I’m on one of my health kicks! That means I’m “on the wagon” — using the Fooducate app faithfully, and trying to be more active. Four more pounds, and I’m pre-baby weight (jeez, took me long enough — she’s almost a year old!) and I’m excited about an active summer. I’m trying to get long and strong (and down to get the friction on) for our July Paris trip so I can fit in better in Europe and be buff enough to climb scary cathedral steps and lug my suitcase around.

The crazy thing is… I’ve started kinda… running!

My Less-Than-Fabulous Runner’s History

You know those girls you see in the UnderArmour tights and sports bras running around in all their sinewy ballerina glory, barely breaking a sweat? Yeah, that’s NOT ME. When I was having a body issue crisis as a young teen, my mom would assure me that I was “big-boned but proportionate” which was the right thing to say, because it’s true. It’s a very kind way of saying that I’m not thin, and I never will be. Well, I take that back — I think I could be thin for my genetic size. But I’ll never be… skinny. Willowy. Basically I have the body of a German milkmaid. Hourglass shaped, but more on the side of sturdy. And I’ve spent  most of my life convinced this is not a “runner’s body.”

The WORST DAY in gym class was the day we ran the mile. What exactly did that prove, anyway? Do they still even do that? I think you can be in pretty good shape, flexible and strong, and still unable to run a mile without it sucking supremely.

A few years I walked in protest, but one year I actually ran it in about 9:00. Nine minutes! I had taken up running because it helped one of my friends lose weight. I didn’t lose weight, but my mile time was pretty good! But it was a pain. I hated it. I never got that promised “runner’s high.” Basically I would run a block, walk a block, and run if someone saw me on the street because I didn’t want to look out of shape.

I ended up quitting because it was monotonous and I kind of hated it. I’m the kind of person who exercises best when it’s a sport or a competition, as well as hiking in pretty nature. Also this was 2001, so there were no ipods or iphones yet which made listening to music not really an option for me (my little CD player skipped like a mofo, and I can’t remember why but running with the Walkman didn’t work out).

So, Why Am I Running Now?

Stop foaming at the mouth, it’s not like I had this major transformation and now I’m a marathon runner in UnderArmour tights! I’m doing the run/ walk combo, and the only reason why is an app called Zombies Run!

Basically you put on your Pandora or music mix, and run the ZR app at the same time. Every once in awhile a segment of audio from ZR will come over your music. Each run is set up with a story line where you are the main character. As you run, the phone tracks your steps and you pick up items depending on how far you go. At some point in the episode, your character will be chased by zombies so you have to increase your pace or be eaten!

I love the story line so far, and with the items you pick up, you get to modify your digital zombie survival base on the app and upgrade it with cool stuff. It’s like a post-apocalyptic SimCity.  Luckily the app is cool with you just walking really fast instead of running because I can’t run the whole time — yet!

I can’t get enough. I’d do it every day if it worked with my schedule (as of now, weekends are the only time I get to do it)


Part of me feels bad for needing this app. I sometimes get a little indignant when every new education app or program or website always has some kind of “gamification” aspect – kids earn tokens or badges for things they learn, etc. There has been a movement to gamify classrooms which I always thought was cool, but kind of gimmicky.

But if the gamification of exercise can make ME, me of the German milkmaid body, actually run and look forward to it, then there’s got to be something to this idea. Plenty of kids don’t like reading as much as I don’t like running, even though we all know what’s good for us. Just a little incentive might be enough to push them into reading more.

But what about intrinsic motivation? Is it inherently wrong to do something for a reward that you should be doing because it’s good for you? Shouldn’t the reward for reading be knowledge, and for running, fitness and body shape?

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not enough. I may have to rethink my aversion to adding game elements to education and student achievement…

If you hate running but think you’d like to try and get into it, or even just getting out and power walking, I recommend the app. I downloaded the free version and it’s been great so far. If I really, REALLY get into it, I’ll pay for the upgrade. Happy zombie infested running!