If you’ve ever watched “The Walking Dead,” you’ve probably noticed that its characters all have one important thing in common — and it’s not the matching zombie-juice stains on all of their clothes.
Every survivor in the “Walking Dead” universe is in killer physical condition, despite living in a world where clean eating and a regular gym routine are, y’know, not exactly a priority. What does it take for our heroes to stay in shape, and in one piece, in a world full of ravaging zombies — and how can you be like them? We asked an expert, Jonathan Mielec, CFT, of Form from Function Fitness, to weigh in.
MTV News: Let’s start by talking about how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. What should your fitness goals be if you want to be ready for the end of the world?
Mielec: First, obviously you’d need good endurance, because you might be in a situation where your life depends on it. But on top of that you’ll also want to be able to move your body through space well. If you’re trying to escape from zombies, being able to do a pull-up, or pull yourself over a ledge, would be important. And you’d want enough muscle mass to be able to hold someone off, but you also don’t want to focus on muscle mass. The more weight you have to support, the more endurance it takes, and the more food you have to consume.
MTV News: So in a scenario where food is scarce, too much bulk would be a problem.
Mielec: Exactly. You want a minimal level of muscle mass, and just enough strength to move your body the way you need to.
Oh no! Did Tyreese’s beefy physique contribute to his tragic death?!
MTV News: What kind of training would you suggest to someone who was trying to get in shape specifically to survive a zombie plague?
Mielec: You’d want to focus on efficiency, on the specifics of what you want your body to be able to do. For instance, being able to jump higher: you want strong quads and glutes. And you want to be able to do it repeatedly, because you’re not going to be in that situation just once. So, I would recommend circuit-based work, with the goal of being able to perform with a certain level of fatigue. We’d do body-weight based movements, especially squats for that triple-extension jumping pattern — ankles, knees, and hips — which will also contribute to sprinting speed. Building strength in your lower body allows those bursts of speed.
MTV News: Where does cardio fit into this? In the zombie universe, it seems pretty important.
Mielec: You’d definitely do endurance work, putting in regular mileage to maintain cardiovascular fitness that’ll let you continue for a long time. But you want to work at those goals, strength and endurance, very separately.
MTV News:Let’s talk about what happens after the zombie apocalypse hits. Should fitness still be a priority?
Mielec: Anytime you have a chance to be prepared, it’s prudent to take it. So maybe you can’t work out immediately or ideally, but as soon as you can, being able to maintain a level of fitness that prepares you for the unexpected — you’ll want to make that a priority.
MTV News: So once Rick and everyone settled at the prison, for instance, they really should have been making regular use of the gym facilities there?
Mielec: Definitely. The stakes are so high, you need to be prepared.
“Hey, you! With the hoe! Yeah, you! Bro, do you even lift?!”
MTV News: Obviously, getting enough to eat is a constant problem for the characters on “The Walking Dead.” What are the top concerns, diet-wise, if you’re trying to stay fit during the zombie apocalypse?
Mielec: It’s similar to what we talked about in terms of training: you want to maintain a minimum of muscle mass to support the demands you put on your body. At the same time, you’re trying to prevent injury, in the case of training, or in the case of food it would be illness. One of the first thing that comes to mind is scurvy, actually, and conditions like it; if you can’t get the vitamins you need, illness is going to be a much bigger concern. If you’re sick, you can’t put the same demands on your body, and you’d be unlikely to survive.
MTV News: Basically, everyone in Rick’s gang should be taking Centrum or something daily.
Mielec: Honestly, yes. That would be smart. Get your hands-on a multivitamin! Because if you have a cold, or you get dehydrated, you’re not sitting at home hugging your toilet. You’re becoming dinner for a mindless mob of zombies.
Should’ve taken that One-A-Day, Sasha.
MTV News: Any other priorities?
Mielec: To maintain muscle mass, you’d need a minimum level of protein. You also want to keep as much diversity in your diet as possible. And generally, you’d need to be getting enough calories to support whatever you’re trying to do.
MTV News: What’s the best way to make that happen in an environment where food is scarce and/or guarded by hordes of zombies?
Mielec: Fat is a more efficient calorie source, it has 9 calories per gram where carbs and protein only have 4. Your body also expends less energy digesting fat. I’d recommend carrying a lightweight, portable source of fat, like a bottle of olive oil, at all time, so that you can get calories when you need them. And you wouldn’t want to gain too much weight, but being able to store a little bit of extra fat would help get you through emergencies.
MTV News: Any other tips for grocery shopping in Zombieland?
Mielec: Reading labels would be important, even in the apocalypse. As far as getting enough calories, your body is very adaptable. It would prefer carbs — about half your body weight, pounds to grams, would be your ideal minimum level of carbs. Your body would like that, and your nervous system works best on carbs. But you can live off a mostly protein and fat diet, with the fat being converted into ketones, which would fuel your physical activity.
MTV News: So, let’s say we’re raiding a grocery store: A bottle of olive oil is a must-have; what else?
Mielec: Protein. Your body will start consuming your muscle tissue if you don’t get enough protein, and you don’t want to lose any muscle mass. So tuna, or canned chicken — all the canned meats, actually, including Spam, would be the most valuable foods.
MTV News: Spam?
Mielec: Vienna sausages, too. Any canned meat will do!
Note: Just be sure to check the sell-by date, for... obvious reasons.
Do you need to get fit for the zombie apocalypse? Our expert provided a complete 7-day workout plan to get you started.