Bonus: Steve Kamb – Nerd Fitness


Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Very, very excited about today’s show because we have an individual after my own heart, he is the proprietor of NerdFitness.com. He is none other than Steve Kamb and he is here to help us level up our lives. Steve, welcome.

Steve: Hey, Jonathan, what’s going on, man?

Jonathan: Steve, thank you so much for joining us and just to get us started here your website is called Nerd Fitness. Tell me a little bit about Nerd Fitness as opposed to just regular fitness.

Steve: Absolutely. It started because I’m a huge nerd and I love helping people get healthy. It all really started, I want to say years and years ago. I was interested in getting healthy, and building muscle, and getting stronger, but I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I want to say, a good five, six years doing what I thought I needed to, but instead managed to do everything the wrong way. I was reading the stupid muscle and fitness magazines, and taking stupid unhealthy supplements, and things like that because I didn’t know any better. That’s just what I thought you were supposed to do.

It wasn’t until I finally really analyzed and sat down with a trainer, I got lucky. I signed up for a gym membership and had a free personal trainer session. The guy completely changed my diet and my workout plan. I had more success in 30 days than I had had in six years prior to that. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head and I thought, “Geez, if it took me six years of struggling and making mistakes to finally find my path to living a better life and being healthy, there has to be other people like myself that are interested in getting healthy or losing weight or whatever it may be, but I have no idea where to start. I have no idea where to look, and don’t have anybody to turn to.”

So I thought I had a unique opportunity to create a website specifically designed for beginners that would them not make all the mistakes that I had made. When brainstorming ideas for the website with there being a million–geez, a billion fitness websites out there I knew I wanted to do something a little different and I was trying to think of maybe there’s some sort of niche that I could carve out specifically instead of trying to become the number one overall fitness guru in the entire Internet. I was like, “Why don’t I just become the guy that helps a very specific group of people get healthy?”
For me it was simple, I’m a huge nerd. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books, I love Lord of the Rings. I’m a huge bookworm. I’ve built my own computer, but I also love fitness and exercise and now helping people get healthy so, it was a random Google search. I typed in “Nerd and Fitness” and nothing popped so, I bought NerdFitness.com and here I am five years later somehow running it as a business.

Jonathan: Oh, Steve, well, that’s very, very cool. It reminds me again, like you said, I think we’re a little bit cut from the same cloth because as you know I do work at Microsoft during the day and enjoy my health and fitness pursuits on the nights and weekends and it’s–within Microsoft there’s a term. I actually don’t know if this is permeated to broader nerd community, but the term is, and it’s going to sound–us nerds think it’s funny, “Brogrammer.” So, instead of being a programmer it’s called, “Brogrammer.” These are people who enjoy working with computers and are not the canonical pocket protector type of person.

Steve: That’s awesome.

Jonathan: Once the movement has a name like that you know you’re onto something. Steve, can you tell me a little bit about, like when you said, when you got started were you a thin individual who was trying to primarily gain muscle? Where was your brain at?

Steve: Yeah, I was definitely the skinny weak guy trying to get bigger and stronger and, again, I didn’t know what to do. So, I signed up for a gym membership and I walked into a gym, and looked at every machine, and looked at the treadmills, and looked at the weights, and was terrified. That feeling that people get when they walk into a gym when they don’t really know what they should be doing, it’s very nerve wracking and can cause a lot of anxiety and that’s definitely what I felt.

I remember lying down on the bench and trying to do bench presses. I think I loaded up 135 pounds on the bar and at the time I probably only weight 135 pounds and I’d never worked out before then, so just proceeded to drop it onto my chest and I had to rotate to the left and right until the weights spun off the bar and hit the ground. One of the most humiliating moments of my entire life. That being said it kind of lit that fire in me and got me excited like, “Oh, okay. This is kind of cool. Yeah, maybe today I could only pick up the bar, but next week maybe I can pick up the bar and five pounds on each side or maybe next week I can do this plus that whereas I couldn’t do that last time.” I almost immediately took to the whole concept of strength training just because it almost seemed like a video game to me where you have this character, that character being myself, that is getting stronger, leveling up, and gaining experience as you defeat more and more difficult monsters a.k.a. picking up heavier and heavier weights, or running a race, or running a mile faster than you ran it before.

