Tag Archives: exercise

Review: Zombies, Run! 5K Training

I typically exclusively review books, but…I’m gonna make an exception for Zombies, Run! Yeah, it’s an app, but it’s an app that tells a story — it just also happens to teach you how to get in shape and motivates you to run.

It turns out, someone yelling “zombies, run!” in your ear is powerful motivation to get running.

Zombies, Run! is an app for iPhone/iPod and Android devices. I, being a complete non-runner and couch-potato enthusiast, just finished with the beginner level, Zombies, Run! 5K Training. When I bought it, it was $2.99 — the best $2.99 I’ve ever spent.

Basically, it’s a interactive story, in that the voices in your head(phones) will tell you to do things and you’re expected to actually do them. In participating, you unlock more of the story. It’s great motivation if you a) like zombies, b) like British accents, c) have no idea how to run and d) are bored by normal workouts.

In other words, what’s not to love?

Zombies, Run! 5K Training begins when your helicopter crash-lands outside one of the few remaining human settlements. You’ve got to shuffle to the base before the zombs get you. From there, the doctor looks you over and breaks the news: everyone on the base has to earn their keep somehow. Luckily (or, unfortunately, depending on perspective) a slot among the runners has just opened up. Over the next 8 weeks, you will train 3x a week with the doctor until you’re in prime getting-supplies-and-fleeing-from-zombies condition.

Fun, yeah? It’s great. Zombies, Run! 5K Training has action, adventure, romance, tragedy, mystery and tons of humor. It’s so good, I started having dreams that the base needed me on the days I wasn’t running. I hate having to skip a day because I want to know what’s going to happen next.

If you think you have even an inkling that you might like learning how to run while hearing a zombie story, download it. Right now. You won’t regret it.


Now, because I was a total newbie to all things running, I screwed up a couple of times. I’ve made notes that might help someone else. Learn from my mistakes, people!

  • Don’t try to run when the temperature is over 105 degrees.
    I didn’t finish the program in 2 months, as scheduled, because Texas summers are so hot you feel like dying every time you inhale. I had to take a break for a few weeks to let things cool down, totally throwing off my momentum.
  • Buy some cheap athletic clothes.
    When I first started, I had the attitude “I’m just going to sweat in it, who cares what it looks like?” Well, it turns out that stuff made for running is actually more comfortable to run in. Who knew, right? Besides, if you only have one shirt, you are not going to want to put it on by the third workout after it’s been twice christened by sweat. Buy yourself some shirts.
  • Don’t run on uneven paths.Another mistake that delayed my workout–in trying to hide from the painfully scorching sun, I once switched my jogging path to the unpaved, but far shadier, one nearby. Turns out your ankles aren’t supposed to move horizontally when you step down. I was limping for weeks. Don’t do it, kids.
  • Download some heavy-bass music.
    In between story sections, you’ll be able to listen to music. You want to pick something that has a beat you can fall into step with. Look up some running music suggestions — the internet is full of them–and pick the ones that make you happy; you’ll be hearing them a lot. My personal favorites (it’s possible I had a theme in mind):

    • “Bad Moon Rising” -Creedence Clearwater Revival
    • “Toxic” – Britney Spears
    • “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
    • “I Ran (So Far Away)” – Flock of Seagulls
  • Buy yourself a case so you don’t have to hold anything.
    The one time I had to hold my phone while I ran was the most stressful sucktastic thing ever. Don’t do it. Besides, you’ll get your sweat all over it. It’s not worth it.
  • Do it!
    It’ll be great, seriously. I feel so much stronger than I did before I started, and I have more energy, too. I can’t recommend this app enough.

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Exercise Your Voice

You could say I’m gym-phobic. I’ve never felt comfortable going to one, never knew what I was doing, felt intimidated by spandex-clad shark-grinned instructors, was certain everyone was silently mocking me while I struggled with the treadmill.

But last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I would start taking a fitness class. I figured a class was a surefire way to get myself moving at least an hour a week (and that when I know I’ve paid to be somewhere, I show up even when I don’t wanna).

Through luck and Google Maps’ navigational skills, I ended up at a Nia class, and it was the best thing I did all January. And I’ve gone just about every Saturday since.

I had no idea what Nia was before I tried it, and I struggle to explain it now. It’s a dance class, but it has martial arts, too, and yoga and imagination, and it changes every week and it’s pretty much nothing like Zumba. It’s a barefoot exhilarating, strengthening, enlivening class.

My class is overwhelmingly female, and while I don’t think Nia is a “lady class,” I think women take to it particularly well because it’s a little subversive.

One of the main lessons I’ve picked up in my classes has nothing to do with how high I can kick or my ability to do a cha-cha step. Nia has taught me to use my voice.

I think it’s a byproduct of my gym-phobia, but there’s a hefty dose of my personality (hello, mousy writer stereotype!) and cultural teachings. See, my gym classes in middle school and high school were like this: girls, go play badminton. Boys, we’re going to play football. Boys, today we learn how to use the weight machines safely; girls, Jazzersize time!

(I never did learn how to use the weight machines, which would have been really freaking useful come college, thankyouverymuch.)

All my attempts at exercise were quiet. I was so terrified of being noticed, of being watched, that I made no sound at all. I never talked to helpful-looking strangers or panted aloud while clambering awkwardly on the stair-stepper. I was head-down, intensely concentrating, focused on getting out of there as soon as I humanly could.

But that doesn’t work in Nia. Nor, I found, did I want it to.

Our instructor, Jule, cheerfully encourages us to vocalize, leading by example. Most of the time, it’s martial arts-style “ha!”s. But sometimes, she does something radical:

Ok guys, say “NO!” when you perform that block. Let me hear you: “No! No! NO!”

This was revolutionary to me. It was like we were visualizing obstacles in our lives and literally beating them down. Woah.

Other times, we may hiss or meow in cat pose, or say “YES!” or “one!” In one class, we ran through a litany of “you!” “me!” “we!”

After 10 months, I’ve noticed a theme. Overwhelmingly, these vocalizations — which turned out to be fun to do — are about defining our personal space. “NO!” comes up in fighting off imaginary attackers, or fending away an overloaded schedule of tasks. “YES” invites us to try new things, to be clear in what we want and do something about it. “ONE” reminds us that we are only one person, and we are there exercising just for us. (Even when we’re pretending to be cats, we’re taking ownership of our personal space– you don’t want to pick up a hissing cat, amiright?)

That’s what is so subversive about it. Drawing boundaries around yourself, speaking up for what you want — these are things we are often told, as women, aren’t for us. We are expected to accommodate others, to be flexible, to give up our needs in exchange for being someone else’s caretaker.

It’s taken me a few months, but now I am loud and present in my class every week, shouting with the others in our group. Finally, I can own, and voice, my participation — saying YES every day.

Note: Other exercise routines might do this for you, but Nia is what works for me. If you’re gym-phobic, keep trying. There’s something out there for you.


Filed under Feminism, Uncategorized