Friday, December 26, 2008

The Fitness Lover: Wii Fit-ness that is!

For Christmas my boyfriend gave me a Wii game console and Wii Fit (this was a requested item, not a hint from him to trim up). I was like a little kid on Christmas morning (but a few days early), sitting down on the tile floor, barefoot, in my PJs, unpacking the boxes and wiring the unit into my A/V Receiver and syncing the Wii remote and balance board. The Wii Fit game has 4 sections: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance Games. But first you have to take a fitness evaluation. Let's just say this isn't a, well, flattering experience.

I like to think of myself as being in better shape than most 40 year old female non-athletes. Perhaps it's the non-athlete part that played a factor here, but after entering my age and height, doing the weigh-in and the simple balance assessment, I was informed that my BMI (Body Mass Index) was too high (I'm overweight), and my fitness age was 49!!! Talk about a blow to the old ego! Now I wasn't too surprised by my BMI as it's always been off. Even when I was running 3 miles daily, weight training, and doing 100 sit-ups a day, my BMI said I was overweight (my fitness coach at the time seemed a bit embarrassed by this..."You carry your weight well" is all she said). I've always won a prize at the carnival stands where they guess your weight. Of course part of this may have to do with my extremely heavy head...Jason once speculated that if a man ever tried to attack me from behind that I need only swing my head back in a full headbutt and the man would surely be rendered unconscious. I believe he likened my extremely heavy (and large) head to that of a "wrecking ball", I'm not making this up!!

As for as the fitness age, it appears to be related to your balance. Since I have always had poor balance because I place my center of balance too far forward into my quads and knees instead of my gluts and hips, I don't shift my weight correctly or as quickly as I should. This is probably why I cannot ice skate or do anything else on ice for that matter...except give myself a concussion...thank goodness for that thick skull of mine as it's come in handy a time or two on the ice! Plus there was a learning curve for me with this balance board and it was my very first "game" so I pretty much sucked just because of that.

So, on to the game. The Yoga was great, except that I can't touch my toes (not the most flexible person anyone has ever met), but I did okay (meaning I didn't make Jason laugh too many times while I performed the different exercises). Yes, he was sitting on the couch watching me. Great entertainment I was, apparently. The game assesses your center of balance on the board and forces you to try to maintain your balance within a small area much farther back than I'm used to. The strength training was a mixed bag, some of which I could barely perform, and others which I hit 4 stars right out of the gate (you are ranked with 1 to 4 stars...1 being labeled Couch Potato and 4 being Body Builder). The aerobics were fun, with hula hoop and step and running exercises that I found very entertaining. Then there were the balance games. These are the most like traditional games. There doesn't appear to be any "real" multi-player game option though which would be really fun with the balance games. Jason laughed quite a bit as I tried to hit the virtual soccer balls being thrown at my head and miss the soccer shoes being thrown my way...I lost points for each shoe that hit my head. Nice. Would have been cool to say well YOU get up here and try it Mr. funny man!

The longer you play, the more games/exercises you unlock. It looks like it will take about 5 hours of play to unlock everything at the current rate. It reminds you to take a break after you've been exercising for a period of time, and I took that break to sync the Wii console with my Wi-Fi. You can buy and download some of the games using this link, but the marketing for them is pretty disappointing. I did have fun creating my Mii though (a Wii representation of me!)

The game tracks your progress and keeps a calendar of your workout time and any assessments you've done. I did another assessment after my 2nd workout (on the 3rd day as I skipped a day due to soreness after playing on the darned thing for over 2 hours that first day). I am happy to report that I not only lost 2 pounds (had to be water), but I also lowered my fitness age to 36. Boohya!

After two work outs, my gluts are KILLING ME! This forcing me to use my hips and gluts is tough work, but I can already feel the benefits. The only big complaint I have about the game is that you can't string the exercises but instead have to back out and select each exercise you want to do as you go so there's always a pause between sets/reps. A smooth workout routine this is not. With the advanced step game, I wish I could speed up the tempo, change the music, make the balance board (makeshift step) taller, and lengthen/vary the step routines. I guess what I really would like to see a dedicated step game from Wii and balance board extensions to add height to the step.

I checked out the other Wii fitness games offered, and there is a highly rated fitness game that doesn't use the balance board, but nothing using the board that is worth my money. How disappointing. There is a highly rate dance game that comes with its own dance pad. Not sure what kind of work out that provides though. I'll have to stay with the Wii Fit game exclusively for now. I still have games to unlock, since I've only play it for about 3 hours. It's too bad Nintendo didn't see the full potential for this game. I could see a game like this being customizable, where you can string any number of yoga, strength and aerobic exercises together in any number of sets to different selections of music, being fully integrated with the Internet interface where you might purchase new workout add-ons, for say kick boxing, or pilates, or Tai Chi, or dance step, and where you could purchase new music options, or new additional exercises, or other new releases that could be periodically offered that are fully integrated with the Wii Fit interface so tracking of progress is done in a single spot and not different games with different game discs. Having new add-ons offered periodically with keep the game fresh and new so fitness gamers keep coming back instead of losing interest with the same old, same old.

In any event, I love this game even with its shortcomings. And I'm feeling more fit already. Who knows, maybe in a bit I'll be up on the treadmill, or better yet, out running with Abby!

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