Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 2

17 08 2008

Read all about week 1 here.

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DAY 9

Week 2 begins.  Yesterday Mediasapien rested and recovered a bit from the first complete week of working out, although I still went for a 2 mile walk.  Today, I was back at the Wii Fit.

Todays routine: Start with 6 minutes of hip-swinging hula action to get the blood flowing, followed by all the current yoga poses, which number 12 (out of 15).  This took the workout beyond 30 minutes, which is a minimal daily milestone.  Then it was on to my new favorite activity – boxing in Wii Sports.  

Evaluation: I know, technically Wii Sports boxing is not part of the Wii Fit workout. But the way I see it, this 30 day test is about whether a video game can be part of a fitness regime.  Sure the Wii Fit is the pointy tip of that spear, but ultimately any sweaty cardio can be exercise, so if other video games get me off my ass and moving, they should be counted as well.  Too bad the Wii Fit doesn’t allow me to manually add time spent on other activities.  The boxing is by far the sweatiest 10 minutes, so it would be nice for Wii Fit to factor that in.

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DAY 10

Good news.  While browsing Wii Fit’s menus, I came across the ability to add Wii Fit credits (basically time earned while exercising) while doing activities outside of the game.  This is important because I’ve been finding some of the best parts of my daily routine aren’t in Wii Fit per se, but in other Wii titles – specifically boxing.  Also, as of today all 15 yoga poses are unlocked, so of course I tried them all.  interestingly, the final few poses are done on the floor without the balance board or the Wiimote.  Basically you are following the game without any data collected on your performance.  Surprisingly, the trainer’s comments and encouragement don’t change.  Unless there is a some magical sensor technology at play, I think the game is bullshitting me.  Not the end of the world, but still…  Today’s total time in game is 46 minutes – 16 doing mixed cardio and 30 doing yoga.  Plus another 10 spent boxing.  

Speaking of sensors, I took another body test before working out today.  The game suggests having a test everyday, but that seems too fanatical, even for Mediasapien.  Once or twice a week seems plenty to track progress.  However, one misplaced sneeze during the evaluation can screw the whole thing up, as I discovered.  My Wii Fit age shot up to 46, from the previous milestone of 36 set a few days ago.  So after today’s workout I took the test again.  This time it gaves me a Wii Fit age of 41, but apparently I lost a one and a half pounds while working out.  Hmm…

Evaluation: Today I managed some of the best individual scores on about six yoga poses, based on balance and posture, and I worked out for about one hour, sweating hard for half of that time and stretching for the other half.  Overall I have better energy and stamina, and feel, well, great.

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DAY 11

Today I decided to emphasize cardio more than anything else, so after starting with a vigorous round of hula, I ran the Wii Island loop, for a total of 20 minutes of hard, sweaty movement.  Although the thrill of jogging with famous Mii’s is begining to wain a bit, it was still funny to be passed by Mona Lisa and “Assface”.  The free run mode is now unlocked, so maybe tomorrow, I can explore the island without following the pace-setter provided.

After running, I was going to call it a day, but decided to do the complete yoga circuit – 15 poses, most done on each side.  When finished, the total time today was 52 minutes.  Not bad considering I was ready to quit at 20.

Evaluation: With plenty of activities and exercises still to unlock, Wii Fit continues to keep Mediasapien enthusiastic about working out.

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DAY 12

Today was all about balance games ( and boxing).  I spent a sorta fun but not overtly useful 20 minutes playing through the various activities, including skiing and snowboard slalom, ski jumping, tilt-the-ball-and-maze, and feed the penguin.  Then a 5 minute hula warm up before hitting the ring for 5 or 6 fights.  I lost count and only quit when I was finally beaten.  My ranking in boxing rose from the low 600’s to over 800 (whatever that’s worth).  But the important thing is I killed ’em.

Evaluation:  The balance games are little more than an easy introduction to the mechanics of the balance board.  They are a mild diversion and fun for a while,  but ultimately forgettable compared to the rest of the Wii Fit offerings.

