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  • Writer's pictureJared

The top 5 things I learned from zombies

Hello. My name is Jared, and I am a Zombiephile.

I can't remember what initially got me into zombies but as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with all fashions of stories involving the Undead. I love to watch all kinds of zombie movies like Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days later, Zombieland, and World War Z. I've spent countless hours fighting them off in video games such as Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, State of Decay, Resident Evil, and Call of Duty. I watch zombie TV shows like Z Nation, and I'm still totally into The Walking Dead. I even had a Walking Dead birthday party once!

Zombie party, zombie, Rick Grimes costume
Partying it up with my zombiefied BFF Dave for my 25th birthday (I'm supposed to be Rick Grimes)

The latest (and final) season of The Walking Dead premieres this Sunday, and so I've again got zombies on the brain. I think there is a lot that can be learned from the zombie universe, as they often act as social commentary to present-day culture, and highlight some of what makes us different, but also eerily similar to our reanimated counterparts. So in this blog, I'm going to list out some of the lessons I've learned from all that zombie content.

1) Harness the zombie's ability to focus on the task at hand, but avoid tunnel vision.

Zombies are relentless in their focus and pursuit of their goal to consume as much human flesh as possible. They devote 100% of their time, energy, and effort into this passion, and are constantly in search of new opportunities to feed. They leave no stone unturned, no sound goes ignored, no door, window, or barricade untested. They just. Keep. Going. For the most part, it works! The majority of zombies enjoy at least a modicum of success through sheer will and determination.

While this singular focus is an admirable trait, and a huge contributor to the baseline success of a zombie, it can also lead to their eventual demise. Because zombies are so focused in their pursuit, they can become predictable, manipulated, and self-destructive.

According to The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, give the opportunity, a zombie will literally continue to eat until they explode.

Just imagine if zombies took the occasional break from feasting to pause, reflect, and re-focus their efforts in areas that they may be over-looking. The ability to focus on the task at hand and the opportunities directly ahead of us are a great place to start in pursuit of your goals. However, it's helpful to take time to pause, reflect, and assess how things are going. Maybe there's a different angle or opportunity that's available that we overlooked. Maybe there are other areas of our life that get neglected when we remain too focused on a single endeavor for too long.

I see this often with clients that are working on their rehab or their fitness. Many people assume that if 3 sets is good, 5 sets is better. If Jared recommends I train 2 days/week, 4 will double my results. In a lot of situations, less is more! When a client isn't getting results or they're having a hard time with their recovery, the first change we make is to decrease their volume of training, and they are able to increase the intensity, which yields more results. This applies to mental focus as well; often if we reduce the amount of time that we spend focusing, or take short mental breaks, we're able to improve the intensity of our focus and the efficiency of our work.

2) Test the limits of your capabilities by shedding self-doubt and fear of failure, but be realistic!

Despite being dead, and their bodies literally decaying and falling apart, zombies have an irrational confidence and lack of fear that, combined with their hyper-focus, make them the killing machines we know (and love). Sure, recently re-animated zombies (that still have fairly intact bodies) are often the most mobile, but the older ones that have started to rot don't let that stop them

Unlike most of our other famous fictional monsters, (most) zombies don't gain super strength or physical abilities when they transition. They're just uncaged from the fears and inhibitions that stop many of us from pushing to the max. The inhibitions that we've adopted naturally over time do serve as a survival tactic to help protect us, but I think there's sometimes a large gap between what we can do, and what we think we can do. I'm just sayin'... if a rotting decrepit corpse can smash through a door and still be structurally can we.

Woman strength training with battle ropes
Who wins? This badass with a rope, or the pile of decay next to her?

As a physical therapist, this one really speaks to me, because when working with clients that are recovering from pain and injury, often the mental hurdles are as limiting (if not more so) as the physical ones. So many times I've had clients that surprised themselves by how much their body was capable of once given support, and permission to try. Think of the amazing physical feats that you've seen zombies achieve, and then realize that you're a stronger, healthier, more capable version of a zombie!

Of course there's an upper limit to what our healthy, living tissues are capable of before breakdown and injury occurs, but it's often WAY higher than we think, and it can be improved with training! Testing our physical limits from time-to-time is a valuable practice that helps us to gain a better understanding of ourselves and our capabilities. Not only does training and testing our abilities help to strengthen and improve our physical capacity over time, but knowing your true limitations can dramatically help your ability to assess risk.

