How Steve Kamb Built A Community Of Muscleman Nerds


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Welcome to the newest episode of the Hack The System show!

You should subscribe to this show on iTunes.

The Hack The System Podcast is your access to interviews with the world’s foremost experts on blogging, lifestyle design, traveling, and life/system hacking. In short–you’re going to learn how to kick ass.

In this episode, I sit down with Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness. Steve has built a community of hundreds of thousands of readers through his web site, which shows regular nerds (like you!) how to “Level Up” and get fit.

Listen to the audio podcast here:

Below, I’m pasting some highlights of the interview, and the transcription. The full video interview is below.

Highlight 1: Who is Steve Kamb? What is Nerd Fitness?

Highlight 2: Steve’s Fitness Philosophy and Exercise Routine

Highlight 3: How Steve Kamb Built A High Traffic Blog

Watch the full interview here:

This podcast can be heard on iTunes. Click here to follow it via iTunes (and automatically sync it to your iPod)

Transcript of the Podcast Episode

00:00 Maneesh Sethi: Hey guys, this is Maneesh Sethi and right now I’m in Portland, Oregon. I’m going to be sitting down with Steve Kamb from Great site, great guy, come with me, let’s check it out. I’m really, really excited to talk to you Steve. You’re one of my inspirations online, one of the bloggers that really do some cool stuff.

00:19 Steve Kamb: Really?

00:20 Maneesh Sethi: Yeah!

00:20 Steve Kamb: Aw, thanks, man.

00:21 Maneesh Sethi: No matter how much shit I give you, I kind of like your stuff. And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your blogging, and your website, and your vision. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the Hack the System audience?

00:35 Steve Kamb: Absolutely. So, I’ve been running a website called for three and a half years now and really it started, I want to say, about five years ago. I had this idea, pretty simple. Hey, I’m a nerd, I like fitness. Maybe there’s something we can do to stick them together. And I googled and nothing popped up so I bought the domain to and came up with the tagline ‘Level up your life’, and decided that I just wanted to just kind of start helping nerds get healthy. I thought it was a group of people that could use some direction and guidance and have a little bit of fun along the way so I write about things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and push ups and the Paleo diet. People are like, ‘How does that connect?’ I’m like, don’t worry about it, trust me, it makes sense. Check out the site and I guarantee you’ll be like, ‘Oh! I get it, that’s kind of cool.’ So, yeah, I’ve been running it for about three and a half years now.

01:27 Maneesh Sethi: So how did it progress? I guess you started off just – were you already in shape when you started the site?

01:32 Steve Kamb: Honestly, my journey with fitness probably started over a decade ago. I got cut from my high school basketball team, which is not really surprising. I couldn’t dribble with my left hand, I was like 5’10”, 100 pounds. I had no business being on a basketball court. But I decided, damn it, I’m going to come back next year and I’m going to be really strong and big and make the team. So I signed up for a gym membership and almost killed myself by dropping – I went to the nearest bench press and loaded up 45 pound plates on either side and my arms are shaking before I could even take it off – Boom, right on my chest! I had to rotate and the weights spun off and aw, dude, like the most humiliating moment of my life. But I very quickly rised then and there like, ‘Okay, I didn’t die and this is kind of cool. I like this concept of getting a little bit stronger.’ And for me, as a gamer growing up, it just made so much sense. Okay, cool, you can pick up ten pounds this week, next week you can pick up fifteen. When we get that, you can pick up twenty. Just from a role playing game perspective, it’s like building a character in RPG and I really, really jumped on that. So, it wasn’t really until after college, I’d spent most of high school and all of college, reading muscle and fitness and body builder mag- you know, all of those magazines just to try to get strong and healthy and had zero success in 6 years. And then after that-

02:56 Maneesh Sethi: Did you lift at that time?

02:58 Steve Kamb: All the entire time. Five days a week. Five days a week for years, and I think I put on like four pounds of muscle. It was just a complete waste of my time. And I eventually realized after I graduated college, I moved to California, got a gym membership and they gave me a five free personal training sessions. So I sat down with the guy, I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve been lifting for six years, I know what I’m doing’. Guy’s like, ‘Alright, give me your workout and what are you eating?’ He was like, ‘Okay, never mind, okay, double what you’re eating, cut your workout in half, focus on these six exercises.’ I was like, ‘Alright, dude.’ And I put on like, 20 pounds in a month. I was like, Oh! I get it! When you combine diet, a proper diet with lifting, and for me, I wanted to get bigger and stronger. For other people they need to lose weight. So that’s when it kind of clicked for me in the head like, ‘Okay, there’s more to it than just picking up a weight.’ It’s combining with healthy living and proper diet and manipulating both of those things along with your workout to get your desired goal. For me, it was, I wanted to be a superhero. Big and strong. Other people they might need to lose 100 pounds but it’s the same concept. It’s clean eating, heavy lifting, and finding what works best for you.