Jonathan: That’s a beautiful analogy, Steve. Regardless of your goal, whether it’s to build muscle or to burn fat, and if you’re starting at a point where you have no muscle or a lot of fat, while that is an intimidating place to be, in some ways it’s the coolest place to be because the rate, assuming you have that correct information which we know is super important as you’ve identified, when you find that correct scientifically backed and simple information the rate of progress you can expect right when you’re getting started is. I mean, you’re never going to see that again so, it’s this double-edged sword where it’s intimidating, but at the same time that slope of progress is just so steep and awesome that it can be really encouraging.

Steve: Absolutely and I think it’s almost like that carrot that’s kind of dangled on the string in front of you you’re always curious–instead of working out being this, “Oh, geez, I have to go run on a treadmill” or “I have to go do this that I’m really not looking forward to.” Instead you kind of get to that point where it’s, “Oh, man, I’m so excited because I can’t wait to see if I can do what I wasn’t able to do last time.” I think that’s why it really resonated with me and why it’s really resonated, I think, recently there’s just been an explosion in nerds and desk jockeys and people like that interested in getting healthy. I think a lot of it is kind of looking at life as this gamification process and how you can combine those things and look at your life and your workouts in a different way so that you’re actually enjoying it rather than dreading it.

Jonathan: I think that’s really profound on many, many levels and that message, and the message that your website represents, this is why I wanted to talk to you on a more metaphysical level is the paradigm that bettering yourself can/should be an enjoyable process, not a burden. If what you’re doing to help you become a healthier, happier person is a terrible–if it makes you feel bad that’s not healthy. You know what I mean? It’s like, this should be fun and enjoyable and we should be laughing and we should be, like you said, gamify our lives, no?

Steve: Absolutely. When people come to me and they say, “Oh, I don’t enjoy exercising.” I say, “Okay, well, tell me what you like to do or tell me what you think of when you think of exercise.” They think of being in a tiny confined gym, maybe on a treadmill for two hours, or sitting at a weight machine surrounded by a bunch of people that they don’t know, or maybe they–whatever it is that–I make them promise me that they’re never going to do those things ever again. I say, “If you don’t enjoy fitness then you haven’t found the thing–you haven’t found that fitness activity that works for you yet so you need to try some more things.” It’s the truth. Your diet is going to be 80 to 90 percent of your success or failure. That other 10, 15 percent, whatever it is, is kind of supplemental to what your health is. For that reason you can get healthy and have fun with exercise within about a million different ways. Yoga, riding a bike, karate, weightlifting, running, sprinting, ultimate Frisbee, live-action role playing, hiking, taking your kids for a walk, playing with your dog in the backyard, there are so many different ways to get healthy. If you have this vision in your head of, “I hate getting healthy,” I want people to look at what that vision is and what they see themselves doing that’s making them so against the idea of exercise and then identifying other things that they could try, or other things that they enjoy doing, but also happen to get their heart rate up or make them move, and then find ways to do that a lot more often.

Jonathan: Also, Steve, it sounds like you mention, too, that if your goal is health, certainly, the vast, vast, vast majority of that is going to have to do with what you’re putting in your mouth.

Steve: Yes, diet is so important and that’s something I didn’t realize for six years. I just naturally assumed I was always going to be the skinny weak guy that could never look any different and changing my diet within 30 days, again, I saw more success than I had in six years prior. Since then I’ve just continually devoured every resource imaginable. As far as diet and fitness advice, more specifically related to diet though, just certain ways of eating that I found have had just profound and tremendous success for a lot of people and allowed them to make smaller changes, but ultimately end up in vastly different place than they had expected when they initially started their fitness journey. They’re fueling their body with the right kinds of foods compared to fueling themselves with crap they pick up from a drive-thru window or get in a box or in the freezer of their local grocery store.

