The threat of bath salts may now be a distant memory, but with US military and police personnel taking part in organized anti-zombie training regimens, it’s about time we regular people prepare ourselves for a threat that may very well overtake us sooner than later.
“Zombies? Really?” you might be asking out loud. Okay, so maybe the undead might not be on the verge of rising up and sweeping across the land, but the requisite fitness base you need to take on this threat could be just the kick start you workouts need. Worst case scenario: you look damn sexy when your neighbor’s corpse rises up and chews off a chunk of your muscular six pack!
FIRST AID: CARDIO
The one thing you are going to need above all others is a superior set of lungs and a strong heart to match it. Let’s face it: when the End of Days is upon us, you’ll be doing a lot of running! Not only will you need to be able to run for long periods of time, you’ll need to recover from short rest periods and be able to turn on the afterburners every so often. Will the zombies be ambling about slowly or sprinting a la the occasional British horror flick? Better safe than sorry!
Two areas that you cannot afford to neglect are your aerobic base and aerobic endurance. These levels can be determined by various gas exchange tests and gauged with heart rate monitors, but when the gas station attendant rises from the dead and comes chomping at your ankles, there may not be time to strap on the belt and watch necessary to constantly check your pulse. It’s easier to simply break down these two areas of your conditioning.
Your aerobic base is—at its simplest description—a level at which you are efficient at using oxygen to burn fat for fuel. Regardless of the activity, everything you partake in up to this level of intensity is something your body can handle with relative ease. Is walking around the block easy for you? Good, that’s an indicator that it falls below your aerobic base. Now what if you jogged around the block? Can you carry on a conversation or are you desperately gasping for breath? This falls into the next intensity level up the ladder: aerobic endurance.
This is where your cardiovascular training needs to be focused. By improving in this area, you will effectively pull up your aerobic base, meaning the intensity of work at which you dominate will be higher. Translation: you will no longer be huffing and puffing as your run through the mall in a desperate search for shelter. (Tip: avoid the mall during a zombie apocalypse.)
Finally, there are likely going to be a lot of times where you will have to find your top gear and book it away from the undead hordes. Sprinting is an anaerobic activity, meaning that it does not use oxygen. This is carbs-only territory as far as fuel consumption is concerned, and places a high demand on your system. The point where you cross from aerobic endurance into this area is referred to as your anaerobic threshold. Work above this (via sprinting) will result in this threshold raising, meaning that you’ll be able to do plenty of fast jogging before you are truly sprinting. This can turn out to be quite handy when the zombies just don’t seem to be disappearing!
There are many ways to train these three areas (aerobic base, aerobic endurance, and anaerobic threshold), but let’s keep it simple. The focus here is efficiency, meaning that you need to train hard so that the work becomes easier.
CARDIO WORKOUT A: ZONE TRAINING (2 – 3 times per week)
Always warm-up before your workout. You don’t want to risk pulling a muscle, especially when it means life or death! Now, let’s make our zones easier. Let’s rename aerobic base as Level 1, and nickname it “Walking”; aerobic endurance becomes Level 2 (“Jogging”), and anaerobic threshold becomes Level 3 (“sprinting”).
Do Level 1 for three minutes, then level 2 for two minutes. Another Level 1 for three minutes, followed by Level 2 for four minutes, Level 3 for one minute, and Level 2 for two minutes. All in, this workout takes 15 minutes. If you can, repeat it two more times (for a total of 45 minutes), and follow it with five minutes of a gentle walk to cooldown.
If this is a little too intense, increase the time spent at Level 1 and decrease the time spent in Level 2, but remember: the zombies don’t understand “Time Out”, so when you are ready to push it as written above, go for it!
CARDIO WORKOUT B: SPRINT INTERVALS (1 – 2 times per week)
Where Cardio Workout A aims to to improve your efficiency (running more and walking less so that running becomes easier) to keep you a step ahead of the zombies, Workout B wants to keep you as far away from death’s gaping maw as possible. Sprint intervals are simple: sprint really hard for 30 to 60 seconds, then recover with a walk or jog for a minute or two. Repeat this for a total of 7 sprints. As the undead curse will likely leave you short on time, there is a quicker workout here that will also get the job done.
Feel free to mix these workouts up between the outdoors and various indoor cardio machines (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.), but remember that when the plague strikes, you’ll be spending most of your time on foot. Now would be the time to invest in some good shoes!
SECOND STEP: KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
Without looking at your feet, do you know where they are? Do you know how that’s possible? It is the result of one of the least heralded senses: proprioception. Thanks to specialized fibers and cells in your body, you are constantly aware of your body in space. Training your ability to maintain balance while on an unstable surface is one way to improve your proprioceptors. Zombies are going to be popping up out of the woodwork, and do you know who they tend to get first? The people that trip and don’t get up fast enough. How do you avoid being that person? Don’t fall in the first place!
Avoid doing core work while flat on your back. At the very least, be seated with your feet up, as in a pike or Russian twist. In weight lifting, stand instead of sit when you perform a shoulder press or lat pulldown. If you can use a staggered stance (as in a split squat or lunge) or even do a unilateral lower body exercise (such as a one-legged deadlift or squat), even better! This is not to say you should avoid standard chest presses and squats, but keep unstable training in mind.
That said, incorporate other unstable exercises in your workouts. Bodyweight squats and lunges on a BOSU ball are excellent, as well as stepping forward, backward, and sideways off the BOSU. Can you perform a one-handed push-up? Now’s the time to try! Wobble boards and TRX straps can also challenge your proprioceptors. At least twice a week, incorporate unstable exercises into your lifting workout, such as below:
Squats (4 sets x8 reps)
Dumbell Chest Press (4×8)
Dumbell Row (4×8)
Push-Ups (3x as many as you can do)
Pull-Ups (3x as many as you can do)
Dips (3x as many as you can do)
BOSU Squats (3x 30 seconds)
BOSU Step-Ups (3x30s)
BOSU Reverse Lunges (3x30s)
BOSU Side Step-Ups (3x30s)
Russian Twist (3×15)
On another day, dedicate an entire workout to unstable exercises. Here’s an example:
TRX Chest Press (3×10)
TRX Flye (3×10)
TRX Triceps Extension (3×10)
TRX Row (3×10)
TRX Reverse Flye (3×10)
TRX Curl (3×10)
TRX Suspended Lunge (3×10)
TRX Hamstring Curl (3×10)
TRX Pike (3×10)
The above examples went on the assumption that you have access to dumbbells, a BOSU ball, and TRX straps. If you don’t, that’s fine! Remember, it’s about challenging your balance. Single leg, multi-joint, standing movements should be your focus. This emphasizes your core and involves your whole body. The zombies don’t care what your home gym or health club looked like, they’ll simply pick off the easiest prey in the flock. Don’t be caught unawares!
BE A SURVIVOR!
The zombie apocalypse may not happen, but if it does, cardiovascular fitness and a strong core are going to be your saviors. You’ll be fit and agile, and when the smoke clears and the time to repopulate is upon us, you and the rest of the hotties will be glad you trained for this moment!