28 Ways to Exercise Without Realizing It.

I sat in the parking lot, absolutely terrified.

My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, my brain was going crazy.

After ten minutes, I finally mustered up my 20 seconds of courage, literally yelled at myself, got out of the car, and walked through the double doors.

I was getting ready to try something I had always wanted to do but had been too scared….

And an hour later, I left a sweaty mess…

A sweaty mess with a giant smile on my face.

I had just attended my first swing dance class.

I know plenty of people who hate exercise but WANT to find a way to like it. And that’s what today’s post is all about: exercising in a way where life doesn’t suck.

Let’s dig in!

Exericse Sucks. Do This Instead.garfield

“But Steve, I don’t like to exercise!”

While some are like Odie and love to run around all day, others are like Garfield and feel like they must be allergic to exercise.

I hear this every day, and I’m not surprised.

After all, I think exercise sucks too.

Today we’re going to eliminate the phrase of “I don’t like to exercise” from our vocabulary.

Cool? Instead, we’re going to change our our definition of exercise and our thoughts around it.

Here are my favorite ways to exercise without…exercising.

I swear this will make sense.

The Truth About Exercise

treadmill fall

As stated in our Rules of the Rebellion, you can’t outrun your fork.

Unless you’re Michael Phelps swimming for 8 hours a day at a Olympic level, there is no amount of exercise that can cancel out a diet full of processed foods, junk food, and liquid calories.

“But Steve, he’s out-swimming his fork.”

Hey, fair enough!

Let’s get back on track.

For whatever reason, we human beings are amazing at justifying and rationalizing the most ridiculous things.

We use these rationalizations to justify really unhealthy behavior, and then compound that decision by saying things like, “Well, I already made one bad decision, so today is ruined. I’ll start tomorrow.”

In order for us to live a healthy life, we need to get your head straight and understand a few key facts:

If you aren’t losing weight, it’s because you’re eating too many calories each day. This is caused by any number of environmental or hormonal or psychological or habitual factors, but the science remains.

Exercise is actually a really inefficient way to lose weight sustainably when compared against focusing on fixing your nutrition.

This is where the problems arise, and what we’re going to do to fix stuff:

  • Exercising for an hour, burning 300-400 calories, and then saying “I earned this” to justify stuffing 1000 calories worth of junk food down your throat is a losing battle.
  • Exercise does not mean “run on a treadmill for four hours and be miserable.” Exercise is anything that elevates your heart rate and takes your body outside of its normal comfort zone.
  • Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to losing weight and getting healthier. If I could only tell you to fix one thing, your diet or exercising, it would be your diet. Every time.
  • Every decision counts and every choice adds up. One bad decision does not ruin a day. One day off doesn’t ruin a week. One week off doesn’t ruin a month. EVERY SINGLE DECISION you make can take you closer or further away from your ultimate goal. Stop worrying about the decision you made 10 minutes ago or yesterday and focus on the next one.

Combine these four facts, and we’re left with this:

Exercise is a bonus. Exercise helps your heart get stronger, can help build muscle, usually gets you outside the house and absorbing vitamin D, and brings you a litany of other health benefits.

Exercise is not an excuse to eat like crap. Instead, you need to reframe your mindset. Instead of “I earned this” start telling yourself: “If I’m going to exercise, I might as well make it worth it by eating right too.”

Daily exercise is a constant reminder that you are leveling up your life – that you must continue to make other good choices or you’re practically wasting your time.

If you’re looking for some guidance in this crazy world of ‘losing weight and getting in shape,’ I hear ya – this stuff can be overwhelming.

Expert instruction, accountability, and an instructor that gets to know you better than you know yourself, sound good? Check out our 1-on-1 coaching program to get paired up with a coach today.

25 Ways to ExercisE Without Exercising

dog frisbee

When you say “but I don’t like exercising,” what you’re really saying is: “I don’t enjoy the particular type of exercise that I have in mind.”

If you don’t like lifting weights in a gym, don’t do it. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. I have zero plans to run more than a 5K in my life.

