A Super Beginner’s Guide to Beating the Zombie Apocalypse

First things first: I’m making this post because Zombies, Run! is having a great sale for their apps, and if you think you’d enjoy a story-driven 5K training app or a running app, even if (like me) you don’t enjoy zombies, you should go for it before Tuesday, September 3.

Okay, that’s the context, though if you read to the end you’ll get to see the worst selfie taken in the history of the world, so maybe that can compel you to listen to me yammer about why I dig running now when I’ve never quite managed to latch onto it before.


I’m one of those creative types who’s spent most of my life resisting exercise. Not really out of an inherent laziness (though there is that, to a certain extent), but sports was always something only worth a shrug in my house growing up, if it was acknowledged at all. Neither of my parents enjoyed or sought out physical activity, and there was always this simmering resentment of sports culture (and how our losing sports teams in the city school system always seemed to get more funding than the arts) that meant I was never encouraged to want it or enjoy it.

My point is, I’m an active enough person in that I walk pretty much everywhere I have the opportunity, but I’ve never been able to consciously make physical activity a part of my lifestyle. Even the phrase “physical activity” fills me with a sort of secondhand embarrassment, as does any talk like “stretch your muscles” or “move your body.” (It’s sort of the same way I cringe when people discuss food in terms of molecules — don’t talk to me about how you’ve had too many carbohydrates, or how you need a protein! IT’S FOOD. THAT’S ALIENATING AND WEIRD.)

Of course, this becomes a problem when I’ve been stress- and comfort-eating since my birthday in mid-July. I’d had a plan this summer to use the beautiful new bike I bought myself in the spring for commuting to class, but unfortunately most weeks I either a) had an interview after class, which meant I had to look presentable, or b) I had homework to complete and needed to do it on the train downtown (shh). So, that didn’t happen the way I’d hoped, though I really love biking, especially city biking.

A bunch of friends of mine have been talking about Zombies, Run! for a while, though, and in a recent fight with myself about whether I could let myself “follow the crowd” or whatever, I decided to stop being such a stubborn doofus and just give the thing a try.

The basic plot is that you’re Runner 5, and you’ve been dropped into Abel Township to pick up supplies, warn other settlements of impending zombie attacks and see if you can unravel the mystery of why someone shot your helicopter with a rocket launcher when you were flying in. There’s also a gaming element in the freeform running version, where you collect items as you run that can be used to build your own base.

I’m doing the 5K training first, since I need the structure and the build-up for those half-hour runs. You get encouragement and instructions right in your headphones, as well as character interactions and an ongoing story. This is awesome for me! It makes me want to find out what happens next — and, admittedly, part of the joy for me is the radio operator Sam Yao, who sounds just enough like Joe Armstrong to make me instantly latch onto him.

My big thing, of course, is that I love to buy the gear for a thing, in the hopes that it will get me to do it. This means that my local Fleet Feet loves me now, since I discover a new thing I need just about every time I go out. The damage so far:

  • New shoes, which happened when I, er, accidentally left my sneakers in Ohio during my last visit. Thing I learned: it’s better to have running shoes that are a little bigger than your normal shoe size, to give your feet room to swell! Charming.
  • Insoles, because I have stupid high arches, and as it turns out, most inserts support the wrong part of your arch (the middle of the high part, rather than the important bone under your ankle). I underpronate like a beast — no, really, I ground down half an inch on the heels of my last pair of Doc Martens in less than three months — so support, and shoes that don’t wiggle around? Turns out running is a lot easier when that’s a thing!
  • Fancy socks of the merino wool variety. Guys, it’s true: they don’t stink, they regulate temperature like a dream and they don’t get wet. I’m sold.
  • Earbuds that aren’t dreadful, and this is, for me, a huge find. Every other brand I’ve ever tried both hurts and falls out, but these Yurbuds things are comfortable and secure without trading one for the other. The added bonus is that they’re engineered so that you don’t have to have your volume super high and that you can hear things in the outside world easily; this becomes funny while running to a zombie chase because there’s also a wind-blowing-sound factor, but that shouldn’t put you off, because seriously, these are the best, most awesome headphones, full stop.
  • Toast and crunchy peanut butter, because an empty stomach (or eating poorly) before and after a run is not a thing that is good, as I’ve learned.

So, I’m super digging this new routine! I look forward to my runs, which I’ve tended to schedule on days when I can take my time in the morning. My issue is that I get sick if I eat too soon after I wake up, so it means some planning and some available free time — not conducive to 9 a.m. class times, but the quarter is finally over and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the start times for my fall classes.

The only problem with running is that you always imagine it’s going to look like this.

I have high hopes for this running thing this time around. I’ve done several Couch to 5K-style training thingies, but every other time I’ve gotten to a place where I can run for 20 minutes, the weather turns nasty and I refuse to run inside, so I lose my progress and get frustrated. Fall might be coming (ugh, which means winter’s not far behind), but if I’ve got a story driving me, I’m always going to want to find out what happens next.

Smooth curves! A flat belly! Glowing skin! Running is going to be great for me! I -- oh. Maybe I'm more suited to Zombies, Run! than I thought.
Smooth curves! A flat belly! Glowing skin! Running is going to be great for me! I — oh. Maybe I’m more suited to Zombies, Run! than I thought.

So, I guess what I’m really saying with this post is that you should buy the Zombies, Run! apps while they’re on sale, because you’ll probably wind up spending way more than you thought to enable your terrible/wonderful new habit. But also, I guess my other point is that anyone really can do it, even those of us who have to get over some pretty pernicious internalized shame about exercise. It might not be pretty, at least not at first, but I’m betting it’ll be worth it.

(As a grad student with no income, after all that, it had better be.)

8 thoughts on “A Super Beginner’s Guide to Beating the Zombie Apocalypse”

  1. Oh man, that app seems really awesome! If I could still run, I’d totally try that. I also used to be that person who never got the thing about running until some years ago when I just got tired of my everyday walk and decided to run for a bit to get it over with faster, and suddenly I was hooked. Man, I miss it. If I’d been better about getting the right gear like you have (my feet are the opposite of yours) maybe I wouldn’t have screwed up my back in the first place.
    Hey, maybe it’d be applicable working on a crosstrainer? I want to run from zombies, too!

    1. I… could not actually tell you what crosstraining is, but the app is totally your playground, so I bet you could make it do/be anything you want for yourself!

      1. Heh, it’s one of those things’s that’s kind of like a treadmill, only it’s something in between running and cycling and involves your arms, too. No actual impact, which is great! Running outside is totally more fun, though. That trailer really does seem like it could make the run feel like an adventure, especially when it’s dark out!

    2. I’m fairly sure it’d work on a crosstrainer, although you probably wouldn’t be able to do the zombie chases in the full app — I’m pretty sure those require GPS. But you could still totally listen to the game while doing any kind of workout! It definitely works on a treadmill. Heck, some people just listen to it like a radio drama.

      (Hi, I’m Anthea and I’m a total ZR! evangelist.)

      1. Hey, thanks! I was interested in the zombie chases, but if that version requires GPS it’s out. Might actually have to give the 5k training a try then – anything that can help getting you pumped and last longer can only be a good thing!

        1. Oh, no, to clarify — you can use the full version with the zombie chases turned off and have it track your steps with your phone’s accelerometer. I used to walk to and from work listening to it that way. (I tried zombie chases exactly once and was promptly caught by zoms.)

          It’s all awesome, though, whether you go for the 5K or the full app. I hope you find a version that works for you!

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