Jonathan: Steve, I love what you just said there because in some ways the fitness aspect can–it sometimes can overwhelms people, as you said, it doesn’t really need to. You can just get out there, be active, and don’t get too hung up on that side of it because if you can just not drink a bunch of soda and eat food, and we define food as stuff you can find directly in nature, if you can just do that, and you don’t need to be hungry, you will have gone so far to further your health. You will be so far along. Maybe once that happens you’ll have the energy and go, and maybe going and getting active doesn’t sound good right now because your nutrition is such that you have no energy and maybe if you just started bubbling with energy all the time you’d be like, “Oh, my god. I got to find something to do or I’m just going to dance on top of my desk here.”

Steve: Exactly. It’s funny, I think there’s a couple different ways to look at it and the best I had it put to me, and some of the ways I’ve seen people have the most success, was that they first identify where they create this new identity for themselves when it comes to fitness, like, “I’m going to be a healthy person” or “I am somebody that never misses a workout” or “I am somebody that cooks my own meals twice a day.” Whatever it is, if you can then prove that to yourself with really, really small victories over a course of a week or two you start to build a little bit of confidence, a little bit of momentum, and then you look in the mirror and notice you’ve dropped a couple pounds, or you go to work and somebody at your office says, “Hey, have you lost weight? You look great.” All of a sudden all these little tiny moments just continually build up for you and this momentum, this inertia, something that was kind of keeping you stagnant before and keeping you stuck in the same place, that first week or two is kind of really slow as you’re getting the ball rolling. However, once that ball starts rolling and you’re getting success, it’s almost like it’s rolling down a really steep hill and momentum just continues and success, it adds more success.

I strongly encourage people when they’re starting out, pick one change whether it’s cutting out soda or cutting back from a case a week down to half a case a week, or every other day instead of every day, things like that, just very small changes that you can then prove yourself and show, “Yes, this is something I am capable of doing. I am showing that I had some success with this and I can build on it.” I thing that’s probably a huge part of it too and not–obviously, people know you need to eat less, move more, but there’s so much more to it beyond just that and if you can kind of tie in some of these mental victories as well I think you’re going to have a much better chance of succeeding.

Jonathan: Steve, it’s ironic, too, there are two things I want to talk about in addition, as you would say, gamification layer that you can put on top of those small changes, but you even mentioned something there at the end that everyone knows we need to eat less and move more. The irony, of course, being that if we’re eating a garbage diet of edible products and we just try to eat less of that we’re just going to be hungry, and crabby, and feel like crap, and then we’re definitely not going to have any energy to go exercise.

Then we’re going to rebound and be even worse off and think this is a feudal task because we tried to do it and it didn’t work, but that’s because, again, we’re trying to take an already nutritionally deficient diet that is already depriving us of required nutrition and further depriving ourselves, and there’s a much different model out there. There’s a model of changing the quality of what you’re eating and that in effect prevents you from overeating because high quality foods are very difficult to overeat, and then that gives you the energy to want to exercise which is a very different model if you think about it.

Steve: Yeah, it’s completely different than what is definitely preached out there and my research and studies and results through the thousands of people that come to Nerd Fitness, a calorie is not created equal. Two hundred calories of Twinkies is not the same thing as 200 calories from broccoli, or 200 calories from grass-fed beef, or other healthy foods. I think once people start to understand how they fuel themselves is going to be responsible for largely how they feel throughout the day and they can identify a few small changes and make sure they get those nutrients and things that they need to be eating, like you just said, all of a sudden those workouts that seem like a huge pain in the ass to deal with, all of a sudden it’s like, “Okay, I actually do have some energy. Because I have the energy I can go through this workout. I feel really good about it,” and you see better results at the end of this workout compared to last workout, and, again, that’s just part of that momentum and inertia that is working in your favor, it just continually moves in that direction.

Jonathan: That’s so spot on, Steve, and the other thing I wanted to mention that you talked about with these really small changes is that another thing that I think really helps people and that I see individuals doing on your site all the time is not only having those small commitments, but leveraging the power of social media to help keep you accountable because there’s–Weight Watchers has been around for a long time. Jenny Craig has been around for a long time and these individuals, well, not a lot of individuals have successes, but the individuals that do have success in those programs often it’s because of the social support those programs provide and now with the advent of social media–if you say, “I’ve got this one thing I’m going to do today,” you post it up on Facebook or on Twitter in the morning and at night you talk about how you did, and you can get that accountability in such a streamlined fashion. You don’t have to go to a support group. You can just do it from your desk.

