A Different Kind of Outbreak

Anna Amelianchik

Before the novel coronavirus resulted in travel restrictions, event cancellations, and toilet paper shortages, The Rockefeller University community faced a different kind of outbreak: The Outbreak challenge. The Outbreak is a team-based six-week step and fitness challenge that syncs real-life steps and physical activity data recorded by a fitness tracker and translates them into virtual actions that you can take to survive a zombie outbreak. The app-based game tells an immersive story and offers six scenarios in which players have to reach safehouses to escape the zombie horde and progress through the challenge. Like many other workplace fitness challenges, The Outbreak helps employees build a community around a healthy lifestyle and foster behaviors that improve one’s health and reduce healthcare costs. The Rockefeller University’s leading team—“No Shorz Too Short”—is a great example of what the challenge was set to achieve with the average of 15,176 of team steps per day and the total of 637,395 steps over the six-week period. In addition, No Shorz Too Short put their steps to good use killing 1,055 zombies and reached all six safehouses in time. I had a conversation with the team leader, Zina, a Unit Clerk in The Rockefeller University’s Hospital, about The Outbreak challenge and its impact on her fitness and overall health. 

Can you describe your fitness regimen during the challenge?

My regimen was nothing too crazy to me, just had to go back to my old habits. I used to walk all the time anywhere and everywhere until I started working here. I have been taking transportation anywhere and everywhere and would cry about how thirty minutes was too far of a walk.

On day one of the challenge, I walked to work, then come week three, I walked to AND from work every day. If I had any errands to run, whether it was to return an item to a store, food shopping, pay bills etc., I made sure to walk there rather than hop on a bus or train.

Yeah it’s cold outside but once you get moving, trust me you will be stripping in the middle of the street when it gets hot. Playing Pokémon GO helped me a lot when I needed to get steps in. There were Pokémon I needed, and I would walk all over the city to get them before I headed home.

I went to the gym every day during my lunch break or went for a walk outside, depending on how my body felt that day. Hop on the bike for a few minutes then lift some weights. 

Did you notice any changes in your mood, energy levels, or general health while you were completing the challenge?

I will say after week three, I was exhausted physically, but alert and happy. I had trouble sleeping before. During the challenge I was knocked out at night and had a restful sleep. 

I was pushing my body to the limit every day but I wanted to keep going. So I made some adjustments to still reach my goal but not tire out (lift weights less and less cardio during the week). I felt stronger each day nonetheless and was happy to see the numbers on the scale go down each week, too. My mood improved. I was able to focus on the challenge and I became very competitive. I felt the need to outdo the other team. My team (“No Shorz Too Short”) and I would encourage one another to lead the race. Normally I am very lackadaisical. 

Are you able to keep it up now that the challenge is over?

When the challenge started, I had to tell myself every day, “Got to go to the gym or I got to work out.” Now that the challenge is over I wanted to take a break for a week and start again (don’t recommend it, you get lazy fast).

This challenge created a good habit that I will say I still keep to this day. I am still active and maintain the minimum step goal of 30,000 and daily walks/gym visits. I am going to wear my “short shorz”…eventually. HA!

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