For the last decade I’ve been writing about combat sports and strength and conditioning for various magazines and websites. After my recent addiction to zombie novels, I thought I’d have a little fun and apply some fitness ideas to this worst-case horror scenario. I’m sure many of us have thought about what we’d do if an outbreak occurred, how we’d prepare and what weapons we’d gather in an attempt to survive against the flesh eating hordes who used to be our neighbours.*
Now, I’ve heard numerous sources, from films like Zombieland to smart phone apps, expressing that the most useful tool a person can have in a zombie apocalypse is cardio. Let’s consider this for a moment and break down what a zombie outbreak usually entails (as we suspend our disbelief for a little while).
Whether we are talking 28 Days Later with its fast moving, enraged and infected monsters or the classic George Romero slow, shuffling, brain eaters certain similarities remain. First, as fresh meat, you’ll be hunted. Second, other survivors are normally a threat as competition for food and water grows. Third, in most apocalyptic portrayals roads are chocked with vehicles and general mayhem, panic and loss of order has created a dangerous environment – we’re talking fires, floods and fighting.
Let’s go back and look at cardio in the sense of long distance endurance. Whilst on the surface being able to run for 10-20 miles at a reasonable pace might seem like a good idea, it really doesn’t match our criteria. There’s a fairly common argument in strength and conditioning circles about the benefit of long distance running, the main point being that it can cause damage to joints and is no more beneficial than walking. However, from a zombie apocalypse point of view those issues have little meaning. What does have weight is that, unless you’re an Olympic level marathon runner, your pace won’t be fast enough nor will your stamina last long enough for that kind of cardio to be of benefit.
More likely, you’ll want to sprint away from threats and recover quickly; jump and pull your body over obstacles; fight and maintain your mental acuity. Agility, power endurance and explosiveness are the keys to survival against both human and undead assailants. What I propose is a form of training that will give you the mental and physical strength and stamina to survive.
Sprinting is hard. Sprinting pushes your mind and body. It’s intense and great for apocalypse preparation. Pair it with full body or compound exercises and you have a decent platform for making yourself a survivor.
Training block A:
50 metre sprints with either a set of 10 pull ups/ dips or 20 push ups.
Sprint at top speed for 50 metres before jogging at a reasonable pace to the start line. If equipment allows, perform 10 pull ups or dips, if not perform press ups. Do this three times and rest for 60 seconds. Do as many rounds as possible building up over the training block.
Training block B:
Fartlek training (ok, stop sniggering).
Find a running track or field and map out about 800 metres. After a warm up round, jog the first 600 before sprinting the last 200 metres. Repeat this for as many rounds as possible but aim for between 20-30 minutes of exercise (and then hate me later).
I would look to alternate training between A and B each week, aiming for 3 sessions a week. Continue this training for a block of 4-6 weeks. Remember this is about intensity – sprint hard and push your limits. Afterwards, you’ll be more than prepared to evade a lurching flesh muncher, sprint away from danger, pull yourself over a wall and then wrestler a can of peaches from a filthy stranger. But, you’ll also be mentally stronger, knowing how hard you can push and how quickly you can recover. A fit body and a fit mind equals a survivor. And, let’s be honest, would you rather be a Jesse Eisenberg-esque character or would you prefer to be a Jason Stratham-ish all-action hero?
*Please make sure you have a base level of fitness before undertaking any strenuous exercise or seek the advice of a professional. This article is written for fun so be careful and use common sense.