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Zombie Warfare Preparation: Getting in Shape

Updated on June 14, 2016
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Christopher Peruzzi is surviving a zombie apocalypse. He is the author of "The Undead Rose" in the "Once Upon An Apocalypse" anthology.

Watch for the horde
Watch for the horde | Source

Do you think that your workout regimen is good enough for the zombie apocalypse?

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Just Keep Running

Zombie apocalypse movies make it look so easy.

One moment we see the movie’s protagonist watching television while eating a bag of Doritos and after all hell breaks loose and the undead are wandering the streets, he’s able to perform physically challenging feats that would make any Olympic decathlon winner vomit from exhaustion. Sure, we can write off some of that to the rush of adrenaline pumping through a zombie frightened anatomy as well as the fevered imagination of an anxious writer, but for the most part fat lazy bastards don’t last long when the undead have risen.

And yes, before you ask, I am a fat, lazy bastard.

Being a fat, lazy bastard (or FLB) who has a talent of seeing the necessity for zombie apocalypse preparedness steps, puts me in the unique position of seeing all the things that I would need to do in order to survive it. While it is paramount to understand that an FLB would want to conserve as much energy as possible and seek the path of least resistance for survival, there will always be the possibility an FLB will need to run at top speed to escape a horde of reanimated corpses.

This is best done without clutching at your own heart and keeling over.

Remember, it’s not the speed of the zombies you need to worry about; it is the obstruction of the hordes that will get you first. So, like a good football quarterback, one must not only learn to run fast but be able to “scramble” to avoid a clawing, biting opponent.

Run like hell!
Run like hell!

Fortunately, I’m not the only person in the world who thinks like this. Throughout this nation, enterprising young people have created new and difficult obstacle courses called “Zombie Runs” or “Zombie Obstacle Courses” where physically fit young men and women can put their prowess to the test. Usually these runs are a typical 5K run with an obstacle course. The runners are given belts with Velcro flags attached to them. Throughout the course there are several areas where costumed actors dressed as zombies will try to grab the runners’ flags. Lose all your flags and that’s it – you’re dead.

Speed and agility are what you need for this game. Those of you who would like a low cost way of preparing for this type of workout can download an app which will help you prep for this 5K run. I’m serious. You can download the programs for a Google, Apple, or Windows based device. It costs between $4 and $8 bucks. More information can be found at

As someone who looks at the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, I will say that running through a crowd of faux zombies who know you’re coming is not a true representation of what would happen – but it’s the closest we’re going to get and it’s good clean exercise.

Are speed and agility all you need to survive a real zombie apocalypse? No, you’ll need a bit more preparation.

A common strength training exercise used by the military is to run through water for extra resistance.
A common strength training exercise used by the military is to run through water for extra resistance. | Source

What Physical Talents do I Need for a Zombie Apocalypse?

I’m glad you asked.

Remember what I said the best strategy was for a zombie apocalypse? Right. Run away.

When the zombies come, be elsewhere. Don’t be anywhere where they can see, hear, or smell you. They live for one thing: To eat you… or someone like you. They do not sleep, breathe, tire, need food, drink, or go to the bathroom. They are dedicated 24/7/365 to getting you.

If you have a gun, you can go all “Bruce Campbell” on them with your lucky “boom stick”. But you don’t want to do that. It’s a lot of noise and you’ll attract the attention of other zombies. You will tire and run out of ammo before they stop coming. Gun play is used as a last resort. It’s also best done with a silencer.

So, what do you need? What talents should you develop to best survive an undead onslaught where it’s you and your best friends (hopefully… if not, you always have “zombie bait”) against them? Acknowledging the most likely activities you’ll be engaged in is the first step to answering these questions.

Here’s what you’ll need to work on in order of importance:

Physical Endurance – While you won’t need to be lightning fast, you will need to run long distances or do things for hours at a time. The initial adrenaline rush I spoke of earlier will help you in the beginning, but adrenaline is a cruel mistress and when it wears off it demands immediate payment by a total shutdown of your body. You’ll be doing a lot of small tasks for a very long time. What you will need to is develop a greater capacity to use your energy reserves.

Strength – Physical endurance and stamina is part of what you need. However, what you should be cognizant of is the actual amount of food, clothes, supplies, and equipment you’ll need to have with you at any given moment. A backpack of essentials will be your constant companion. In realizing that, you’ll have to carry an extra twenty to forty lbs. of extra stuff any time you are out and about. And sometimes, you’ll need to run with it.

