely no turning back. After that “hat” goes on, there’s one thing to do: get the job done. After all, you “didn’t get dressed up for nothin‘!”

If you are a powerlifter, it might be chalk: You’re just not feeling it today. You feel lethargic, and your workout is supposed to be in 30 minutes. You’re lifting heavy today, and you’re not feeling confident. But then you get to the gym, walk over to the bar, and chalk up. The war paint goes on, and you are transformed. Suddenly you are no longer weak. Suddenly you are right where you’re supposed to be; it’s time to go to work.

It might be listening to a song that pumps you up: You’re tired, it’s late, and you still haven’t worked out yet. You start to think you might skip “just this one.” But then you reach for your hard hat. The song (or playlist) that gets your blood pumpin’. When this song finishes, you go work out. No feeling, no complaints. You have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to transform yourself into a beast

It might be caffeine (coffee or tea): After a long morning or long day, you just aren’t feeling it. It would be so much easier to just surf buzzfeed or watch some Game of Thrones. But then you consume your pre-workout cup of coffee/tea. All of a sudden the engines start revving up. You close that window, turn off that TV, and get that workout started. You’re on cruise control; your hard hat is on.

So, what’s your hard hat? Identify the thing that tells you: it’s time….that tells you that you can’t bail. If you do, your hard had loses its power, and it’s gotten you this far. Welp, I guess there’s only one choice — forward.

The Seinfeld Rule


Recently I was introduced to the Seinfeld Strategy by my friend James Clear, who runs a pretty spectacular personal development blog.

Jerry Seinfeld, arguably one of the most successful comedians of all time, had a method for how he was able to achieve such success.

Another comedian recalled his interaction with Jerry; he asked him how he was able to stay successful:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

Feel free to print out a calendar for this month, or use the calendar on your wall.  Get a big red Sharpie, and put an X on there today when you complete that task you’re hoping to accomplish for the next 30 days.

And then do it again tomorrow.

And then on the day when you don’t feel like doing it? Guess what? PUT ON YOUR HARD HAT. Do the damn thing. And stick an X on there.

Although there are apps that track habit building, I find something that you HAVE to look at, with big red x’s staring you in the face, makes you far more likely to carry out that task.

What if I miss a day?


Meet the “Never Two in a Row” Rule.

Think of this like your fallback plan. I hope you have to never use this rule this month.

HOWEVER, if for some reason you miss a day, that next day suddenly has become the most important day of your life.  Momentum is so damn powerful, and when you have it working for you, one day off is merely a speedbump.  However, two days can very quickly become three, which can become a week, and so on.

Here’s a video I recorded last year on the Never Two Rule for the Level Up Club (which is currently being mixed in with the Rebel Women’s Fitness Course we’ll be releasing later this month, more details coming soon!):

The “Never Two in a Row” Video

The Hard Hat Challenge

september calendar

am throwing down the gauntlet.

I want you to print out a Calendar or use a wall calendar (don’t worry, I’m doing this too), and get a big red sharpie.

For the rest of this month, you are going to complete one healthy activity every single day:

  • Yes, I ate vegetables today.
  • Yes, I went for a 15 minute walk.
  • Yes, I did 10 minutes of yoga.
  • Yes, I prepared one healthy meal.
  • Yes, I meditated for 5 minutes.
  • Yes, I spent 15 minutes learning Ruby at CodeAcademy.

The activity must be something that can be completed within 15 minutes, and it must be something that improves your life in some way.  It needs to be a new habit you’re working on, or a habit you’ve struggled with in the past. It needs to be something that you can definitively say YES or NO to.

At the end of the month, submit a photo of you next to your calendar (or holding up the calendar) with all of the X’s filled in.  I will then randomly draw a winner out of all of the people who submit a fully X’d out month, and award them a custom prize. (Note: If you hit a speed-bump and got back on track after one missed day, you’re still eligible) 

What is that custom prize you ask?

A freaking Nerd Fitness Hard Hat.

Now, this doesn’t actually exist yet, so I’m going to have to make it myself.  Luckily, arts and crafts was my best and favorite subject growing up.  My favorite medium was “elbow macaroni.”

Fair warning: this hard hat will most likely look awful, but I promise it will be made with love.

Get started today.