04:07 Maneesh Sethi: So you found that it was like, I see people at the gym who are lifting like, very little weight or they’ll just go there and use the machines a little bit-

04:15 Steve Kamb: Aw, that stuff pains me.

04:16 Maneesh Sethi: And I look at them and I’m like, ‘You guys have been coming to the gym, I’ve seen you at this gym for four and a half years, you look exactly the same. Like, what’s the point? What are you doing? What’s your purpose?’ And I feel like maybe people just don’t understand the power of heavy lifting, heavy short lifting. Do you find that high intensity interval training is more effective than an hour or two of pumping iron?

04:38 Steve Kamb: Oh, absolutely! I think if you’re working out for more than 45 minutes, then you weren’t working hard enough. Like, at the end of 45 minutes, I’m destroyed. Dude, if you do one set of heavy dead lifts, like your entire body, nervous system, is just like, ‘Holy crap!’, like you’re shaking by the time you’re done with those sets and you don’t get that feeling when you doing like, the stupid bicep curls and you know, calf raises, to try and shape, and side bends. People spend two hours at a gym, talking on their cell phone, walking on a treadmill, using the elliptical, picking up small weights, doing 20 repetitions of bicep curls. And then they’re like ‘Hey, I worked out.’ Then they go home, drink a 400 calorie gatorade and eat a 600 calorie lean mean or lean cuisine or whatever. And they don’t realize that they’ve undone everything that they’ve just done in the gym, and more. And diet is at leat 80% of people’s success or failures. Most people don’t want to hear that because they don’t want to give up their cookies and pasta and crappy foods.

05:37 Maneesh Sethi: There’s a really interesting article in the New York Times. It was about ‘Is exercise key to losing weight?’ and it was totally, people were exploding over this article because the guy basically looked over some research, and he was just like, on average, when people exercise, they tend to have a bigger appetite. And it gives people an excuse to have that cupcake. ‘Oh, I worked out so I’m going to have that cookie.’ And so they said that on average, exercise has a ton of benefits for any purpose. It’s going to make you smarter, it will make you healthier, it will make you less likely to get cardiovascular problems, but for losing weight, it’s not the solution. In fact, it’s a bad way to lose weight. And I found that when people in crossfit would say is that, you lose fat via your diet, you gain muscle via your workout.

06:20 Steve Kamb: Absolutely.

06:21 Maneesh Sethi: And so if want to just like, get strong, but you still eat those cupcakes, you’re just going to have a layer of fat that covers it.

06:26 Steve Kamb: You still have the muscles. Most people have six packs. They’re just hidden under three, four inches of fat, which is really unfortunate but yeah, it’s very true. I think for some people that, “they work out”, it’s not real. You couldn’t ask them, ‘What did you do last week and how much did you lift?’ They’ll have no idea. ‘Well, I did 45 minutes on elliptical, and then I did 10 minutes on this and that, and then I went home and ate a whole bunch.’

06:54 Maneesh Sethi: But you track it.

06:56 Steve Kamb: I track every work out. Absolutely.

06:58 Maneesh Sethi: Like Steve said today, his work out plan was like on a Google spreadsheet, and it was prepared by Vic, as well. So Vic, what’s his last name?

07:04 Steve Kamb: Vic Magary.

07:06 Maneesh Sethi: Vic Magary. So Vic Magary actually helped me. He just created a workout plan for me and I was mentioning this one in my talk with Joel that there’s a big difference between having a workout plan that says Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and one that says Monday, July 14th, this is your workout. And I get this workout plan from Vic and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s like the date on it, and that’s tomorrow, and I actually have to go to the gym! So I found that people having a specific workout routine or a definite workout routine is helpful when they want, like, having, otherwise people just go to the gym and lift a few things. So let’s say that you’re like a regular nerd, and I spend most of the day, like, I’m a nerd who plays video games and I spend most of my day on my computer, I have a job that makes me spend most of my day on a computer, from 9 to 5. And I need to figure out how I’m going to put fitness in my life such that I can still sit at my computer 9 to 5 but I have time for working out. What would be your recommendation for this person to lose 50 pounds and start looking like he wants to look?

