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Day Twenty: Active Over Easy

The yo-yo continues to yo, and then yo again. Now I’m down about two pounds and again on course for breaking the 170 barrier? But will it happen? The last time I got close I suddenly gained a bunch of mystery weight. I’m not holding my breath that it will happen soon. If for no other reason, I worry the extra volume of air will add a few ounces.

Wii Fit Weight - October 26th, 2009

My Mii is doing a Carmen Miranda dance to express his youthful exuberance. Olé!

Wii Fit Weight - October 26th, 2009

After yesterday’s EA Sports Active workout I was told that things would get more difficult now that we’re in the back half of the 30-day challenge. It appears that this was a trick meant to psyche me out, since today’s workout was basically a way of saying “just kidding”. There were some squat jumps (which still tell me I’m doing them wrong) but the bulk of the workout was baseball, tennis, dancing, and boxing, none of which are super strenuous. Also, none of the activities used the balance board. Boo! I like it better when the sports games incorporate it.

I still haven’t gotten a replacement resistance band for the one that snapped yesterday. It should be arriving from amazon tomorrow or the day after. The band that I got is described as “heavy” so hopefully it offers a bit more resistance, and holds up a little better to repeated use. Since I didn’t have a resistance band, I had to pantomime the upper body exercises again.

EA Sports Active - 30-Day Challenge, October 26h, 2009

I wasn’t too miffed about being resistance band-less since today was a daily burn dumbell workout. I tried upping the weights from 10 lbs. to 25 lbs. for some of the exercises. That… didn’t work. So I dropped back down to 10. I may need to pick up some intermediate weights to bridge the gap. It’s not that I can’t lift the 25lb. weights, but I can’t do it with consistently good form, and I found myself jerking and contorting rather than focusing on the muscles I was supposed to target.

Dinner - October 26th, 2009

Dinner was chicken, quinoa, sweet potato, cauliflower, and some salad. The cauliflower wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The sweet potato was tasty, but a little too hard. Otherwise, quite tasty.

Britain’s National Health (kind of) Supports Wii Fit Plus

According to the Telegraph, Wii Fit Plus, which launches in Britain on October 30th, will arrive at stores carrying the Change4Life logo.

You may remember that earlier this year the Change4Life campaign released a PSA which depicted video games among the factors contributing to childhood obesity. To be fair, the ads, which were created by the great animation team behind Wallace and Gromit, didn’t single out video games. Rather they included games among a number of modern conveniences that make it easy for us to live a more sedentary lifestyle.

The campaign also included a more inflammatory print ad. The message of the advertisement is that a sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity, and obesity is associated with health problems that shorten your lifespan. However some in the game industry felt that the message was that playing video games leads directly to early death, and that games are being needlessly demonized.

While I understand that watching TV, reading a book, or going to the movies are all just as sedentary as playing games, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a single page ad or a 90-second spot to tick every box just so no one activity feels singled out. Video games are being used as short hand for inactivity because it’s the most relatable for today’s parents and kids. If childhood obesity had been recognized as a problem 20 years ago, the boogeyman would have been plopping kids down in front of cartoons.

Change4Life caught some flak for targeting games in the initial campaign, and has since come around to supporting active video games as part of combating childhood obesity. A more recent TV ad included a Dance Dance Revolution type game as one way to get 60 minutes of activity a day.

Now with the launch of Wii Fit Plus, Change4Life has offered its most overt support for active video games yet.

A spokesman for the British department of health denied it was endorsing a video game, but said rather it was promoting exercise. “Active video games, where kids need to jump up and down or dance about as part of the game, are a great way to get kids moving,”

IrishTimes.com

While not coming out and endorsing Wii Fit Plus as a product, the embrace of active gaming as part of a healthy lifestyle is a welcome change in attitude for the organization that shows they are not trying to paint games as a villain with a single broad stroke, but rather trying to promote awareness of healthier choices.

Interestingly, Nintendo is paying to promote the Change4Life, which could be construed as a conflict of interest for the program. This may explain why Change4Life is reluctant to endorse Nintendo or Wii Fit Plus, and are instead focusing on promoting activity and exercise in a more general sense.

Day Nineteen: Tragedies

I gnash my teeth in lamentation. It appears we are in the midst of an plumping trend. Perhaps yesterday’s debauchery is catching up with me. I may need to step up my efforts this week.