Steve: Absolutely. Honestly, I think that’s part of the part of Nerd Fitness that I’m most proud of is being part of this really great community of people from all over the world that are helping each other stay accountable, and have success, and provide support, and reassurance, and kind a lend a shoulder to lean on when people are struggling. I think a huge issue with people when they’re trying to build new habits is that they don’t really create any sort of accountability system whether or not they follow through with it. The way that somebody described it to me, and I really enjoyed it, it was if you’re getting ready to start building a new habit, let’s say, you want to go for a run, you want to run a mile every day. Sitting on your couch watching TV and you have to convince yourself to get off your couch and go run, right now the pain of going to run is much greater than the enjoyment of sitting on your couch and watching TV.

What you need to do is you need to flip-flop it. You need to create some sort of accountability system where actually the pain of not running is greater than actually getting off your butt and going to exercise. One, because you know when you do exercise it’s going to make you feel a lot better, but two, maybe there’s some sort of accountability system with your friends or financially. A good friend of mine was struggling forever to try to lose weight and he just couldn’t get himself to follow through with it so, he bet his friends that he was going to lose a certain amount of weight and get to a certain body fat percentage by the time he got married six months later, or he owed his friend $500.

Sure enough after three years of not actually following through with anything the thought of losing $500, and then answering to his new wife that he lost $500 for being lazy, he got his act together and got his butt in gear. Sure enough he actually reached his goal, I think, two months ahead of time because he created that accountability system. He told his friend, “Look, if I don’t follow through with these things I’m going to pay you this money.” It kind of shifts that focus from, “Oh, if I don’t do this then it doesn’t affect me in any way,” instead it’s like, “Oh, geez, it does affect me now,” or it does affect other people, or maybe my friends can call me on it and I don’t want to be known as the guy that starts things and then quits them so, I should probably just follow through with this.” You do that repeatedly, you do that enough and all of a sudden you start to realize that you do in fact enjoy the exercise and you see the process, and the progress, and these great things. But in order to achieve that to get to that point you kind of have to use some tricks to overcome that really intelligent brain of ours that can convince us to skip anything and rationalize anything that we don’t really feel like doing.

Jonathan: Steve, that is just so spot on and another example of making that pain/pleasure balance which is really is, in the day, that’s what we just got to–change our perception of what is painful and what is pleasurable. I so often hear, or not hear–when an individual who maybe their entire life has struggle with a bad habit has a child, or has their child say to them, “Mommy, I don’t want you to be sick anymore.” It’s like someone else, there’s another reason to do it. It’s not just because society tells you to do it. It’s not just because people say you should have 16 inch arms for a guy or be a size four for a girl. We know in both our conscious brain and our subconscious brain that that’s not enough motivation, who cares? But if you have actual compelling reasons outside of yourself to help drive you to these things that, I think, that’s a great way to shift that pain/pleasure balance. What do you think, Steve?

Steve: Oh, for sure. I absolutely 100 percent can agree with you on that. If you don’t have a good reason for doing what you’re doing you’re going to give up at the first sign of adversity. People come to me and they say, “Oh, I need to lose weight” or “My doctor told me I should do this” or “I know I should really probably do that.” For those people I can already tell that they’re not ready for it, they’re not doing it for the right reason. When you don’t have that thing in front of you, or that reason, that thing that sits in your brain all day long that tells you like, “I’m making better decisions for myself. I’m living a better life, I’m doing this for me, I’m doing this for my wife, my husband. I’m doing this for my kids, my future grandkids,” whoever. If you’re not really invested in these decisions that you’re making you’re just going to give up as soon as it gets tough, as soon as work gets busy, or as soon as your kid comes home sick from school.