08:16 Steve Kamb: First and foremost, you have to make it a priority. I think, you know, anybody tells you that they don’t have time for something, I read this great article, they referenced the Wall Street Journal or something, I can’t remember. Anyways, it was instead of saying ‘I don’t have time for this’, you need to reframe your mind and instead say, ‘This is not a priority.’ So people tell me, ‘I don’t have time to work out’, instead that means, ‘Working out is not a priority for me.’ So for these people, they need to make working out and being more mindful of what they’re eating a priority. I guess the diet I think is 80% of it, so if somebody can refocus and start building better habits diet-wise, even if they don’t spend a minute working out. If they don’t work out for a single second, but they clean up their diet, they could drop that 50 pounds. Now, when you’re dropping 50 pounds and not exercising, or you’re dropping 50 pounds but exercising only via long cardio like ellipticals or either treadmills or biking, whatever. You’re going to be burning both fat and muscle. So what I encourage and support is strength training. Specifically very like old school, basic strength training. It’s boring because it’s not glamorous, but it works. Squats. Deadlifts. Overhead presses. Pushups. Pullups. Dips. Rows. What else, lunges. Very basic but compound movements that work your entire body. When you work out and not only exercise those movements, but focus on getting stronger with them and combine that with healthy eating, you keep the muscle you have, which you’ve already worked very hard to earn. When you’re 50 pounds heavier than you should be, your legs are working very hard. Your legs and your body, you generally have quite a bit of muscle, whether you realize it. So when you combine heavy lifting with a cleaned up diet, you actually might start to lose weight a little bit slower than if you were just running and not exercising. But you’re going to keep the muscle you have, which is a far better look than just going from overweight and fat to super thin and no muscle. That’s kind of like the other end of the spectrum. So I think it’s a good balance for workouts dude, 20 minutes, my workouts maybe last 30 minutes at the most.

10:36 Maneesh Sethi: So like, if you were to do a body weight only workout, let’s say I’m embarrassed to go to the gym. And I really would like to lose at least 20 pounds before I go to the gym. I’m willing to start eating right, so we’ll talk about that in a second. But I want to know what work outs I should do at home for like 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day.

10:55 Steve Kamb: So this would be a workout routine that you would do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I try to have for each routine; I try to do something like, a push, a pull, legs, and core. So a push exercise is something like pushups or overhead presses. If you’re working out at home, body weight only, pushups is the best. If you can’t do pushups, just a regular push up on your knees, you can even put your hands up against the wall like that’s a great place to start. Once you can do regular pushups, then you can work on putting your feet up on a bench, maybe eventually moving into handstand pushups. But there is like a progression that you can go from wall pushups, all the way up to handstand pushups, which builds incredible strength. I mean, take a look at any gymnast, those dudes are built with body weight only exercises. Like, if they can look like that with only body weight exercises, there’s no excuse for you not to get halfway there. Pushups for the push, for a pull exercise, pull ups. Nothing better than a pull up. If you can’t do a pull up or if you don’t have a pull up bar, you can even do things called like inverted rows, where you can lie underneath your desk, like flat, and you pull yourself up. It’s kind of hard for me to show but-

12:13 Maneesh Sethi: It’s something like, if you had a desk, you would be somewhere like over here, like under the desk and you just pull up-

12:22 Steve Kamb: You just pull yourself up so your chest is hitting the bottom of the desk. They’re called inverted rows. I actually have a video on YouTube, I called it table inverted rows and it shows me doing these rows with an actual desk, or table or something. But yes, so a push, pull, legs, body weight squats. Simple squats where you’re squatting where the top of your thighs are dropping below parallel. That’s important. Make sure you do squats deep enough and those you can increase difficulties. You can put your hands behind your head, your hands over your head, you can even get the point where you’re doing one legged squats or pistol squats as they’re called. Aw man, they suck, but dude, that is a great, great, leg work out. And then last but not least, I would say a good core exercise, something like a plank. Where you’re lying on the ground on your forearms and your feet and the rest of your body is in a complete straight line.

13:15 Maneesh Sethi: Like in a push up position but with your elbows down-

13:17 Steve Kamb: With your elbows down and you’re going to try to hold that for 30-60 seconds, or as long as you can.

