Escaping the Monster: A Word on Horror Fitness

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In addition to being a horror nerd, I am also a fitness nerd. I often vacillate between focusing on horror aspects of my life (watching horror movies, reading articles, getting lost in a black hole of 6 Degrees to Tom Atkins) and fitness aspects of my life (training, reading scientific articles, getting lost in a black hole of Carbs vs. Fats to Fuel your Body). 

But sometimes, I find myself toying with the idea of “horror fitness.” It’s somewhere between Linnea Quigley’s infamous Horror Workout and Leslie Vernon’s famous line, “You oughta be able to run like a freakin’ gazelle without getting winded… plus there’s that whole thing of making it look like you’re walking when everybody else is running their asses off.” I like to ruminate on what kind of shape you would need to be in to fend off the most famous frightful fiends in horror history. 

Instead of just staring out the window, thinking longingly about how one might prepare for an encounter with a horror icon, I thought we should share them with the world at large, in the unlikely event you should ever encounter one of these terrifying foes… 

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1Jason Voorhees

Biggest Threat: Appears out of nowhere. Is weapons resourceful.
Biggest Weakness: Mommy issues. Water.

No matter where you encounter Jason, it’s not going to be a fair fight. We know you can’t spar with him (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), and we know you can’t hide from him. The lumbering mass is just going to pop up where you least expect him and machete your face off. The goal here is improving your reaction time with agility drills. Things like side shuffles, ladders, ball drill…over and over again. This is different than having “cat-like reflexes” in that it’s a deliberate movement. Ducking, diving, jumping through windows – these are ways to escape Jason’s menagerie of “anything that’s pointy and close by” choice of weapons.

By doing reaction drills, you can escape Jason when he appears outta nowhere, à la Randy Orton RKO. And when you do, RUN FOR THE LAKE! You can’t outrun him, but you CAN out swim him. So make sure you’re swimming those laps before heading to your vacation at Camp Crystal Lake this summer. 

2Leatherface

Biggest Threat: Chainsaw. Surprising endurance. Family of crazies who support his hobbies.
Biggest Weakness: Sensitive, Kinda dumb.

The big problem here is the chainsaw. Unless you also have a chainsaw, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fend off Leatherface, even if you happen to be stronger than him. And, considering he’s a massive beast with chainsaw-lifting arms, those odds are against you. Your best bet is just to run, and run fast, because despite his size, Leatherface is known to have a surprising amount of endurance. Just ask Sally.

Because of this, training standard cardio isn’t enough. Sure, you can run every day, but unless you’re adding in some plyo, you’re good as a ghost. Look at box jumps, squat jumps, lunge jumps, push-jumps. Pretty much adding a jump to any exercise. Leatherface’s modus operandi is getting you back to where his family lives, where they, too, will kill and eat you. So being able to jump and lunge in the small space of a house is essential. Your goal: run for the road, jump in a car, and get the HELL outta there. 

3Michael Myers

Biggest Threat: Never ever never stops.
Biggest Weakness: Under cult control, or fire, depending on the sequel.

Unfortunately, this one might be a lost cause. Once Michael pegs you, it’s a relentless quest to kill you dead. The only thing you can do here is run. Luckily, Michael is slow. He’s a walker, not a runner. And, also lucky, he’s only coming after you one night a year. Halloween. So it’s kind of like training for an ultramarathon the rest of the year. You gotta be able to stay on your feet, at a pace above walking, for at least 12 hours. So, load up on Halloween candy…you’re gonna need that fuel!

The hardest part: Michael is likely to find you at home and appear without you knowing it. So, make sure you’re running your stairs, too! Up and down! The goal here is to get out of the house, onto the street, and hit the pavement without stopping until the sun comes up on November 1st. 

4Chucky

Biggest Threat: Hides really well. Known to pop up from behind. Knows voodoo.
Biggest Weakness: Made of plastic. Is doll-sized.

Chucky is a wily little bastard. If you’ve got a Good Guy Doll in your home, there’s no way of knowing if it’s just a doll, or Charles Lee Ray, the Lakeshore Strangler. You could check the batteries, but he knows better than to let that happen again. He’s smart and resourceful: he’s going to hide, he’s going to wait, and he’s going to strangle you.

Beating Chucky is all about strengthening your arms and upper body. This means biceps, triceps, forearms, chest, and grip! You gotta be able to break a the strangle hold with whatever apparatus he’s using. And if you can’t, you gotta be strong enough to reach behind you and throw his ass. Once grounded, this is where kickboxing comes in. Just kick the sucker! Kick him into the fireplace, or into an incinerator, or any other place his little plastic butt will melt. 

5Freddy Krueger 

Biggest Threat: You’re asleep when he shows up.
Biggest Weakness: Lucid Dreaming.

You can’t physically beat Freddy. Face it, you’re asleep when he’s coming for you, so there’s no strength training that will help you kick his dream demon ass. But that doesn’t mean physical training can’t help! In The Art of Resilience by Ross Edgley, he points out that studies show most people’s “one last rep” is actually only 40% of our physical capacity. Our brains shut us down before our body is actually ready to give up. So, how do we train this? With a focus on mind-body connection to push past the “one last rep” mentality.

