Saturday, November 7, 2009

4 Months with the Wii Fit

The Wii Fit is as close as I get to video games. I don't want them in my life and want to avoid "plugging in" my son. I see too many video game zombies in my store every day to wish that fate on my family. I don't dislike video games. My problem with video games is like how a friend describes his fear of heights. It's not that he's afraid he'll fall, he's afraid he'll jump. I spent a good part of my adult life slogging through electronic dungeons and creating virtual cities. I just want more from my time. So when my wife brought home the Wii with the Fit balance board, I was excited to try, but hoped I could keep focused enough to use it without jumping off a building.

I knew from a lifetime of working out that the secret was consistency. I've joined a gym perhaps five times in my life, inevitably quitting after realizing I wasn't going to keep it up. I hated that walk of shame, going to the gym in your street clothes to cancel your membership, to tell the pretty girl at the front desk or the buff trainer that you're a quitter. The Fit would work if I could avoid this cycle, and it's low impact, low intensity workouts seemed promising. I started with the yoga for about a month and then began alternating with cardio. My stated goal was to lose weight, but I was mostly just doing what I thought was most fun, to build that consistency. I was about 30 pounds overweight.

The first month I didn't lose any weight. I accepted that as the usual build-up of muscle from all that yoga. I felt great, better than I had in decades, and that was what mattered, but still, where was all that shedding of pounds I read about on the Internet? My more active friends were encouraging, but noticeably skeptical. 

Three months into the Wii Fit, I was still working out every day (taking Mondays off for 40K night), but began doing what a lot of people seemed to do, alternating with walking on a treadmill. The cardio portion of the Fit is it's weakness, with the workouts repetitive and dull. Running in place is depressing, although the rhythm boxing kept me entertained for a few weeks. At the three month mark, I was feeling great and had lost a modest five pounds. Nothing to write home about, I thought, but not too bad a start, especially combined with vastly more energy. Suddenly the evenings felt like activity time, rather than time to crash and relax. I was getting a part of my life back.

Then I got sick with a cold. I was dreading this. That is usually where my resolve breaks as the habitual pattern of working out is broken while I'm resting. I figured I was going to gain all that weight back, but when I went back to the Wii, I was an additional five pounds lighter. Why? My problem wasn't just lack of exercise, it was eating way too much. Being sick was an appetite suppressant. While sick, my metabolism was in a higher gear and was able to continue burning calories through my normal work day. Afterwards, I  reset my eating habits and now I'm much more aware of the intake of calories, rather than focusing on output. 

Soon after, the Wii Fit Plus came out, which solved my problem of boring cardio exercises. I've been using it for a month now, and especially enjoy the bicycle workouts. Thirty minutes or an hour can fly by quickly. There's also an ingenious bird game, where you flap your wings, lean back and forth and fly to various platforms. It's a superb game. The Fit Plus will tell you how many calories you're burning, which is a big help. Do you really want to use up that twenty minute bicycle ride drinking a Coke when you can have a glass of water? 

Four months into the Wii Fit and I've lost 10 pounds. I've learned to adjust my eating habits and watch my calories. My goal is to lose an additional 20 pounds with the Wii Fit combined with diet, and then possibly explore a more robust workout program. I have friends doing the P90X program, which sounds intriguing. Lets work on those 20 pounds first. Also, four months is a good start, but I think I'll need a full year to really develop the habit.