13:20 Maneesh Sethi: Do you flex your stomach in that situation?

13:22 Steve Kamb: Yep. Flex your stomach, crunch your butt, like really tighten every muscle you can, it’s worth that core. So that’s core exercises, if you do one set of each in a row and then start over again, like a circuit, you can get that work out done in 15, maybe 20 minutes. And you’ve just worked out your entire body.

13:40 Maneesh Sethi: So it’s like a lot of people put a lot of time into like, everybody wants to sell their machine that works out the whole body or their ab shooter. I’ve always wanted to try those electronic pulse ab things.

13:53 Steve Kamb: Yeah, the dudes using those in those videos that have abs, they did not get them using that. I would bet my life savings on that.

14:00 Maneesh Sethi: Absolutely. I did see a really good Hack the System technique for getting stomach muscles yesterday, which was pretty cool. Basically got your little overhead projector, and you put that to the picture of David Hasselhoff on the wall and then you just walk into the projection with your shirt off and he just looked like he was ripped. And I was like, ‘I can just have a projector follow me around!’

14:17 Steve Kamb: It’s way easier than diet and exercise.

14:21 Maneesh Sethi: So you get this exercise down, body weight exercises are great, and like you just said, a personal trainer was very helpful, even for those five sessions.

14:27 Steve Kamb: Just yeah, somebody to just teach you the basics and give you the tough life you need like, alright, stop messing around the crap that doesn’t work. Focus on these things that do work. And not only that, but to have somebody explain to you like, okay, what are your goals, do you need to lose weight? Try focusing on these things. Do you need to pack on 20 pounds of muscle? Your diet’s going to be very different. You’re going to have to eat a boatload of calories. Here’s how you can do it. Having somebody that you can turn to.

14:52 Maneesh Sethi: And it’s the same in like any situation. When you’re learning a language you want a private tutor because they’ll teach you. Not only do they provide the knowhow, especially for like the initial stages in doing something, but they’re really effective for getting you to the gym. Like if you have a private training session that you pay 50 bucks for, you’re showing up right? So that is a good way to jumpstart habit. I find that private trainers like often, you only need them for a month until you build that habit.

15:16 Steve Kamb: They’re like the training wheels that get you going. Another great thing with specifically having a trainer. People are so terrified of making the wrong decision that they do nothing instead. Do I do three sets of five reps or four sets of six reps or should I do pushups or what? Like, they freak out. And they just, they do nothing. If you have somebody that says, ‘Alright, dude, shut up, do this, this, and this on this date.’ All the guesswork’s been removed, all the emotion has been removed. You don’t have to worry. You’re told this is what you’re going to do, and then you go do it. And you kind of just follow this blueprint. And if you can get somebody to work with you, to build something specifically for you, then it makes your process so much easier.

15:57 Maneesh Sethi: But we found a diet is a huge part of this and there are just diets that people would follow, but each, everybody asks what the perfect diet is, and it really does depend on your goals. I don’t know if you’ll agree with me-

16:06 Steve Kamb: It’s twinkies and soda. It doesn’t work very well but-

16:12 Maneesh Sethi: Delicious. I found that like, I don’t know if you’ll agree with me on this, people are always talking about this low carb diet for our body. I found this low carb diet is better for building muscle, lifting heavier things, and the paleo diet is better for looking better or like building, basically cutting fat and looking strong. And those are the diets I get a lot of questions about. And then other diets I don’t hear much about anymore because our-

Besides the paleo diet, have you found any really successful diets, or what do people do that makes them look good?

16:46 Steve Kamb: Yeah, in my opinion personally, I think the paleo diet is, if your goal is to lose the most amount of weight and feel the healthiest, I think the paleo diet is probably the best bet.

16:59 Maneesh Sethi: Steve actually ranks pretty highly for the paleo diet online.

17:02 Steve Kamb: Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah, I think it’s a topic that a lot of people are very interested in but get freaked out about. I wrote an article called ‘The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet’, like pretty standard, and I wrote it two years ago and just recently Google changed and so now it shows up like third or something. Which is pretty cool. I got lucky there I guess. In my opinion, that’s the best one personally, I follow it, probably about 80% of the time. The two things that I try to live by as far as diet goes, a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, probably going to butcher this but it’s, ‘Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are’. So like yeah, you can aim for the paleo diet and by that I mean, focus on meat, vegetables, nuts and fruits, like, pretty basic stuff. But if you’re at a barbecue and you don’t have an option like dude, it’s okay man, eat a burger. It’s not going to be the end of the world. It’s going to be okay.

