Some things you expect to be awesome and they are. Other times you expect a lot and you’re disappointed.
But there’s a rare third category of events that come along once in a lifetime. They’re the ones you hope will be awesome, then absolutely exceed anything you could have ever imagined. They leave you wondering if what just happened was actually real life.
That was my experience at Camp Nerd Fitness.
The shuttle full of travel-worn and ecstatic nerds bounced along, doing its best to deal with the twists and turns as it climbed into the hills of northern Georgia.
I was doing my best to take a nap, since my flight into Atlanta had me waking up at ass o’clock. I’ve never been very good at sleeping inside of large moving barrels of steel though, so I dozed in and out of consciousness watching Dazed and Confused on the LCD screen in front of me.
As we crept closer to the campground I could feel the chemicals of anticipation being released into my bloodstream. With each mile a mounting insurgence of excitement began taking over command of the tiredness.
“What’s this is going to be like,” I wondered. “I haven’t been to summer camp since I was a boy scout.”
Knowing Steve and his reputation for making things epic, and judging by the photos from the previous year, I knew this wasn’t going to be your average, vanilla camp experience.
The epicness ahead
We were going full out nerd status. Being surrounded by 300 other gamers, rpg’ers and fitness geeks that understand you better than some of your own family, gives you a silent nod that you are welcome here. Your nerddom will not be shunned or critiqued, it will be welcomed. In fact, the nerdier you are, the greater your likelihood to be celebrated at a place like this.
We make the final turn into camp and slowly roll up to the welcome center. The engine sighs before it takes its much welcomed rest, and the bus comes to a stop.
“Everyone, wait just a second before you get up.”
Quiet hushes over the bus.
“Hey everyone! Welcome to Camp Nerd Fitness!”
It’s Steve. The rebel leader of Nerd Fitness, and my internet friend for the last several years.
I’m so freaking proud of him, I want to tell him that right now. But I just let it sink in. We’re here. We made it.
Shit is about to get nerdy, y’all. Little do I know just how incredibly nerdy it’s going to get, and how this experience will change my life forever.
Revealing my true form
We slowly trickle off the bus, get checked in with smile, hugs, maps and name tags. The front says “by day you can call me me:” and the back “but at night, I’m:”
Of course it does. Just another amazing little detail that the NF Team has thoughtfully baked into the camp experience.
They’ll tell you they’re flying by the seat of their pants, that they’re a rag tag group of misfits just making shit up as they go along. And that might be true, maybe it’s the secret to their magic. But you’d never know from the outside.
After dinner we all shuffle to the outdoor theatre, awaiting opening ceremonies to officially kick off the madness.
Steve talks about collecting badges during camp. Badges, of course there are badges!
Then Baker explains the rules of zombies vs. humans… humans wear their bandanas below the neck, zombies above, inside or time during classes are safe zones.
Camp hasn’t even started and a feeling of play, openness and possibility has already begun to permeate all of us.
I began to feel strangely at home in the middle of somewhere I’ve never been with 300 people I hardly know.
What I feel now is just the beginning.
The vortex of transformation
The next morning starts with paleo breakfast (sans-bacon to many a campers dismay, but this is a Jewish camp in the summer, so pork is off the table… literally) and sounds of Amy Clover’s bootcamp in the field outside the mess hall.
Amy just might be the most inspiring female fitness leader on the planet. I resonate a lot with her approach of using exercise as a way of becoming a stronger person to overcome your struggle. This is something I incorporate a lot into my moving with purpose workshops.
I’m in pretty amazing company and I definitely feel the weight of needing to deliver on me.
It’s been a while since I’ve taught groups like this. The last time was teaching Jeet Kune Do classes in the local park. “It kind of looks like a park here” I think. “Yeah, just a little bigger than I’m used to.”
Luckily I make it through and people seem to actually get something out of what I’m teaching. Somehow no one has discovered that I’m just a movement geek that loves to share the little I know and doesn’t have it all figured out. Hooray!
Nerds might be the best partiers on this planet
As the day winds on people begin prepping their movement-worn bodies for the night ahead: it’s costume time!
This is when I meet Corey, dressed as a mix between Gandalf and a powerlifting coach. “You shall gain mass!” is just one of his hilarious sayings adapted from The Grey.
I’ve been to dress up parties before, but this is above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. There’s at least a 95% participation, which is a feat in and of itself. The costumes are far from half-assed, last minute creations thrown together from whatever you can find in your closet (ehem, what I usually end up doing). Some of them are absolute works of art worthy of their own features in design magazines.
The next night’s glow party is no different, outdoing any of the raves I’ve been to as a teenager (the supposed experts when it comes to all things glowing). And Rubik’s Cube, the theme for the closing party is just as weird and amazing, a game where you exchange clothes with other players in an attempt to become every color of the cube by the end of the night.
Again, almost everyone participating. Everyone going all out.
Nerds know how to party!
The journey to the waterfall
On the last day after teaching my final class on “how to move like tarzan” a few of us gather and decide to take a trip to the waterfall, just a short hike up from the cabins.
