I often like to fantasize about the end of the world. What’s your weapon of choice? Would you rather holed up in a Costco or a Walmart? Who are the 3 friends you would choose to be part of your supply run squad? It’s fun right!?
Another question I can’t get out of my head is how prepared I am for such an event. The obvious investments should be in weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, farming, foraging, hunting, and all the doomsday prepping essentials but let’s just focus on strictly physical preparation. Here is how I would train for the Zombie Apocalypse:
1. Get Farm-Boy Strong
I’m sorry but I don’t think a barbell snatch or stringing together 10 butterfly kips on the pull-up bar, as impressive they are, will come in handy during the Zombie Armageddon. Focusing on very low-skill, basic movements will have a higher carryover and return. Even simple movements like barbell squats and deadlifts can be highly technical and they don’t necessarily help you pick up a rock or human body outside. In the Zombie Apocalypse, we don’t care about honing our exercise skills, we just want to be stronger humans. One of the most functional pieces of equipment in this regard is the sandbag- pick it up, carry it, throw it, and press it. A sled also allows you to strengthen and condition your body with almost no barrier to entry and a minimal learning curve. Good ol' Dad Strength may be more dependable than gym fitness when the end times are upon us.
2. Break the Rules
In the fitness community we tend to get caught up in the pageantry of sport and the aesthetics of movement but zombies do not give a f*ck about how pretty your performance looks, let alone your form or technique, all they want to do is eat your brains. They aren’t going to wait for you to foam roll for 30 minutes before you run away. They also won’t give you time to put on your lifting shoes or knee sleeves before you barricade the door with a piano. There’s nothing wrong with training for efficiency but these optimal positions and movements will rarely be available in the chaotic zombie aftermath. If you can only move once you're in perfect alignment, you’re zombie food. Train in a controlled environment such as the gym for the uncontrolled environment of life that’s filled with surprises and unknown variables.
Young mammals use play to train and build life skills like hunting, fighting, and socializing. This organic style of training offers variability, neurological benefits, problem solving, and coordination. Play builds a strength that is more reactive and demands solutions to movement situations. It’s something you just can’t replicated by performing repetitive exercises with a dead piece of equipment. The key is to be able to adapt your movement to the task that presents itself and physically solve a problem. In the dystopian, zombie-filled landscape, the only wrong movement is failure to survive. If I had to chose between an Olympic Track Gold Medalist and the World Champion Freeze Tag Player to be on my squad, I’m going with the latter option all day, the option that can solve much more complex problems. The Zombie Apocalypse isn’t a race, it’s a game of tag.
4. Embrace the Suck
Much of the modern world suffers from a disease of affluence. We are so adapted to the conveniences and comforts of life that any drop from our current baseline will cause up to plummet into a state of stress and dis-ease. To prepare ourselves for the unforgiving nature of the Zombie Apocalypse, let’s start limiting these crutches that have
saved us robbed us of movement, variability, and healthy stressors. This may not seem like training because of how low intensity it is but this should make up the majority of Zombie Apocalypse training. How well would you fare if you had to walk everywhere for the next week, if you had to sleep on the ground for a night, or if you had to make a journey without your running shoes? There’s nothing wrong with the pleasures of modern technology but be wary of relying on that which may not always be there.
5. Cultivate your Gift
When assembling the dream Zombie Apocalypse Squad, I can't think of any generalist movers I'd chose. I mean, Rich Froning would be a pick, but he specializes in an elite sport (Crossfit). My ideal team would be comprised of specialists in different areas, with different skills and talents. We are often told to invest our training time into bringing up weaknesses and deficiencies but rarely are we told to double down on our physical strengths. Everyone has a passion whose boundaries they want to explore, one thing they naturally excel at, one thing they can contribute to the tribe. Find yours and see how far you can push it. It's not an imbalance, it's a gift you can one day offer your apocalyptic crew of zombie killers.
Are We Prepared?
As fun as it is to ponder about a virus being unleashed upon the world that turns people into flesh-eating zombies, this training program doesn’t just apply to that hypothetical situation, it applies to the world we live in today. Go back and replace all the “Zombie Apocalypse’s” with “Life” or “Sports”. The world we face may not be as life-threatening but it still requires a physically prepared body. The reality is most people these days are living like zombies. Whether it’s a sedentary job or the walking dead on the treadmill at your local gym, many of us need to breathe life into our bodies. Make sure you build your available movement resources by getting strong AF within the basics, then play and explore your environment with them. The Zombie Apocalypse program is actually what I use with my clients.