Posts Tagged ‘zombie’

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).

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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.

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I was sent this a while ago but never got around to reading it…until last night and I couldn’t put it down. The writing style and first person narrative lends itself to a quick read whilst the plot was, literally, addictive. Though I’ve been on a bit of a zombie horror binge of late, I’ve been very lucky with my choices. Most are recommendations from great and trusted sources; Fiend was a stab in the dark that struck gold.

When Chase Daniels sees the little girl in umbrella-print socks disemboweling the Rottweiler, he’s not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to such horrifying drug-fueled hallucinations. But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. And with Chase’s life already destroyed beyond all hope of redemption, Armageddon might actually be an opportunity–a last chance to hit restart, win back the love of his life, and become the person he once dreamed of being.

The opening gambit is a pure drug fuelled hypnotic hallucination that doesn’t stop. Chase, the protagonist and the most self-serving junkie in literature, and his friend Typewriter John have been on a meth smoking bender for a week. Thinking the dog chomping little girl is at first imaginary and, then, a substance induced hallucination of a child who they just murdered by mistake, the pair go on the run. However, it dawns on them that the abandoned streets and Chase’s dead neighbour may be connected to something greater.

Drug addled and at their mental breaking point, Chase and Typewriter not only have to dodge a bunch of reanimated corpses intent on eating them, they have the even greater worry of their crushing addiction. After some hair-raising adventures, Chase manages to save his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and the gang head out to a dealer’s cabin in the woods to set up the good life, away from the zombies but mainly, and more importantly, with the man who can cook meth. Things go typically pear shaped as the junkies lose perspective and control and the happy gang are soon losing members in their strange struggle to survive the apocalypse.

Chase works out that it’s the meth that has saved them from the disease which has claimed the rest of the population. But, whilst the addiction that has ruined them becomes suddenly condoned, it changes nothing. The book is a gripping and heart-wrenching meditation on the vile and desperate need of drug addiction; the pointless and self loathing constant, the ceaseless and unsatisfied itch, and the weird zen like moment of self-destruction of the hit that never lasts or does all that it promises to do. Fiend is a powerful read.

The writing style sucks you in to the conniving and selfish world of Chase and his friends. The desperation for meth and the dirty, consuming highs and lows pour from the page, creating an entangling and hypnotic narrative. The horror of chasing the next hit is almost worse than Stenson’s super creepy, giggling version of the zombie.

It’s like Breaking Bad mashed together with The Walking Dead, told from the perspective of the most scabby, greasy dishonest junkie available. But, Stenson’s novel is so much more. It picks away at what’s underneath the addiction to the heart of these very damaged characters. It is there that the book does so much. It highlights the lose of innocence, the desperation and loneliness and the deep desire to return to a place of happiness; to rewind the clock and never make that first, damning mistake. Fiend is a zombie horror on its surface, a strung out meth novel underneath but, at its heart, a polemic on the human condition and it is fantastic.

Review copy
Published by William Heinemann

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I came late to the zombie party. A few years ago I picked up World War Z by Max Brooks just before I started watching The Walking Dead and, though it has taken me a while to join the shambling hordes in their appreciation of the sub-genre, I’ve definitely got a hunger for more zombie apocalypse books. (Ok, enough of the bad puns.) I’ve recently started a small collection of zombie literature; Zone One by Colson Whitehead came highly recommended and for a number of good reasons.

A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown’s Fort Wonton have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the three-person civilian sweeper units tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Zone One unfolds over three surreal days in which Spitz is occupied with the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD), and the impossible task of coming to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go terribly wrong…

Zone One is an exceptional book. It has everything expected of a zombie novel but it offers it up using a language and style that is both meandering and luxurious. This adds another layer to the story, pulling you in and wrapping you up in the thoughts of the protagonist. It’s not to be overlooked. Whilst it is not the gut punch of an all-out action book, Whitehead’s tale is a devastating and creepy story, just as powerful and just as addictive to read. Similarly to The Walking Dead (TV show), Zone One is concerned with the affect that the apocalypse has on the survivors. Whitehead’s characters are brilliantly sketched, small details creating believable and relatable actors. The protagonist, ‘Mark Spirtz’ (a nickname with a story that is slowly revealed adding another intriguing and distinct layer to the novel) is painted as Mr mundane, middle-of-the-road. He’s not a military/commando/prepper ready for anything. He’s an unexceptional young man with small dreams which, apparently, is exactly what is required to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The book is told in a series of flashbacks and present scenarios, recalling the main character’s journey to Zone One (a cleared area in New York) through a landscape of survivors all dealing with the terrible realities of ‘the last night’ and the attempts to stay alive. It is those flashbacks that reveal so much. That, just like the inevitable zombie attack, every fellow survivor is a ticking time bomb. This claustrophobic realisation that nowhere is safe and no one is untouched by the horror and insanity of their shared nightmare is pervasive; a creeping terror that powers the book forward.

Zone One is a stunning work of fiction that looks at the zombie apocalypse concept and considers the psychological toll it would have on any survivors whilst simultaneously dropping the reader into a horror story of epic proportions.

The long and short – Definitely worth reading.

Published by Vintage.
My own copy.