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DAY 13

Free run mode is now unlocked.  I was hoping that it would let me direct my own course across the island, but instead it seems to recognise the inherant boredom of running and suggests I watch TV while jogging.  It has a clever mechanism to allow this.  By utilizing the tiny speaker on the Wiimote, you can actually keep the game running but switch to TV, and still hear the trainer’s voice in your pocket.  This was a nice touch because 10 minutes jogging seems like a lifetime, but 10 minutes jogging while watching Hi Def History Channel just whizzed by.

Some of the more astute readers may have noticed that Mediasapien was avoiding one big part of Wii Fit most of the time.  I’m refering of course to the strength building exercises, you know, push-ups, jackknifes (knives?), leg lifts, etc…  Some of the more loathsome ways to spend a few minutes.  Well today, I avoid these hateful moves no more.  Digging in to all 11 available exercises, I dutifully work my abs, triceps, hips, delts, yadda, yadda.   I kinda hated it, but definitely feel the burn in several places I didn’t even know I HAD places.

Evaluation: Free run mode might just be one of the best elements of Wii Fit.  The strength building must be working, ’cause I freakin’ hate it.

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DAY 13

Skipped it.

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DAY 14

Today saw over an hour of exercise (40 minutes of yoga and 25 minutes boxing in Wii Sports).  The yoga trainer praised my progress on balance, core strength, and control – she actually applauded my efforts 3 or 4 times when my “score” reached 90 and above on various poses.  I realize that this praise is largely random at times, but it still offers an incentive.

On to boxing.  As previously stated, the boxing feels like a honest-to-goodness, full-tilt workout, getting Mediasapien’s whole body shuckin’ & jivin’.  The competition makes for an enthusiastic game, and progressing through the ranks keeps me coming back for more.  But as the competition gets harder to beat, some of the flaws are starting to appear.  The main issue is a lack of responsiveness from the Wiimote and Nunchuck – or more accurately, from the sensor that is reading the controller’s movements.  It just misses too many punches and jabs, leaving my Avatar exposed with no defensive posture.  This allows the competition to string together a rapid fire barrage of hits.   Once or twice is acceptable, but if that is the main reason the competition get the advantage, then Mediasapien gets steamed.  I don’t mind losing, but only because I suck, not because the game is sluggish, I literally threw the controllers across the room (aimed at a soft sofa – I’m not stupid!) in frustration.

Evaluation:  Mediasapien has mixed feelings about Wii and the workout it provides.  On one hand, it has been the best motivator to get me moving and sweating in a long while, provided an hour a day of mixed, and mostly fun activities.  But the best activity so far – the boxing – is starting to show it’s weaknesses.  Perhaps its time to see what other physically-demanding Wii titles are waiting in the used games bin at Gamestop.





Wii Fit Workout: Week One Review

14 08 2008

This is the first weekly wrap-up review of my 4-week Wii Fit exercise challenge.  To see daily posts, click here.

Today marked day seven of my month long challenge.  Well, six if you don’t count the day I skipped.  I decided to take a follow up body test to compare to the one I took a week ago.  The test measures weight, BMI, balance and agility to determine your “Wii Fit Age”, a dubious measure of health to be sure, but a metric nonetheless.  Throughout all the games and workouts, the Wii Fit constantly gives feedback and scores each activity, providing a low-level awareness of overall progress.  One assumes that all of these stats get factored into the player’s progress, like leveling up in WoW.

