Your Quick & Dirty Fitness Guide for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

6 Critical Tips, Fitness Standards, and Workouts to Prepare Your Body for the Zombie Apocalypse

They’re coming. And they want your brainz.

And if you want to improve your odds of keeping YOUR brainz in one piece, then you’d better pay attention. Because when the poo hits the oscillating air distribution unit, and the dead rise to feed, your fitness level will immediately transition from being a commodity – even a novelty – into a primitive survival tool that will largely determine your odds of being eaten by a moaning, groaning, animated corpse while you’re still very much alive. And if you’re not ready when it happens, then congratulations! You will instantly become the low-hanging fruit. And zombies love people who are out of shape. So, good luck because you’re gonna need it!

Now, the good news is that zombies aren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch, and most of them move really slowly. So, there’s no need to become a super-athlete, but you may want to take some small fitness measures so that your body doesn’t put you at a disadvantage and expose you to unnecessary risks…such as the massive number of insatiably-hungry undead who would very much like to eat you and don’t think of much else.

So, in this quick and dirty fitness guide, I’ll walk you through what you need to improve your odds of surviving.

6 Critical Steps for Zombie-Prepping Your Body

1) Get Good On Your Feet.

barefoot runner running from zombie

Not only will you be walking a lot more, you’ll probably have to run occasionally, too – maybe even a “run for your life” sprint once in awhile. So, make sure you can do it without pulling a hamstring. No, you probably won’t have to run any ultra-marathon distances, but walking and running will be something you need to have a basic level of competency in because you’ll be doing a lot more than you’re used to, sometimes while carrying gear. So, if you’re idea of a long-distance run is from the couch to the bathroom, then this is what you should focus on first because you need to develop a basic level of cardio fitness and stamina BEFORE you start fleeing from hungry corpses. 

Now, that doesn’t mean you should just hop on the elliptical, stairmaster, or join a spinning class. You need to train specifically to the demands you’ll be placing on your body. That means, regular walking, some running, and occasional sprinting.

For starters, I’d recommend a daily walk, an easy to moderate run once or twice a week, and some form of interval training once or twice a week (e.g. hill sprints, suicide sprints, stair running, etc.).

Suffice to say, you’re going to need a decent base of cardio. So, ask yourself questions like…

  • How far can you run and/or trot without stopping?
  • How many flights of stairs can you run up?
  • How much stamina do you have when you’ve missed a meal and you’re wearing a backpack?

Regardless, the better you get on your feet, the greater your chances of survival. And remember this. You don’t have to be the fastest runner in town. You just need to be faster than your friends.

Food for thought: When is the last time you sprinted? Could you “run for your life” without pulling a hamstring? Can you do it without a warmup first, when you’re “cold?” How far can you get before you’re winded and have to stop – 100m, 200m, 400m? What if you don’t have shoes? You might want to find out before it’s too late.

2) Get Strong.

man weightlifting

You don’t need to be a musclehead to survive the zombie apocalypse. And just between you and me, I think you’d be better off without all the extra mass anyway. It will only slow you down. But you should develop a basic level of strength so that you can perform daily tasks with ease and be able to rise to the occasion when you need to lift, carry, or otherwise move something heavy.

There are many effective ways to get stronger (e.g. weightlifting, calisthenics, strongman, etc.), and many great tools for doing so (e.g. traditional free weights, clubbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.). But regardless of what you choose, at the minimum, you’ll want to strengthen the following movement patterns…

  • Squatting (e.g. goblet squats, barbell squats, etc.)
  • Hinging (e.g. deadlifts, kettlebell swings, etc.)
  • Pressing (e.g. overhead press, sled push, etc.)
  • Pulling (e.g. pull-ups, sled pulls, etc.)
  • Weighted Carries (e.g. farmer walk, shoulder carry, etc.)

Any no-nonsense, basic program will work, whether it involves linear progression, density training, of any of the other effective strength building methods (5×5, 5/3/1, Westside Conjugate Method, etc.). It all works if YOU work. So, don’t overthink things. Get on a good program and stick with it until you’re happy with your strength levels.

