The 30-Day Hard Hat Challenge

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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  • Robin

    Starting today, my goal is to begin and end each day with a glass of water, because I know I don’t drink enough!

  • Shaun M

    Hard hat on! Next 30 days = working out my core. I’m just beginning my journey and this is a good challenge to get me going. Found a beginners core work out and printed out my calendar!

  • Remy

    No soda or other liquid calories! The thing is I eat quite healthy, not super, but decent, it is just the soda, fruit shakes, beer and all that other bad stuff that keeps me from losing weight. So for the next thirty days no liquid calories and afterwards I hope I can just stay off it!

  • Pipsy

    Calendar is Printed. Large Red Texta located. Red ‘X’s begun. I can honestly say this is the ONLY reason I got out of bed and got myself to the gym this morning. My goal is to do either a gym work out, a weights work out or a yoga work out every day and never the same work out two days in a row. That hard hat will be making it’s way to Australia!!

  • Disco Lemonade

    No real 30-day goal for me, just want to keep everything going. I just hit the 9-month mark for lifting at the end of August and really just want a smooth transition into fall/winter.
    Doing some more sprinting would be good but it is not something I’ll be doing every day. Honestly 10-sprinting sessions in September would be an excellent goal.
    And there it is.

  • Carolyn

    Funny you should mention this today of all days. I was literally thinking of half-assing my workout this morning but made myself play my newly discovered theme song and you know what? It was a great workout and a great day. I’m sooo up for this! And yes, I will be handwriting my calendar since I have no printer

  • reinedesarbres

    I’m gonna go with meditation… ten minutes, every day. Maybe the month won’t feel like it’s flown by if I slow the hell down a little.

  • Briguy

    Quitting smoking is a very hard thing to do, as long as you are mentally prepared it is very possible, I tried the e-cig,and still smoked almost the same amount. I tried and failed multiple methods, most of them didn’t work. I decided that I was done on my own when I showed up to work one day and didn’t have any smokes. I still had half a pack that I left at home that day. I gave them away after a couple of weeks. It has been about two years, I still have cravings, and if I get really stressed I have had a few drags of someones, but I have not bought another pack and it feels so good to know that walking into a room people don’t smell the cigarette stench off of you.

  • Briguy

    Take Zoe (my dog) for at least a 15 minute walk every day.

  • Meera Reed

    I will run every day, even if it is in place for 2 minutes in my living room

  • Meera Reed

    I JUST quit smoking 2 months ago. If you haven’t heard of it, check out the book “easy way to quit smoking.” It seems really cheesy but you will find yourself thinking about it while you are trying to quit. I highly recommend reading it. I was really skeptical and it helped big time. Good Luck!

  • Seriouscat

    Going for eating a vegetable everyday. Time to grow up and learn to like them I guess ><

  • Moxie Hart

    Cook or pack a healthy mean at least two times a day for the next month.

  • Megan Funk

    Hey Ya’ll, I’m going to meditate for 5 minutes a day with and add another 15 minute walk in each day. Good luck everyone!!

  • Kelli Barnes

    Hi Steve, I just Joined last night I have already missed a few days. I am going avoid candy for the entire month. I am addicted but it stops now.

  • Aqilah

    For the first time, I’m going Paleo for the next 30 days. So true about momentum. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you take the first step too. My hard hats to you for a great post Steve!

  • asheliz

    I finally bought “How to Win Friends and
    Influence People” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” a couple of
    months ago…but I have yet to crack the cover on either book. So my goal for
    this month is to spend 15 minutes reading before bed, alternating between the
    two books. This will hopefully become my new night time ritual, instead of playing Candy Crush Saga and having nightmarish dreams about blocks of
    chocolate and jelly…I really should just uninstall it from my phone haha.

  • marvin.robot

    “Don’t feel like getting work done? Too bad. Close Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, and get started.” – Pehw. He didn’t said anything about So i’ll just hang out here.

  • Meseaturtle

    no deserts!no fried stuff! and a promise to eat vegetables for 1 meal everyday for the next 30 days!!

  • Lorena

    Get out of bed before 10am.
    Sleeping in is a serious problem for me. It destroys my productivity and motivation to achieve my other goals, especially my writing goals.
    Ya know, I actually created a big wall project board with a calendar and have been x’ing out all of the days I reach my writing goals–a slash for 500 words and an X for 1500. It’s really held me accountable. I guess I’ll add a new color for this one. Green or yellow?

  • Ms Hedgehog

    I will walk 30 min each day for (at least) 30 days.

  • Siha

    This post got me off my butt today, you have no idea how well times this was.

    Flexibility. Next 30 days. Especially my hip flexors.
    For the next 30 days I will streeeeeeeeeeeeetch!

  • Akila

    I had to block NF to stay on track studying for med school, so I didn’t read this until today, but my goal is to do mobility work for 15 minutes a day for the rest of the year (Trying to really make this habit stick.) I’ll do the 30 day challenge, then I have calendars for the rest of the months this year so I can track beyond September. Started getting weird tightness after sitting a lot studying, so I need to make sure I undo that, and switch up my study positions to stay limber.