Wii Fit Weight - October 25th, 2009

For what it’s worth, the Wii Fit age is down. I was slightly better at standing perfectly still today than I have been in the past.

Wii Fit Age - October 25th, 2009

Today’s EA Sports Active workout focused on the upper body. It was during a shoulder press that tragedy struck.

Broken Resistance Band

Farewell enormous dental dam. We hardly knew ye.

This put a damper on the rest of the workout. I have another resistance band, but it’s got hard handles which makes it difficult to hold the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. EA Sports Active won’t recognize some of the exercises unless you’re holding the controllers in very specific directions. Also, the cable between the Nunchuk and remote kept getting caught.

I ended up finishing the workout sans resistance band, since it was too difficult to get the game to properly register a rep. Of course this turned the exercise into a laughable pantomime, so I’m sure the stats below are inaccurate.

EA Sports Active - 30-day challenge

Is anyone out there using an alternate resistance band with the game? Can you recommend one with handles that work well?

Day Eighteen: Hedonism

I didn’t weight myself on Wii Fit today. Instead, here is a picture of a walrus.

Since I didn’t weight myself, I didn’t get a Wii Fit age. Let’s just say it was 21. Here is a picture of me when I was 21.

Me Goth in Hallway at 21

It was a day of rest for EA Sports Active. Therefore I didn’t do any exercises. However I can provide an image of a building that sums up how I feel about jump lunges.

I did do some drinking today. Here is what I did drank.

Tonight I went to a diner. Before leaving I got into line for the restroom. While waiting for the men’s room to become available, I could hear a girl voluntarily throwing up in the lady’s room. I could tell that it was different from normal drunk sick or just plain old sick sick. It was a very specific series of retches and spits. Her friend was tapping on the door saying, “come on, let’s just go home.”

A woman ahead of me ahead of me in line asked if I’d mind if she used the men’s room. “Fair enough,” I said. I suppose she didn’t want to sit on the puke. I wouldn’t either. Though I didn’t know if what she’d be sitting on in the men’s room would be much better.

While today hasn’t been the greatest day in terms of health and fitness, I think there’s a sense of proportionality that goes hand in hand with the idea of “health”. If you’re so concerned about controlling your body that you feel the need to eject food after eating it, that’s not such a healthy thing. And if you feel so lackadaisical toward your body that you don’t care what goes into it, that’s not so great either.

I think good health is both physical and mental. It involves making good choices for your body, and also appreciating time spent relaxing and celebrating with friends. Sometimes that may not lead to the best decision from a dietary or fitness perspective, but I feel like forgoing those opportunities is ultimately impoverishing. Consistently applied, nutritional dogma may add a few years to your life, but I’m not sure it’s worth the stress and missed experiences.

Day Seventeen: She Stoops to Conquer

After a couple of days of curious embiggening, things have finally taken a downturn. I was alarmed by the sudden hump, but pleased to see that overall my weight is down about a pound from last week. I suppose the downside of weighing yourself everyday is that you have a tendency to to overreact to fluctuations rather than keeping the trends in mind.

Wii Fit Weight - October 23rd, 2009

The balance board in its infinite wisdom decided I would be 24 today. I am old enough to have to look after myself, but lacking the context to make good decisions. I will eat nothing but ramen and drink nothing but Kool-Aid and vodka.

Wii Fit Weight - October 23rd, 2009

EA Sports Active knows me quite well. I am a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court. I would surely be in the NBA if it weren’t for one fatal flaw. Dribbling, like tying my shoes, is one of those skills I was never able to develop. Velcro solved one of those problems. But despite my best efforts, it could do nothing for the other.

EA Sports Active - 30-day Challenge, October 23rd, 2009

Today the trainer introduced the hold squat. This sounds filthy. In practice, it just means getting into a squat position and holding there for about a minute.

I don’t think it would have been a problem had it not been for all the jump lunging, inline skating, and basketball hopping that preceded it. My legs felt kind of burny and wobbly, and toward the end of the second hold squat I needed to use my hands to keep myself up.

One day I hope to be as mighty as this lady. She could squat all day long, and so she did.

Day Sixteen: Muffled Footfalls

Curses and double curses, I forgot to take a picture of my weight change since last time. The balance board never forgets, but she never lets you go back and fix your mistakes either. You have to live with what you’ve done – forever. So I’ll need to use the graph to illustrate that I’ve gained .2 pounds since yesterday. Crumbs.