There is also the matter of working with simple weapons like axes, sledgehammers, machetes, bows, crossbows, and long bladed knives. These weapons are silent and (with the exception of the crossbows) don’t require reloading. However, they do require some amount of strength to use continually against multiple opponents. If you don’t believe me, pick up a sledgehammer with a five pound head and use it for more than five minutes. You have to be strong to use it. The same can be said about the strength it takes to decapitate someone with an axe or sword.

Speed – In most cases, you won’t have to run quickly. Unfortunately, there will be times you’ll have to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!! Running is a necessary skill not only against zombies but other “less scrupulous” survivors. Remember, during a zombie apocalypse, it’s unlikely that the police will be around to save your butt. If you need to run to a car, truck, or motorcycle, you’d better be quick on your feet.

Agility – Relax, you won’t need to do flips, cartwheels, or even a flying “Jackie Chan” sidekick to any zombie. The agility I’m talking about is not on that level. You will need to dodge and scramble past walking brainless corpses. Remember these creatures are controlled by what biologists call “the reptile brain”. The cerebral cortex isn’t working but the basal ganglia is. They work off the immediate impulses that control rage and hunger. It’s the only part of their brain that is working. Kill that part of their brain and they go down for good.

Therefore, fake outs should work well if they’re coming at you.

In addition to that, you’ll probably need to climb things. It’s highly probable that you’ll need to climb a tree to escape a horde. You may also need to climb a steep rock face. The things hunting you don’t have the mental capacity to climb on anything. It’s a miracle they can stand and walk. They can reach and grab, but they really can’t manage the coordination to climb things other than possibly stairs.

Hand/Eye Coordination – This isn’t something you’ll get from a typical workout – outside of those weird European triathlons where people cross country ski to a gun range, shoot a few targets with a high powered rifle, and then wrestle a Kodiak bear. Fortunately today’s generation of video game addicts are pretty good at shooting things. It’s practically impossible for a teenager to actually grow up in this country without learning some rudimentary shooting skills bequeathed by an Xbox or PlayStation. Although recently, I’ve learned that firing an actual pistol requires a little more skill – especially if you use something with a bit more kick. The good news is that a .22 caliber pistol or rifle, which is light enough for anyone to shoot, should be good enough against the walking dead. A .22 fired, even at close range, will not have enough power for an exit wound. If fired as a head shot, the bullet should rattle around the skull, destroying enough brain matter to take care of business.

Creating an Apocalyptic Workout

We now know what we need to work toward.

We need to improve our physical endurance, strength, speed, agility, and hand/eye coordination – in that order. For those of you readers who are skeptical about a zombie apocalypse (and I’m hoping that it’s most of you), think of this as radical workout for anyone who is looking to survive under really stressful conditions while being able to move stealthy for long periods of time.

Activities to improve physical endurance include all of the cardio activities you’d expect. I recommend the following exercises that would not only improve stamina but also take advantage of the likely elements that may work to your best advantage during an outbreak. For example, when gasoline becomes more and more scarce you will need to rely on a quick transport that does not rely on fuel – like mountain bikes – and, of course, your own feet.

Recommended exercises:

  • Bike riding
  • Jogging
  • Long distance running
  • Swimming
  • Spin Classes (or Life Cycle – your pick)
  • Cardio Kick Boxing

I also recommend the practice of stretching and meditation, for your warm ups and cool downs – anything that will keep you breathing properly during high intensive exercise. As I said, bike riding is particularly useful because it’s a fast fuel-free way of traveling that will allow you to grow stronger and build endurance. This is especially useful if you are carrying a backpack full of provisions.

Strength training should not be done with an obvious choice of weightlifting. Real strength training is done with calisthenics. Let me back up and rephrase that. Weightlifting shouldn’t be the primary exercise for strength training. Most weightlifters nowadays are doing it body build. We’re not looking to body build, we’re looking to build actual strength.

This is will be painful. I recommend, as always, a good stretch and warm up before any strength training effort. Hard physical labor should be considered before hitting the weightlifting bench. Any kind of resistance training would be beneficial. Remember to slowly increase the weights and resistance to avoid overtraining.