Food for thought: can you lift and carry your significant other to safety? How far? Is your body free of pain and injury so that you can lift, carry, or move heavy things? Do have a good idea of how much weight you can lift and what proper weight lifting mechanics are?

3) Get Good At Moving Throughout Your Environment.

male parkour

So, you’ve got a basic level of fitness (i.e. strength and endurance), but how well can you move through your environment? We don’t have to do much crawling, climbing, jumping, or swimming on a day to day basis anymore. But these basic human movements will be the new norm. You may need to climb out of danger, crawl to stay out of sight, or jump to safety. So, in addition to your strength and conditioning, I’d also include some movement skill practice as well.

One of the best all-around choices is MovNat, which covers the full spectrum of natural human movement skills (e.g. walking, running, jumping, balancing, climbing, swimming, etc.). So, find a coach, sign up for a workshop, get some online training, or train yourself using any and all of the available resources.

Note: Parkour would be a suitable substitute, but MovNat is more comprehensive and systematized.

Food for thought: can you easily hop a fence? Climb a tree? What about one without low branches? How many techniques do you know and can perform without struggling? Have you ever had to crawl through a window? Sneak through the woods? Balance on the edge of a cliff? I’d suggest testing out your skills before you’re being chased.

Also, you need to learn how to swim. I almost gave this its own category, but I’ll just mention it here. It is a natural human movement, after all.

Seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. So, knowing how to not drown might come in handy in a post-apocalyptic situation. There’s no need to be an Olympic swimmer. What’s most important is that you’re comfortable in the water and know your limits. I’d recommend learning the breast stroke, the side stroke, and the front crawl (aka freestyle). And regardless of the strokes you choose, I’d recommend working up to being able to swim at least 500 yards without stopping.

Oh, and learn how to float. Zombies don’t float.

Food for thought: How many different ways do you know how to float on water? How long can you tread water? How far can you swim without stopping? How long can you hold your breath? Do you feel safe and competent in the water or do you panic at the thought of it?

4) Get Used To Carrying Stuff.

man rucking at beach

In the new world, you will live and die by not just your mindset & skillset, but also by your gear, too. And if you’re smart, you’ll be carrying some gear with you everywhere you go. So, you’ll want to include some Hiking, Backpacking, or Rucking to prepare your body for carrying a load for sustained distances.

For some perspective, the US Army requires a 12 mile ruck/march in full gear, which includes a weapon and a pack with at least 35 lbs, to be completed in under 3 hours. That’s a 15 minute mile. Can you meet or surpass those standards?

If not, consider adding one or two hikes or rucks to your weekly program, starting very conservatively with the added weight (e.g. 5-10 lbs) and distance (e.g. 1-2 miles) and building gradually over a period of several months.

Food for thought: Have you ever hiked all day, for days on end? Have you ever climbed a mountain? How much weight can you carry comfortably, in a backpack?

5) Get Good At Protecting Yourself.

female krav maga

If you’re going to be warding off zombies, you need to learn basic self defense. No, you don’t need to be a black belt in Kung Fu, but a few classes of a basic, effective hand to hand combat system would do you a lot of good. I’d recommend something simple and effective, such as Tim Larkin’s Target Focus Training, Tony Blauer’s SPEAR system, Krav Maga, or any military hand to hand combat system or similar. No circus tricks. Just basic, effective self defensive. Once you’ve got the basics covered, you can move on to more sophisticated systems from there.

And it should go without saying that some weapons training would come in handy, too! And not just with firearms, but also with all the other must-have zombie-slaying weapons like katanas, chainsaws, axes, frying pans, golf clubs, baseball bats, cricket bats, machetes, and nunchucks, just to name a few. You never know what you’re gonna find laying around.

6) Get And Stay Healthy.

woman on yoga mat at beach

It should go without saying that you should start NOW with healthy lifestyle habits. Get enough quality sleep. Eat good food. Learn how to manage your stress. You know, the basics.

I’d also recommend adopting a daily practice of gentle, restorative exercise, such as joint mobility training and yoga – to help take care of your musculoskeletal system. Everyone should be able to perform basic structural maintenance on themselves, and this will become even more important when you don’t have your physical therapist, chiropractor, or masseuse readily available anymore.