Wii Fit Weight - October 22, 2009

My Wii Fit Age remains unmoving as the Sphinx, and just as inscrutable.

Wii Fit Age - October 22nd, 2009

The eighth day of the EA Sports Active 30-Day Challenge was focused on the upper body. But I’m finding the flimsy membrane of a resistance band to be less and less convincing with each workout. It tries to offer some tension, but really, who are we trying to kid here?

EA Sports Active 30-Day Challenge - October 22nd, 2009

I got a late start tonight, so I didn’t want to disturb the downstairs neighbors. This presented a challenge since EA Sports Active often asks me to leap through the air and remain hanging there for several seconds before crashing back to Earth. I didn’t want to skip to the workout and incur the wrath of the overly enthusiastic trainer, but I didn’t want to incur the wrath of an overly cranky neighbor either.

Fortunately I have a Dragonball Z Tapestry.

Dragonball Z Tapestry

Which I folded up, thusly.

DBZ Tapestry Folded

And so I was able to cheat gravity by introducing this puffy arbiter between my falling girth and the ceiling plaster below. Or so I thought. The thing kept getting tangled around my feet, sort of like the really scary Charlie Brown cartoon where Lucy is attacked by Linus’ blanket.

I intentionally went easy on the kick ups, jogging, and jumps to keep from smashing around too much. This annoyed the trainer and probably cheated me out of some precious calories. To make up for it, I did some hula hooping afterwards.

A lot of hula hooping.

Spinderella, a hula hoop fantasia

Day Fifteen: Mysterious Expansion

The balance board began today’s Wii Fit session with a strangely formatted bit of advice. An ill omen?

Strange Advice - October 21st, 2009

Thanks balance board, but I live in San Francisco where it is neither warm nor cold. It is, at all times, a tepid grey purgatory, just the way I likes it. I’m sure I’ve got nothing to worry about.

Or do I?

Wii Fit Weight - October 21st, 2009

Gabba gabba wha?? I’ve gained 2.2 pounds? Where could this have come from? It’s as though my body was aware that it was about to drop out of the 170′s, and decided that it would by no means allow me to feel good about that. Curse you body! Why must you convert the air I breathe into rich creamy chocolate?

The Wii Fit Age is still 29. Real creative choice, balance board.

Wii Fit Age - October 21st, 2009

I suppose the 2 lb. bump falls within the normal daily fluctuations. Still, I was getting used to seeing more decreases than increases, and I suppose I got a bit spoiled by it. Assuming today is a blip, things still seem to be moving in a good direction overall.

Weight Loss Trend - October 21st, 2009

Today was a rest day on the EA Sports Active 30-day challenge. I walked a couple of miles and also completed the Daily Burn dumbell leg and abs workout.

I’m still using 10 lb. weights to ease myself into lifting heavy objects. I’m not looking to pack on muscle, just to keep it from withering away. The next step up in the dumbbells that I have is 25 lbs. each, which is more than I feel I can safely do for some of the exercises right now.

Oh hello, there’s a progress photo today.

Progress Photo - October 21st, 2009

You may be wondering why it is I wear this goofy getup instead of going full monty… or at least shirtless. The latter would probably be a lot more illustrative of any changes to my mortal shell.

Rest assured gentle reader, the shirtless versions of these photos exist. But they have not been posted for a simple reason – I find them difficult to look at right now. Assuming things work out according to plan and I end up getting closer to a shape that I’m happy with, I’ll definitely whip up before and afters with a full spectrum in the middle that reveals all. But for now, I’m going to keep the public photos a bit more demure.

Day Fourteen: Lunge-a-palooza

Gadzooks! Could at be that I’m not far from breaking into the 160′s? Whenever there’s such a major change from day to day I’m always inclined to think that it’s just a fluke. But here on the cusp of something that feels like a milestone, I want to believe.

Wii Fit Weight - October 20th, 2009

No such luck with the Wii Fit Age. Today I tried something a bit different on the one-legged balance test. I tried using my left leg instead of my right. Turns out this wasn’t the best idea. I only scored in 50′s, where I usually get in the 70′s – 80′s on the right leg.

