Struggling to Reach a Goal? Turn it into a Boss Battle.

When was the last time you had a real boss battle in your life?

If you’ve played board or video games, it might seem obvious that competition and “survival of the nerdiest” can help us hone our skills:

  • Playing Call of Duty or League of Legends with an elite squad and watching your kill/death ratio climb. Players of similar skill levels can be matched together through a ranking system within the League of Legends. You may check it out on websites like MOBA Champion.
  • Playing Mario Kart against friends and enjoying the rollercoaster of emotions that comes from climbing from last to first just before crossing the finish line. Especially if you have played Mario Kart on a 4k HDR gaming TV, like the ones sold by VIZIO (you can look for the reference here), you would probably know that each scene from the game feels alive, which can intensify the rollercoaster of emotions further.
  • Leveling up high enough in World of Warcraft to get to take on dragons and guild raids.
  • Playing chess online to see if we can rank up in our skills.
  • Playing Wizards of the Coast RPG games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, as well as titles like Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, or Cones of Dunshire with friends or in actual competition.

So, the idea of a boss battle might be something you are familiar, but as nerds, it tends to be with a controller or board game.

If you want to stay on target, and level up your life (and make some friends in the process), taking these boss battles into the physical realm creates the kind of positive stress that can lead to growth in our body and mind.

Boss battles (and the treasure that comes with victory) can help you level up your life.

Why Should We create boss battles?


When we set ourselves up with a real life Boss Battle, it makes the day-to-day exercise we perform that much more meaningful.

Whatever it is, a great boss battle has three specific things:

  • It’s challenging. It’s something that will make you push and reach and sacrifice and work hard to actually complete. Nobody likes a boss battle you can defeat without breaking a mental sweat. The satisfaction from defeating a boss that took all of your energy and brought you to your final heart container is thrilling.
  • It has a specific date and time or place. Regardless of the challenge, the boss battle is going to happen in a certain place at a certain time. When you put all three pieces of the Triforce in the right place, Gannon will show up. When you enter this room, the door will lock behind you and you need to defeat a particular boss. You know it’s coming, so you better be prepared for it.
  • There’s a treasure associated with it. Yeah, boss battles are fun, but they also serve a purpose. When you defeat a boss, you earn something rewarding: the key to the next dungeon, a new item, a better sword, stronger armor, and more.

Now, you may be thinking: “But Steve, why should I care about having real life boss battles?” Boss battles can help keep us on track with our goals, ensure we’re moving forward, and set us up for success:

  • Boss Battles give us a unifying goal to work to build our workouts and nutrition around. “Ugh, another workout” becomes “I am gaining strength points to level up my avatar until my powerlifting boss battle.” Like the gameJourney, you can always see the top of the mountain in the distance, guiding you towards the goal like the North Star guided sailors. Every workout, every meal, every decision is done in the name of leveling yourself up to be as prepared as possible for the boss battle.
  • Boss battles give us instant accountability. We can lie to ourselves all we want, and we can listen to our friends tell us “come on, you look fine, skip this workout.” We can skip the end of our workouts and make up excuses to ourselves justifying poor eating. But when you sign up in advance for a boss battle, the accountability of “I have to do this, whether I’m ready or not” can be the reason that gets you off the couch.
  • There’s a reward! Completing the boss battle is an opportunity to give yourself positive rewards to keep you on track (aka treasure): a new pair of running shoes for a marathon completed, a one-month training mentorship with a great teacher if you actually test for your next belt, new lifting shoes if you hit your 6 month goal, etc.
  • It’s a good kind of stress. Whether it’s the morning jitters before a race, or that moment before you step on the stage to complete your complex training routine for judges, those extra beats per minute in your heart are telling you you’re doing something important that you care about. This is called eustress, and it’s good for us :)
  • Because of the added stress and anticipation, you learn what you’re truly capable of. You’ll always push yourself harder in a boss battle. You’ll run faster, lift more, and perform at higher levels because of the atmosphere and situation.

So what does a “real life boss battle” look like? It could be a formal competitive atmosphere, like a 5k, an IRONMAN competition, or completing your first power-lifting competition. It might be also be a major milestone, like testing for your blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, only a boss could execute those side control chokes perfectly.

Heck, it might even be a decision to summon 20-seconds of courage and go out to finally play that first ultimate frisbee game with new friends. Or maybe you set a goal to nail a 225 deadlift or 8 minute mile by May 31, and that’s your boss battle.

Are you in? Great. Let’s create some bosses.

How do i build a boss battle?

Bronwyn Deadlift

Okay, ready to compete in your very own boss battle? Grab your Master Sword, put on your green tunic, and use the Master Key to go fight Gomha. Kidding. It’s a little bit different than that, but the sentiment is the same. What’s important is that is has the three parts of a boss battle:

  • A specific date and time for completion – “yes I succeeded” or “no I didn’t.”
  • Some level of accountability (public competition, friends, etc.)
  • There’s a reward associated with it!