For example, if you don't ever practice lifting heavy things (like weights) or test how heavy a weight you are capable of lifting, then when you come across a situation where you have to lift have very little context as to how your body will hold up! Let's say you are moving, and you have a 150 lb table to move. If you know that your dead lift

Athlete dead lifting as part of a strength training routine
Johnny is about to CRUSH this 225 lbs

max is only 100 lbs, then you have a pretty good idea that you need to seek help. Likewise, if you routinely lift 200+ lb objects, you can be fairly confident that you've got it covered. This concept of course is not limited to lifting heavy objects, but also applies to knowing how far or fast you can walk, run, swim, climb etc.

3) Zombies (and humans) are stronger in a group

In the most recent seasons of The Walking Dead, the living have become so proficient in taking down Walkers, that even a 7 year old can handle one (or a few) of them on her own. A horde on the other hand, is an unstoppable force that instills fear and respect in even the most formidable among us.

The lesson here is pretty straight-forward; Find your people, cultivate relationships, and surround yourself with a community that supports and raises each other up. Of course, not ALL groups are better together. Sometimes groups can become toxic and negative, subject to Group Think, or holding down the most capable among them. Not all relationships are meant to last forever, and that's OK. If you're in a situation where those around you are sucking up all of your time and energy, without positively impacting your life, it is totally fine to remove yourself from that group in search of others that provide you the love and support and connection that you need at this moment in time.

4) Keep moving forwards, or you're dead already

OK so maybe that's a little dire. But it's not wrong!! I see this applying in a few ways:

-In the presence of zombies, if you don't keep moving forwards...the zombies will (remember...they're relentless) and eventually they'll catch up to you! Also, almost always, turning back and heading where you came from will lead to your doom in the form of a zombie mosh pit.

-The human body is designed for movement, and thrives in an environment where it is getting the necessary physical activity. Not only that...the way we move, the motivations behind our movements, and the people we choose to move with shape us and are a major part of our self-identity

Women laughing and having fun exercising together

-In addition to human locomotion, this can also be viewed from the lens of developing a growth mindset. During the zombie apocalypse, there are always people that decide they are just going to seek shelter, hunker down, and wait until The End. Whether that's the eradication of zombies, or their eventual demise, that's the plan. The problem is, even if they have the basics for surviving a long time, these people are ALWAYS miserable. They are barely living, just holding onto survival. If they don't get rescued from a group, they usually either (A) end up running out of supplies and dying alone in their bunker, (B) committing suicide from the loneliness and despair, or (C) the zombies get to them anyways. Even if they do "survive" it's not really a life worth living. Sometimes they become nearly indistinguishable from the zombies themselves.

The ones that make it are the ones that keep physically engaged, and continue to grow, learn, and adapt to their environment in search of improving their situation.

5) The most capable humans are far more formidable than zombies

It is a constant trend in every iteration of the zombie apocalypse; After the initial shock and awe of the zombies, eventually, humans learn to adapt, overcome, and elevate themselves back to the top of the pecking order. How many people does the typical zombie actually get their hands on before they meet their own demise? Sure, some of them exist for longer periods of time, and probably do achieve fairly high kill counts, but most only get to a handful before they are stopped, eat too much (and explode), or their self-destructive behavior gets the better of them (only to be replaced by their victims). The surviving humans on the other hand, likely have each killed upwards of a hundred zombies, and scores of other humans as well. According to as of season 10 of The Walking Dead, Rick and Daryl (The 2 leading protagonists/killers of the series) had had killed 54 and 49 humans respectively, not to mention many, many more zombies. The other humans are the ones you really have to worry about. Seemingly no one survives very long without doing terrible things to other people in the name of survival.

This can be a pretty harsh and negative commentary on human nature and our society as a whole; it speaks to how divided and destructive we can be towards each other in the real world. The other side of the story is about the resolve, resilience, and adaptability of our species. Whether a human character is "good" or "bad" in zombie times is often a matter of perspective. Usually both sides of the conflict feel that they are in the right and justified in their position. It's very uncommon that someone comes and and says, "Yeah, we're the bad guys." Unlike the zombies, humans have the ability to choose their path. We can make terrible mistakes, but we can also learn to change, to come together, and redeem ourselves. When humans join forces and work together towards a common goal, we can achieve amazing results.

So those are my big take ways from my years watching, playing, and learning from zombies. They can teach us a lot about life. You can learn even more from the humans that have zombies thrust into their world. Ultimately, we are strong, resilient, and capable of so much when we overcome our fears, focus our minds, and come together as a community. I hope you can take that with you and keep it in mind the next time you face a difficult situation.

As always, thanks for reading!!


PS Although I spend my free time fighting off zombies online, I'm actually a licensed physical therapist in real life. If you're interested in learning how I can help you to move easier with less pain, and build a stronger, more capable body in preparation for the looming zombie apocalypse, submit your contact info here and I will be in touch

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