Fitness, Health & Sports, Podcast

The Art of Manliness Podcast #42: Level Up Your Life With Nerd Fitness & Steve Kamb

Welcome back to another episode of the Art of Manliness podcast!

In this edition we talk to the founder and owner of one of my favorite websites, Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness. If you haven’t been to Nerd Fitness yet, go check it out today. Steve writes incredibly useful and inspiring content on how to improve every aspect of your life (but in particular your health) and does it in a way that’s fun, engaging, and approachable. (Steve’s actually written a couple of great posts for AoM too: 8 Reasons You Need to Rediscover Your Passion for Exercise and Don’t Be That Guy: The Taxonomy of Lousy Male Friends)

Steve has basically taken fitness and turned it into a real-life video game. On his site you’ll find workouts inspired by The Hobbit and the Konami Code and motivational pieces that riff on The Goonies and Iron Man.

Highlights from the episode include:

  • What’s wrong with most fitness blogs and magazines
  • The rules of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion
  • Workouts inspired by retro video games
  • And much more!

Listen to the Podcast!

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast. Well, I am really excited about today’s guest. He is the founder and owner of one of my favorite blogs, Steve Kamb of If you have not been to Nerd Fitness, I recommend to go check it out, Steve does such a great job of taking fitness and health and making it approachable for the average guy or someone who has no experience whatsoever with fitness or nutrition or anything like that. And in today’s show, we are going to talk a little bit about the story behind Nerd Fitness and how you can level-up your life.

Well, Steve, welcome to the show, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

Steve Kamb: Absolutely Brett. Thanks so much for having me man.

Brett McKay: Yeah. So, Steve, can you tell us a little bit about Nerd Fitness, why you started it, what was the inspiration behind it and why do you do, what you do?

Steve Kamb: Absolutely, honestly, I started Nerd Fitness because of the tremendous numbers of failures that I had had in my past trying to get healthy. I remember it was my junior year of high school. I tried it from my high school basketball team. I got tried not surprisingly, I was terrible, I could not drive with my left hand and I was like 5 feet 10, 100 pounds. So, no clearly had no business beyond our basketball court, however I got cut and I decided I wanted to start getting healthier in strength training and kind of – kind of build myself up. So, I went to a gym and managed to almost kill myself by dropped. I went it up like 45-pound plates on either side of a bench press and managed to drop it directly under my chest and had to like roll to the left and the right until the weight spun off and everybody in the gym stared at me, just one of like those horrifying moments that I will never ever forget in my life.

So, that was the first time I think I ever really tried to work out and I learned that there is a lot more to it than just walking into a gym and trying to wing it. So, I spent the next six years of my life trying to get healthy and trying to do in a way that I thought was right, like I read muscle and fitness and all of those muscle magazines because that is what I thought you are supposed to do. And not surprisingly, after six years, I had very little success and had still no clue what I was doing. It was until after six years, I finally worked with a trainer, cleaned up my diet, really simplified the heck out of my work out and had more success in 30 days, than I had in the entire six years prior and that is when a light bulb went off in my head. I was like “Geez, if it took me six years of failing miserably to finally figure-out that there is like an actual science to this, eating right and working out, there have to be other people out there like myself who do not have six years to waste on failing at all these things.”

So, those are the people I wanted to help, people that were brand new to fitness and interested in getting healthy, but did not know where to begin. Obviously, there already a billion fitness blogs out there, so I wanted to create my own little niche and speak specifically to a group of people that I felt like I was not really strong part of that community, that niche being the indeed community. I build own computers, I love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, I am a huge gamer and I thought that was my opportunity to create something unique and speak to this group of people, so I google Nerd Fitness nothing popped up, so I bought about five years ago and I have been running it ever since. It started as a simple blog and now it is evolved into a giant community of Nerds all over the globe that are working together to help each other get healthy.

Brett McKay: Awesome. So, would you say your typical reader is a nerd, I mean like most of you would call a nerd or is it just you have readers from all walks of life?

