Four Letter Nerd

A Nerd’s Guide to Starting Fitness

Getting into a new fandom can be intimidating – getting into shape can be infinitely more so. There is just so much information and there are even more opinions being stated as fact!  How is someone to supposed to become Batman when they can’t even find a place to start? (Side note: I recommend trying to skip Bruce’s first step). Well I would like to give you some advice on where to start and how to keep going.

But first some personal background.

I’ve never been a big guy. If anything I’ve been perennially described as scrawny (keep in mind that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy). During my senior year of college I noticed a change in my ability to eat terribly without consequence. No longer could I feast on Little Caesars and Taco Bell (staples in the diet of a poor Philosophy major) and expect to keep my pre-Captain America Steve Rogers physique.  Solution?  Figure out what how to get in shape.

Unfortunately, going to the gym can feel like entering a foreign world for some of us.  Instead of working out for fear of showing our ignorance to the bros hanging around, we just wander about aimlessly for a bit before heading home slightly deflated (or at least that’s what I did).

Find What Works For You

One thing I have found over my last few years  of trying to get healthy is that the “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t really all that “one-size-fits-all.” What works for your friend might not be what fits your particular situation.  The good news – there are a lot of different approaches to take.  The bad news? All of these different approaches can begin to look like a labyrinth, and if Pan’s Labyrinth is any indication, labyrinths can lead to a Nazi beating your face in with a bottle (that’s one of the only things I remember about that movie… it’s been a while).

Over the last four years I have experimented with several different exercise routines. I started primarily with bodyweight routines focusing mostly on variations of push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, but I have also used the P90X program, Spartacus (a high intensity routine named after the show), weight training, and various other routines I have found along the way.

There are fitness oriented websites all over the internet. One of the best websites on the interwebs is Nerd Fitness (and I’m not just saying that because the dude is based out of Nashville). Steve Kamb, the man behind the site, is hilarious and does a great job explaining how to get into fitness and diet using nerd culture as a medium. His whole theme is “leveling up your life,” which is a good way to stay motivated, especially if you are a gamer of some sort. His Rebel Fitness Guide would be a great purchase if you are serious about “leveling up,” but he has a lot of advice for nerds of all walks of fitness life (this is a great starting point).  Go check it out and tell him I sent you so he will wonder who the heck you are talking about.

Another great website for nerd-themed workouts is  She has pages upon pages of workouts based on movies, TV, and video games that she has illustrated into easy-to-read posters like this one:


Or this one:


History Channel’s Vikings is really good.

All of her workouts are bodyweight exercises, but that doesn’t mean they are easy.  I’ve done the Vikings workout a few times and it can be pretty intense.  There are a lot of workouts to choose fun covering all sorts of nerdy topics, so there should be something on there that will pique your interest.

Start Slow

A lot of people that decide they want to begin their fitness quest go full bore at first – they read all of the articles they can find, buy memberships and equipment, go extreme Paleo, and exercise like an Olympian.  And for a week or two they keep up the rhythm until all of that exercising cripples them and the lady at work brings in the Blueberry Cake donuts that are their (my) Kryptonite.  It seems like it only takes one chink in the proverbial armor for the whole thing to come crashing down around you.  If some of this sounds oddly specific it’s because this was me off and on over the last seven years.

Starting slow can help avoid the pitfalls of dropping the ball.  After my first few disastrous attempts to get in shape I realized that I was going all-in too fast.  Eventually I found that I really enjoyed bodyweight exercises, and that I could keep a steady routine going without losing function in my arms and legs.   Keep it simple and build up as you get acclimated.  It will save you the headache of feeling like a failure for trying to get someone to smuggle that donut into your cubicle like they are Red from Shawshank Redemption.

Don’t Expect Immediate Results and Set Realistic Goals

Don’t expect to look like Chris Hemsworth in Thor after a few weeks of hitting the gym.  You are building a better you, it takes a little while to lay the foundation.  You will be easily discouraged if you check the mirror after every exercise.  I will say that, at least for me anyway, it gets easier over time.  It used to feel like a chore getting up early every morning and Sweatin’ to the Oldies (for the record I have not actually done the last part of that sentence), but I found what works for me.  Instead of trying to workout at five in the morning I workout in the gym at my office during my lunch break.  If you are a scrawny guy/girl and want to get stronger/bigger don’t expect to do a month of work and be there.  The same thing goes for the opposite situation.  It can take a long time to get where you want to be.  It’s a process, try your hardest and enjoy it.

Never Give Up; Never Surrender

This is the start of a long, arduous journey.  There are days where it will totally suck – you will make mistakes and want to quit, but that doesn’t do anything for anybody.  Instead of getting down on yourself for tripping up just keep striving for your goals and you will get there.  Did you miss a day yesterday?  That doesn’t matter, get back in the saddle today.  Did you mess up your diet?  Who cares!  Just keep going, and it will get easier.  Whenever people are in the middle of a journey, whether it be fitness, dating, employment, or whatever else, it can be really difficult for them to see the bigger picture.  Their supposed failure can be completely shattering, even if it was really only a minor setback in reality.  So keep your head on straight and just “keep on keepin’ on” as Joe Dirt would say.


There have been a lot of ups and downs for me over the last few years.  Some days you just can’t wait to get started, while other days you just want to avoid it all together, but that’s just life.  Everything ebbs and flows.  If you have any tips that have helped you along the way, please share them in the comments.  And remember, never give up; never surrender.


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Cam Clark

Cam is a husband, father, and a fan of many things. In college, he wrote his senior thesis on Mythological, Philosophical, and Theological Themes in Star Wars, and now spends his days causally specializing in Star Wars, Tolkien, and cubical work. No relation to Bill Clark.

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