Hey reddit,

My name is Steve Kamb. I started a website to help average joes and jills get fit. I spent six years trying to get fit and made every mistake in the book, so I wanted to help others avoid those problems and get real, factual, unbiased info. No supplements, no gym, no "super secret workout," just practical advice combined with my love of nerdy stuff.

In 2009 I decided I had enough with my job at the time (construction equipment salesman), quit my job, and started NerdFitness.com. As the name says, I’m a nerd, and spent my childhood growing up with Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Earthbound, and Legend of Zelda. I also learned the hard way how to get in shape after making years of mistakes, and I wanted to help others get started with living healthier lives too.

Fast forward to 2016, and we have now over 280,000 people in our Nerd Fitness community. While running my company from a coconut laptop, I’ve adventured all over the world, explored the ruins of Machu Picchu, dived with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef, and lived like James Bond in Monte Carlo.

Today I released my first book “Level Up Your Life.” The book is my attempt to give people a blueprint for prioritizing adventure, growth, and happiness by turning life into a giant video game. You can read a chapter from the book here.


EDIT: 100 minutes later, thanks guys for all of the questions, and I appreciate you hanging out with me :)

Comments: 181 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

MonicaLane27 karma

If someone could only afford one piece of workout gear/equipment (assuming they already have workout clothes and shoes), what would your pick be?

SteveKamb29 karma

hey Monica!

Great question: if you only can afford one piece of equipment, I would go with a door frame pull-up bar: http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Gym-Total-Upper-Workout/dp/B001EJMS6K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1452622351&sr=8-3&keywords=pull+up+bar

You can do every other movement with just your bodyweight. Squats, lunges, push-ups, and then you can use the bar to work towards pull-ups.

If you can't do a pull-up yet, here is a plan to get there!

katringa16 karma

On the most difficult days, when you're trying to pump out that last pushup/pullup and you don't think you can do it, what keeps you going? What's your big "Why"? I am still struggling to find mine!

SteveKamb61 karma

I want to find out what I'm capable of. The OG nerd Socrates said it best: “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

Also thinking about my workouts in quest/mission form really helps too. As long as I'm better than last time, that's all I can do.

GiantDungBeetle13 karma

Hi Steve! Really looking forward to getting your book next week. Last year i tried on a few occasions to get up the nerve to start exercises, get maybe a week or two into them and lose steam. What is in the book that can help me build a plan that i can still with?

SteveKamb27 karma

hey GiantDungBeetle!

Firstly, great name. DungBeetle's are strong as hell. Next, a huge portion of the book is grounded in behavioral psychology and game mechanics to get you to do the things you've struggled to stick with.

For example, relying on motivation or willpower or motivation is a losing battle: life gets in the way and those things are finite resources. By manufacturing discipline and creating game systems to help you stay on target.

So, let's say you want to start running. Book a 5k for 6 months from now, and prepay it. Next set a goal of going for just a 5 minute walk every morning. Sleep in your exercise clothes, and put your alarm clock across the room. Then, build in a simple reward system. If you can walk 5 days per week for a month, you earn a new workout shirt or running shoes. Miss a day, and money you've given to a friend gets donated to a political cause you hate.

With a few steps, you've introduced accountability, a reward system, a progress system, and recruited an ally to help. No motivation required!

the_aspirant11 karma

How old were you when you started nerdfitness? How long were you into fitness before that?

SteveKamb11 karma

I purchased NerdFitness.com when I was 23 and selling construction equipment, but I was 25 when I finally started working on it seriously, 26 when I took it full-time.

I was "into" fitness for a few years before that, but it wasn't until after graduating college that I finally cracked the code on health and fitness - specifically how important diet is. Once I came to that important realization, I figured there were others out there like me that didn't have the time to make the 6 years of mistakes I did.

I googled "nerd and fitness" and nothing popped up, so I started formulating an idea for a site that talked about two things very important to me: nerd culture and helping people live better lives.

ModernKender10 karma

What is your take on real life "grinding?" How can one stay interested in grinding a certain skill for days, weeks, years as opposed to the mere hours in video games?

SteveKamb7 karma

Great question. I'm currently griding out improvements at learning the fiddle.

I stop thinking about how far I have to go, and just set a daily goal (I have to play for 5 minutes per day). And I make those five minutes very specific in how I'm practicing.