Whatever workout you do, do to failure…then do one more. That mental training will get you ready for battle mentally, and Freddy won’t know what hit him. Also, keep a dream journal – it’s proven to help achieve lucid dreaming which will get you to Dream Warrior status that much faster! 

6Pinhead 

Biggest Threat: Extra-dimensional powers, including telekinesis.
Biggest Weakness: The Lament Configuration box.

The good news about Pinhead is that you have to summon him. The bad news is once he’s summoned, he’s gonna get your soul. And it’s not easy-peasy mist-through-the-mouth soul pulling, like a Dementor or Shang Tsung, this is whips and chains, fresh-ripping, and eternal torment soul pulling. You really can’t fight him, especially with a gang of Cenobites ready to appear transdimensionally anywhere you exist.

If summoned, your only recourse is getting your hands on the Lament Configuration box and sending him back to hell. This is harder than it sounds. Think about it like the most adrenaline-fueled game of hot potato ever. Your only recourse in preparing for the Hell Priest is training your hand-eye coordination so you can get your hands on the box and operate it in a hurry. You’re looking at things like racquetball, tennis, ping-pong – anything that adapts your reflexes! Might wanna work on that grip strength, as well, because once you have the box, you can’t let it go until Pinhead is back in hell. 

7Xenomorph

Biggest Threat: Acid blood. Whip Tail. Razor teeth. Adapted to be an ultimate killing machine.
Biggest Weakness: Limited problem solving capabilities. Extreme Temperatures.

If you have a Xenomorph after you…you’re f***ed. Unless you actually are Sigourney Weaver, you pretty much don’t have a prayer. But let’s face it, you gotta try, right? Xenomorphs can be tricked, so the goal is to set a trap and lure the alien in without dying in the process. You’ll likely be in a spacecraft, which will give you limited places to move about. So, what we’re talking about here is functional fitness, à la Crossfit.

You’ll need to be able to do pull-ups, sprints, lift heavy grates to ventilation shafts, run with heavy artillery, perhaps operate heavy machinery, and grip yourself into oblivion when the bay doors open and the space suction tears through you like a tornado. Oh, and not get winded in the 15 minutes it takes to do all this stuff. All this can be trained in a Crossfit box – not saying you’ll live, but at least you’ll have a fighting chance! 

8Pennywise

Biggest Threat: Conjures fear.
Biggest Weakness: Trans Dimensional Turtles (book) or being bullied to death (2019 film).

Pennywise is a trickster of sorts. He’s a formidable opponent (he’s essentially a demon of the Todash Darkness, for Ka’s sake!) and he definitely wants to eat you. Though there’s nothing specific about training to face IT, pretty much any ol’ routine will do, what you will need is to focus on your VO2 Max and your anaerobic endurance.

VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use during exercise. Anaerobic endurance is how long you can continue to put in work without oxygen. Why are these important if Pennywise appears? Because the first thing he’s going to do is scare the living sh*t out of you. With your adrenaline pumping, you heart rate elevated, and your breathing quickened without even taking a step, you better have a bit of reserve oxygen when it comes time to face the clown (or one of his many horrifying forms). And when that O2 runs out, you best be able to keep going. 

9Romero Zombies

Biggest Threat: Gathers in hordes.
Biggest Weakness: Really dumb. Slow.

It’s become rather common knowledge that zombies, in their Romero-ist form, are not terribly formidable. They’re really dumb, single-minded in their desire to eat flesh, and have real bad coordination. Most of the time, your biggest opponents will be whoever you shack up with to stay away from them. But once they horde, it’s kind of like trying to break through a brick wall with a toothpick. It’s important to stay moving, that is until you can find a nice mall, underground bunker, or island hideaway to hunker down in. So, it’s all about endurance.

This isn’t Michael Myers endurance, though, this is more like a 10-mile hike up a steep mountain endurance. Slow and steady. You’ll likely outpace most Romero zombies just by walking at a brisk pace. But it can’t hurt to shore up some boxing skills as well. Romero zombies tend to go down with a quick smash to the head. You probably won’t kill them, but you’ll stun them long enough to get a nice head start on your way to basecamp. 

10Pumpkinhead

Biggest Threat: Huge. Killing claws. Insatiable appetite for revenge.
Biggest Weakness: Tied to a mortal soul.

Pumpkinhead is kinda like if the Xenomorph and Michael Myers had a baby that grew up into a 9-foot tall, veiny, big-headed monster. He’s significantly smarter than the Xenomorph, able to orchestrate his own traps and use his environment to effectively stalk the “marked ones.” He’s nigh on impervious, with a regenerative body and skin as thick as roots. The bottom line here: you’re dead.

You can’t train for Pumpkinhead. No amount of cardio or strength training is going to save you. No mental resilience nor “special athletic ability”…just get your affairs in order, call your loved ones, and hope for a quick execution. That is, unless you have the stones to kill the guy or gal who summoned vengeance incarnate to wreck bloody revenge on you. Our suggestion? Just don’t piss anyone off with access to that particular pumpkin patch…

((I want to give a special creator’s shout out to Death Comes Lifting for inspiring this post. They’re not paying me or anything, they just did something I’ve always dreamed of doing by marrying horror and working out with gruesomely awesome results.))


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