The Get Outside Guide

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Features
Friday, July 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I have a confession to make: I haven't been playing too many games lately.

That's not because of the summer game lull - there have actually been some solid titles as of late. No, it's because of the operative word in the last sentence, "summer." Like I do every year, I made a New Year's resolution that I would get outside more and get more exercise. Every year, I fail to uphold that resolution.

Until this year.

This year, I've been spending a lot of time outside. I've been running, jogging, camping, walking the dogs, working in the garden, etc. This year, my resolution stuck.

It stuck because I approached getting more exercise like a gamer. I found technology to help me work towards my goal, upgraded my gear, and found goals to work towards. Presenting the Joystick Division Get Outside Guide!


The Challenge: Run for Your Lives

I'll off start with the singular best tip I have to offer right off the bat: set a goal for yourself. I'm completely serious when I said that I approached getting more exercise like a video game. All video games have a pretty clear end goal. I decided to give myself similarly clear end goals and signed up for some events that required an amount of physical fitness before I even started exercising.

First up was an extremely video game-inspired running event: Run for Your Lives, a 5K obstacle course during which you're chased by zombies. Check out the official site above for more information (or to sign up for one of the remaining events). But to give you a quick idea of what the event was like, it's basically this:

Meets this:

Okay, so there were no guns or giant foam paddles, but you get the idea. To prepare for the zombie-infested obstacle course, I started training a couple months in advance with the Couch to 5K program, a pretty simple way to build up to a 5K run. That program by itself is a good way to get started, but like I said, I needed to incorporate some technology into my training to make it even easier. Here's what I used:

The Gear: Timberland trailrunners, GPS watch, eers headphones,

I started off with a pair of Nike running shoes I happened to have around, and it quickly became clear that they weren't the right choice for Run for Your Lives, which I learned would feature a lot more rugged terrain. So I switched to a new pair of Timberland trailrunners, which feature a lot heavier traction for running over rocky terrain, as well as an interesting kind of toe guard.

The Apps: Runkeeper, Zombies, Run!

If you have a smartphone and any interest in fitness, you've probably encountered Runkeeper. It is an app that records your distance, speed, route and other relevant information as you run. Most fitness apps function in much the same way, but Runkeeper is one of the most popular because it's simple, clean, and works as intended. I will say the downside of all mobile phone fitness apps is that you obviously have to carry your phone with you, but there's an easy solution for that which I'll discuss a little later on.

I wish I discovered Zombies, Run! while I was training, but sadly just checked it out for the first time a few days ago. Regardless, it's too amazing not to mention. It is a running game and audio adventure for iOS and Android. You (the real you, not a digital representation) are Runner 5, a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. As you run around your neighborhood, the game relays instructions through your headphones as you hear the sound of zombies growing closer and closer. The game tells you when you've found a health item, ammo, supplies
and other stuff you've gathered to help out your fellow survivors. It relays stories of the survivors through a cast of various voice actors and otherwise builds a world through words as you run. Of course, the big draw are the zombies - you can choose to let the game turn on random "zombie attacks" that prompt you to run faster to get away.

Speaking of zombies, here's a picture of my shoes after finishing the very, very muddy zombie 5K Run for Your Lives:

dirty shoes.jpg

I didn't "survive" Run for Your Lives because the zombies managed to grab my last "health point" flag about 90 percent of the way through the course. Even though I didn't live, I had a blast and I'll definitely be back next year, However, I'll train a little differently. It's not a true 5K in that it's not about speed. It quickly became clear that the best way to approach Run for Your Lives was to conserve energy by walking between obstacles and zombie fields, then sprint as fast as you can through the undead hordes. Next time, I'll focus much more on sprint training.

Run for Your Lives has several more events scheduled around the country this year, so check the official site to see the remaining dates. 

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