When we worry about how far we have to go, it can be overwhelming, so instead I make the challenge something that I can defeat and reward myself for daily.

It's also important to track your progress so that any tiny victory can be one that you can lean on and feel great and motivated about.

youdaman2310 karma

What's the main difference between your blog and your new book? Is the book mostly an archive of your posts or is it an entirely new and different beast altogether?

SteveKamb12 karma

I would say it's probably 70% new material? Nerd Fitness is primarily a fitness resource with diet and workout advice. That is a very small portion of Level Up Your Life.

Honestly, I wanted to write something that made me excited and fired up, and it was a book that helped people live better lives outside of just health and fitness. So, I dig into ways to help people to become more adventurous, which can mean climbing a mountain or taking a dance class or learning to play your first musical instrument.

I also share my full backstory, which I don't think I've done on Nerd Fitness. If you're a fan of Nerd Fitness you'll be familiar with some of the concepts in the book, but they've all been reworked and rewritten and weaved into a cohesive story arc. Cheers!

ycleptKyara10 karma

I love Nerd Fitness and the idea of leveling up your life, but I can assume that you've received some not-so-pleasant feedback as well. Was there anything in particular that inspired How to Deal with Haters? How do you deal with the negativity that is inescapable when you have a incredibly popular website? Is there any particular thing said that stood out to you when starting NF (negative, funny, or otherwise)?

SteveKamb11 karma

Haha, I get a lot of people calling me names and saying not so nice things about me. Seth Godin said it best: "Be judged, or be ignored."

It used to bother me quite a bit, and I used to try and correct people that were wrong on the internet.

I then learned that I can only help those that want to be helped, and Nerd Fitness isn't for everybody. I imagine with the release of this book the haters are gonna come from everywhere. That's fine. I just have to focus on what I can do to help the people that resonate the message and want to be helped.

Long story short: Haters gonna hate.

meldarko9 karma

Have you met Chris Hardwick? I think you guys should be best friends...

SteveKamb11 karma

I haven't met Chris, but I would very much like to be best friends forever with him. Too much? Okay cool.

Seriously though, when he launched Nerdist.com all those years ago, I commented on one of his first blog posts, and he emailed me to say thanks. It blew my mind, and do this day I never forgot that. For the next three years of running Nerd Fitness, I emailed every single person that left a comment and thanked them.

His book "The Nerdist Way" is also great and very complimentary to "Level Up Your Life." Hoping one day to get a chance to thank him in person for what he does. Also would love to be on the Nerdist podcast.

Mostly, I just think he's the man.

brokenbison79 karma

In developing Nerd Fitness, has there been a moment where you felt like giving up? If so, what kept you going?

SteveKamb10 karma

There have been plenty of these moments.

Definitely when I quit my day job even though I hadn't made any money with the site yet! The conversation went something like this: "No thanks, I don't want to hang out with rock stars in the caribbean (my old job had me producing floating music festivals on cruise ships). Instead, I want to hang out with unhealthy nerds online who don't actually pay me anything." Fortunately, I just knew I had found the thing I was meant to do, and I would do anything to make it work.

So, I picked up odd jobs while it was taking off. I once painted the soundstage floor of Drake's music video from 1-5AM on back to back nights. This video. My job? Paint the whole floor white, and then come back the next day and paint the whole thing black. All to make a few hundred bucks to cover my life expenses.

Other than that, I've had a ton of moments of "what did I get myself into?" but those quickly pass when I see an email or message from somebody that I've helped. Those messages help keep me going!

AbsenceWOSteve9 karma

Really excited about the book. I got my aunt to preorder it for me for Christmas. I hope it comes in today. My question is: How much can you squat?

SteveKamb12 karma

Your aunt is the coolest :)

My squat is actually my weakest lift probably by a large margin. After finding out a few years ago I have spondylolisthesis (a genetic condition in which my L4 and L5 vertebrae don't line up), I backed off WAY and rebuilt my core strength. Now i'm back up to 3x5x210lbs on squats and climbing slowly, setting a tiny PR every single week and grinding out gains. My deadlift is all the way back though, and I just hit a 390lb. deadlift the other day.

For reference, I weigh about 185 pounds right now.

Jpatrich29 karma

What did you think of The Force Awakens? Also I love your website, you have helped me so much through the years!