The results of the original test were not great, not horrible.  It stated my weight at 188 lbs. with a BMI of a little more than 25.  It seemed to be impressed with my balance but still evaluated my Wii Fit age at 50.   This was depressing, but also gave me clear goals and incentives.  I told the game that I wanted to lose about 9 lbs. in the month, a challenging but reasonable goal.  To be fair to the Wii, I decided NOT to change my diet or anything else significant in my daily routine, so the results of the Wii can be more easily seen.  This plan kinda backfired as today’s body evaluation indicates.  According to the game, I GAINED 4 lbs. this week, and my BMI went up almost 2 points.  Yet my Wii Fit age dropped down to a nice healthy 36.  A bit confusing…

Before making any rash judgements about Wii Fit, or Mediasapien’s late night chocofix, it’s worth keeping a few things in mind.  One, my weight normally fluctuates about 5 or 6 lbs, from 185 to about 192 on a regular basis, so I am still within that range.  Two, a week is a bit short to see any real trends emerge.  Three, my cat will often put her paw on the balance board when I’m not looking just to screw with me.

So while I might dismiss the accuracy of the Wii Fit’s virtual evaluation, I can still attest to the stiff joints and sore muscles in the meat.  Each day the duration and intensity of the workout increased, adding new strength and yoga poses, as well as other fun activities.  Surprisingly, boxing was a blast.  It uses the same scheme as Wii Sports that ships with the console, but is structured more like a step class.  So today I fired up the Wii Sports for some “real” boxing. By the time I was done winning all three of the 3-round bouts (the final by a KO!) I was drenched in sweat with seriously burning shoulders and back

WEEK ONE EVALUATION:

Wii Fit is exercise.  The sweat is real, the challenge is real, the calories burned are real.  If you are an athlete, or like a lot of physical activity all the time, Wii Fit may seem a bit soft for you – and it probably is.  It might still function as a fun game, but it’s probably not going to completely satisfy you.  But, if you are less inclined to exercise regularly, and are willing to grind for mana all day in WoW to begin with, then Wii Fit might just fill the gap between your love of games and your need for fitness.

One week down, three to go…





Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 1

8 08 2008
Attica!  Attica!    Attica! Attica!

After months of fruitless efforts, MediaSapien finally got a Wii Fit.  I think the clerk at my local Game Stop was impressed by my impression of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.  After getting everyone on Mission St. to chant “Attica! Attica!”, they knew I wasn’t leaving without the game in my (apparently) chubby hands.

Turns out Wii Fit is an exercise and fitness game, and not, as I previously thought, a nose simulator (I was pronoucing” Wii Fit” as “Whiff It”, so I was WAY off base).  That’s ok.   I could use some exercise.  Even MediaSapiens have to manage the meat. 

According to the game’s initial evaluation, I was not in the best shape in RL.  It pegged me as overweight and scored my fitness age at 50!  That’s a five, followed by a zero.  Oy!  Not good.  As a former full-time ballet student and NYC bike messenger, I was expecting the game to recognise my potential.  Instead it painted me as a fat Cryptkeeper.  Time to put the avatar to work.

I decided to give myself a one month challenge.  Lose the spare tire (about 9 lbs.), and regain my former strength and flexibility.  Now I know that this can be accomplished with traditional diet and exercise, but I really want to see for myself if the Wii Fit can be a part of a fitness plan.  So I’ve decided not to change anything else about my lifestyle – just the Wii Fit, used every day.  I will log my progress here, so check this post regularly.

Recently Morgan Webb of X-Play chimed in with her thoughts on the Wii Fit, and decided it was NOT exercise, although she admitted it may be a useful tool for the elderly or sick.  After one day with the game, I can say unequivocally that she is wrong.  While it may lack some of the accuracy and in-your-face motivation that a personal trainer, or even the peer pressure at the gym provides, it does offer some remarkable data that helps the MediaSapien exercise better.  It can also be weirdly inaccurate too, so it’s not perfect.

Not MediaSapien

NOT MediaSapien

DAY 1

I let the game evaluate me before I began working out.  It took a few moments to get the hang of using the wireless balance board, but after a few missteps, it calculated my current weight and fitness age.  It  suggested that I was old and overweight, but once I began the exercises, it seemed to be convinced that I was in great shape depending on the current activity.  My balance wasn’t so great, but my strength was at the top of the scale (Personally I would have guessed the reverse ).  