Wii Fit Weight - October 20th, 2009

EA Sports Active was completely lunge happy today. Almost the entire program consisted of alternating side lunges with toe touches, alternating lunges, alternating reverse lunches, and balance board volleyball with lunges. My lunging abilities are going to be fantastic at the end of the 30-day challenge! I’m not sure what the practical applications are though. I guess I can lurch out of dark alleys and spook people.

EA Sports Active 30-day challenge, October 20th, 2009

Today’s workout also involved kick ups on the jogging track. Kick ups differ from running in that you try to kick your legs up high enough to strike own butt with your heels. As much fun as it is to kick your own ass , it’s also pretty tiring. I think I may have done it faster and sloppier than intended just to get through it faster.

Dinner - October 20th, 2009

Dinner tonight was a tasty chicken in a wine sauce with salad, quinoa, avocado, and bread. A Guinness was perhaps consumed as well. nom.

Getting Started with Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout

Today I’ve added a new Wii exercise game to my library courtesy of Goozex.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Title Screen

I wasn’t expecting very much from this game at all. I figured it would be a shoddy mini-game collection trading on the Gold’s Gym name.

The packaging didn’t raise my hopes. The manual features roughly four pages of real content, and four blank pages for notes. These pages are extremely useful for starting a grocery and/or enemies list.

The Book and the Cover

As it turns out, this game is not at all what I expected.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Gold’s Gym I think of a conventional American iron pumping multiplex. I seldom equate Gold’s Gym with punching cartoon bears in an adorable forest.

You wouldn’t know it from the box art, but Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout actually began life as a Japanese game called Shape Boxing Wii de Enjoy Diet. This becomes obvious as soon as you get into the game and Nina, the anime trainer, tells you that we’ll be working on finding our inner strength.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Nina & Inner Strength

This approach is much more in keeping with Wii Fit’s laid back style, as opposed to EA Sports Active’s “I’m gonna burst out of this TV and push you to your limits! Challenge yourself to be the best, bro! *Fist bump*!”

Consumerative Dissonance

I’m a bit puzzled by the Trojan horse marketing at work here.

On the one hand, Gold’s Gym is a very recognized name in the U.S. Some people will buy this game based on the brand alone. But, I’m not sure how these folks will react to the fact that, aside from a few logos, the game has nothing to do with a Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout.

First off, it’s called Cardio Workout. In actuality, this is a boxing/rhythm game. I suppose cardio is inclusive of both boxing and rhythm. But if you were expecting anything other than boxing, you’re sort of out of luck. While the game does include some balance board activities that don’t involve boxing, they don’t comprise the meat of the experience.

Also, if you’re not a fan of things cute, cuddly, fuzzy, or kitteny, you may be dismayed to find that the game oozes with a decidedly cute anime style. Heck, you can even outfit your boxer with a teddy bear.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Teddy Bear

On the other hand, there are a lot of fans of the Japanese approach to fitness games (see Wii Fit). It’s possible that these guys will avoid Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout, imagining that it’s going to be an testosterone pumping, sweaty towel snapping, X-treme western take on the sports game genre.

These folks would be missing out the teddy bear in the locker room, the robot sparring partner, and the sneaky cardboard bear. And that’s a shame, because I think they’d really enjoy them.

Creating a Mii Character

When you first get into the game, you have to create a Mii-like character. If you were disappointed that EA Sports Active would not allow you to have a kitten face, this game has you covered.

Kitten Face in Gold's Gym Cardio Workout

Emo boxers have long been underrepresented in all weight classes. This game remedies that injustice.

Emo Boxer - Gold's Gym Cardio Workout

You’ll also find a fair amount of latitude in the sizes and shapes available to you.

Creating an Avatar in Gold's Gym Cardio Boxing

With all these features, obese emo dwarves with kitten faces will have no longer have to plod along with an avatar that fails to represent their inner strength.

Once you’ve entered all your details, the game generates a profile and let’s you know that you’re fat.

Boxer Profile - Gold's Gym Cardio Workout

Eye of the Tiger

Once your character has been created, you need to play a short tutorial to familiarize you with the game. This is when you discover one of the coolest parts of the game.

Control Style - Gold's Gym Cardio Workout

You can play the game with two Wii Remotes instead of the remote and nunchuk!

This may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve nearly garroted myself with the nunchuk cable several times while playing EA Sports Active. The dual remote control option feels great. If you own two remotes, but choose to play with the nunchuk, you are under arrest.