SteveKamb21 karma

Formulaic plot that took a bit too much from Ep IV, but I loved the characters so damn much and was having such fun that I didn't care.

Loved the relationship between Po and Fin, and Rey is fantastic. I saw it twice and enjoyed it equally both times....though the first time I definitely teared up a few times.

JoshuaBGoode9 karma

Hey Steve,

Congratulations on coming so far with Nerd Fitness! I remember stumbling across your website and being inspired to start living a healthy life about 4 or 5 years ago. Since then I've transformed myself into a runner, triathlete, power lifter and now I'm transforming yet again for my first Tough Mudder. Basically, thanks for inspiring me to make fitness a part of my life!

How much do you feel accountability to the NF community has advanced your own fitness goals? Has it made you more committed and helped you achieve more than you otherwise would have?

SteveKamb4 karma

Honestly? Tremendously.

When I traveled around the world, I was worried that I wouldn't stay in shape and nobody on Nerd Fitness would take me seriously, so I worked hard to train even when living out of a backpack.

Over the past two years, I've really made it a focal point again and wanted to make sure I was practicing what I was preaching. Unsurprisingly, with myself dedicated fully to NF and my health, here's the results.

miss_sassy8 karma

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to start their own blog / website?

SteveKamb4 karma

Yup! I have a few chapters in the books that can help with the direction on this, but the best advice I can give you is to buy a domain and hosting (I started with Bluehost.com). And start writing!

If you go back to read the first 9 months of Nerd Fitness articles from 2009, they are quite terrible! I had to learn how to write and get better.

Next, make sure you stand out with your blog, and write in a way that makes you excited. Nerd Fitness was successful because I did things differently from every other millions of fitness sites out there :)

Lastly, expect it to take a while, so you better thoroughly enjoy the subject you're writing about. If it helps people, you enjoy it, and its in an industry that people pay money for help/services, then you can turn it into a business with enough scale.

pac_blood8 karma

You said you've 'lived like James Bond in Monte Carlo', are we talking "Never Say Never Again" or "GoldenEye"?

SteveKamb4 karma

I was leaning more towards Daniel Craig's interpretation of the character, even though in the movie he gambles in Montenegro. Monaco just seemed like the most epic James Bond location ever.

Though I did play the hell out of Goldeneye on N64 as a kid :) Sniper rifles in the Stacks, or remote mines in the Facility.

mikey_69068 karma

What goes into your ideal (paleo, I'm sure) burrito my friend??

SteveKamb12 karma

I'm a simple man, and I eat an absurd amount of Chipotle. I'm on a first name basis with the employees at the Union Square Chipotle (what's up Shania and Claudia!), which means I might have a problem.

But my go-to meal is double rice, double chicken, a tiny bit of cheese, lots of guac and lettuce. This is usually consumed immediately after my workout to help pack on some muscle and get closer to becoming Captain America.

latrodectusmactans7 karma

Hello Steve! Thank you for doing this AMA!

My interpretation of the NF concept of "the empire" has always been the aspects of society's awareness of bodies that are driven by capitalistic greed-- the Empire wants you unhealthy and miserable so it can sell you snake oil to "fix" your problems, and they want to keep you just motivated enough for change that they can sell you stuff, but not so motivated that you actually start to achieve your goals.

A lot of the "health and fitness' industry right now is indisputably a part of the Empire-- big-box gyms like Planet Fitness that intentionally try to keep you away from the gym http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/12/17/371463435/episode-590-the-planet-money-workout , photoshopped Instagram "fitness models," PTs who care more about keeping you as a paying client than actually teaching you how to work out, etc.

We in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion are now in a phase of development which, historically, tends to be a dangerous time for any Rebellion: where you, and a few other people, are making a living off of Nerd Fitness. In theory, this is awesome, but in practice, it has to be handled very carefully, as I'm sure you know! What are you plans for ensuring that Nerd Fitness doesn't become just another way to spend money on e-products and remains a place where even people who don't want to or can't buy anything are able to level up their lives? What are your personal metrics as to what constitutes going over to the Dark Side, and how do you plan to avoid it?


SteveKamb4 karma

Walt Disney: "We don't make movies to make money. We make money so we can make more movies."

Nerd Fitness is a business, and we're up to 9 full time team members which is mindblowing to me! You are correct that it's a fine line to walk between providing free resources and asking too much. I believe that our free content and free resources (the message boards, the new character creation system ) show that we're dedicating to helping all members of the community regardless of whether or not they buy anything from us.