I was then asked to choose my workout goals. Basically I want to lose the extra weight ( about 9 lbs.), figuring the rest will sort itself out if I am successful.  Since it was the first day, the options were limited, as regular workouts are needed to unlock more challenging exercises and games.  There seems to be a lot to do, with over 40 activities, but for now I stuck with some basic yoga and strength routines.  I will continue to expand the daily workout, and explore some of the games along the way.

Evaluation:  Too soon to say about my progress, but the game rates about a B- so far.  I was impressed by the style and approach, but other times it’s accuracy was way off.  Also, it had a tendency to contradict itself a lot.  In one breath, it chides me for being weak, and within the same activity suggests that I am in great shape.  Maybe it just needs to get to know me better.
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DAY 2

Not surprisingly, MediaSapien woke up a little sore this morning.  The relatively easy start yesterday must have had some impact on the meat.  Luckily, Wii Fit has another easy workout for me today, although the unlocking of new exercises and higher rep counts means that tomorrow some real work begins.  I continue to follow the game’s lead, as many of the exercises are still locked up, but it would be nice if it allowed me to customize a little more.  I can’t argue with Nintendo’s logic of keeping it safe and slow off the bat, but for those who have experience with Yoga and strength routines, adding a few more reps or sun salutations would provide a better, more complete workout in these early stages.

If Morgan Webb played with the game this much and then wrote her review, I can understand her suggestion that Wii Fit isn’t exercise.  But clearly a dedicated workout regimen with Wii Fit will have the same potential as other exercise programs.  While it can only guess about some aspects of your exercise, it’s visual feedback regarding balance is nothing short of amazing.  It has been 100% accurate when identifying the differences in strength and balance between my right and left sides.

Evaluation: The first day was a short and sweet introduction to the game, less than 20 minutes of exercise.  Day 2 is a little more serious, peaking at just under 30 minutes.  With the inclusion of a few more exercises and more reps tomorrow, expect the time to extent another 5-10 minutes.  So far, it is not as challenging as a RL Yoga class, but it seems to be heading towards a fuller, more robust workout.

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DAY 3

The meat bites back.  Due to a flair up of lower back pain and stiffness, it’s been recommended to MediaSapien to skip the Wii Fit today.  So instead I’ll be taking a moderate hike and stretching a bit. Back to it tomorrow.

Evaluation:  It hurts like I’ve been exercising.  Does that mean I have been?

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DAY 4

Today the workout kicks in a little more.  With the lower back pain still there, but less pronounced, Mediasapien gets right back in the saddle and pushes through the pain.  Avoiding the strain of strength training, today I took a look at the Wii Fit cardio activities and exercises.  I stated with a little hula hoop action, a very basic hip-swinging activity designed to do little more than increase the blood flow.  You also get to score the number of times the hoop goes around.  I killed it.

Next I tried some simple running in place.  With the Wiimote in pocket, the game adjusts the pace to keep a healthy stride.  Since this was my first run, the game limits the distance to a short (about 4 minutes) jaunt around a cute island.  It’s hardly enough to burn any serious calories, but the most I’ve burned in a while.  Normally Mediasapien avoids jogging due to knee strain, but the Wii Fit jogging game has a few things going for it.  Most notably, all the Mii’s on your system appear as other joggers or spectators.  I’m not sure what to think about getting pwned by Ice Cube, the Burger King, and Zoidberg on the track, but I was encouraged by the sideline cheering of Obama, Chuck Norris, and one Mii called simply “assface”.

I played some more balance games, like ski jumping and tightrope walking.  I also took a shot at a step class.  Again, too basic but clearly there is some potential there as well.  I wrapped up with some yoga, including a few new unlocked poses, and then I took another jog around the island.  This time I was beaten by Bono, Ron Jeremy, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Evaluation: Although I still want more freedom to customize the interface and routines, the workout is getting more satisfying.  With 32 minutes total time spent exercising today, the game finally feel like it is having an affect.  The fear of boredom is mitigated by the fast switch-up of activities, and the diverse selection is enough to cover a wide range of exercise needs while keeping it fresh.

