Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wii Fit: A Flyby Review

Well, what can I say. You get sick, fight for a while, disappear from your fitness blog for a while, then finally find out you have mono. Go figure.

So yeah, that's my excuse. I do have some fun stuff to write about though. The second week of my mysterious sore throat and general meh-iness found me on the East coast, visiting my mom, who had just the day before received Wii Fit. Since I wasn't feeling too great anyway, I decided to replace my regularly scheduled workouts that week with Wii Fit ones, for review purposes of course.

The Wii Fit is a game for Wii that uses, instead of the wiimotes, a 4-paneled panel that you step on. First thing that happens is you create your character (your Mii), enter some information and get weighed. You are then told where your BMI falls (the panel is equipped with, among other things, a scale). I fell into the normal BMI range (around 23).

Then it does its first diagnostic test. This consists of testing your balance and your ability to rapidly adjust your balance, keeping both feet squarely on the board, based on what the screen tells you. I didn't do too well in this. For starters, my balance is definitely shifted towards my right hip (not surprising given my ongoing left hamstring issues). Then, apparently, I'm not so great at shifting my balance smoothly and quickly. My Wii age was determined to be 41. Bleh. That's quite a bit older than I really am.

Not defeated, I went on to sample the exercises Wii Fit had to offer. They're divided into 4 categories: Balance Games, Yoga, Aerobics and Strength training. Each section has a number of immediately available moves (all about 1-2 minutes) and then you unlock more as you complete more and more exercises. Over the next three days, I tried every single move that was available to me or consequently unlocked.

I started with the balance games, figuring it's where I needed most work. The first game was the soccer ball head butting. Man, was that tough! Standing on the board, you see soccer balls flying towards your Mii's head and have to mimic a head butt to send the ball back. To further complicate things, sometimes they fool you by throwing a soccer cleat, or worse yet a panda, which you have to dodge. This one was really fun, but I wasn't very good at it. Other options in this section were slalom skiing (I sucked), Ski jumping (really fun - I'm good at squatting), and tight-rope walking (super fun!)

Next was the yoga. Now this one's brilliant. I do yoga all the time, but it's great to be able to get a sense of whether my weight is evenly distributed in my Warrior pose (it wasn't) or if my Tree pose was unwavering (also not... at first.) The beauty is that you can see where you failing and adjust while you're doing it. It wasn't a bad collection of yoga moves either. I did reasonably well, here and was even named Yoga Master in a couple of them.

The aerobics, unsurprisingly, didn't do much of anything for me, with the exception of the hula hooping. I mean, really, a two-minute jog in place (while your Mii jogs through a little park with a finish line, other runners... even dogs) isn't really going to do much. There was also a 2-minute step session (really basic) and a buddy walk. Of course, the sessions go a bit longer as you progress and pass the various levels - but still. Even in my sick stage, it didn't even make me break a sweat. The only one that got my heart beat the slightest bit elevated was the hula hooping. That was fun: you got to catch hoops by leaning to the side, go faster and slower to lower or raise the hoop.

Finally, the strength training. This one surprised me - it wasn't really easy! I mean, it wasn't hard (Well, I have been doing P90X and all) but it was surprisingly challenging considering the base level that the other sections started with. One of the moves was a Push-up/Side Plank combo, where you started doing 1 push-up, then right side plank, 2nd push-up, right side plank, then repeat the whole thing several more times! If people are starting the Wii Fit as an actual beginner's workout (with a 2-minute jog in place), that can't be an easy first strength move. Other moves included Torso and Waist Twists, Jackknife, Lunge, Rowing Squat, and more. I was actually even a bit sore after going through all of these moves during my brief stay.

Overall, here's my analysis: As a game to play with friends around taking turns on the different moves, it was very fun.

As a way to evaluate how you're doing (a supplement, not a replacement of, your normal workout plan), not a bad way go: The balance games particularly are a great way to tune into how your body is doing and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

I think for someone like my mother, who's in her sixties and not terribly fit, it's a great way for her to get in a bit better shape. I've been trying to get her to do yoga for ages and I think the balance moves are generally useful.

For someone who's already an athlete, or has done P90X, don't bother. It's just a game. (But it is a fun one!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

P90X+ Total Body Plus

To quote Tamsen, HOLY MOTHER OF TONY HORTON! The first workout from the P90X+ was so brutal, it made Big E and me realize that we should probably build up to the Plus workouts with a refresher cycle of the good ol' standard P90X.

This workout was HARD. In fact, so hard that we spent a good deal of time just watching Tony and his peeps go, with our jaws down by our feet. For example, take your standard pull-up workout: Now, after the Lean cycle, I was able to do several modified pull-ups (with one foot leaning against a stool). I still can't do a full-on real pull-up though. This workout has you pull up, hold that pose, and then crunch your knees up to your chest as many times as you could. I could not do that. At all.

So Big E helped me up to the pull-up start position and then from there, I crunched my knees up to my chest as many times as I could (maybe 5?). Made me feel pretty pathetic. And that was merely the beginning. By the time we finished the workout, I felt like we hadn't done anything, since we kept skipping moves or barely doing any reps at all. It was a tad demoralizing.

What's crazy though, is that despite feeling like we hadn't done anything, both of us were sore for days afterwards. Unfortunately, it did scare me off of the + for now. I feel that I should maybe do the regular plan until I can complete at least one solid 100% real pull-up and then tackle it again.

That doesn't mean that I won't attempt each of the P90X+ workouts till that time. I need to know what I'm building towards. So I'll keep the P90X+ individual workout reviews coming, just slowly. I don't know that I can muster the gumption for more than one every other week or so. But I do promise that it will happen.

In the meantime, I'm going to work on building the perfect Running+P90X workout combo for distance runners doing a minimum of 30 miles a week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Motivation can be so hard to find sometimes, especially when recovering from the flu. That extra bit of tiredness doesn't help with the flagging mental motivation. But the trick is doing what you can to push yourself.

Having pre-set goals doesn't hurt. Two weeks after being sucker punched by the monster flu, I found myself waking up at 6am, putting on my running shoes and piling in a van to head to the start of The Relay. Not only did I have to run through the night, three legs about 5 miles each, but I also had to captain the team - help make sure things run smoothly and everyone is where they need to be and whatnot. And of course, it was fantastic.

Sure, it was a bit harder than it's been in the past. And yeah, I did come out of the weekend with a renewed sore throat and a shiny new cough... But also I came out with renewed motivation. I was fired. I came home, and started researching what 6 other races (half marathon plus) I could do to fulfill my Eight in '08 plan and even registered for a few of them.

Then there was my other fitness goals. Last week, I wasn't quite prepared to start the new P90X+ yet, despite it sitting around and taunting me for the past few weeks. But I was ready to ease back into a plan of some sort, that included more than just running. So I decided to revisit my old friend, Maya. It had been quite a while since I last visited with her and while I was looking forward showing her my improvement, I was also worried she was going to lecture me about missing months of workouts.

Fortunately, she didn't lecture me any longer than when I missed one workout - I'm not sure those virtual people have much of a sense of time... Anyway, the workout was decent. It was definitely out of touch with the changes in my abilities: The upper body strength workout was far too easy. Bu it was a great way to ease my way back. And it prepared me for psyching myself up - nay, motivating myself - to tackle Tony's new plan.

Unfortunately, Tony's new plan tackled me... but I'll tell you more about that shortly. In the interim, I'll leave you with this thought: Women's Health Magazine recently published an article about the power of your head to overcome your body's whining and motivate you. So when your body is feeling down and out, what motivates you to keep going?