In a (fairly unsuccessful) bid to be on my phone less, I got a cool radio that I set to wake me up at 8am every day. It gets louder over the course of a few seconds, gently easing me into my day. Or so I thought. The trouble is, being set for 8am, I’m always woken up halfway through the newsreader on 6 Music reading the latest dystopian headlines: one about COVID, another on our government’s treatment of refugees, probably another on the ever looming threat of nuclear war and, most recently, news that makes me feel like I live in The Handmaid’s Tale. The news is rapidly becoming my least favourite show on TV.
It tracks, then, that people who grew up on young adult (YA) dystopian novels are doing what they do best: adapting to change and trying to save the world. Hence the emergence of #dystopiacore workouts on TikTok. Users are having a bit of fun (said through a nervous smile) getting fit and – more importantly – preparing for The End Of The World. You can’t be a first waver and go down in the first fight; this lot are prepped and ready. A bit like the army reserves but much more stylish and with better music.
I’ve always envisaged myself as a character in a film when I’m listening to music (and by that I mean doing literally anything when I’m on my own) so it’s good to know that everyone in on this is basically cosplaying as Katniss Everdeen or a character from Divergent. Perhaps Hollywood knew back in the 2010s that we were going to have to face our own mortality and was showing us how to cope? Much to think about.
Fitness-wise, usually I like to go to yoga, Pilates, for the occasional run or swim and get a Milkybar on the way home but in the name of research I’ve been doing some #dystopiacore workouts for the last week. Which basically means adding dystopian movie soundtracks to my routine and working on End Of The World moves: running fast, making #gains, avoiding large flying objects. I’ve got to say, if those Bad Guys we’re all hearing about start anything in the north/east London area any time soon, they better be ready for me. (As long as I’m listening to the right song and feel up to it and also have the right outfit on.)
Workout: Rowing (battle may take place on water), squats, press-ups
I’m the sort of gym-goer that prides themselves on wearing a T-shirt I got at a team-building day for my old job and some leggings I got from Topshop in 2013 rather than spending the equivalent of a house deposit on an outfit from Lululemon. I actively (the irony) rail against the chic activewear trend because it reminds me of women called Elizabeth who don’t sweat and who get their hair highlighted every six weeks. Can you imagine?
Seeing as it's the end of the world though, I decided to go one step up and throw on some adidas joggers I lived in during lockdowns and a tracksuit top that I usually wear to indie nights. Time to go.
I have to admit, it was a bit more exciting than my usual workouts and worked up more of a sweat (I guess no superpower has ever been defeated by a downward dog) but I felt a tiny bit self-conscious in the gym as my face took on the determined look the workout demanded. Some people looked nervously across at me and moved away. I chose some songs to pump me up as well and I can’t say I hated feeling very Main Character. "I’m doing this to save you when the time comes!" I tried to communicate to everyone. With my eyes.
Workout: Lateral raises, sprint drills, hiding behind pillars (technical term)
Of course the soundtrack really helps. I’ve only run two 10ks in my life and I honestly don’t think I would have finished the first one if it wasn’t for playing "Something New" by Girls Aloud on repeat for the last 25 minutes – you forget Kimberley Walsh sort of raps on it, I can’t recommend it enough. My point is, you work out a lot harder when you’re listening to songs that make you feel like you’re ready for a fight. (Incidentally, maybe don’t do one of these workouts before a family dinner or a hot date or you might not be in the right frame of mind.) But I’m starting to really feel it. Also – it’s probably in my head but I already feel a bit stronger. If I were in a battle I’d have more faith in myself (or, as Britney said, feel "Stronger") than yesterday.
Workout: Quad crunches, sit-ups, scavenging practice (looking at the floor)
It does make sense that there’s a whole sartorial trend to accompany this whole movement. Dystopiacore extends to an entire fashion philosophy which is very "Camden town at an emo concert but they’ve got a bit of cash now". Everyone I see on TikTok currently looks like they just stepped off the set of The Matrix (perhaps because the world feels a bit like that right now). I can’t blame them. Dress for the job you want and the future you fear.
I started getting into it though, even wearing some fishnet socks to work out in. Who said gym gear had to be drab? At this point I’d like to amend my earlier statement. I’m still not bothered about yoga brands who charge the Earth for us all to look the same but I am starting to get on board with turning heads in the gym as well as in everyday life. (Admittedly, not for the same reasons.)
Workout: Leg raises, lateral pull-downs, planks
I'm starting to get really into the cult of this now, against all my better judgement. It’s the right level of tongue-in-cheek and actually letting me daydream about saving the world while working out. (Beats daydreaming about a fight I had in year nine with a girl I no longer speak to and what I could have said differently that would’ve really got her. If she knew I was now her one chance of survival she would’ve acted differently.) I decided to take my soundtrack up a gear and download the official Dauntless workout playlist. I’d suggest adding "It's The End of The World As We Know It" by REM, "Deeper Underground" by Jamiroquai and perhaps Aerosmith's "I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing" for when you eventually decide you’re probably ready for the front line, sack it all off and go for a Greggs.
Workout: Running like you’re being chased by a zombie
Okay I’m now in full dystopian warrior mode and my attire has changed to the only sleek workout stuff I own. I recommend tying something around your head that isn’t tights though. Adapt, evolve, overcome. It’s what Katniss would have wanted. Yes, I look more like a beat poet than the saviour of the free world but I'm working on it. I'm actually getting quite antsy waiting for the battle to commence, like when they split the last part of the trilogy into two films and you just want them to get to the good bit. I haven’t even seen any injustices on the street that I could’ve intervened in, just for a quick fix. What’s the point?
Workout: Dumbbell curls, missile dodging (very important)
I think I’m ready for oblivion when it comes now. I’ve eaten right all week, watched The Hunger Games, Divergent, Dauntless and The Incredibles (no comment) but I can’t keep scaring Carol in the gym. I’m pretty sure she’s reported me as being radicalised for something.
So see you back at yoga. I probably won’t last long in the apocalypse but I’ll definitely look pretty good in the final fight.