My stay at Camp Nerd Fitness (pictures)

CNET's Michael Franco and hundreds of other nerds spend four days at a woodsy Georgia fitness camp geared to those who love sci-fi and gaming. There are zombies. There isn't cake.


Michael Franco

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For four days in early October, 300 nerds -- including CNET's Michael Franco -- descended on the hills of north Georgia to participate in Camp Nerd Fitness, an outgrowth of the popular Nerd Fitness blog, website and health program that helps you "level up your life." Here are Michael's impressions.

The first night of camp brought a zombie game, starting with Nerd Fitness employee Adam Baker, aka patient zero. If you were human, you wore your orange bandanna anywhere below your shoulders. If someone grabbed you and said, "You're a zombie," you were officially converted and had to move the bandanna to a spot above your shoulders and begin turning other humans into the walking dead.

If you said "zombie" or croaked out a good "Carl" (from the AMC show "The Walking Dead") you could ward off the attack. I got turned almost immediately after the game started. I am not vigilant.

A dog belonging to one of the staff members at the retreat center where camp was held got his very own orange bandanna tied around his neck and quickly -- and affectionately -- became known as "Zombie Dog."

All photos courtesy of Will Byington Photography.

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Oh, the Humanity

Throughout the duration of camp, a game room available all day and all night offered board and card games like Exploding Kittens and Candyland, as well as lots of Cards Against Humanity. Lots.

Two large flat screens made it possible to play games like Mario Kart and Rock Band.

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Beacon of Gondor

Venues at the Kaplan Mitchell Retreat and Conference Center in Clayton, Georgia, where camp was held, got nerdy monikers. The fire pit, which we could only use on the first night due to rain, was called the Beacon of Gondor. Other site titles included the Panem Training Grounds, the Holodeck, Luigi's Mansion, Winterfell and Rivendell.

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Choosing a guild

On the first night of camp, we were asked to pick a button that indicated the guild we belonged to. Guilds were determined by the type of fitness activity campers most liked. Among the choices were monks, who were into martial arts; warriors, who liked powerlifting; rangers, who were into functional fitness; and druids, who chose softer activities like yoga and meditation. I was a druid.

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Nom nom

Every day featured a different set of cooking courses from Michelle Tam, author of the "Nom Nom Paleo" cookbook that served as the basis for meals served in the dining hall at camp.

Included with the fee for camp, campers got three meals per day, plus one lighter snack. There was also fruit, tea and coffee available all day. Not served: dairy products or anything made with sugar or grains.

While I found the food selections a little less than exciting and would have traded my iPad (my original one, not my new one) for a piece of cake by the fourth day, I did lose about 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) over the course of camp. Since being back home, I have reduced my sugar intake.

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En garde!

One of the most popular courses at camp was this one in the basics of sword fighting taught by Dakao Do. Although campers used PVC pipes in place of swords, all said the workout was surprisingly strenuous.

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Pop a squat

Many of the classes at Camp Nerd Fitness focused on the idea of "moving weird" -- putting the body in unusual positions to become more flexible, stronger and injury-proof. The idea is that the more you move in ways your body isn't used to, the better you'll be able to handle that strange movement you make when you open the cabinet and reach to catch something that's falling -- without throwing out your back.

Indeed, one of the most useful classes I attended was injury prevention, taught by Kate Galliett, who runs the Fit For Real Life website.

Also helpful were classes taught by primal-movement advocate Jonathan Mead. Here, Mead shows the resting squat, a position he advocates on his site, Move Heroically.

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Getting bendy

Yoga classes at camp were held at a beautiful outdoor pavilion overlooking a lake. The classes ranged from beginner to more advanced, such as this one in hand balances led by Kate Marolt. Like so many of the instructors at camp, Marlot's refreshing instruction focused on working in harmony with the body, rather than pushing it to do tasks it might not be suited for.

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Slacker dude

Yep, that's me (with my zombie bandanna) standing on a 2-inch-wide wobbly strap, getting by with a little help from my newfound nerd friends.

Slacklining, taught by Jim Bathurst of Beast Skills, emerged as my favorite class at camp. If you're unfamiliar with it, you stretch a nylon strap between two points (two trees do nicely) and then cinch it up till it's tight. You then walk on it. Simple, right?

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'Cause, play!

After all the listening, cooking, lifting and stretching on the first day, campers enjoyed a cosplay party complete with DJ and a cash bar featuring beer or wine. Here, a group that clearly flew in from Gotham, assembles.

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More cosplay

The cosplay party featured some truly impressive costumes, including a few assassins. The white-robed assassin in the back left corner is Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, who said during an "ask me anything" session that Assassin's Creed ranks as one of his top all-time favorite games.

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The Blob

Despite rain and pretty chilly temperatures, some hearty campers braved The Blob -- a giant float in the lake. One camper sat at the far end of The Blob and got propelled into the water when another jumped onto the end closest to the dock.

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Jason, you so crazy

Lots of us thought The Blob bouncers were a bit crazy to go swimming on a chilly fall day. One camper was clearly a little more crazy than the others.

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Glowing with the flow

The second night of Camp Nerd Fitness featured a "glow" party in which campers ditched their cosplay outfits in favor of glow sticks, flashing lights, EL wire and fluorescent clothes that lit up under the black lights strung up by the Nerd Fitness staff just hours earlier. There was even a glowing limbo line.

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Badges? You needed badges

Throughout camp you could complete a variety of "quests" to earn different badges represented by buttons you put on your name-tag strap.

I got a few, including the "Nerd Quest" badge, which I earned by playing a game of Cards Against Humanity; wearing a cape for an hour of camp activities (loaned to me by another helpful camper); playing a board game (Space Alert); dressing up on costume night and snapping a picture with someone who enhanced my ensemble; and choosing my guild (druid).

I didn't complete the "Social Quest" badge because, um... introvert!

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Don't drop Steve

During the closing ceremonies, we lifted the founder of Nerd Fitness, Steve Kamb, above our heads for some serious crowd surfing. After a few minutes, we raised the chant "don't drop Steve." We didn't.

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Headmasters and wizards

Camp ran super smoothly, thanks to the people in this picture -- the instructors (headmasters), volunteers (wizards) and Nerd Fitness staff members. There was always someone close by to point you to a venue, help you get in a yoga pose or pitch in to help you earn another badge.

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Trading pants

The party on the final night was Rubik's Cube-themed. You started by wearing pieces of clothing representing each of the six colors of a Rubik's Cube: red, yellow, orange, blue, white and green. You then traded with your fellow nerds to get yourself dressed in a solid color. Then you started again.

Yes, I did take my pants off in a room full of hundreds  to complete the task.

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Camp Nerd Fitness drew 300 this year, double the number who attended last year, the first year camp was held.

If you're interested in finding out about Camp Nerd Fitness 2016, you can sign up for updates here. This year, the cost to stay in a group bunk was $825 (about £542, AU$1132) per person, while semi-private bunks were available for $895 (about £588, US$1228) per person. That included all classes, lodging and meals.

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