Omaha woman lost 25 pounds running from Zombies

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Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:57 pm, Tue Oct 28, 2014.

Mindy Bilderback lost 25 pounds running from zombies.

Well, not real zombies, of course. Not even people dressed as zombies. They exist only on her smartphone.

The 26-year-old Omahan downloaded “Zombies, Run!” to her smartphone a year ago. It's an interactive mobile app designed to get users moving. For Bilderback, it worked.

Now “I'm one of those weird people who I used to never understand, who wants to go to the gym,” she laughed.

At 5-foot-7, Bilderback now weighs in under 140 pounds. She credits “Zombies, Run!”

Start the app and a voice greets you as “Runner 5,” then tells you about a zombie apocalypse you survived.

“It tells you a whole story, and it puts you in it,” Bilderback said. “It's like you're the main character in a movie if you have a good imagination.”

She meets objectives the farther she runs, such as gathering supplies and returning them to base. Audio prompts alert you when a horde of zombies is nearby, and urge you to run faster. It's interval training in disguise. If you don't escape — aka pick up the pace — you don't move on to the next level. There are more than 30 missions. Some are more intense than others, Bilderback said. The narrator isn't always talking, though. During downtime, the app plays music from your playlist.

When Bilderback downloaded the app last year, she ran two miles the first day and was surprised at the distance covered.

“I don't think I'd run one mile since high school,” she said.

She hit the treadmill three days in a row before taking a day off to recover. Now she consistently runs three or four times a week. She signs up for 5Ks, too, such as the Warrior Dash, an obstacle-course mud run.

“I didn't even like running,” Bilderback said. “I would go on the elliptical. It didn't occur to me that running might be fun.”

Bilderback, who works at the Omaha Home for Boys, was naturally slim growing up but developed a thyroid problem when she was 22. It caused her to gain weight, and soon the scale neared 200 pounds.

“I wanted to be back to feeling like myself, to feeling good again,” she said.

Once doctors corrected her thyroid problem, she was able to drop about 25 pounds naturally. The rest she lost by exercising and tweaking her diet.

“Within a couple of months, people noticed that I had been losing weight, which was awesome and made me want to run even more.”

Her new obsession was a far cry from the old Bilderback, who got tired of the gym after a month or two. She also changed her eating habits. Bilderback has a sweet tooth — every meal would end with a piece of cake if she had her way — but “once you go to the gym or lose weight, you don't want to ruin it,” she said.

She eats a lot of fish, vegetables and brown rice, but not salads. She also avoids fast food. Now that she is exercising regularly and making healthier food choices, she falls asleep faster and doesn't even drink coffee. She feels naturally energetic.

Bilderback still eats sweets but sticks to one brownie instead of half a pan. She also eats ice cream, but only in moderation, and then only at eCreamery, where she works part time,

“Thank goodness gelato has half the butterfat of regular ice cream,” she said, “and sorbetto is fat-free.”

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