18:04 Maneesh Sethi: They always say like, ‘I’m 100% paleo, 85% of the time’. So, it seems like at least in my experience, like a solution, a simple two step solution for cutting out body fat and gaining strength would be either paleo diet, number one, and once you have that paleo diet down, you add on to it by starting to exercise, and you don’t make too many changes at once, or pick one or the other for the first month or so. But once you start exercise, just simply like, 3 days a week, 20 minute hardcore body workout, like you just said. I recommend cross fit, I don’t think you’re a big cross fitter.

18:43 Steve Kamb: I’ve done it a couple times. I’ve actually written a couple articles on it. I enjoyed the community. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job of fostering just a great community in each individual cross fit gym. I don’t love their programming. Like when they have people doing 30 reps of an Olympic lift. And because it’s for time, its form gets sacrificed drastically and I think that’s where a lot of injuries and bad habits get developed because you’re trying to complete this really complex, heavily taxi exercise in this short amount of time possible for 30 repetitions. Like, I don’t agree with that necessarily. But I think I love cross fit specifically for women, because it gets women lifting weights. Women are so scared of picking up a weight because they think they’re going to get bulky. And then they go to cross fit and they squat and dead lift heavy, and they’re like, ‘Holy crap, this actually works, I look great.’ Stacy, the girl that I’ve hired to be part of Nerd Fitness community, is now like a internet hero for women all over the place because she looks great but she did it with heavy dead lifting, like she texted me yesterday, she dead lifted 365 yesterday. She weighs like 140 pounds. Yeah, and she looks like how every woman wants to look but every woman is trying to get there with Zumba classes and pink dumbbells. Pink dumbbells, yeah! And it’s so frustrating to see, it’s like, look, you can get there; don’t be afraid of a barbell. Pick up some heavy weights. That’s how you’re going to build the body that you’re happy with. Combine 80% of your success is going to be your diet, but that other 20% if you want to build a kick ass body, it’s lifting. It’s strength training.

20:33 Maneesh Sethi: Like one of the most effective insights I got out of it for our body was that you have the minimal effective dose, which is that basically there’s like, your body has these fibers in all of these muscles and if you don’t break the fibers they’re not going to regrow back stronger. And if you do break the fibers, it doesn’t matter if you keep breaking them, they’re already broken. They’re going to grow back in the same strength. So if you go to a gym and you lift a few pounds, it’s not going to make any difference. But if you do 20 minutes of hardcore intense workout and you break the fibers in your muscle that starts to regrow. Even if you spend 12 hours or you spend 30 seconds in the gym. Once you break that fiber, the minimal effective dose is what it takes to get that sore feeling the next day. So really you guys should be aiming for the sore feeling at the beginning, and then just continually increasing based on metrics, the amount that you can do. And cross fit has a little bit of issues with metrics because they rotate the stretches so much. But yeah, so-

21:23 Steve Kamb: Can I chime in on that there? I think when people exercise, they do like, six bicep exercises in a day, or they’ll do like bench press, and then decline and then incline and then fly and then pushups and then something. If you’re doing more than two exercises for a particular muscle group, and I don’t necessarily agree with like, muscle group segmentation and isolation exercises. But if you’re doing more than two exercises per muscle group, like, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough on those first two exercises. Like if you do super heavy squats, there’s no way you’re going to be able to do six sets of lunges and then extensions, and then hamstring curls, and then-

22:03 Maneesh Sethi: Which means you didn’t work hard enough on your first set.

22:04 Steve Kamb: Yeah, so it just diminishing marginal returns. That first exercise and those first couple of sets are so crucial. But each exercise after that just becomes increasingly less helpful and the only people that should be doing those exercises are probably multiple exercises for each body part, daily, I would say is body builders on steroids.

22:25 Maneesh Sethi: Absolutely. I like that you really encapsulated the idea of Nerd Fitness in that sense when you said, ‘the fitness level has diminishing marginal returns’. We used both of the concepts in one smooth and simple sentence. So I want to talk to you a little bit about the Nerd Fitness vision. So you’re going from basically nobody to a huge blog. Like, I’ve seen the numbers, it’s crazy! A very successful blog. Really, a good person to track people. You can see how he just grew and exploded. And I want to know, what do you feel were the biggest jumps in your business?

