Review: Zombies, Run! 5K Training
Friend of the podcast Ness joins us to review Zombies, Run!
The U.K.-based developer combines its popular story-based running game, Zombies, Run!, with a 5K training regimen designed to take someone with little-to-no running experience—like, say, me—from sitting on a couch playing video games to running a 5K in eight weeks.
Players navigate 25 workouts spread out over two months, all leading inexorably to a 5-km run, which is unsurprisingly the last mission.
Each session contains the same parts: a warm-up, usually walking for five or 10 minutes; running drills, which are some combination of walking, jogging, running, and other exercises, like half squats, heel lifts, or skipping; and free-form runs, or segments you can take on at whatever pace suits you.
The exercises were designed by Julia Jones and Shauna Reid of Up and Running e-courses, a training site that encourages women of all sizes and abilities to run.
You can also sync up with Zombielink, which allows you to track your progress from week to week, review the speed and pace of individual workouts, and automatically share your runs on Facebook or Twitter.
At different intervals throughout the training, characters fans of the original Zombies, Run! will recognize pop up to deliver parts of the story. You’re Runner 5, an important part of one of the few outposts of humanity left after the zombie apocalypse. Sam Yao, the lead comms operator, and Dr. Maxine Myers put you through your paces, acting as Runner 5 cheerleaders for the duration of the training session. Other characters from Abel Township—your home base—also make appearances as the story progresses.
While the narrative isn’t as in-depth as the companion app, it is still poignant and humorous—even if you’re brand-new to Abel Township. (For those who’ve experienced the other app, this takes place between the first and second missions of season one.)
Sessions last from 33 minutes to an hour, depending on the week, and your own music is interspersed with the narrative (pro tip: In the iOS version, at least, you have to create a playlist in iTunes that you then import into Zombies, Run!. I like movie and video game OST, mostly. Seriously, there’s nothing better than finishing your drills or your freeform run to the triumphant strains of Mass Effect 2’s “Suicide Mission” by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, and Jimmy Hinson or Pacific Rim’s “Gipsy Danger” by Ramin Djawadi. But you do you).
So, here’s the thing: I’m not what you’d call athletic.
In addition to asthma, I’ve also had a form of autoimmune arthritis for nearly 10 years that—among other things—can make exercise difficult.
But I’m a fan of Zombies, Run!, and I wanted to give running a try. So after a few false starts with other couch-to-5K programs (along with some good sneakers and the OK of my doctors), I decided to give Zombies, Run! 5K Training a go. Even if I couldn’t handle it, at least I’d get to hear more from Sam and Dr. Myers while I wheezed around the track at my local park with my dog.
Instead, something kind of amazing happened: I started to like running: a lot. Oh, not while I’m doing it—I’m not a masochist—but little by little, I didn’t dread getting up early to help keep Abel strong. During the sessions, I started pushing myself. I started feeling really good afterward—regardless of how many minutes or kilometres I ran.
It’s hard not to want to do your best with Sam and Maxine encouraging you to give it what you’ve got.
And here’s the thing: I started getting better. At the end of week four, I decided to go back to the beginning and compare how far I could go. The weather was almost identical on both days (incredibly hot and muggy). Now, week one, workout one, doesn’t include a whole lot of running. It features 10 minutes of walking, followed by one minute of walking and 15 seconds of slow running 10 times. It’s capped off by a 10-minute free-form run.
Even so, the first time I didn’t even hit 4 km. The second time? I did a little more than 5 km—and that’s only with half of the eight-week training completed.
The (very minor) downside is I have encountered a few glitches: One run didn’t record at all, which meant I had to redo it; other times, the next bit of the story wouldn’t play, which turned my 30 seconds of slow running into three minutes of slow running before I caught on. The latter was solved by restarting the app and resuming where I’d left off.
All in all, though, I would absolutely recommend this app if you’re a newbie runner (or a walker or even a more experienced runner) and you like story-driven games. It’s extremely well-written and well-acted, and even if you can’t run all of it—I sure can’t—the game makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something just by trying. Hell, it’s encouraged me to sign up for my first 5K, which will be held in October. It’s well worth the $1.99.
So put on your sneakers, warm up, and get ready to protect Abel Township.
Raise the gates.