Fitness at the end of the world


It’s been a rough week for resisting apocalyptic thinking, especially on the environmental front. I’m a die hard relentless optimist but even I’ve been knocked back by megafires in Australia, super smog in China, jellyfish taking over the ocean, and the thought that it’s time we all just stopped flying.

When I start thinking about life in a war torn world with few natural resources and with a government that’s falling apart, I tend to look at my friends and family and our collective skills a bit differently.  I start thinking about my children and their future in terms of their resourcefulness and resiliency. And yes, I know that the world I’ve just described as my nightmare is the world that an awful lot of people live in now and I’m lucky to be here in Canada. Philosophers think lots about luck and its role in human affairs. My ethics grad seminar last year was on egalitarianism and we spent a lot of time talking about luck and justice.

But I know my knowledge of moral philosophy won’t be the most important skill I’ve got come post apocalyptic Canada. It doesn’t matter so much which disaster you’re dwelling on, whether it’s peak oil, climate change, or the dreaded zombies. (Luckily they’ll lose out to the other animals after killing off the humans.) I start to think about fitness and about survival and about my ability to protect myself and the weak and vulnerable. Aikido might come in handy.

To be very clear, I’m not endorsing this reaction or claiming it’s rational. Obviously, political change and collective action matter more than physical fitness.

However, I think it’s no surprise in this cultural climate with its heightened sense of drama, illness, and disaster that we’ve started to think about zombies and fitness. There are the zombie runs, of course. And the Zombies, Run! app. And as Are You Fit Enough to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse?? points out there’s more than just running required.

Nerd Fitness points out in How to Survive the End of the World that technology won’t be our friend in natural disaster.

“Essentially, if technology goes kaput, we’ll be reverting back to survival of the fittest. 

Start building your apocalypse body NOW.

Stop eating junk food.  Start exercising regularly.  If you’re holding off on getting elective surgery for something, get it done now.  Add a pull up bar to your house and build a regiment completing the Konami workout, hotel room workout, or beginner body weight routine.  The stronger you are and the faster you are, the better chance you’ll have at surviving whatever end-of-days scenario gets thrown at you.  Here’s a great article on the skills that every person should have to save their own life.

Take care of yourself, because the world needs you.

There are dozens of post apocalyptic fitness sites out there, a real mix of nerdy gamers, fundamentalist Christians, terrifying white supremacists, the usual anarchists, and environmental doomsday sorts. I made the mistake of googling post apocalyptic fitness and discovered a horrible mixed bag of angst and worry and racism.

Horrifying attitudes aside (if you can put them aside), I think the focus on fitness is partly sensible and practical (and being fit can’t hurt even if the world chugs along just fine) and partly something one can do in the face of widespread anxiety. My personal favourite are the progressives worried about the fate of the suburbs after we run out of oil.  The preferred answer: the cyclocross bike. We’ll still have paved roads for quite a few years but they won’t be maintained and so they’ll be in rough shape. I’m so glad I have one ready.

2 thoughts on “Fitness at the end of the world

  1. Interesting post– mixture of the fanciful and sober. Don’t be surprised if the bike companies get wind of this idea, though, and commandeer your cyclocross bike idea for a new post-apocalyptic marketing campaign. 🙂 I’m just delighted that I now have another justification for owning one when I don’t do cross races anymore…

  2. I’ve had an “end-of-civilization” escape scenario in the back of my mind for a while now… and yes, it does involve bicycles. I’ve always been fascinated by survival topics; I can remember as a Brownie packing my own little first aid kit on every hike, and feeling more secure in a scary world because at least if anyone fell and skinned their knees, I could help. At ten, I was starting to collect survival handbooks and had taught myself how to build little shelters in the woods. (I was still a Girl Guide, and the camping was my favourite part). To this day, I don’t feel quite right unless I have a first-aid kit and my Swiss Army knife with me.

    I’m sure a lot of this is just compensation for the anxiety disorder I’ve always had, but it’s also a response to all the ways I felt powerless as a girl in a society that told me I was fragile and had a target painted on my chest, essentially. I also think it’s significant that I grew up during a period of intense social anxiety, at the end of the Cold War and at the beginning of the environmental movement’s going mainstream. I read books that took it for granted that there would be a nuclear war followed by nuclear winter, or that there would be a general ecological collapse.

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