I recommend the following exercises for strength training:

  • Chopping wood
  • Walking with a weighted backpack (be careful to do this properly as too much weight may have excessive strain on the back)
  • Push ups
  • Sit ups
  • Chin ups
  • Squats
  • Leg presses
  • Weight lifting

Leg presses are good; especially if you’re combining them with a cardio program that is working with your knees. I caution people to be wary of their knees and be cognizant of any kind of joint stress. You will need to strengthen the muscles around the knees.

I found that using a sledgehammer to break cement blocks is a great way to learn how to break a skull and improve strength. I confess, I haven’t had to break any skulls yet. But I guarantee that if you can break a cement block with a sledgehammer, you can break a skull. The trick is to hit through the block, throwing the weight of the hammerhead while sliding your hand down the hammer as a fulcrum.

If you’re looking for proper form, watch “Cool Hand Luke”.

Speed with come with your aerobic and cardio training. Once again, you’ll need to remember that speed isn’t a priority over stamina. You should be able to do some sprints to be able to get away from a slow moving horde.

I can recommend for speed: sprinting and any exercise that builds on your reflexes. For completeness, I recommend the following:

  • Running (not jogging but sprinting)
  • Any reputable martial art, aikido, or boxing discipline. This is important as you will not need to strike the zombies but avoid or block their attacks by blocks or slips. The concept of striking a zombie without a weapon is just comical. There are no pressure points to use. Snapping the zombie’s neck won’t work. And unless you are well trained enough to put your fist through a human being’s skull, the only thing you’ll be doing is risk being bitten. The object is to avoid contact and redirect. Should a zombie lunge at you, it’s best to let its own inertia throw it off balance.
  • Dodgeball (Yes, I know it sounds silly, but there’s nothing better to improve reflexes)

As I mentioned before, you’ll need some amount of agility. You’ll need it to climb trees, hills, or mountains. So I recommend that you do just that.

Climb hills. Climb rock walls. Climb trees.

You won’t need gymnastics, but you will need to climb things or jump onto things. My guess is that if you’re doing enough running and cardio exercises your agility will increase. If you’re looking to be well rounded, I recommend again the practice of joining a martial arts discipline or practice yoga.

Hand/Eye coordination in the case of a zombie apocalypse will not be the same as shooting in a video game. Well, not completely, anyway. There are some skills to be learned about firing an actual gun. You need to know how to use the sights, load, unload, and know general gun safety. All of these things can be taught at a gun range. If you have a clean criminal record, you can apply for a gun license from your local township and you will be educated on how to use a gun.

There are other things you can use that require hand/eye coordination that are quite legal. If worse came to worst, you can always throw a rock at the zombie’s head. With enough force, you might be able to crack the skull.

Rocks don’t make a noise, either.

There are other things that you can use from a distance that will work as well, if not better than a gun – a crossbow will work and be as silent. With practice, you can use this and possibly retrieve the bolts afterward.

Final Words

I’ve mentioned this before; this is an intellectual exercise.

Realistically, it’s highly improbable that the dead will rise and wreak havoc upon the Earth. There are certainly other instances that are more probable that you might need the strength, endurance, speed, and agility of a zombie survivalist at your disposal – if not for the reason of self-preservation, then from your own heart healthy body.

After all, who wants to be that guy? You know, the guy who makes a MacDonald’s dinner with cheese doodles for desert. The FLB.

We are an obese nation. In some respects, it’s good that the zombies won’t be running after us. As an FLB, I sleep better knowing that when the zombies are staggering and moaning after me, I’ll be staggering and moaning away from them very much like John Candy in the movie, Stripes.

Eventually I’ll need to get into shape again. Being an FLB has a limited time period. Sometimes you can’t have the luxury of waiting until that first coronary event. The problem is that the F is getting to be a problem. The L is getting to be an addiction. And the B is who everyone is getting to know.

It’s much better to be a FEH (Fit Energetic Hunk). They are able to buy clothes easier and climb a flight of stairs without much fanfare.

We all need to think like this. The problem is that it is our nature to be lazy. Working out and exercise is a painful exhausting process. Show me a person who works out regularly and I’ll show you a person who is sore all of the time from his body rebuilding muscle fibers.

In the end, despite the fact that the zombies will most likely never come, we need to exercise to enjoy actual life. The living part of being alive requires us to be healthy. That means eating right, getting out and breathing lungfuls of fresh air as well as doing things that don’t require a remote control.


5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Zombie Warfare Preparation: Getting in Shape

© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi


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