“Nerdstrong Gym? Great, now the fitness empire is trying to pander to me.”
This was my first thought when I heard of Nerdstrong Gym. Probably a lot of you thought the same thing. With nerd culture permeating into everything corporate lately, I figured this place would be just another cash grab trying to make a buck off geeks like us. So I decided to check it out for myself and see what they were really about.
From the moment I turned into the parking lot, I realized I was wrong.
The first thing I noticed about Nerdstrong Gym was that it wasn’t even visible from the street. It was set way back in an industrial building with students jogging around the parking lot and the Ghostbusters theme blasting from inside. The gym was much smaller than I expected. The geek paraphernalia was minimal (except for the hilariously decorated bathrooms). Instructors and students both were dressed in appropriate workout wear with the occasional She-Hulk leggings, Deadpool t-shirt, or a Mario tattoo.
The Gym That Was Never Meant to Be
Andrew Deutsch, the founder of Nerdstrong, had zero intention of ever starting his own gym. His workouts began at home, in his own garage. Andrew’s friend David soon joined him and then more of their friends joined them. David ran a Dungeons & Dragons game that Andrew played in, which inspired them to create themed workouts. Before he knew it, Andrew had 15 people working out in his driveway multiple days a week. He realized very quickly that he needed a bigger space – a safe space – for his friends and fellow geeks to work out. Nerdstrong Gym was born.
The gym opened in June 2014. There was some worry if they could continue to afford the space for more than a few months. They had no interest in advertising, nor any intention of becoming a franchise. The gym nearly went under by October, but they were fortunate enough to gain just enough clients to stay afloat.
No one at the gym ever planned to be a fitness instructor either. Andrew’s friends became so passionate about the gym that they decided to get their training certifications in order to help others reach their fitness goals. Most of them still have other day jobs.
NERDSTRONG’S DIFFERENT APPROACH TO FITNESS
What I really wanted to know was what made Nerdstrong different from other gym, and how did they motivate people who were not accustomed to regular workouts? When anyone joins the gym, they start off with a short introductory class of no more than four people. In that time, the coaches get to know the potential students to find out their goals, level of fitness experience, and any physical problems. From there, they can sign up to take as many or as few classes as they like. Nerdstrong limits the class sizes to 10 students per coach to make sure everyone has proper attention.
Nerdstrong’s core philosophy is to create an atmosphere of guidance and friendship. Students never exercise alone. This helps to dismantle the sense competition that can often come with free-form workouts. Students of both beginner and advanced levels can exercise together with a few modifications for difficulty. The class structure is based around teamwork and cooperative gameplay. Coaches will never scream at a client or force them to go beyond their limits. They understand that their clientele aren’t gym rats. They’re normal people with geeky tendencies looking for a positive and nurturing environment to get in shape along with occasionally gushing about the latest Walking Dead episode. They once stopped in the middle of a class to watch the announcement of the new Doctor Who.
Classes are designed using the concept of gaming. There will be a layout of what and how many exercises need to be completed in order to defeat a monster. Each class, the monster gets bigger, then at the end of the month, there is a big boss battle. The group works together to defeat the boss. It’s a simple, yet effective method because it creates a tangible goal and sense of accomplishment. One client told me that when he had to carry a heavy bag around the gym that he was given the task to “carry Frodo to safety.” It created a sense that he was accomplishing something important by saving a friend rather than just lugging a heavy bag around for the sake of lugging a heavy bag around.
THE NERDSTRONG COMMUNITY
But what about the nerdom?!
The “Nerd” in “Nerdstrong” comes from the people more then the decorations in the gym. Yes, there is a wall of Asteroids and some Star Wars artwork in the bathrooms, but it’s surprisingly minimal. “Nerdtrong” is a mentality that transforms total strangers into friends. When the students wanted to play tabletop games and watch movies together, they decided to do it at the gym. Now these game and movie nights have become a regular thing. The gym’s growth has been entirely word of mouth or through social media communities. And now the little gym that was never meant to be is seriously considering opening a second location.
Check out our gallery below for more photos from Nerdstrong Gym!
Photos by Courtney Kraft