Here’s one more tip that’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road: with your doctor’s approval, start experimenting with intermittent fasting. See how well you can function after skipping a meal or two – or even a whole day of food – since you probably won’t be getting your three square meals a day anymore. Being able to continue performing without optimal fueling is a sign of efficiency, and it’ll be an invaluable trait when things go South.

Would YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? How fit are you?

Try out these zombie apocalypse workouts to see how you’d fare…

Zombie Apocalypse WOD 1

Repeat the following circuit 3-5X:

  • Run – 50 meters
  • 10 Katana Thrusters
  • 3 Fence Jumps
  • 5 Woodchoppers w/ a Chainsaw
  • Sneak on tip toes – 15 meters
  • 10 Swings with a Cast Iron Pan
  • Shadow boxing for 1 minute
  • Walk or rest for 1 minute

Zombie Apocalypse WOD 2 (Bodyweight Version)

Repeat the following circuit 3-5X:

  • Run – 50 meters
  • Bear crawl – 25 meters
  • Crab walk – 25 meters
  • Heavy farmer walk or buddy carry – 100 meters
  • Max set of pull-ups (or variation)
  • Max set of bodyweight squats
  • Max set of pushups (or variation)
  • Trot 400 meters
  • Walk or rest for 1 minute

Note: Wear a backpack or weight vest with 10-20% of your bodyweight for an added challenge.

Wrap Up

So, as you can see, you don’t necessarily need to be highly proficient in any one discipline like triathlon or powerlifting. Although, each of those skills could come in handy when the time is right. The truth is that your best defense is a clear mind and a strong will to live. And the best way to ensure that is not necessarily by training to be able to win an ultra-marathon or lift a small car, but simply to be healthy – able to move without pain, and do normal things like walk and run without struggling, to carry some weight on your back without needing a week in rehab, and being able to swing an ax like a boss. You know, basic things like that.

Now, keep in mind that this is only a glimpse into the fitness side of things. And we haven’t even talked about storing food, forming alliances, cultivating a will to live, and many other important topics. So, keep things in perspective. But if you apply this information, you’ll fare far better than most when the world as we know it, comes to an end.

And remember, it’s not if, but when.

Also, this book may help…

john reading book about the zombie apocalypse

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Health-First Fitness Coach

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P.P.S. Now, if you’d like a little hint on how to best train for the zombie apocalypse, I’d look into what our nation’s elite military operators do. I imagine that they’ll be just fine when the world ends and the dead rise.

P.P.P.S. Photo credit: 1, 2, 3, 4.

3 Responses

  1. Great stuff John, I love the packaging of functional fitness within the zombie theme.

  2. Timothy James

    Loving this John… :D

  3. Joe Koenig

    It certainly is important for humans to be comfortable swimming, running and hiking with full (bugout) gear for several hours in order to survive in teotwawki. But pertaining to a cost-benefit analysis, I’d assign it a rather subordinate role in a preppers’ regimen.

    In order to test ones ability to hike for several hours, one actually has to take several hours out of their time (plus travel time). In order to practice swimming in the midland, most people would have to resort to a public swimming pool. Personally, I’d rather turn zombie. Most people hate running too. For a good reason.

    All of the above needs to be done on occasion. Maybe once, twice or thrice a year? And be it only to assess ones abilities, technique and gear. It need not be part of their regular regimen. It doesn’t coalesce with “Quick & Dirty”.

    As for the hand to hand combat: I’d be reluctant to give out any general recommendation as to what system “actually works” or “is effective”. People should figure that out for themselves. Otherwise they might waste a lot of time or, what’s even worse, develop misconceptions about their abilities and fighting/SD itself.

    Until they can, they should apply one simple yardstick as to what “actually works”: Sparring. No matter what it is; Boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, BJJ, DBMA or even Olympic-/Sports-Judo (

    Full-/Semi-contact Martial Arts should always be your foundation. At least until you can figure out for yourself what “is effective” on the battlefield and how to prepare for it. Some general pointers: (Kelly McCann: Combatives Training w/ Live Partners)

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