Unless there are zombies that can run a 10 k…in which case I’ll run an 11k.

My main goal with Nerd Fitness is to get you to enjoy exercise, find a way to do it every day, and combine that with making better decisions about the food you put in your body.

So, we need to find a way to exercise every day because it KEEPS US THINKING HEALTHY, which leads to other healthier decisions made throughout the day (where the real big wins are).

Here are 25 ways to “exercise” without realizing its exercise.

#1) Hiking, especially with friends – This last week I went and hiked around Lake Radnor in Nashville with fellow entrepreneur Matt Bodnar. We hung out with deer, saw incredible scenery, and talked about life and business. I also happened to walk five miles over various elevations.

#2) Walking – No time to hike? Go for a walk. Even a 15-minute brisk walk is enough time to get close to a mile walked, which gets you one step closer to Mordor. Do you have a 30-minute meeting at work? Have a walking meeting instead. Steve Jobs was known for doing this.

#3) LARPING – Live Action Role Playing. Might seem silly to those on the outside, but to those playing, it’s an amazing adventure that reminds us how awesome our imaginations are. Also, depending on the game, you could be wearing a heavy costume, swinging heavy weaponry, and running for your life!

#4) Rock Climbing – I love rock climbing. It’s one of the best arm/back/forearm workouts in existence, you get to feel like a badass when you reach the top of the wall, and all climbing routes are graded so you can level up the challenge as you get stronger/fitter/better. It’s a fit nerd’s dream!

#5) Geocaching – If rock climbing is a fit-nerd’s dream, then geocaching is a adventure nerd’s dream brought to life. Become a real life treasure-hunter (Lara Croft? Nathan Drake? You decide!), and get a great workout in while you’re at it.

#6) Dancing – Ever tried serious swing dancing? You’ll be sweating within ten minutes. How about hip hop? Drenched in sweat, and sore as hell the next day. Zumba? Tango? Flamenco? You’d be surprised what you can sign up for and what will elevate your heart rate.

#7) Roughhousing with your kids. I don’t have kids, but when I do, you can bet your ass I’ll be the dad out rolling around in the back yard with them. Don’t forget what it’s like to be a kid – it keeps you young. I really enjoyed this article from Art of Manliness on the importance of roughhousing!

#8) Climbing on stuff – Last week on my hike at Midoricon, I was walking through the woods with NF Rebel Joe (No, not THAT Joe). It was awesome to see this guy, having lost 100 pounds since finding Nerd Fitness, explore the woods like it was no problem: climbing on stumps, balancing on fallen trees, climbing trees, and more. When was the last time you’ve done stuff like THAT? Hmmm? (Shout out to MovNat!)

#9) Martial arts – Be honest. You watched The Matrix, you heard Neo go “I know Kung Fu” and you wanted to be able to one day say the same thing. Whether it’s Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Karate or Capoeira, there’s a martial art out there that will make you feel like a badass.

#10 Consider a standing desk – Although we all know that correlation does not prove causation, it’s no surprise that there’s a strong correlation between sitting all day and an early grave. Why not fix your posture, strengthen your legs, and spend the day being more productive with a standing desk?

#11) Have an active meeting – Hat tip to Charlie Hoehn on this one. If somebody wants to meet up with you for coffee, suggest something active: throwing a baseball, tossing a frisbee, going for a hike – anything that gets you up and moving. I say yes to pretty much anybody that invites me to play golf. Wink wink.

#12) You know… – That thing that consenting adults do? Yeah. Do that. Self-explanatory. Moving on…

#13) Clean – Ugh, nobody likes to clean the house/apartment. I certainly don’t. So I make a game out of it. I see how much I can accomplish with a single song blasting at max volume. Of course, after getting through one song, I figure “welp, I’ve already started, might as well keep going.”

#14) Do handstands – Here’s how.This is a fun activity that builds up serious arm and core strength and will leave you sweating bullets after even a few minutes. Find a park, go do handstands, cartwheels, somersaults, and whatever else makes you feel young again.