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DAY 5

Wii Fit continues to impress the MediaSapien.  Today’s workout introduced a few new items, as well as increased the challenge presented by some of the other activities.  Yesterday I commented that the hula hoop exercise was a bit light.  It does seem help with the stiff hip and thigh quite a bit so today I hula’ed for both the warm up and cool down period.  Then I was off to jog again – this time for a slightly longer time period.  This time I was bested by Snoop Dog, Oprah, and Homer Simpson.  If MediaSapien ever needed an incentive to sweat, it’s watching as those big butts leave me in their dust.  Incidentally, today was the first in which I actually broke into a real sweat – not just a glistening, but actual drops rolling down my chest and flinging across my room.

Another new activity available today is boxing.  It uses the nunchuck attached to the Wiimote and functions a lot like the boxing game in the original Wii Sports disc. The big difference is that you follow a set pattern much like a step class with punching.  SInce it was the first time, the game was detuned as usual, but it was a fun whole-body activity that I look forward to playing again tomorrow.

Evaluation:  The game keeps getting better and better. The length and challenge of the workout keeps increasing, with lots of fun activities to augment the less interesting exercises.  The biggest complain is the constant need to hit the “A” button on the Wiimote 2 or 3 times between each activity to acknowledge the trainer’s pointers and tips. I would like the option to segue seamlessly between yoga poses without all the commentary and interruptions.

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DAY 6

Wow.  Feel the burn.  Today, MediaSapien pushed through the pain and went for the gold.  After starting with a 6 minute run and a record shattering hula hoop session, it was on to boxing, which as I noted earlier, is more like a step class with punches.  Tomorrow I am going to box for real (!) with the original Wii Sports disc instead.  Then it was on to a round of yoga, which now includes 8 out of 15 exercises unlocked.  Since Wii Fit doesn’t allow for a custom routine to be programmed in, I make sure to go through each exercise at least once, sometimes twice.  

Yoga is becoming a favorite activity of mine in Wii Fit, but it definitely helps to have some yoga experience going into the game.  Even though the game keeps track of your balance, knowing subtle things about posture and breathing help make the poses more useful.

One funny note, the game will often ask you, in a childlike voice that only Mario could love, to step on the balance board before an exercise begins.  As soon as you do, it lets out a little “Ohh…!” as if it immediately regretted the suggestion and it’s having trouble breathing.  It’s just a little thing, really.  But it is a constant low-level underminer of MediaSapien’s self confidence.

Today wrapped up with a big run, about 19 minutes long.

Evaluation:  With the duration of the workout exceeding 45 minutes (almost 1/2 of that running), and a wider range of activities opening up every day, MediaSapien is unlikely to get bored before the 30 day test runs out – maybe.

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DAY 7  

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

It’s official.  Mediasapien has been working out for a whole week.  Just a few quick notes here, as I am preparing a “first week” summary which I will post later today.  In the RL where meatsapien lives, it’s hot outside for the first time in weeks.  I was pleasently surprised when the Wii Fit trainer avatar commented on the heat.  It’s shouldn’t be a shock, really.  The Wii is always connected via WiFi and has a dedicated weather channel already, so porting that data into the game is no biggie.  But still, a nice touch.

 

One other quick note:  The jogging activity is oddly compelling.  To someone who hates jogging and frequently suffers knee pain, avoiding it altogether in Wii Fit should be easy.  But the inventive use of the Mii’s, especially the imported ones, makes jogging in the game surprisingly fun and challenging.  It’s one thing to be passed on the running trail by Chuck Norris or Darth Vader in Mii form.  But it is entirely unacceptable to be beaten by Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy.  After all, to anyone who’s seen him naked (and lets face it, who hasn’t), the idea that he could run AT ALL, let alone run faster than me just doesn’t jive.  It definitely inspires me to run faster.

See week #1 summary HERE.
See week #2 HERE.