I am a big fan of the AMC show The Walking Dead. In fact, while I am not an aficionado of all things zombie, I really enjoy fiction that pertains to a zombie apocalypse. It isn’t so much the zombies themselves that I find fascinating (although I love/fear zombies), but rather it is the way that zombie fiction examines the way that people might react if civilization were to suddenly break down. It is easy to look at the breakdown of society as it is portrayed in zombie fiction and extrapolate how that fictional breakdown might compare to what might be seen in any number of possible doomsday scenarios (e.g., global pandemic, worldwide financial crash, mega-tsunami, etc.).
So how can we have a little fitness fun with a zombie theme? Well, how about a workout focused on the physical fitness necessary to survive a zombie apocalypse? Physical fitness will undoubtedly be a useful trait to have in the event of a zombie apocalypse. And with all due respect, I don’t know that Jesse Eisenberg’s character Columbus in the movie Zombieland was correct making cardio rule #1. While all fitness qualities will be important in a zombie apocalypse and aerobic fitness will be important in recovering from demanding bouts of anaerobic exertion, I think strength will take precedence. Life is easier when you are strong. I don’t see that changing just because the world is populated by zombies. In hand-to-hand combat with a zombie, power will be important. You can’t be powerful if you are not strong. Besides, we can certainly train our aerobic and anaerobic fitness within a comprehensive fitness program while also getting stronger and training our strength/power endurance.
Keep in mind that your level of fitness relative to other survivors will likely be important. You can be a kick-ass accountant, but in a zombie apocalypse your value will not be judged by your ability to avoid I.R.S. entanglements. Slower, weaker, less-capable survivors are likely to be known by terms such as “lunch” or “not-so-fast food.” Hey, it isn’t my fault that the zombie apocalypse is likely to be a cutthroat place. Besides, if you are fit and strong, you can certainly choose to take care of the less-fit, less-capable survivors.
Below is a workout that you can do to train for a zombie apocalypse along with a rationale for the exercises chosen. There is definitely a conditioning aspect to this workout, as well as an emphasis on strength/power endurance. The workout should take approximately an hour to complete. If you have any questions as to how to perform a particular exercise or you need to modify an exercise, you should consult with a qualified fitness/sport performance professional. Enjoy!
Warm-up/Dynamic Mobility (~7-10 minutes): 3-5 minutes of general movement (e.g., jogging, rowing, jumping rope, etc.) followed by 4 to 5 minutes of movements that take the body through a functional range of motion (e.g., dynamic toe-touches, squats, lunges). IMPORTANT NOTE: A proper warm-up may not be possible if you are suddenly faced with an actual zombie “incident.” In such a situation, you just have to react strongly with determination and rely on your fitness and training. 🙂
Zombie Apocalypse Survival Circuit (~30 minutes) (40 seconds on / 20 seconds off for 4 rounds): You try to perform as many repetitions as you can (with good form) of a particular exercise during the forty-second work interval before transitioning to the next exercise in the circuit during the twenty-second rest interval. For any exercises that require a form of external resistance (i.e., the Medicine Ball Slams or Sledgehammer Strikes on a Tire and the Two-hand Dumbbell or Kettlebell Farmer Walk), choose a weight that will be challenging to train with for the forty-second work interval. Progress through each exercise in the circuit once until you have completed one round, then repeat the circuit until you have finished four complete rounds.
Circuit Exercise #1) Medicine Ball Slams or Sledgehammer Strikes on a Tire — Hand-to-Hand combat with zombies will require a survivor to strike powerfully and strike often. This portion of the workout simulates making a number of “killing blows” on multiple zombies. It can also simulate more mundane and less violent tasks such as chopping firewood.
Circuit Exercise #2) Jump Squat (hard) or Bodyweight Squat (not-quite-as-hard) — Strong, powerful legs with the endurance to keep pushing will come in handy during a zombie apocalypse. This exercise simulates the jumps that might be necessary to reach an overhanging tree branch or a fire escape ladder that will allow you to get above and out of reach of a pursuing mob of zombies.
Circuit Exercise #3) Chin-up/Pull-up (hard) or Band-assisted Chin-up/Pull-up / Inverted Row / TRX Low Row (not-quite-as-hard) — Possessing the relative strength necessary to pull your bodyweight to an overhanging object will serve you well during a zombie apocalypse. This exercise simulates the effort needed to pull yourself up to an overhanging tree limb, a fire escape, or through a window in an effort to escape the zombie horde.
Circuit Exercise #4) Push-up (hard) or Hands-elevated Modified Push-up (not-quite-as-hard) — This exercise simulates the strong push that might be required to counter the charge of a ravenous zombie or to close a door against the push of a resisting zombie.
Circuit Exercise #5) Two-hand Dumbbell or Kettlebell (one each hand) Farmer Walk — The need to carry heavy objects may be a fact of life for laborers in their daily, zombie-free existence. But in a zombie apocalypse the ability to carry heavy loads will likely be required of all survivors, at least on occasion. Grip strength and pillar (abs, back, hips) strength are critical to this ability. This exercise simulates carrying heavy essentials (e.g., ammo, food, fuel, water, etc.) from one location to another.
Circuit Exercise #6) Stationary Bike — A bicycle could turn out to be a very useful mode of transportation during a zombie apocalypse. After all, bicycles don’t require fuel (aside from the food required to fuel the human engine) and they are relatively silent. Moreover, perhaps a bicycle crank mechanism might be a part of an electrical generation system. Just imagine that little Timmy needs emergency surgery and you are responsible for supplying the electrical power to the operating room. Pedal hard and don’t let little Timmy down!
Rest for approximately two to five minutes after completing four rounds of the circuit and then move on to the conditioning portion of the workout.
Conditioning (~8-10 minutes):
Rower “Escape from Zombie Beach” (1 x 2000m) — This portion of the workout simulates an escape from a zombie-infested beach. But you can’t take it easy once you get off the sand and into the surf. In addition to zombies on the beach, it is low tide and there are also packs of zombies wading in the water. Finally, you need to reach the rescue ship off shore that is taking on survivors. You can’t leisurely row to the ship once you are out of the reach of the zombies on the beach and in the shallows, as the ship has a limited capacity and there are other survivors in boats frantically rowing for the rescue craft. As I said before, the zombie apocalypse is likely to be a cutthroat place. So row HARD!
Cool-down/Static Flexibility (~5 minutes): Now is the time to work on improving or maintaining your flexibility while also easing down from your zombie survival-inspired exertions. Here you should perform static stretches for each of the major muscle groups (e.g., hamstrings, quadriceps). Hold each stretch for fifteen to thirty seconds and perform two to four sets of each stretch. Be sure to breathe! It separates you from the zombies.
IMPORTANT LEGAL REMINDER: Any exercise program carries certain possible risks up to, and including, death or disability. Please consult with your physician or other health care provider before giving this workout a try. The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Workout won’t do you any good if you end up hurt or worse. You have been warned!