San Francisco — The first sign of what is to come at Nerdstrong Gym in North Hollywood is the red welcome mat: It’s in the shape of a Dungeons & Dragons 10-sided die. The equipment inside includes 25-pound steel clubs (for the potions class portion of a Harry Potter workout, among others). A gray concrete wall is painted with pixelated Space Invaders from the 1970s video game. And the gym’s handbook reassures members that workouts can be scaled from Padawan to Jedi Master (that’s Star Wars for “pretty easy” to “really hard”).
Since this gym opened in 2013, members — many driving an hour across crowded freeways to get there — have kicked down dungeon doors, defeated the Death Star, raided ancient temples with Indiana Jones and battled Coily alongside QBert, the 1982 arcade game. An Eye of Sauron workout, drawn from “The Lord of the Rings,” features step-ups (Frodo and Sam had to climb a lot of stairs) and sandbags (evoking Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom). Every three minutes, when the Eye of Sauron sweeps across the gym, everyone has to drop into a plank position until it passes.
“If I Google ‘God of War workout,’ I get a bunch of workouts that make you look like the God of War,” said Andrew Deutsch, 45, the gym’s founder, referring to a series of video games. “I want to do movements that make you feel like you’re in the game.”