Steve Kamb: It is I think there is the strong core is definitely nerdy and I think nerd can mean a lot of different things to lot of different people. You can be a bookworm, you can be a political science nerd, you can be a videogame nerd, you can be a – computer programming or computer engineer nerd. I think generally it tends to be the type of the people that spend most of the day at a computer, sitting in front of a desk, there probably anywhere between 25 and 35, maybe they just had their first kid, or they are interested in, you know – they are interested essentially in improving their lives for some reason, whether it is because of a kid or they are trying to improve their lives for any other reason and they do not know where to get it started.

So, it is the 25 to 35-year-old, either male or female that is interested in getting healthy and do not know where to turn, so they Google something like body weight exercises or how to look like Captain America, how to look like, you know something nerdy that speaks to them and up in the nerd fitness tends to be the thing that pops up because who else is going to combine Lord of the Rings and pushups.

Brett McKay: Yeah, totally. And that is one of the things I love about your site is that it is so approachable. I am amazed by-, I have told you this before in our emails that I have people come up to me here in Tulsa and say “Hey if you checked out nerd fitness and there are nerdy kind of guy” and they’re like “Yeah I have never exercised before, but this guy has really got me going on it”, that is what I think- I think a niche you would definitely feel. So, you go to most fitness blogs and you read them and if you’ve never done any type of exercise before. You could be sort of intimidated by the content that is put out there. You see like – these like chiseled guys and like the stuff they are talking about could be really intimidating. So, it might put off a lot of people who otherwise would need that sort of information. Yeah.

Steve Kamb: Absolutely, not only that, but I think a huge portion of fitness blogs are really – they used such predatory marketing tactics that it just drives me crazy me like you need to buy this particular workout or by this particular piece of equipment or this supplement or you are not going to get healthy and like that really prey on people’s insecurities and that just drove me crazy, so I wanted to create a place where people knew if they came to the site, like you do not need to buy anything, you can work out in the comfort of your own home and you do not need to buy any supplements, you can do with normal foods. You just need to start identifying certain things that you need to change and I’m giving you these opinions, not because company is paying me to say them or because I get a cut of this particular supplement, which is I am promoting it, instead it’s like look my goal with this is to get you healthy and I wanted you to do in a way that you are not intimidated and that you feel like you are not getting, taken advantage of, it’s more like, “yeah this make sense to me and this guy is telling me things that make sense and he seems like a guy that I can relate to and a guy that I can trust.” “And if this is a workout that he recommends and here it is for free like, okay that is something I can try out” and then they will quickly learn like “Oh I could do it”, it is not that difficult once you kind of simplify and take away all the scary stuff.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so okay. So, being approachable kind of targeting the beginner, what are some other guiding principles of the nerd fitness philosophy, I mean what makes you – what else makes you different from some of the other fitness blogs you might see out there?

Steve Kamb: This one is tough because it is not sexy to sell, clean eating and proper diet, you know, it is like oh you need this workout because it has muscle confusion, it is one- this whatever area of your body, it is like- no, it’s not it guys- like focus on building proper habits and understanding that your diet is going to be 80% of your success or failure and most people do not want to hear that, they want to hear that they can do this one workout for 20 minutes a week and then go back to drinking Gatorades and eating bag full of chips and still get that ripped six-pack abs, you know, it doesn’t look that way- it’s like no guys, put your focus on eating better, put your focus on making some small changes here and there and then find exercise that makes you happy and I think that is a big one, a lot of people, they think exercise, they think running on a treadmill for four hours or going to an aerobics class with the bunch of people in spandex that they do not belong in and they immediately get turned off by all these things.