#15) Parkour – Our beginner’s guide to Parkour is one of the most popular on Nerd Fitness. I don’t care how old you are, there’s no reason you can’t get started with rolling around in your hard and vaulting over picnic tables and bike racks.

Or, you can do it in your office:

#16) Play out – Is Parkour too serious for you? Try a playout! Spiderman was on to something – climbing walls, swinging from skyscrapers, and popping flips around the bad guys. You might not be able to swing between buildings, but you can definitely visit a playground in your area and get creative!

#17) Adult gymnastics – In the same vein as Parkour, gymnastics will help you build some of the BEST real world strength you can get with any type of exercise, and it’s all done in a playful way without a single weight being picked up. Swing from rings, somersault, flip onto pads, and more. There are gyms all over the country.

#18) Yoga – Build flexibility, strength, and learn to freaking relax. There are million kinds of yoga, so sign up for a few different kinds and see which one lines up the best with what you’re looking for.

#19) Play video games that make you be active – Beat Saber. DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) counts too. Just Move. Anything that gets you off your ass and moving!

Oh what’s that? You’re playing a normal game like Grand Theft Auto V? Make a rule that you can only play while standing up. That’s what I do to keep myself from spending twelve hours on the couch in marathon gaming sessions!

#20) Play on a playground – Go down the slide, swing across the monkey bars, climb the rope all, balance on the balance beam. Create an obstacle course for yourself and see how quickly you can get through it. You can even work out on a playground too.

#21) Play a musical instrument – Did you know playing the violin for an hour burns about as many calories as walking around a track at a moderate pace for an hour? It turns out, our brains can burn boatloads of calories too. So challenge your brain!

#22) Join a Rec league – New in town? Want to be active and meet people? Join a kickball or softball league. You get to exercise AND it’s a great way to meet new people!

#23) Bike to work – I know there are a lot of Rebels in our community who dropped a bunch of weight by making one change: they biked to work, or biked to their friend’s house, or started biking generlaly. You get from Point A to Point B, you save money on gas, and you get a workout. That would make Michael Scott proud.

#24) Play a childhood game – What games did you play as a child? Capture the flag? Kick the can? Simple tag? Get a few friends together and give it a try – it will be the most fun you’ve had in a while!

#25) Park at the far end of the parking lot – Every step counts. Every tiny decision that is slightly different than the “OLD you” counts.

#26) Take the stairs. It’s only two flights! You are designed to move. You can do this. Sure, you’ll get winded the first handful of times. But it eventually becomes routine. And it all counts! Make a game out of it.

#27) Crush audiobooks while “exercising.” This is called ‘temptation bundling.‘ Pair something you love with an activity you’re trying to do more of. But I bet if you could only listen to Harry Potter (for the 600th time) while walking on a treadmill, you’d be more likely to get to the gym.

#28) Build stuff. Whether you’re building a fort with your kid in the backyard, or trying to figure out why you have 5 extra screws in that IKEA dresser you’re putting together, building stuff involves lots of moving and bending and picking up and maneuvering.

#29) Sit on the floor while watching TV. No, not leaning against the couch. Sitting up actively engaging your core! Do some sort of stretch or movement during commercials (or in the 15 seconds between Netflix episodes!)

#30) Impromptu Dance Parties. Kids or no kids, I find that great Disney songs are fantastic for bringing out your inner child. Blast the tunes, dance around the house, and be absurd. WHO CARES! As a wise woman once said…”Let it gooooooo.”

#31) Pace while on the phone. What if you just decided you had to stand for all of your phone calls? For starters, I know many people who do phone interviews while standing because it makes them more alert and a better guest. Next: you’re gonna get so many steps in while on the phone without realizing it!

#32) Having an impromptu picnic. Instead of sitting and gorging yourself at t the dining room table, why not eat on the floor? Grab a blanket or a towel, eat in your living room or head out into the backyard, and make it a picnic! You’ll need to adjust your posture and seating style constantly.