Ultimately, it comes down to you having a big goal to complete or milestone to cross on a specific date and a reward associated with it. I’m a big fan of public accountability and pre-paying for an event so you’re “pot committed.”

Let’s start building your boss battle!

  • Identify the discipline you want to learn, the milestone you want to reach, or the type of tournament you plan on competing in.
  • Get pot committed as quickly as possible. Build up your 20 seconds of courage and sign up before you can start thinking too much about it and back out. Mail your check and figure out the rest later! The competition/event/whatever is infinitely more real when you have financial skin in the game. Is your Boss Battle free? Then find another way to get committed: tell friends, have others help keep you accountable, etc.
  • Identify your reward for completing the boss battle. As Legend of Zelda taught us, reward yourself with things that reward you back. A new pair of shoes, a shirt you’ve always wanted in a smaller size (or a larger size), a month pass to a rock climbing gym, a new video game, whatever works for you!
  • Reverse engineer your training plan. If your boss battle is 10 weeks from now, then you can determine how often you need to train and what level you need to be after 2 weeks, 5 weeks, 8 weeks, etc. If you are going to deadlift 405 at the next Powerlifting meet, you can figure out what sort of strength increases you should be making weekly in order to bring it to life.
  • Get started. If possible, start yesterday. As that’s not an option, today will have to do.

Once you have built your boss battle, suddenly every decision you make each day carries just a bit more importance. With a boss battle looming, is skipping your workout today a smart decision? Sure, if you eat two entire pizzas nobody will be the wiser…when the battle comes your armor might not fit and you’ll get squashed by Bowser!

We never leave our post in the Rebellion :)

Public boss battles


While boss battles don’t have to be public and competitive, there is a huge benefit in making your boss battle something that can be experienced with others.

Remember: It doesn’t matter if you take first place or compete perfectly. After all, when you finish a boss you don’t expect to come out with 100% life. All that matters is you killed the bad guy.

Public competition can work in your favor – helping you to stay accountable and to put your best foot forward when the time comes to slay the dragon. The types of competition listed below are the good kind – the kind in which you might be competing against others…but really your boss battle is like the Water level in Level of Zelda Ocarina of Time: you are battling yourself. If you’re interested in public boss battles, look below:

Powerlifting competitions: we have a ton of NF rebels who compete regularly in powerlifting competitions. Our very own Brownyn, mother of two who lost a ton of weight while gaining strength, now competes in powerlifting competitions.We even have quarterly virtual powerlifting competitions on our Message Boards if you don’t live near a place that you can compete. Search here for lifting competitions in your area.

Running races: 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, sprint triathlons, etc. Sure you’re competing against the racers around you, but you’re actually competing against your previous best time for that distance! Never run one before? Your boss battle can simply be completing the race. Races can be a serious part of your journey to a healthy life! It worked for Robin!

Adventure races: Spartan Races, Obstacle Courses, Tough Mudders, Glo Runs,Warrior Dashes, …it’s the type of race I can get behind. Scared to try? Level up and turn your boss battle into a group raid! Gather a team of friends, put on matching themed costumes, and run together.

Martial Arts: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a favorite of Baker, the Gamification Juggernaut on Team NF. There’s a belt ranking system, regularly scheduled tournaments and good natured competitions. Plus, it’s one hell of a workout. Karate, Tai Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Capoeira – there are so many different martial arts style to choose from, and many boss battle opportunities within each!

Boxing: Just because you don’t plan on making it to the level of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao doesn’t mean you can’t box for fun! We have a success story from Dave who now competes as an amateur boxer!

Crossfit competitions: If you love to lift and miss collegiate athletics or simply want a supportive community, Crossfit is a great place to look. Heck, they’re even televising the CrossfFit games on ESPN these days. (Our thoughts on Crossfit areexplained thoroughly here.)

Other competitions: Ballroom Dancing, Swing Dancing, etc!

WHAT’s Your boss battle and treasure?


You know the drill at this point. I want to hear from you – what’s a Boss Battle you can add into your life to keep you focused and targeted? And what’s the treasure earned upon delivering that satisfying fatal blow?

Share it in the comments below. Feel free to add an epic name to your boss battle, and dress up the treasure, and give it some character. I mean, come on, this is Nerd Fitness! Also, feel free to share your favorite game boss battle of all time!

“As a scout, I will battle my fellow competitors for the sacred running of the Spartans. Upon completion of this test that will challenge me mentally, physically, and emotionally, I shall finally earn the Boss Battle’s treasure: the winged Sandals of Mercury (new Nike running shoes).”

Bonus points for being creative.