The core of the game is called Shape Boxing. It’s pretty a pretty straight forward rhythm game. You throw a variety of punches; jabs, crosses, uppercuts, etc. and you dodge in various directions. You need to time your movement with onscreen prompts to complete punching and dodging sequences, scoring points and building up combos.

Couldn't find a screenshot of the shape boxing game from the U.S. Version

Couldn't find a screenshot of the shape boxing game from the U.S. Version

Getting back to the weird marketing just for a second – Shape Boxing mode is the core of the game. But none of the official screenshots from Ubi Soft feature it. Instead they show a bunch of the ancillary exercises that make the game look like Wii Fit. Check out the screenshots on amazon to see what I mean.

Between punches, you are encouraged to shift your weight from your front foot to your back foot, which keeps you active. The pace is actually quite fast, and I had a hard time keeping up. Fortunately, I don’t think the game tracks this movement at all, so you can just pick up the groove when it’s comfortable for you.

Before you begin a Shape Boxing game, you are given an estimate of how many calories you will burn. As with all of these Wii exer-games, I’m a little dubious of this figure. If you’re playing properly (with the fast weight shift and all) you will be constantly moving. But, it doesn’t feel very intense.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Calorie Guesstimate

At the end of the shape boxing session you are assigned a Physical Age. I’m not sure what the obsession is with scoring via age in these games. I have no idea what, if anything, it actually corresponds to. Apparently I’m 21 again. Let’s go out drinking!

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Physical Age

First Impression

I didn’t have high hopes for this game.

But after playing through all of the tutorial levels I can say I’m impressed.

Shape Boxing is fast, fun, and forgiving. The motion detection on the two Wii remotes is tight. It’s really satisfying to run up a long combo. It feels like full body DDR, but for me, it’s not so baffling.

The music choices are kind of meh, but it does include a burbly midi of Eye of the Tiger – a song that adds +10 awesome to everything surrounding it.

Though I haven’t explored much yet, it looks like the package includes a healthy amount of unlockable content and ancillary exercises as well. For instance, you earn gold to buy new gear. It also appears that over time you can unlock new trainers.

While I haven’t really dug into the game yet, at first blush this feels like a great value for the content that you get. You can find the game online for $20 or less, so you wouldn’t be taking a huge risk if you were to pick it up.

Have you played Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout? What do you think? Does it have the staying power of Wii Fit or EA Sports Active?

Day Thirteen: Unlucky Legs and the Urban Juror

The weight’s up by less than half a pound. I’ve alerted the media.

Wii Fit Weight - October 19th, 2009

The Wii Fit Age has let me maintain the illusion that I’m still in my twenties for just a little bit longer. The ennui is terrific.

Wii Fit Age - October 19th, 2009

Today commemorates the thirteenth workout of the project. An auspicious anniversary! Is it full of portents and omens?

I had jury duty today. The bus stopped a little less than a mile away from the courthouse, so I walked. After spending about an hour assembling all 100+ potential jurors in the courtroom, the judge told us all to go home and come back another day. I then walked about another mile back to the bus stop. Once I got home, I remembered that I had to do some grocery shopping. So I walked about another mile to Trader Joe’s. Difficult though it was, I was able to resist buying a mouthwatering tub of chocolate dunkers.

Today’s EA Sports Active workout was pretty thigh and calf heavy. I ended up getting a pain in my right calf that felt like a bruise, but didn’t leave any visible mark. Maybe a minor strain? At any rate, stretching and resting it for a bit seemed to improve things. The overall results of the workout weren’t too shabby, though I’m still a bit dubious of the calorie count.

EA Sports Active - 30-day challenge - October 19th, 2009

Following the EA Sports Active workout I did the arms and shoulders dumbell exercises from Daily Burn. I upped the weight to 10 pounds per hand, for a total of 20 pounds for most exercises. It doesn’t sound like much, but some of them were really tough. I wasn’t able to completely do the rear delt raise without dropping the weights down to five pounds. And I had to do modified close hand pushups rather than the real thing.

I was encouraged to find that I was able to do more reps with more weight than last week pretty much across the board.

I didn’t manage to record my food today. I cannot tell a lie, a pumpkin spice latte was consumed on the way back from the courthouse. Those are not especially good for you.