22:59 Steve Kamb: Honestly, the thing I could point to specifically was about nine months after I had started, nine months in, I had cranked out five articles a week, while working a day job, five articles every week, but they were five, five hundred word articles, like, ‘Top Ten Tips to do this’, and crap that I thought I was supposed to be writing but was not actually being effective. I stumbled across Baker from Man vs. Debt and he wrote an article called ‘How to Not Suck at Blogging’ and I read this article, and that was the first time I had ever heard of Baker. And I read his article, and I was like, ‘Okay, I suck at that, I suck at that, I suck at that, I suck, wow, I suck at blogging.’ I am doing the exact opposite of all these things.

23:44 Maneesh Sethi: Yeah, what did he say?

23:46 Steve Kamb: Yeah, it was just put your personality out there, like, if you want to attract the skimmer, somebody that reads the top ten lists, and then forgets about it, then moves on to the next top ten list but never really applies anything, write those articles. If you want to find somebody that is super engaged and loves your message and really wants to become involved and become a part of what you’re trying to create, don’t be afraid of writing long articles full of in-depth information and nerdy personality.

24:17 Maneesh Sethi: Your articles are pretty long and super nerdy. They’re like, they tend to be over 2000 words on average you would say?

24:23 Steve Kamb: Oh, absolutely. At least 2000.

24:26 Maneesh Sethi: Yeah, his articles are very long, you have pictures, and they very much eject personality. I love the way that you do it. In fact, I’m very impressed because mine are never as long or as good as yours. I once sat down and I met one of the really high ups at facebook and I was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I interview you for my podcast?’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, well yeah, sure, what’s your readership level like?’ and I’m like, ‘It’s in the high, almost 100’s.’ It’s really getting there.

25:01 Steve Kamb: There’s literally dozens and dozens of followers.

25:06 Maneesh Sethi: He’s like, we’ll talk. So, okay, I want to know more about the growth of the site. First of all you did, you started writing better articles, you cut down on the articles you were writing?

25:18 Steve Kamb: Yes. I was doing 5 a week, I subtracted 2 a week. And not only that, but I just put my focus on being very, very helpful in very specific ways. We were talking about earlier, people just want to be told specifically what to do. So I realized, ‘Okay, I’m going to start writing articles and telling people what to do.’ So I was like, okay, here’s a beginner body weight workout. Do this, this, this, and this. Here’s the Paleo diet. Don’t eat this. Eat this. Do you want to look like a superhero? Here is a superhero work out. Do you work out while traveling? Here’s a work out that you can do while traveling. Here’s this, this, and this.

25:51 Maneesh Sethi: So you made it very actionable, very clear-

25:53 Steve Kamb: Yes, absolutely. You could finish the article and say, ‘I know exactly what I need to do this afternoon to level up my life.’ So I spent, from that point on, it was like another year of two articles a week, 2000 words. I haven’t written many guest posts, believe it or not, I’ve written like, I think maybe five? Total? So I really just put my focus on being helpful. When people left a comment on the article, I would email them directly and say, ‘Hey man, thanks for the comment. How did you find nerd fitness and what can I help you with?’ And I did that for as long as, I did that for a couple of months, up until I got to the point where I just couldn’t keep up with it. But it gave me a very, very direct line to people that had stumbled across the site, that had decided they’d liked it so much that they’d left a comment. And then I could ask them, ‘Hey, what are you working on? What are you struggling with and how can I help?’ I did that for a couple months and I kind of shaped the direction of how I was going to write and I think the real turning point when Nerd Fitness kind of took off after that was when I decided to add message boards to my site. And normally message boards are like one step above youtube, as far as the cesspool of the internet. It’s like youtube comments, 4chan, and then message boards. People just attack each other and use the anonymity – did I say that right? – of the internet to hide behind that and attack other people. But I knew I had this really cool concept and I had a group of people that were really interested in being nerdy and healthy.