However, I also know that we're having a net-positive effect on the people that find us, and that the money we make can go into growing and helping more people. I also know people react differently to things they have paid for and pay more attention to those things compared to free resources.

Long story short, it's a balance. No matter what we do and what we charge, we'll get bombarded by people who say "sell-out!" or "you changed!" and that's just the nature of growing and evolving. I want to put a dent in the universe, and I think Nerd Fitness has a lot of growing up to do. I can't wait to see where we end up as a community 5, 10, 20 years from now. It's exciting :)

youdaman236 karma

What would you recommend people do today if they wanted to work from anywhere, travel the world, etc.?

SteveKamb2 karma

Great question!

Today, I would identify a skill or job you can perform that you can do remotely. Programming, consulting, etc. Write down a list of things you can do that don't require your physical presence in an office. You might even be able to explore a remote work agreement with your current job, or go to work for a company that has remote employees.

Nerd Fitness has 9 employees, and we all live in 9 different states!

Next, I would reach out to somebody who is already doing that job remotely and pick their brain. Can be via email, messages, a phone call, and so on. But spend 30 minutes deliberately today on this action.

Step one is working everyday towards FREEDOM. Once you free up your location, then you can focus on travel hacking and how to live cheaply. I love NomadicMatt.com for travel resources on living cheaply in a foreign country.

AbsenceWOSteve5 karma

You say you like Earthbound. I'm quite the fan myself. Have you played Mother 3? That game's fantastic.

SteveKamb5 karma

KO! I loved Mr. Saturn, and can't get enough Ness and Poo.

Or Tessie - we actually named the lake at [Camp Nerd Fitness](camp.nerdfitness.com/) Lake Tess in honor of that game.

I haven't played Mother 3, but played the hell out of Mother 2 (Earthbound) a few times.

s5photog5 karma

Are you signing all the books with the requisite Legend of Zelda quote of "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!" ?

SteveKamb3 karma

Yes :)


youre13andstupid5 karma

Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

SteveKamb4 karma

This one breaks my heart, but I gotta go Lord of the Rings. I'm fantasy before Sci Fi, but both have made me cry many times.

skyscraperdream5 karma

What was your writing process like? How long did it take to write your book?

Did you have a set schedule each day?

SteveKamb13 karma

Funnily enough, I couldn't get myself to get started on writing this book for MONTHS. It was so daunting and overwhelming for me that I just kept telling myself "I'll start when I have time" or "when I'm ready!"

So I gamified it (gamifying a book about gamifying life, so meta). I used a program called Scrivener, added my target finish date and word count goal, and it spits out a daily word goal with a progress bar.

So every morning, I woke up and had to write 500 words. They could be bad, they could be great, they could be "I don't want to write this book," but I had to write 500 words every day. Every word written would fill up the Progress Bar, like an XP bar, and there is a satisfying DING when you complete your goal. As somebody who was addicted to EverQuest and EverQuest 2, this ding triggered the parts of my brain that love progress, and I got hooked on hearing that noise every day.

I also used a program called Self-Control ( Now I use Freedom.to )to block ALL time wasting websites like Facebook, Reddit, twitter, etc. so that I didn't have to rely on Willpower to stay on target.

mrf674 karma

Hey Steve! Who is your favorite economist? Does your economics background influence any of your work?

SteveKamb6 karma

I don't know if he qualifies as an Economist per say? But I'm a big fan of Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. His book by the same name should be required reading for every college student and young adult. It completely changed how I managed my finances, and his thoughts on behavioral psychology have influenced my writing and thoughts on fitness too.

I'm also a fan of Peter Schiff - I'm an optimist at heart, but I really worry about nobody learning their lesson back in 2008 and fear we're heading back down the same path with too much spending and not enough creating and saving.

youre13andstupid4 karma

Which Final Fantasy is your favorite?

SteveKamb13 karma

I'm old school and grew up with Nintendo Systems in my house, so the game that will always hold a special place in my heart is Final Fantasy VI (III here in the states) for the SNES. Edgar, Sabin, Mog, Celes...and Kefka, who is just a phenomenal bad guy.

Metalworks134 karma

What's your favorite color?

SteveKamb4 karma

Blue! no, Green! AHHHH!