So, I want to let people know that if you are – if you can make some changes to your diet, and again diet is going to be 80%, the other 20% comes from things that make you happy. For me, personally, I am not a huge fan of running, so I do not do it, and when anybody ask me like “Oh! When you are going to run a marathon?” I’m like “probably never”, like it is not my thing, I love strength training, I love things like gymnastics and parkour. I like exercises that to me do not really feel like I am exercising. So, I encourage people to find things that make them happy, that get them off their butts, out the door, whether it is like ultimate Frisbee or yoga, martial arts, live action role playing where people like dress up like this- you know- coat of arms and chase down each other…role models, that stuff actually happens and that is awesome, I’ve never done it, but I would love to, but really it is finding things that make you happy and putting a strong emphasis on making healthier food choices and the way I look at that is more like – do the best you can during the week, so I try to take care of myself five days a week with really clear proper eating. And then on the weekends, I have no problem going to a bar and having a couple beers and eating wings and pizza watching football and then I get ride back on track from Monday.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it is a good philosophy to have, I think a lot of people think “Oh, if I want to get in shape I got to do this 24×7, I can’t enjoy life anymore.”

Steve Kamb: Yeah, that is crap. You can definitely mix the two for sure.

Brett McKay: Totally. And another thing I love you talk about a lot on this site and it’s something that resonates with me and I think it is maybe one of your guiding principles, maybe I am wrong, the whole idea of it is not where you are, it is where you are going, I love that, I mean can you talk a little bit about that what do you mean?

Steve Kamb: Absolutely, so actually on the site we have the 11 rules of The Rebellion and the community at Nerd Fitness we call ourselves The Rebellion, and heavily influenced by Star Wars and we have 11 rules and the number one rule is we do not care where you came from, we only care where you are going and we have readers from all walks of life in Nerd Fitness, I mean I am currently talking to the gentleman, that’s – he found Nerd Fitness at 670 pounds.

Brett McKay: Jesus, yeah.

Steve Kamb: I think already down to – he is closing in on 570 I think, so he is already down about 100 pounds.

Brett McKay: That is awesome.

Steve Kamb: Right direction. We also like – like I also get emails from guys that are like training for the Olympics that happened to also love Nerd Fitness. So, I mean, two completely opposite ends of the spectrum, some people that are trying to get bigger, some people that are trying to lose a drastic amount of weight, some people that want to run marathon, some people that want to become a power lifting champion. It does not matter where you starting, it really matters like can you be a better person today than you were yesterday. If you are trying to get stronger, can you be a little bit stronger today, if you are trying to get faster, can you run that mile one second faster than you did the last time you went running. So, it is really looking at yourself and judging yourself based on who you are and where you are going and what you want to do instead of comparing yourself to other people or ideas that you see on in magazines or whatever.

Brett McKay: Yeah. So, one of the things that I love about Nerd Fitness and you are a fantastic writer-, if you have not checked Steve has written a few guest posts for us and they are- some of that really – have done really well, I will link to them in the show notes, but what I love about Nerd Fitness is how creative you are with your posts, I mean, you have like the Konami code workout, you have like – how to explore your neighborhood like the goonies. I mean I just – I love it because I just – I resonate with that stuff because yeah I use the Konami code as a kid. Goonies was like my favorite movie as little guy. Like I actually demanded that my family call me Mickey for like two months when I was like 4 years old because I was obsessed with the Goonies. So, where do you get inspiration, I mean, you just like, you will be sitting, watching a movie and like “Hey I could turn that into a person-” what happens there.

Brett McKay: Yeah, seriously, that is kind of how it happens. So, actually that is a perfect example yesterday or two days ago, I was struggling to think of what I was going to write about for Nerd Fitness and I was thinking and running to my mind like – what was sort of movie or videogame or TV show have I not covered yet and generally I look back and think of like what were the things that influenced me as a kid and for me it was movies like Karate Kid like I was Daniel, so my mom made me the karate outfit, I even – it is like she even drew with a Sharpie.

Brett McKay: Oh, my mom did that too.