27:30 Maneesh Sethi: So you built this forum, people come, they –

27:32 Steve Kamb: Instead of us going back and instead of being Steve Kamb talking to a reader and them emailing back, it became all the readers could now talk to each other. And it went from being a blog, it is now a community. So now there’s like 8000 people posting on the message boards and they’re organizing meet ups in their own towns, whether or not I’m there or not, people like, one guy wants to get a Nerd Fitness tattoo. They come up with all the ideas and if you get a chance and spend 5 minutes on the Nerd Fitness message boards, you’ll be blown away. People don’t fight, it’s all constructive, positive, supportive, and we have a section called the boot room. And people are like, ‘Hey, I’ve lost ten pounds this month or I got a new pair of jeans I actually fit in’ and you know, if they’re one person in the group of friends that’s actually interested in getting healthy, their friends don’t care how much they can dead lift. They want to know how many kills they got in Halo. You know what I mean? But here, they can come online and say, ‘Oh cool! I can both talk about Halo and dead lifting’. This is my new home. So people find it and it’s very cool to see how quickly people just become very attached.

28:46 Maneesh Sethi: That was like pretty effective but then it started to get that dirty scumbag people and I wasn’t moderating it. So do you ever moderate your forum?

28:56 Steve Kamb: Yeah, well I did initially, and then I had a couple of volunteer moderators, and now we have like 15 or 16 volunteer moderators. And I give them carte blanche to if somebody’s fighting, jump in there like, ‘Hey, none of that’. Yeah, dude, like you’re not providing anything constructive, this is not the community for you. Thanks for coming, thanks for time, but your time is better spent elsewhere.

29:18 Maneesh Sethi: So where do you see the future of Nerd Fitness over the next few years?

29:22 Steve Kamb: Oh, dude, well we’re probably going to have a moon base at some point. Like the Nerd Fitness headquarters would be in a bubble on the moon, you know, if things go according to plan.

29:32 Maneesh Sethi: Impossible moon. Nerd moon. Oh, I’m buying that domain today.

29:39 Steve Kamb: Hack the That’s awesome. No, honestly, I see it continue to grow as a community, I think I want to do a lot more with getting people together in person. I think people really struggle with not having that in person community, especially if they’re that one person in their group of friends, or that one person in their family that is interested in getting healthy. So I definitely want to put a lot more focus on getting people connected in person, in different towns around the country, and really, the world. There was a Sydney Nerd Fitness meet up. I wasn’t in Sydney, but there was like a bunch of Nerd Fitness readers like, ‘Hey, can we get together?’ So instead of, you know, I want to identify people in each city that could be rebel leaders in each of these locations and give them the necessary resources to organize Nerd Fitness meet ups. I think we’re in the process of making this super-secret video game/fitness checking thing that should be up in the next 6 weeks I hope, that is going to be the nerdiest and most elaborate project I have every invested any of my time or money into. But I am so excited by it. The concept of Nerd Fitness is being able to level up your life. Since day one. and I just cannot wait to level up in real life and allow that level up a character in a video game. So we’re close, we’re close.

31:06 Maneesh Sethi: I saw this really cool project that was being made that was a controller for counterstrike. And it was two treadmills that were attached so you could move in any direction, the treadmills would follow you and stay in the same place. And these guys were running, or sprinting, or jumping because their head would move up and down and I’m like, in the future, the most fit people in the world would be guys who play video games all day ’cause they’ll just be running on the treadmill like firing guns and doing backflips and shit. The people who used to be the stronger ones, would be on the computers.

31:38 Steve Kamb: Yeah, I don’t know man, I think –

31:41 Maneesh Sethi: There’s a lot of power for mobile technology to build –

31:45 Steve Kamb: It’s this darn Swedish machine-

31:54 Maneesh Sethi: Absolutely. So before we go, Steve, I want to arm wrestle you. My right arm’s a little fucked. You down for a left arm wrestle fight? Hey guys, check out, he’s a great guy, he’s actually a great guy. Check it out, he’s got a great site, I promise you, you guys. Just search the Paleo diet, you’ll find out. Check it out, he’s a smart dude and his articles are excellent. So, thanks a lot Steve, and hopefully we’ll have you again.


baidu censor April 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Other countries censor content and not just rogue regimes such as the Iranian mullocracy. Poor people!


David January 23, 2013 at 9:23 am

Steve’s site really did seem to just take off very quickly. I enjoy hearing about the struggles at the start because it helps to keep things in perspective when starting a new project and knowing when to quit or pivot if things are not panning out as planned.


Tim Moon October 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

Great interview! I’ve been a fan of Nerd Fitness for a while and only found Hack The System a few months ago so it’s great to see the two of you collaborate. Cheers.


Annika S October 12, 2012 at 3:18 am

Yay, my 2 favourite bloggers in one episode, thanks both of you, I thoroughly enjoyed watching you two! Keep up the great work building your communities and generally being awesome!


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