Who’s a hero?

All together now: I’M A HERO!!!!!!!

This is one of many inside references to Camp Nerd Fitness I could make in this post. It started out as what we would yell during Amy Clover’s Strong Inside Out bootcamp sessions when a particular move was kicking our ass and we needed a war cry to keep us moving, and quickly became one of the watchwords of the whole weekend.

So what the hell is Camp Nerd Fitness? Let’s break it down.

Camp: Exactly what it sounds like. This long weekend took place at a legit summer camp facility, complete with bunk-filled cabins, a lake, a dining hall, lots of trails through the woods, a high ropes course, sports fields, and a giant inflated “Blob” from which campers could be catapulted into the water by their friends. And this camp was in the literal middle of nowhere, so it was as peaceful and quiet and away-from-it-all as you could want a summer camp to be. Every day was packed full of workshops, classes, and sessions we chose to participate in (and lamented conflicts between), with breaks for meals, walks, meditation, games, and conversation with our fellow campers. Every night had a themed dance party and a bonfire. And everyone there came from many different places, met as strangers, and left four days later as family.

Nerd: This wasn’t just any camp. This was camp for nerds, geeks, dweebs, dorks, and other people who just can’t contain their love for things like video games, fantasy books, board games, travel and adventure, even reality TV shows. And the nerditude was not subtle. I’m sure the different areas of this camp had normal names, but this weekend we learned longsword moves and played Ultimate Frisbee on Hyrule Field, practiced parkour in the Panem Training Grounds, talked about meal planning and self-esteem in Hogwarts, held the opening and closing ceremonies in The Coliseum, lit our bonfire atop the Beacon of Gondor, meditated at the Deku Tree, and used the entire camp space for a giant game of Humans vs. Zombies. When we weren’t sessioning or partying, there was a whole room full of board and card and video games for us to play. (Multiple epic games of Cards Against Humanity took place there, among many other games!) The nightly dance parties had a superhero and a Rubik’s cube theme, respectively. We weren’t just nerds in the same space, we were nerds being nerdy together on purpose, and damn proud to be there.

Fitness: Here was where we niched down even further. Steve Kamb is pretty famous for turning fitness into a real-life leveling up quest, and he and his team have inspired hundreds (probably thousands) of people to embrace their nerditude in ways that gets them healthier, stronger, fitter, and happier. To this end, all of the sessions and activities at CNF were geared toward all different kinds of fitness. Some of these were flat-out workouts, like the bootcamps I mentioned above. Some were training sessions for basic and advanced workout practices, from yoga to powerlifting to bodyweight work. Some were more specific (and nerdy) skill sessions, including knife and longsword fighting, kung fu, parkour, tricking (flips and air kicks), and grip strength. In between these active activities, we could learn about Paleo cooking and meal planning, how exercise helps fight depression, how to develop strong positive body image, and how some of the Nerd Fitness luminaries got in shape themselves. All the food served was Paleo, we all drank a ton of water, and I think pretty much all of us got pretty sore. (And we did all this as a vacation!)

So wait, was this just fat camp for geeks?

Um, no. Not even close. See, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.

The best part is that this wasn’t a camp someone threw together to shame us all into slimming down, or challenge us to get off our lazy asses and start subsisting on broccoli between weightlifting sessions. This was a community gathering, the Nerd Fitness online forums writ into real life, founded on the principle that people make the healthiest and happiest choices for themselves when they are completely and totally supported. All body types, all skill sets, and all fitness levels were represented at this camp, as they are in the NF online community, and every single one was welcomed without question or condition. Some of us had done Ironman triathlons, some of us could barely run around the dining hall. It didn’t matter. The question of “who’s a hero?” was not a question of ability, but a question of heart, grit, passion, and self-acceptance.

I went to Camp Nerd Fitness unsure of how well I would do or fit in. I was definitely a nerd, but fitness hasn’t been a big thing for me in a long time, and I was never a camp kid. I fully anticipated spending the entire long weekend gasping for breath and massaging a raging stitch in my side. I wasn’t sure how I would deal with the people who could run circles around me (literally or figuratively). I knew I would be outside of my comfort zone, playing at my edge, sitting in the middle seat, or whatever language you want to use. But I knew I was going to do it anyway.

Was it perfect? Hell, no. There were a hundred tweaks that could have been made to make the experience better. That’s what happens whenever any event gets put on the first time, and it was still pretty damn great given that.

Was it difficult? Bet your asbestos it was. I struggled with all kinds of things, from doing the whole bootcamp to reforging my rusty martial arts skills to sleeping badly on camp bunks. That’s what happens when you commit to pushing yourself for a weekend on purpose.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. The people I met this weekend are, in every sense of the phrase, my people. We’re on a collective hero’s journey, and even when we go it alone, we’re doing it together. And that’s pretty awesome.

So who’s a hero? I’m a hero. If you’re interested in this particular brand of heroism, feel free to join me at Camp Nerd Fitness next year. I’ll see you at the swordfighting class, the Blob, and/or the Cards Against Humanity table.

  • Glory

    Great post Jason. See you next year!

    • James M. Ranson

      Thanks, Georgia! ;) It was awesome meeting you!

  • Brandon W.

    Very well written James! It was great meeting you at camp. We are all hero’s and I’m proud to be a part of such a great community. See you next year and keep leveling up!

    • James M. Ranson

      Much appreciated, Brandon. It was great meeting you as well! Looking forward to next year already. For the Rebellion!

  • Dani Riekwel

    Fantastic post James. So far the best person who has put into words what made CNF so special. That we met on the terms of complete support no matter what got us there, or where we are going.

    Well done.

    • James M. Ranson

      Awww, thanks Dani! That’s so lovely of you to say. I’m so glad my post resonated with you so much! See you around the internets. XD

  • http://FitArmadillollc.blogspot.com/ Fit Armadillo

    I’m in fitness so naturally I love the idea of CNF :) What a cool concept! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

    • James M. Ranson

      No problem, thanks for the comment! I hope you can join us at CNF next year, Ms. Armadillo. It’s going to be even better the second time around.

      Also, nice to meet you! Where did you come across my post? Do you have a blog as well?

  • Devyn

    I love how you specified exactly what kind of environment this was. And thank you for explaining where the “I AM A HERO” thing came from. I was wondering. I had such a wonderful time and I’m so glad you’re doing your part to share what we experienced with the world.

    • James M. Ranson

      Haha, no problem! I think those of us who knew the reference forgot that not everyone had been there for its inception. ;) And yeah, I wanted to take a different tack from people who were going to list out every single activity they did at camp. I love reading those kinds of posts, but I didn’t feel like writing one, haha. So glad you enjoyed my post! Talk soon. :)

  • Pingback: 10 Takeaways From Camp Nerd Fitness On Leveling Up Your Life | College Info Geek()

  • D Halverson

    Great article—you’ve got great writing style!

    • James M. Ranson

      Thanks Danny! Really glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • Pingback: Lessons Learned From Camp Nerd Fitness | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: Train Like Marvel's Super Heroes: Geek Fitness Alert()