Steve Kamb: On the headband. I cannot tell you how many times I probably practiced the crane kick. So, I really look back and think like what molded in my childhood and what are some things that people can look back on with nostalgia and say like “Oh god, I definitely remember that and that is kind of a really unique way of looking at it”, you know – so it is really a lot of it is the same thing that you might get in other sites when it is – yeah you need to eat better and yes you need to focus on building proper habits and sleeping more and eating right, but you can get that anywhere, sounds like how can I do this in a way that it is going to be really unique and people can come to Nerd Fitness and say, “Yep, definitely I will not get that anywhere else” and that’s where these videos and – that’s where like these articles based on videogames and movies come in. Well, anyways the other day, I was literally sitting at my computer, trying to figure out what the heck I was going to write about and out of the blue Oregon trial popped into my head, the game that I used to play, you know like in fourth grade you have to go to like the computer lab and you would have 45 minutes to try to get from independence Missouri up to Oregon, so I wrote 2000 words on Oregon trail because I just – that is something that has always stuck in my mind as a game that I will never ever forget. So, I try to pick things that I have loved or things that have really influenced me from the time I was two up until now and combining with the way that is also, self-improvement or fitness or diet related, that gets people to think about their lives or what they are trying to improve about themselves in an unique way.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s awesome. I read the Oregon trail post and, yeah, I do remember going to the computer lab on the Old Max and playing the Oregon trail and I always died of the dysentery. Yeah, you got to watch out for that. So, you worked with I Imagine, 100s, if not 1000s of people and interacted with them on your site and then – I think you are doing some consulting now or some coaching. What do you think is – what have you seen is the biggest obstacle that prevents people from taking actions to get into shape or what stops them from actually reaching their fitness goals?

Steve Kamb: A couple of things honestly, I think the first one and it is the toughest one to overcome is human nature. Now by nature we are creatures of habit. We want to do the same things repeatedly and the second we try to do something outside of that normal habit, it requires a lot more brain power and effort and will power that we are used to. So, I think a big issue is a lot of people try to do way too much too soon. They will radically change their diet and decide they are going to start working out for an hour and half every day and go for a walk and sleep an extra hour and they will last like four days and things will go great, and then they will either get sick or get stuck at work or their kid will have to come home early from school, for whatever reason. And as soon as one thing goes wrong in that perfect mix that they are trying to build everything falls apart.

So, I think a huge people issue with a lot of people is that they try to do a little too much to assume and they will be much better off picking one habit or two habits that are very small, but obtainable, that they can then focus on. For that, I mean, if you are trying to , let’s say, you want to go running every day, make it a five-minute run and that’s it for an entire month, you are going to put on your shoes, you are going to go run for five minutes and it might not seem like very much, but what you are doing is actually building the habit of I can do this and every day this is something I can build on and not only that, but if you can talk yourself, okay, I can do this for five minutes as soon as your five minutes is up, you are probably going to think oh I can go for a little bit longer, a little bit longer. But, I think habit building is one thing that a lot of people definitely struggle with and I see it every year, I see it with every time there is a New Year’s Eve, I am sorry, a New Year’s resolution post or if you walk to any gym, you know the first three day after the New Year’s you cannot get to anything in the gym because it is overrun and then two weeks later there is nobody there because they have already all given up on everything that they have tried to set aside.

So, I think that’s a big one. Secondly, I think a lot of people do not really have a great reason for why they are trying to get healthy. They just say, “Oh I should get healthy” or like “Oh my doctor says me maybe I should get healthy” and they keep the word ‘should’ like maybe at some point I should do this… them I’m doing this for the right reason or I am doing this because of this particular thing like actually I have a – well I used to have a posted note, now I actually have a decorative pillow in my carpet, that says get busy living or get busy dying on it from the Shawshank Redemption, the motto that I have chosen to adopt as far as I live my life, it’s like look “I really have one shot at this” and I look at that every day and it makes me think. I need to get off my butt and go do something and find a way to improve my life. For some people it might be the kid that they just had or because they want to look at the mirror with pride or whatever it is, but if they do not keep that reason at the front of their mind, they are going to give up at the first sign of adversity.

So, I think those are probably the two biggest ones, make sure they have an actual reason to make the changes that they would like to make and then to putting proper habit building systems in place, so that they can actually follow through with the stuff instead of giving up after two weeks.