Leave a comment below with the activity you’ll be doing for the rest of September.  Print out your calendar, hang it somewhere you’ll see it every day.  And then put your hard hat on and get to work.

No seriously, I want you to make the motion as if you were putting on a hard hat 🙂

If you’re on twitter, follow me at @SteveKamb: I’ll be posting updates all month long at #HardHatChallenge.  Feel free to use that hashtag and let me know how you’re doing too!  

My goal: Meditate for 2.5 minutes every day using (my new favorite site) as the first thing I do in the morning when I turn on my computer.  

Your turn, put that freaking hard hat on and go to work.


PS: Here’s a fun Steve Kamb fact for the day: My first job out of college was “construction equipment salesman,” and I had to wear a hard hat every day.


photo sources: Hard Hat Legos, Danger Hard Hat Area, Pig Hard Hat, Jerry Seinfeld, TWO, September Calendar, hard hats

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231 thoughts on “The 30-Day Hard Hat Challenge

  1. hey Ickle!

    Love that your goal is specific, but i’d much rather you focus on the quality of your food than the quantity! I’m concerned that 1500 calories isn’t enough for you to be active, happy, and not be miserable.

    I advise most ladies to eat at least 1800 calories per day if they’re active, and those calories need to come from quality foods. Let me know if I can help out any more!


  2. Hey Steve, wow I didn’t expect to get any reply! Haha. Recently I’ve quit CrossFit after doing it 5-6 times a week for 7 months. During this period I was also doing yoga and some pole fitness twice a week. What I saw as fast improvement in my upper body soon turned into a worry because I was getting too muscley. That may be nice for some people but I didn’t like the way I fitted in my clothes. 🙁 I was eating a lot of calories during that time using myfitnesspal to track everything. Now I’ve cut down on excericsing – running 5-8km 3 times a week, yoga twice, gym (weights/circuit) twice, I figured I should try and eat less. I generally eat quite well and since I reduced the intensity of workout I find that I don’t feel as hungry any more. Thanks for your concern. I just wanted to find a way to finally feel feminem and strong at the same time. Hopefully this is going to get me there. 🙂

  3. As of Sep. 12, I will work out every day, whether it’s the beginner’s bodyweight workout, or just a walk around the pond trail in my neighborhood.

  4. Excellent! Stickers are the best reward system. I used to put them in my Day-Timer on days I finished all my tasks I set for myself.

  5. Been working all month on Pull Ups ( it’s been almost impossible for me in the past ) with my exercise routine I am now doing 2 sets of 10 vertical pull ups! Still working toward a set of full pull ups. Thanks to YoU !

  6. I got outside and walked for at least 30 minutes every day for my hard hat challenge. Some days I broke into a jog, other days I really had to push myself to get moving out the door (usually when it was chilly) I missed one day, but there were also days I went back out for some more. It gave me the motivation to keep going so now for October I’m upping the ante and fixing my bad eating habits. Only two, but I’ll track them both every day and see how long those chains last. No grains, no sugar. I’m gonna do it!

  7. Finished my calendar and Still working on vertical pull ups with full pull ups as my Goal,
    mike bones

  8. Yikes! E-cigs don’t have all of the chemical crap that cigarettes have, they have a whole host of other chemical crap instead! (And it’s chemical crap that hasn’t been studied as extensively as the stuff that goes into cigarettes.) The change you’re experiencing probably has to do with no longer inhaling extremely hot substances (which is actually a major problem) and not with the actual chemical makeup of your cigarettes. E-cigs are bad news bears.

  9. I started my hard-hat challenge today! I’m walking at least 15 minutes a day (really it’s supposed to be 30+ minutes, but then I read the actual rules… :]) I’m excited! I’m going to try to set up a reward for the end of the challenge – maybe buy a new pair of shoes if I make it with less than two speed bumps!

  10. Hello Steve,

    One old dude here, starting the hard hat challenge. Actually I will be doing 2 simultaneous challenges, #1 is walking at least 5 minutes everyday, and #2 is 15 minutes of body weight exercise 5 days per week. Wanting to lose 30 lbs this year and being 60 and away for regular exercise for the better part of 2 years now, no excuses just didn’t do anything, starting off easy seems to be the way to go. Can’t hurt and should help with the hypertension and stress.

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