On our way it begins to downpour, which seems to be the theme of the weekend. One day we got nearly 10 inches of rain. Not only did not a single camper complain, but people seemed to be thriving on it.
That’s just how CNFers roll.
As we move closer to the waterfall the energy in our little group of primal movers begins to become electric. We can hear it now, raging, beckoning us forward.
Between the downpour from the sky and the downpour of the waterfall, we can barely hear each other now.
“I’m going to crawl around in the creek” I say. I don’t know if anyone hears me.
Carefully, slowly, I move around on all fours over the rocks, logs and fallen branches.
“I’m in the forest” I suddenly realize. “I’m alive. Wow. This is what it feels like to be home, to return to the source.”
I don’t care about getting wet at this point. Resistance is futile. My shoes, jacket and everything is soaked to the skin, no boundary between myself and the water around me.
Everyone is moving now. Mindfully, slowly crawling through the creek and around the waterfall, respecting the danger that could ensure if you miscalculate a step.
It’s in moments like this that you are 100% present. Completely and fully alive. You have no other choice, really. The environment, the aliveness of your movement and what’s at stake demands it.
As you respect where you are and be the movement, the boundaries between you and where you are begin to dissolve. There isn’t you and nature. There just is nature, and it’s you and everything all at once.
This is how I felt in the creek with those four amazing humans I met just four days ago in the middle of nowhere in Clayton, Georgia.
A moment I will never forget.
An adventure in leveling up for real
Walking back to my room I’ve never been happier completely drenched in my life. The toll of four days of intense movement and giving everything I have in my classes has been washed away. All I feel now is excitement, as if I’ve walked through a portal and been transformed by something, the trees, the people, the experience, who knows what.
As I passed by Amy earlier that day she mentioned “Steve has created a vortex of transformation here, it’s amazing!” I think she was right.
Getting back to my room I strip and put on dry clothes. Then I grab a pen and furiously write down all the things I need to do with Move Heroically.
Workshops, retreats, stepping up my game with content and working on refining what this movement is about are just a few of the things that poured out of me.
It was as if that waterfall uncorked something within me, and a torrent of creativity was unleashed inside.
The Blackout and #DontDropSteve
The last night was epic, in the realest sense of the word. Right before the closing ceremony we had a camp-wide blackout, leaving everyone wondering if we were all going to have to camp out for the night on the cafeteria floor.
Luckily us headmasters quickly huddled and planned our parkour apocalypse escape plan. Dakao rehearsed sword fighting techniques and I suggested we grab sugar packets from the coffee station, you know, for energy. Just in case.
But no riot broke out and no one even so much as complained. We just stayed calm and nerd’ed on.
When the power did return 20 minutes later (everyone was preparing for a 24 hour, worst-case situation, after all, we were in the backwoods of the south) everyone cheered.
Maybe we really did defeat the darkness that night, Steve. :)
Somewhere between the final words and group photo a crowdsurfing chant broke out in the crowd of insistent nerds. After some cajoling Steve went up and the chant morphed into “Don’t Drop Steve!”
And no one did.
Returning to real life
The shuttle ride back to civilization was bittersweet. My body was tired, but my heart was overflowing.
Saying goodbye to my new nerd family made me realize that this was just the beginning. Many of the friendships I started, and the people I reconnected with would become friends for a long time to come.
What I experienced at camp is hard to put into words.
The spirit, the love and the support fostered in those four days propelled me to step deeper into my work as a teacher of movement and embodiment more than ever. I’ve never felt so encouraged, so validated and so engulfed in positivity.
10 days later my heart is still buzzing like camp just ended.
It’s far from doing it justice, but here are a few things I learned:
1. We’re all in this together.
Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something. Going rogue can be an interesting side quest for a while, but at some point, you’re going to want to adventure out with comrades.
Being supported by a tribe of like-minded people levels up everyone.
Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone.
2. Preparing will only get you so far.
I realized at camp that I was beyond the point of getting better with more training or research. It was time for me to start learning by teaching and doing.
If you’ve been putting off sharing what you know, realize now that there are people that could absolutely benefit from your knowledge and expertise. You don’t have to be a black belt to help a white belt learn something, right?
3. Everyone want you to do your best.
No one wins if you don’t show up and do your best, so why would anyone want you to give anything less than what you’ve got?
Remembering that everyone wants my best helped me relax, breathe and just focus on being me.
When it comes down to it, all you really have to do is show up and use what you’ve practiced for. It’s as simple as that.
Seriously guys, the nerds really are taking over. For real this time.
And if you really think you’re nerdy, think again. There is always someone nerdier than you, like the girl with the epic glowing battery powered suit on glow night.
For the record, that is a compliment. :)
5. Never let your fuck factory run dry.
Umm, you’ve really got to read this post to understand.
Thank you Rog for your unwavering commitment to sexifying the human race!
6. We all win when we learn from each other.
All of the headmasters and campers were so generous with their time, energy and wisdom. The vibe at camp was one of “let’s see how much we can all learn together.”
To Lauren, Staci, Taylor, Baker, and the entire Nerd Fitness team, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To Steve, thank you for helping me Level Up.
I can’t to see what’s next.
Keep kicking ass!