Brett McKay: Awesome. So, what’s in store for Nerd Fitness in 2013, what we can see from you?

Steve Kamb: All kinds of stuff, let’s see, we have actually – we had a big Nerd Fitness meeting and I say big, like three of us on the Nerd Fitness team these days, big meeting for what we are going to do in 2013. First-and-foremost we are in the process of finally launching this half videogame, half fitness program that we are building called Rising Heroes and this is a concept I have had for years and years and years and years, and finally about two and half years ago, I finally got to the point like I started building it, but we are combining the adjective nature of video games like that or Legend of Zelda and combining it with reasons that people are going to want to go outside and exercise. So, looking at yourself like a fitness character and looking at the world like one giant videogame. So, that is the big one. We are finally letting people in to our beta test, I think within the next couple of days, which would be great, and then from there we can expand, that is a big one.

Two, we are going to launch our first hopefully our – actually it will be second iPhone app. I want to make an official Nerd Fitness iPhone app. We just put out our first iPhone app about a month ago based on the paleo diet, it has done incredibly well and people have been – it has been really responsive and people have really enjoyed it. So, I am excited to take what I have learned from building that first app and building a second app.

And then, the third thing I hope I can get it done this year, might be next year, but I want to have something called camp nerd fitness where we have essentially like a giant summer camp for adults where we will take over – literally take over a summer camp for a long weekend and Nerd Fitness readers can fly in and re-live the epic adventures of a summer camp while also learning about proper nutrition and fitness and playing video games at night and scavenger hunts and kind of allowing people to go back to being a big kid for at least a long week and leave that weekend with all the tools that they need to, to living a better life. So, I want to say those are probably the three big things we are focusing on for 2013.

Brett McKay: That is awesome, Camp Nerd Fitness sounds a lot like Camp Nowhere. Did you see that movie?

Steve Kamb: Absolutely.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that movie was awesome. Well, fantastic, so I got two last questions because you are the owner of Nerd Fitness, so I need to ask you these questions. What is your favorite super hero and favorite videogame?

Steve Kamb: Okay. Favorite super hero. It is actually – it has changed recently. So, growing up, it was always Superman, like I went dressed as superman for I think like six Halloweens in a row and then on like random Tuesdays when I just felt like I needed to be dressed up like Superman. So, it was Superman up until – really I started Nerd Fitness and since then it has changed to Captain America. The reason it has changed to Captain America, because I can totally relate to Steve Rogers like he was this skinny, weak dude that really just wanted to help inspire people get better.

And so, he obviously changed his life, I do not plan on injecting myself with any sort of serums any time soon, but he went about inspiring people through this actions and not – he really just wanted to make the world the better place and inspire those around him to live better and I was like “Hey, that is kind of what I am doing” like, I was a skinny, weak guy and I have taken steps to live better and now I am hopefully through my actions I’m inspiring other people to live better. So, Superman was the favorite, but I can relate probably the most to Captain America.

Favorite video game, I would have to say, it is going to be one of the Legend of Zelda’s, Ocarina of Time was pretty fantastic, the one from Nintendo 64, but probably the most memorable would be a link to the past for super-Nintendo. I remember – actually my mom told me, I had to stop playing that game once because I could not sleep because I had the dungeon music stuck in my head and I’d go to sleep and close my eyes and I would see the inside of a Zelda dungeon from that game and hear the music and I think she it took it away me for like a month and she was like you should probably stop playing, so probably Legend of Zelda link to the past have to be my favorite.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that was my favorite game too and I will still like every now and then I will bring it back up on an emulator just to play it. Well, Steve, I really appreciate you for taking the time, lots of great information here and thanks again.

Steve Kamb: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Brett McKay: That was Steve Kamb, Steve is the founder and owner of, so go and check it out, you are not going to be disappointed. Well, that wraps up another edition of the art of Manliness podcast for more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the and until next time, stay manly.

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