I’ve never been a runner, I may have run one season of cross country in High School, but I have never considered myself a runner. Athletic? Yes. Fast? Sure. Someone who regularly runs 3-5 miles a couple of times a week? Not really. Even in that single season I rarely ran in practice or in a meet without stopping to walk at least a little. I wasn’t a runner, you see? I could make myself go and run, or spin on an elliptical for 45 minutes, but not because I was good at it. It only worked out okay because that’s where my fitness level was.
When the nice weather hit this spring, I don’t know what came over me. I became possessed by the impulse to play hooky with my normal gym routine and hit the pavement instead. I needed to be moving my body out in the sunshine and felt inspired by one of my good friends who was well into her own couch to 5k program.
Sometime over the winter I purchased Zombies, Run! and Zombies, Run! 5k when they were on sale along with The Walk, but I’d never used any of them. After a few unsatisfactory outings where I ran a lot, but felt like I was pushing far too hard too fast I decided to give Zombies, Run! 5k a try.
For those interested in the program, there are two things you need to know about my review. 1) I may not be a runner, but I’m not a beginner. While it wasn’t realistic for me to jump into running 5k everyday, it didn’t take me long before I was surpassing that distance. 2) This is a classic couch to 5k program with a fun story to go with it. At every step along the way it will tell you what to expect and what the day’s routine is going to be as it trains you little by little.
The Zombies, Run! 5k Program
First off, like I said, Zombies, Run! 5k is a classic Couch to 5k program. The idea is just what it sounds like. Step by step, over 8-10 weeks, it takes someone with little to no fitness experience to the point where they can run 5k at a comfortable pace. In the case of Zombies, Run! 5k the program is 8 weeks in total with three episodes/runs a week, and one extra introductory run in the beginning. All runs have some combination of walking, running, stretching, and drills with lots of variety. Variety is a godsend when running. It helps stave off boredom and makes each run far more effective at building strength and stamina. Some of the drills are…well…funny. Skipping. Nope, not kidding. Skipping. But it helps! I was blessed to be running at my local track where those drills were definitely not the weirdest thing people were doing. Have you ever seen hurdle runners train? Without actual hurdles? Yeah. Those guys are weird.
The best part of Zombies, Run! 5k of course is the audio. Instead of following your couch to 5k program and timing yourself, the program does it for you. Each run is a new episode in a story where you are Runner 5 and you are training to run in order to help the township of Able gather supplies in the post-zombie-apocalypse world. Runners in this world are sort of the super stars. They’re the ones who make sure there are enough resources coming into Able to keep things running. So that makes you, as a runner in training, a valuable person and something of a celebrity. As you go through each of the episodes you will learn more about Able, the people in it, the other settlements, and some of the mysterious events that have been occurring. All the while you will be in training, listening through an ear piece as Sam and Maxine walk you through each training exercise.
Although the runs do not change a great deal within a single week and most of the time at least the first two of each week are the same routine, each episode also reveals more of the story. There are some surprises too. You should never be 100% certain that episode 1, 2, and 3 of each week will be identical, even if it says it will be. This is a story about Zombies after all. When do things ever go as planned?
For those of you wondering if you can still listen to music while you’re using the program, yes you can! Zombies, Run! 5k is designed to turn down your music when an audio clip is playing and resume normal volume when it stops much in the way the GPS in your car will turn down the music when giving you an instruction. One caveat here is that not all music players are compatible. Spotify for instance, which is what I used, does not work, although it does work with regular Zombies, Run! In this case the audio still chimes in, but Spotify doesn’t turn down. I got around this by pausing whenever I heard the clip chime in and I didn’t find that it was annoying. The audio clips are at regular enough intervals that it works pretty well.
As for the difficulty level, as I’ve already prefaced, I’m not 100% their target audience. Even from the first episode much of the time where I was instructed to walk I really jogged in short little steps and when I was told to run, I upped the speed to a more natural pace and only walked when I absolutely needed to. I would definitely recommend this for people in the same boat as me who want a program to get the up to speed, so to speak, but are a little bit past the walking stage.
None of which is to say that I think the program was too easy. On the contrary, I think it was just right for me with the adjustment I made and I’ve been recommending it left and right to other non-runners of all athletic ability. I found the entire program both entertaining and a practical method to learn to run. More than anything it teaches you to pay attention, to ease up when you actually need to, and push when you can.
Do I think it worked? Absolutely! I went from struggling to run more than 2 miles intermittently to more than double that without a pause unless the game told me to. Today I ran 4.83 miles and did all 10,000 steps on my fitbit in that one outing. Not too shabby right? The best part is that I don’t feel like I’m fighting it anymore. Some days feel better than others, and some days honestly feel awesome and like I could run forever. Dare I say, some days it’s enjoyable? Nah, must just be the sunshine. It’s not like I’m really looking forward to trying out Zombies, Run! or anything. Of course not. Really.
I would definitely recommend Zombies, Run! 5k to anyone starting out or to those who, like me, weren’t quite ready to just jump into a full out running routine. Runners who are hitting 3-5 miles might also see some improvement if they use the same modified method I did simply because the game runs you through drills, varies your intensity, and teaches you a lot about how to listen to and control your body when you’re running.
Has anyone else used Zombies, Run! 5k or worked with a similar program? How did it work out for you?