Back in December I joined a gym. It was a drastic action, for I had no real desire to work out. I did however have a desire to stop growing fatter and to reverse my increasingly sedentary lifestyle before it was too late. Since moving from Maine to Kansas I have been steadily going downhill. I have lots of excuses/reasons as to why this has happened, but in general it has to do with being lazy and not really liking where I live. In Maine I loved the little town I lived in and surrounding countryside. I walked/hiked/canoed/did yardwork/worked out at the dojo, etc on a regular basis. Here in Kansas, I just can’t seem to get motivated to do much. I had some success taking martial arts lessons for awhile, but the dojo I was at moved, moved again, closed down, reopened, then disappeared off the face of the earth. I could try to find another dojo, but truth is my heart really isn’t in it anymore and I would likely just make excuses as to why I couldn’t make it to lessons on a regular basis. I’ve also made some incursions against the battle of the bulge with Weight Watchers and the South Beach Diet. The South Beach Diet was the most successful; I lost 30 lbs and kept it off for over a year. However after changing jobs and starting back to school, I gained it all back, plus a couple more. I am now the fattest I have ever been in my life and find doing a lot of things I use to do difficult or impossible.
So, deciding that I had to do something I joined a gym. I went to it regularly for a couple of months and was feeling pretty good about it. I didn’t lose any weight, but I hadn’t changed my eating habits so that wasn’t a huge surprise. I then got sick for a few days, and used that pathetic excuse to stop going to the gym for about six weeks. I went back last week at a little past 11pm on a Friday night. I had a good workout and there were only a few other people there. This was one of the reasons I had joined a 24 hour fitness center. I’m pretty self conscious about working out. It’s always kind of embarrassing to be the one fat guy in a room full of healthy young attractive people. Just makes me feel really out of place. So I tend to go at times when young healthy attractive people our out enjoying themselves. On Monday however I decided I should try to get over that problem and just stop by on the way home from work rather than having to drive back later. So I stopped in to find the place absurdly crowded with no open cardio machines and about half the weight machines in use. So, once again presented with the flimsiest of excuses, I decided to just skip the workout and go home.
Now, my wife had just bought a Wii Fit that weekend. I wasn’t initially interested in using this, as I didn’t see how it could be that helpful. However, deciding that doing something would be better than nothing, I pulled it out and gave it a try. It starts by doing an assessment of your general health. This involves you telling it your age and height; it then weighs you and has you perform a number of balance exercises. From there it calculates your BMI and your fitness age. I don’t really care about my “Fitness Age”, because I don’t think the silly little tests really mean much, however, weight and BMI are numbers I’m interested in. It cheerfully exclaimed that I was obese, no surprise there. I was actually a little disappointed that it was so happy and polite. I think it would be much funnier, not to mention more productive, if it was much ruder. When I step on the pad it should scream “Get off me you fatass!”. Alas, the Japanese politeness does not seem to permit this. It does however change your Mii, your little cartoon avatar, to a size to reflect your BMI. I now appear as the Michelin Man with a beard.
You then go on to perform a number of different exercises; Yoga, Aerobics, Strength Training, and Balance Games. Some of the exercises have a trainer to help you. This is an extremely generic person with washed out white features and wearing typical health nut spandex gear. You can choose either male or female, but both are rather androgynous and both are irritatingly cheerful. Totally devoid of emotion these spandex albino androids lead you through exercises, telling you that you are doing great as you struggle not to pass out. I hate them. A lot of the exercises don’t use the board at all, like running in place. Some use them in a ridiculously tangential fashion, such as resting your feet on the board during sit-ups. It keeps track of how much time you spend working out, and unlocks new exercises and games as you go.
I’ve only been using this for a week now, but I think it may actually be relatively effective for general health and fitness. It shows your workouts on a calendar, and graphs your weight, BMI, Fitness Age, and workouts for you so you can get a good representation of the progress you are making. I tend to think of it more like a Yoga/Tai Chi type of experience than bodybuilding. The strength exercises will undoubtedly work, but I don’t think they will come anywhere close to matching the results from weightlifting. The other exercises all seem to have some benefit as well. If you can get past the silliness of some of the exercises and the cheerleading from the Wii the Fit seems like a solid low impact workout. It has enough variety to keep it from getting too boring, and the graphing of your progress with accompanying praise or admonishment is good for people that like clear feedback on their progress.
I’m thinking I’m going to give this thing about a month and see how I do with it. If I’m showing improvement I may well cancel the gym membership and see how far the Wii can take me. There are a number of other exercise based games for the Wii, and surely more to come. This should help with the variety and hopefully keep it from getting boring. In the end it will be like any other workout plan. If you do it consistently it will work, if not it won't. I'm really just hoping the fact that it can be done at home with no need to go anywhere will remove a number of my excuses. Not to worry, I'm sure I can come up with more.