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Fan of D&D Rolls Dice On Exercise

Two years ago, Andrew Deutsch and 15 of his Dungeons & Dragons-loving friends were battling bad guys in his garage. But this wasn’t a typical session of the fantasy roleplaying game where players become wizards, warriors or even supernatural creatures – it was an exercise routine. Soon word spread and Deutsch’s garage became crammed, leading him to open Nerdstrong, a gym in North Hollywood that welcomes self-identified nerds who want workouts inspired by their favorite video games and science-fiction movies. From “Star Wars” to Indiana Jones, workouts are geared toward making customers feel strong and powerful just like their favorite characters. Sometimes exercises are designed to mimic actions in films or games. But mostly the heroics are in the imagination. “I love the hero journey,” Deutsch said. “But every Sunday we infuse each workout with a bad guy. We want to make sure everyone feels included, not intimidated. We work against the workout, not against each other.” Since opening in June 2014, Deutsch said Nerdstrong has grown to 90 members, and he expects 150 by 2016. A membership costs $125 a month, or people can pay $15 a class. “We want Nerdstrong to be their third place – home, work, gym,” Deutsch said. Ryan Krane, owner of Ryan Krane Inc. fitness consultancy in Los Angeles, believes it’s a dicey proposition to tailor a gym for an audience not known for their love of fitness, so marketing the business will be crucial. “I’ve never heard of a model like this,” he said. “It’s a great idea to have a place to go where they feel comfortable, but how is he going to find the people? Is he going to incentivize them with (promotions) like refer a friend or a free membership?” Deutsch said he specifically focused on nerds because they are usually intimidated by regular gyms. He wanted to flip the script and offer an honest product, an authentic nerd-compatible workout. He tries to cultivate an atmosphere that’s supportive in a geeky way. “You have got to love what they love,” he said. “That we have so many people is a surprise.” Deutsch, who works as an art director, said he invested half of his 401(k) to launch the business, and he is the majority owner with four minority partners. Because Deutsch has a day job, the hours of the gym, at 13131 Sherman Way, are limited to early mornings and evenings, with an expanded schedule on weekends. Deutsch considers himself a nerd because he grew up on “Star Wars” and loves everything sci-fi, especially movies. “These are the things that stuck with me through my whole life,” he said. – Nicole Pinto

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