Fitness and nerdiness are seemingly conflicting themes, but Steve Kamb combined the two seamlessly when he created his blog, Nerd Fitness. Steve makes working out fun (his Batman Bodyweight workout is bomb, yo!) and he also shares healthy recipes and inspo stories on the site.
Since launching in 2009, Steve has transformed Nerd Fitness into a strong community dedicated to leveling up their lives complete with an active forum and an academy of students from around the world.
Here's what he has to say...
1. Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I am the creator of NerdFitness.com, a worldwide Rebellion of average Joes and Jills who help each other live healthier lives in a fun, supportive, nerdy environment.
I’m also the author of Level Up Your Life, a book that helps you become a real life superhero and start doing the things you’ve said you’ve always wanted to do.
2. At what point did you decide to quit the proverbial 9-5 and what made you feel ready to do so?
I quit in June of 2010, about 18 months or so after I had started seriously working on Nerd Fitness in my spare time after work. Although I hadn’t made any money with the site yet, Nerd Fitness had already started to dominate my attention and energy.
Which was crazy, as I really enjoyed my day job - I was in the marketing department of a company that produced floating music festivals! And yes, I got to go on the cruises too :)
3. What did you do next?
I started to take the idea very seriously, had some conversations with friends and family about my decision, calculated how much of a financial runway I would have if I quit the day job, and what would need to happen in the weeks after breaking free to immediately make Nerd Fitness cash-flow positive.
After that, it was a matter of having a painful conversation with my boss and giving them as much notice as possible. I stayed on for 3-4 more weeks, and then set off to try and make Nerd Fitness something special.
4. Looking at your “Epic Quest” it’s clear to see that you’ve accomplished a lot. What are some of the most unique experiences and opportunities that have come from running Nerd Fitness?
The Epic Quest was really something I wanted to do that showed that any normal person can do interesting things if one plans properly and structure life accordingly.
For example, I lived like James Bond in Monaco for a weekend, and I made money on the experience! I rented a tux for $60, stayed in cheap hostels near Monaco, then used hotel points to stay at the Fairmont (and studied enough blackjack to play properly).
Because I wanted the experiences I had my adventure to be the sort of things anybody can do, I’ve turned down some opportunities. For example, I said no to a 10-day free trip to skydive, SCUBA, and visit Petra in Jordan because it didn’t line up with the adventure I wanted to inspire others to take.
I know the site has opened some doors for me (like a book deal), and my favorite experiences are probably meeting readers in real life who have used Nerd Fitness to change their lives. It’s good to know what we’re doing is working!
5. You made the switch from selling e-books to running the Nerd Fitness Academy. What prompted the switch and what benefits have you seen from making it?
I started with ebooks as that was the least expensive and easiest way for me to get my information out into the world. However, I’m always learning new things and interacting with people who have purchased a product or joined Nerd Fitness, so I also always want to make updates.
By switching from an ebook to a course model, we can now control the flow of information, gamify the experience through interaction, add a community element to the course, and also share improved workout routines and higher quality video content.
It’s allowed us to FINALLY build a character creation and questing system so people can complete missions and level up a character as they get healthier.
6. Level Up Your Life was recently published. Can you share a bit about what went into the process of writing a book and having it published?
I had always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t feel compelled to just put out a fitness book like many had advised me to do. After a few years I had the idea I was ready to commit myself to, so a friend put me in touch with his book agent, David. David helped me craft my book proposal and then shopped it around to all book publishers.
Most passed, a few said yes, and those who said yes ended up going to “auction” for the right to publish it. I ended up choosing Rodale, and was given 9-10 months or so to write it, and then 9-10 months after that it was slated to be published.
It really was a two year process.
After dragging my feet for a few months, due to being terrified of starting, I finally built a routine where I would write 500 words a day, no matter what, every morning.
4 months later, I had my first draft, and then I went to work ripping it apart into something readable.
After that, it was off to the publisher, where my editor Mark at Rodale and I went back and forth for a few months. It hit bookstores in January of this year. I’m so proud of how it turned out and I’m excited to hear stories from people 10 years from now who are just stumbling across it for the first time.
7. How did Camp Nerd Fitness came to be? What was it like organizing such a large scale event?
It was all kind of organic. I had attended the first year of Chris Guillbeau’s World Domination Summit in July of 2011, and I thought it would be cool to have a fun gathering of the Nerd Fitness readers.
With the site built around nerdy pursuits and adventure, I wanted to combine summer camp with really fun instructors, nerdy costume parties, and a location that we could call home.
We scoured the country, found a place in Georgia that had everything we wanted: amazing outdoor facilities, a mix of bunks and hotel rooms, and exclusive use of the property. I cut a big check to secure the location and then hoped enough people would believe in our vision for an epic weekend of adventure, education, and fun.
Planning it was a nightmare from day one, only because I’m not wired to enjoy details or planning. Luckily we had some help in key places, team members pitched in, and the event actually went off flawlessly!
We ended up having 150 campers our first year and it was the best weekend of my life. Last year we had 300 campers, and this year we expect to have around 400. Now we have a dedicated team member on Nerd Fitness who is focused on camp and planning it year round.
8. Between creating apps, courses, books and blogging you’ve got a lot going - what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are struggling with managing everything that comes along with self-employment?
Don’t try to do it all, especially right away. Until your site or business reaches a certain size, keep your focus on the highest leverage activities that make you unique and make the most impact.
At Nerd Fitness, that was the community and content creation, so that’s where my focus was for years and years and years. Only after the site reached a certain size did we start to expand our focus.
9. What are you struggling with right now and how are you trying to overcome it?
Being a better boss and owner! We now have 10 full time employees of Nerd Fitness, who live in 10 different states. Throw in 12+ contractors for various projects and it's become quite the operation.
My first year as a boss was pretty bad, and I made plenty of mistakes: hiring the wrong people, not providing enough direction or vision, and struggling to give up control on things that I didn’t need my hands in.
I’m very lucky to have a team that believes in the mission of Nerd Fitness and is putting up with my mistakes and challenges as a boss. To overcome it, I’ve joined a few groups and have regular conversations with other virtual business owners with employees to bounce ideas and struggles off of, and I read voraciously (2 books a week) to expand my knowledge pool.
Lastly, I remind myself that I’m learning every day, and that I’m going to make mistakes and have bad days - all I can do is learn from those mistakes and try every day to be a better boss than I was the day before.
10. What are your plans for the future?
World domination of course!
We now have an ever-expanding army of super fit, incredibly intelligent, adventurous travel hackers who want to help each other. I’m excited to be where we are as a company and community at this point. I never thought I’d have a team to run or a community the size of Nerd Fitness, and it’s really cool to be a part of it.
We just recently launched free character creation on Nerd Fitness, so we’ll be exploring that and creating more opportunities to help people gamify their existence.
Also, Camp NF has shown me the power that the Nerd Fitness Rebellion has when we get together, so I want to find more ways to get us together for weekends or on a more permanent basis throughout the country! For the Rebellion!