#33) Sit in a squat. We cover this in our squat article, but sitting in a deep squat – often for long timeframes – is built into us as a species! We’ve just become soft from sitting in chairs all day long. I try to accumulate 15 minutes of “squat time” each day – sitting in a squat while reading a chapter in a book, or journaling, or answering an email with my laptop on the ground.

#34) Pull-up bar Tax. Get yourself a door-frame pull-up bar. Put it on a door that you have to cross through regularly. And every time you go through, you have to do either 1 pull-up, 1 negative pull-up, or 10 seconds of hanging from the bar. Can’t do a pull-up yet? Learn here.

#35) Lasers around the house. Set up colored string pulled tightly across your kids rooms or in certain hallways, and you have to go over and under the lasers each time you traverse the hallway. Don’t touch the lasers!

#36) Climb a tree. Your level of safety and ability on this will be dependent on your experience here, but I remember climbing trees like a monkey as a kid and loving every minute of it. Even if it’s just hanging from a tree branch or trying to scramble up to a low branch, it can be a great way to “exercise.”

#37) The floor is lava. This is both great for exercise around your apartment, for a fun date night or night with the kids, and for playing True American. Though one is slightly less healthy than the other.

#38) Casual Parkour. From avoiding cracks on the side walk to balancing on curbs, or jumping from tile to tile, or hopping up onto a bench and then back down, it all counts! Just get yourself to move differently than you would have otherwise.

#39) Fidget. Yes, from tapping your toes and twitching your legs to the beat of music. From getting up and sitting back down. From doing laps around your office. You don’t need to get a standing desk or treadmill desk, but there’s definite correlation between those that can’t sit still and body composition.

#40) Your kid is a backpack! From piggy back rides to playing horsey, staying active with your kids is really powerful in instilling a love of fitness in them. If you’re a badass mom like Brownwyn, you can even do pull-ups while your kid holds on!

Challenge yourself

challenge yourself

I’d love for you to commit to trying something new at some point in the next six weeks.

I committed to Swing Dance Lessons for 6 weeks and I’m really really glad I did.

Here’s my advice to you:

  • Say yes before you can say no. Stop saying “I don’t have time” and realize you do. Stop saying “I can’t afford it” and find a way to make it a priority. Do all of this before you can talk yourself out of it.The best way to do that?
  • Commit in advance. I pre-paid my four weeks of swing lessons. Having already paid for it, I knew I’d be just throwing my money away if I didn’t attend. Put down a deposit and make an investment in yourself.
  • Go with a friend. I went to my class alone, which forced me to further develop my social skills, but if you happen to be TOO afraid to attend a class, get a friend to drag you there. It’s amazing what we do to avoid ridicule from our buddies.
  • Expect to suck. It was frustrating for me to not be good at swing dancing right away. After playing sports and lifting weights, it was a tremendous shift for me to stop trying to be the fastest, strongest, most perfect, and instead relax, let loose and enjoy myself. If you are learning a new skill, expect to suck at it. You’ll get better. As long as you remember to…
  • Have fun. Remember, we could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Every day above ground is a blessing, so enjoy it!

That one thing you always wanted to try but have been putting off? Today’s a good a day to get started. Just take that FIRST step. Google classes in your city. Find a site that focuses on beginners, and read about it. If there’s a place to pre-pay or make a deposit, do it.

And then go. Use your beastmode skills if you have to.

But suck it up, expect to not be good at the new activity immediately, and have some fun.

What’s the one new thing you’re going to try this month?


PS: If you’re reading this because you HATE exercise but think you SHOULD be exercising, I hear ya. I too hate certain kinds of exercise, so I don’t do them – you’ll never catch me running because I strongly despise boring cardio!

If you are here because you’re trying to lose weight and want somebody to guide you through the entire journey, and who will ALSO never make you do exercise you hate, consider checking out our popular 1-on-1 coaching program.

Your coach will get to know you, your likes and dislikes, and work with you to build an exercise plan and food strategy that you actually enjoy and also gets you results!


photo credit: Reiterlied 02/52 – Confidence, treadmill fall, dog, jump, garfield

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