Prior to purchasing the Wii Fit Balance Board, my health had been on the decline for years. After getting married, having a child, and buying a home in New Jersey, I stopped exercising due to a perceived lack of time and at the age of 32, I thought physically my best days were behind me. I felt weak when moving things around the house and my eating habits were atrocious. I frequently ate fast food and surrounded myself with chocolates and donuts at work for snacks. My waist had ballooned up from 29 inches in high school to 34 inches (with a nice pot belly to match) and I reached a new personal low when I had to buy new pants because I no longer squeeze into my old ones. To top things off, I developed an unexplained randomly occurring facial tick on the right side of my face that had become rather distracting to friends and family.
Three weeks ago, I reach my breaking point and decided it was time to turn things around not just for me, but also for my family. My wife, Regina's weight had also increased dramatically to borderline unhealthy levels and the last thing I want would to do is pass that along to my soon-be-three year old son Ryan. I decided this isn't the lifestyle I wanted for me and my family and that 30 years old wasn't the end, but only the beginning (Thank you Tony Robbins). I went out and bought an inexpensive bench from Sears, converted our sun room into a little make-shift gym and started to lift weights every other day. I also power walk my way to work and during lunch break every weekday for cardio and my wife and I started doing the Atkins diet to improve our nutrition.
So two weeks into weight training and one week into Atkins (Induction phase), I had already lost 7 pounds and I much felt stronger and more energetic. I realized that Regina needed to do more cardio on a daily basis and I wanted to mix things up to keep my workouts fun and fresh. I just ordered this funny-looking punching dummy and was considering a rower when I realized the Wii Fit was due out in stores this week. I'm weary of gimmicky exercise equipment, but I liked the idea of Wii Fit being able help my family squeeze in more cardio exercises on busy days and in the least, I thought it could serve as a weight monitor to track my overall progress.
So on Monday, during my lunch break, I walked over to Nintendo World in Rockefeller Plaza and stood on line for 30 minutes to pick up my Wii Fit (damn it was much heavier than I expected). Once it was synced up with the Wii console at home, Regina and I registered our profiles through a series of questions about our height and age and a couple of balance tests by stepping on the board. My BMI (Body Mass Index) was 23.50 (generally good) and my weight was 173.5. Through the program, I set a goal of losing 13 pounds in three months (the Wii recommended no more than 3 pounds per two weeks) and Wii Fit wanted to see my BMI go down to 21.74. The program also assigned me a Wii Fit age of 30, whatever the hell that means.
Afterwards setting up my profile, I didn't have time for a serious workout so I went through the series of exercises to get more acclimated. The training is divided into four categories: Aerobics, Yoga, Strength Training and Balance Games. In going through the initial exercises (more gets unlocked as you progress and earn fitness credits), I learned the following:
- The degree of difficulty and intensity between exercises can vary wildly depending on your sense of balance, core strength and body type. While most exercises were simple in nature and I had no problem doing them, the push-up and side-plank was an absolute bitch for me. I wasn't use to doing push-ups with such tight hand placement since I have fairly wide shoulders. I couldn't properly complete six reps on each side. This answered any doubt I might have had about the Wii Fit providing enough a physical challenge for me.
- The Yoga breathing exercise highlighted my life-long breathing and cardio struggles. My natural instinct was completely counter-intuitive to the inhaling/expanding to exhaling/contracting process that I was being instructed to do. I look forward to seeing if Wii Fit can help me make improvements in this area.
- My balance is horrible. Not surprisingly, due to the nature of the balance board technology, the Wii Fit program puts a lot of emphasis on balance. Nearly all the exercises will display and monitor your balance at all times. I think for men, balance is not something we focus on a lot so I'm interested to discover what kinds of benefits I might reap from improved balance.
- In terms of space issues, I have what I consider to be a medium sized living room and I managed to negotiate the required space by pushing my heavy coffee table over by a few feet and moving the board around as needed. I couldn't place the board directly in front of my television as preferred in the manual, but I'm happy to report that the balance board had no problems with that or the frequent movement and seemed pretty accurate in pressure sensitivity.
- I wasn't sure what I should be doing with the Wii-mote during exercises. While the visual instruction makes no mention of it, the Wii-mote is required to navigate through the many menus and options. It was a bit awkward feeling to put the Wii-mote down during training and picking it back up afterwards so I ended up doing the exercise while holding the Wii-mote at all times (including Yoga poses). Is this recommended? Does this change my balance in anyway? The Wii Fit program should have clarified this more clearly.
- There aren't any recommended routines. You basically pick exercises at your own discretion and workout for as long as you like. So far, I encountered one recommended checklist of two exercises for legs, but it appeared randomly and without any further guidance or structure. I think I would have preferred a little more instruction and detail in some of the exercises as well (especially the Yoga ones which involve intricate movements and specific breathing technique).
Once each exercise is completed, you are giving an arcade-like score and ranking for competitive fun and tracking improvement, Wii Fit credits are awarded for unlocking stuff and workout time is accumulated. My first day ended with 25 minutes of training and a generally positive reaction. I'm hopeful that Wii Fit can provide me with decent supplemental training and have a positive influence and benefit to my family. I'm excited to see how the Wii Fit will perform in days to come.