Balancing Being a Nerd and Staying Fit
by John Andreula
Balancing being the nerd I am and staying fit and healthy is challenging.
Both take time and effort.
Fitness and good health require discipline. They both entail me having to say no to things I love and enjoy while inversely having to do things that are uncomfortable and occasionally painful to achieve my goals.
I do these things knowing they are what is needed to live life to its fullest potential, for as long as possible.
On the other side of the coin, being a nerd, geek, or dork is quite consuming as well. I love binging on books, anime, television series, and video games. They require an abundance of my time and my complete attention.
However, these extended spells of hedonistic indulgence leave me pondering, “What have I done?” afterwards.
Frequently after a marathon session of giving in to my nerd impulses, I reflect while in my sensory-overloaded hangover.
As I feel the pull of another round of Diablo III, the newest George R.R. Martin novel, or the next episode of Berserk Season 2, I can close my eyes and visualize the stories and happenings with my mind’s eye. My brain craves the input.
After giving in to these binge-worthy vices I realize two things.
First, I recognize that my time spent on binging is gone. These hours expended mean I will have that much less time and energy capital to spend on my fitness, or any other productive endeavors I hope to achieve.
The second, and perhaps more dangerous and damaging, of my realizations is the pull these shows, games, and stories have on my mind. There’s definitely an addictive quality that permeates my life when I ‘just let go’ and indulge.
I want to play, watch, and read more, so that’s where my mind stays preoccupied. I fall into a trap of shaping my schedule and priorities around accommodating my next playing or viewing session.
Recently my mother-in-law asked me, “So you’re playing games again?” She and I both know that video games are a slippery slope for me.
At first, I sit in front of my TV expecting to play for an hour or so. It turns out that ‘or so’ becomes me getting sucked into the gaming experience entirely. I end up playing the game until nearly 2 am.
I’ll still need to get up in the morning, but I’ll do so with significantly less energy. Without that energy I’ll be lacking my usual spunk, drive, and initiative.
When that happens workouts will inevitably be the first thing to go.
To accomplish the feat of staying fit with the pull of my nerd lures I must remind myself constantly of what is truly important to me. Working out and keeping my body physically dialed in is high on the list of my life’s priorities; like making money, spending time with my loved ones, and writing.
Playing, watching, and reading fiction feel important to me too, but that’s just urgency disguising itself as something bigger. Those things are not as integral or necessary as my aforementioned priorities.
There are a few hacks I’ve uncovered that allow my desire to maintain my hot bod and my internal ‘guy on the couch’ to coexist within my modern paradigm.
First, I figure out methods of consuming nerd art and culture while I work out. Audio-books and podcasts have provided an effective solution. Recently I listened to a fantasy novel called The Testament of Loki while I went through my workout routines. I was also able to listen to the book while I performed chores and other mundane tasks like working as well.
Sometimes the listening can become challenging if I attempt to do it while performing an activity that requires deeper concentration. Listening to a book or a podcast requires tremendous mental intention. If I lose focus, I also lose significant chunks of the story’s plot and meaning. When that occurs I’m constantly having to skip back on the audio.
Another solution I have discovered for merging my two opposing halves is to have a ‘real talk’ internal conversation with myself. Before I begin feeding my inner-nerd I simply ask, “Did I do enough today (or this morning, tonight, etc.) to warrant squandering my limited and valuable time on this?”
If I answer no, then I must immediately repurpose my focus. I compel myself to proceed in the directly opposite direction of my geeky desires towards whatever productive accomplishment needs completed first. Then later I will reward myself with a few chapters, episodes, or levels played, if I have the time or energy.
The final way I have accomplished melding my nerd consumption and my fitness is through focused active endeavors.
Obstacle course races are one of my favorite examples of these. With these high intensity experiences I get to feel like I’m inside a platformer or action/adventure video game. In addition, I must train in the time leading up to the event, so I can be competitive and fulfilled by my results in that contest.
Unlike when I play a video game, I never expect to win these obstacle course races, but I am inspired by the competitive and community nature they invoke.
I find similar fulfillment through training and sparring at my Kung Fu class, running trail and road races, as well as participating in various other sports like soccer, kickball, and dodge-ball. These all tap into the same energies and passions as I do when I play video games; yet they are significantly more fulfilling, and they are better for me.
Somehow I’ve come full circle in life.
When I was young—perhaps in middle school or high school—I felt the choice between expressing my nerd-self with my fellow dorks and geeks, and getting involved in competitive sports and fitness had to be independent and separate from one another. At that naive age I could not fathom combining the two.
Ironically, I was already doing exactly that. I realize it now, as I reflect wearing my lucid goggles of hindsight.
I remember participating in backyard wrestling, juggling a soccer ball, and learning to hacky sack. Back then I saw these things as separate from those jock activities and organized sports, but they required many of the same skills, physical abilities, and dexterity. These obscure and nerdy hobbies were indeed a workout. They developed my overall fitness.
Today I level up in the weight room, or on my Kung Fu practice floor, instead of in front of my television or computer monitor. I am constantly striving to reach previously untapped potential; physically as well as mentally.
As I gain new strength, speed, and abilities, I feel like Goku or Vegeta as they acheived the level of Super Saiyan. I also feel like characters from my favorite role playing video games. It feels awesome!
Just writing this piece about my addictive tendencies toward video games makes me want to play a game right now. I can feel the pull of Diablo and his minions. They are calling me toward my own button-mashing personal hell. I have the house to myself, so why not?
No! I must resist the temptation!
I remember that in the real world I would rather be able to actually kick the bad guys’ asses, or at least be able to run away and escape if needed, than I would in any video game.
Decidedly, I will get that workout in today before I sit down to watch Dragonball Super or play my XBOX. Even though it feels good to give in to the urges of playing, watching, and reading, it feels better to have a slim waist and a healthy lifestyle.
As I level up in life, I know I will continue to figure out how to have my games and play them too. It’s a whole load of fun to find the balance between being a nerd and staying fit.
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