  • Jill

    I have so many things I want to do better than the day before, but one goal that can help me get there and encompass some of the other goals – journaling. Now I’m not a journal-er. I can’t doodle, I’m not a big creative writer and I hate my handwriting; I’m a logical minded engineer. However, I just found the greatest idea to start a “list journal” They can be lists of anything. This is perfect for me because I live and die for lists. I thrive on crossing things off lists. So my hardhat goal is to spend 10-15 minutes every morning journaling in my list journal!

  • Boudicca

    I’m starting on the 6th, so hopefully I’m not too late. I’m going to practice piano 15 minutes a day. (Few small exceptions, example I’m going to Germany 3 days). On days I can’t be around my keyboard I’m going to listen to piano music, pieces I’d like to learn.

  • Ryan Reynolds

    I’m going to make sure my dinner every day includes at least one decent source of protein and at least one green vegetable.

  • MissMary

    Im going to walk everyday.

  • James

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful

  • pianolady2005

    Mentally “practicing” also helps if you don’t have a keyboard at your disposal. Going over the tune or fingerings in your head, visualizing yourself playing the piece, etc. I have found that just reading the music while on a bus or plane has helped me to prevent any loss of skill when I wasn’t able to practice for a few days. Good luck, enjoy your trip!

  • Linda Prior

    It’s 9/6 so I’m three days late, but I’m going to make one more paleo choice each day until i’m full paleo. I’m a mom and will be trying to transition kids and husband to paleo as well. I will lead my own revolution for my family.

  • Pingback: Internet Inspiration – September 6, 2013 | k.foley wellness()

  • KariVery

    Oh, rmgier – my dog is feeling your dogs’ pain…. he just sat there looking at my hubs and I last night while we were watching football, and we could tell he was thinking “look, you two, I deserve a damn walk and some play time! Get off your F.A’s and pay attention to me!” Poor dude…. it’s been weeks. So I will commit to walking my dog and playing with him every day, and also I will get up on time so I can work out before my job.

  • KariVery

    Oh! And also, I want to plan my menus and food shopping to ensure I eat the right kinds of foods and I don’t just grab *something* when I am hungry. Because it’s usually *something* not optimal.

  • Megan C

    15 – 20 minutes of vinyasa flow per day

  • Patrick Riley

    ride my bike for at least 15 minutes a day.

  • Karen

    Stretch my neck for at least 3 minutes a day, 5 minutes is better. I have a chronically tight neck, and doing this helps. But then it gets better for a week, so I stop stretching, and the next week it’s back.

  • David

    I deal with depression a lot and sometimes I get in to negative cycles where I don’t take care of myself (shower/shave) and I get more depressed because I’m in shambles (and sometimes get sick from it). My goal was to make sure I shower at least 20 times this month, but now for the challenge I’m upping it to at least 29 days. I’m 7 for 7 so far and even though I’m still depressed at points, I’m taking care of myself and am not sad from that.

  • Lisa m Zepponi

    Actually started on the 5th of September. I was on a vacation. To exercise daily (even if it is ONLY one time around our circle (1 mile) at a leisurely pace. Just move!

  • ook

    Cool post – I AM a construction worker, so my thing will be to pack a (healthy) lunch to bring to work every day instead of buying from whatever fast food place is near the site. Or worse, the roach coach (food truck). And for my days off, the goal will be to cook a meal that includes vegetables.

  • Jen the Nerd

    I guess I never thought about it before but my “hard hat” is my collection of nerdy t-shirts. I have a very professional wardrobe for work and I try to look polished in general but I have a bunch of nerdy t-shirts – everything from star wars to math puns. These shirts only get worn when I work out. When I put them on I know it’s time to sweat.

    My 30 day goal will be to make sure I work my way through my whole collection of t-shirts a few times. I will count it as a positive if I add in some strength training. I’ve been pretty good about the cardio but I need to level up my weight training because girls need muscles too!

  • Krieghart

    I have a different view of hard hats because I found them to be a nuisance while working in an aircraft hangar. But I did get a laminated wall calendar and have started marking off days that I work out and not skip more than 1 day.

  • Thanks for the motivation!

  • Jay Cru

    I came upon this website while researching on the paleo lifestyle and I’m so glad I did. I know it’s a week into September but its never too late to start. Better late then never right 🙂 So for the next 30 days I plan on meditating for at least 5 minutes every morning. Also to spend at least 15 minutes researching and getting information on fitness tips and having a healthier lifestyle.

  • Ickle

    Hey Steve, always enjoyed your post on NerdFitness! I’m totally in on the Hard Hat Challenge! My challenge will be staying under 1500 calories a day (not net value). Today is my official starting day. Doing well so far! Throwing in the intermittent fasting a few times a week too. Look forward to seeing the results! Love your work!

  • Claudia Vidales

    I am no longer drinking sodas of any type for this challenge.

  • Gretchen E. Storm

    Hey Amanda..where did you put your tat? I am turning 45 and never got a tattoo. I really want to but can’t think of the best place to put it at my age. : )

  • Amanda M (@mommygorun)

    the NF Dragon is on my rib cage-
    I have tattoos all over though!

  • Steph

    Walk at least 10,000 steps everyday! Being tracked with my FitBit One

  • Chris Mcnabb

    What a great post, I feel like that is exactly the behavior of some people. They have the mind mentality of not having to go hard again until the first of the year. That’s hard on your body.

  • Victoria L

    Go to the gym everyday and get the homework done. My hard hat? Vibrams! They make me feel like a monkey and put the spring in my monkey foot step.