All of a sudden you look for any excuse in the book to skip on what you’re doing. However, if you’re doing it for the right reasons and you have that reason at the front of your mind it’s a lot easier for you to kind of suck it up on those days when you don’t feel like going. You put on your proverbial hard hat and go to work and get things done that you know need to be done. You know you’re going to feel so much better after you do them so, those are the things I encourage people to do, identify that one reason. My reason personally is I’m a huge fan of the movie Shawshank Redemption, my favorite movie of all time. There’s a quote in the movie that says, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” That particular quote resonated so much and all throughout running my business, and exercising, and getting better, whenever I feel like kind of slacking I’m reminded of that quote. I actually have it–I used to have it hanging on my wall and now actually somebody bought me a decorative pillow for my couch that has that phrase sewn into it, so every day when I walk by my couch in the morning I see that phrase sitting right front and center and it reminds me that we only got chance in this planet. We get one lap around and that’s kind of it. We’re in the one body that we get to have and we have to take care of it and when we do take care of it it allows us to enjoy so many other great things.

Having that phrase at the front of my mind on a daily basis is really helpful. For other people I encourage them to either write down the reason, or put in an email note, something that pops up on their computer when they first turn on their computer to go to work. Maybe it’s written on their bathroom mirror, whatever it is, something that reminds you why you’re doing the things that you’re doing and why you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and why you’re trying to make these healthier decisions, and changing your life.

Jonathan: I love it, Steve. I can’t really think of anything more helpful or profound to think of at this moment because that is pretty hardcore so, I think we might have to end on that high note.

Steve: You’re too kind.

Jonathan: Well, I’m actually curious. One last thing and that’s what’s next for you, Steve? Is Nerd Fitness going to be pretty soon just overwhelm the world servers because it’s growing quite quickly here. What’s next for you?

Steve: It is. It’s getting pretty big. Honestly, I’m just excited that every day more people will find the site. They come to me and they say, “I think I found my new home.” That means the world to me. I feel like the majority of people that read Nerd Fitness is they’re the one person in their group of friends that is interested in getting healthy, but they don’t–the rest of their friends, perhaps, not at the point yet where they’re ready to make those changes so they come across Nerd Fitness and they join the community which is free and it’s a really, really thriving awesome supportive community, and people go in there and they see like, “Oh, geez. I can talk about Harry Potter and Star Wars, and I get to geek out on two really cool things. This is awesome. I feel like I’ve found my new family.” That means the world to me. That is what keeps me going every day.

As far as what’s next for Nerd Fitness, just trying to think of more ways to connect with people and more ways to help people, and more specifically, more ways to eliminate any excuses people have to get to exercising and get healthy. We’re actually putting the finishing touches on our second iPhone app which is going to be a full-blown Nerd Fitness workout app and that should be hopefully submitted to App World by the end of this week or beginning of next week. So, I guess by the end of the month it should be available. It’s going to be a free app, it’ll have free workouts, and all sorts of different ways to motivate yourself, and track your progress, and things like that. So, that is the biggest project right around the corner that I’m very, very excited about.

Jonathan: Steve, that’s great. By the time this show airs that is definitely going to be out there. Folks, please, if you are a nerd and you’re into fitness, I’m just kidding. Seriously, if you tend to enjoy things that are characterized as being a bit more nerd-like, such as Steve and such as myself, go the Apple store and check out the Nerd Fitness app and while you’re there also boot up Safari or get on your PC and check out NerdFitness.com because Steve’s a great guy and you should support him. What do you think, Steve?

Steve: You’re too kind. Thanks. Honestly, it’s just a lot of fun and I love connecting people and the fact that I get do this every day, I get to wake up, exercise, read some nerdy books, play some nerdy video games, and then help people get healthy, it’s like a dream come true. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do and I love being able to connect with people that love the same things.

Jonathan: Well, Steve, I think you’re coming from a place of genuine passion and genuine caring and I generally find that success follows when one has those appropriate motivations and you certainly do. Thank you for all that you do and, listeners, like we said, in all seriousness, please do check out NerdFitness.com, check out the wonderful free community there and check out the new Nerd Fitness app in the Apple store. Steve, thank you for joining us today.

Steve: Thanks, Jonathan. I really appreciate you having me on.

Jonathan: No, thank you and, listeners, I hoped you enjoyed today’s show and remember you can eat more and exercise less as long as you do it smarter. Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.

Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at carriebrown.com.
Jonathan: Don’t forget your 100 percent free eating and exercise quick start program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at bailorgroup.com, that’s B-A-I-L-O-Rgroup.com

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Steve Kamb. Steve is the founder of of the wildly popular website NerdFitness.com, and is here to help level up our lives!