I'd like to make one thing clear: I hate going to the gym. The last thing I want to do, morning or night, is leave my cozy apartment and trek through cold, dark Brooklyn to fight for a locker, a treadmill, and a place on the sweaty communal stretching mat to do sit-ups. But joining the gym was something I felt I had to do at the age of 23 as it became clear I could no longer solo-drink a case of PBR without any physical repercussions. So I joined Crunch, and I go regularly (I have to, its expensive). So when the opportunity arose to take a week off the gym and supplement my exercise with a device I could use in my apartment that promised to make me "fit," I was obviously into it.
For those of you who don't now (I was once like you) Wii Fit (with balance board technology!) is a console designed to get video gamers off their asses and onto their feet with "activities" like Hula-Hooping and ski jumping, and features a body mass index analysis to get you going. Could this actually replace my gym membership? Could I pocket my $90 monthly membership fee and just buy this video game and end up shedding pounds, improving balance and becoming the lady I always wanted to be? Can 22.5 million Wii Fit owners be wrong? Maybe! But the prospect of getting exercise in my own apartment, away from the germs and crowds of the gym, was thrilling. So I began, no gym for a week, documenting and assessing my Wii fitness.
Day 1: Bringing the Wii console and balance board from my office, transferring trains twice and dragging it back to my apartment seemed like work out enough for one day, but I was excited so I decided to set-up the gear. This was a challenge unto itself. Home alone and not exactly tech savvy I struggled to set up my new toy. Finding the right plugs, setting up the board and controller, putting the disk in the console correctly, synching all the equipment, realizing I need new batteries, taking the batteries out of the remote control, still needing batteries, taking batteries out of the smoke detector, wrong size, walking to the bodega on the corner to get batteries, God, they are expensive, coming home, finally calling my brother to explain to me how to use the magic pointer controller (you can't be too close to the screen, which is a challenge in NYC-size apartments) then finally, FINALLY setting it all up. I am so over this, plus "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" was on. Call it a night.
Day 2: I'm going to get this to work today. I am sore from carrying it around, a bad sign, certainly pointing out that I need more exercise. I pick out my, what is it, avatar? My Wii-Paige looks vaguely like me, though I don't think I'd ever work out in a blue skirt and pigtails but whatevs. I am told that I need take a fitness test, which reminds me of the "Presidential Fitness Tests" I had to take in gym class at my Catholic grammar school, rope climb-I'm already sweating from nerves. My BMI is measured, turns out I'm "normal," thanks. My translucent but buff Wii trainer, whom I've named Linus, tells me that people with "nomal" BMI's are less likely to get sick... score! Linus tells me its time for the "balance test"; I've been surfing and snowboarding my whole life so I feel pretty confident here. Not so much. According to Linus and the rest of the Wii team I have poor balance; I'm distraught. The fitness test has wrapped and Linus and co. have determined that, though I have the mind of a 23 year old (at best) my Wii age is 29-my body has out-aged me by six years! I'm already failing. But onto the Wii activities...
Celebrity Wii Avatars Generally Suck
There are four categories: aerobics, balance, strength training and yoga. Since Linus finds my balance abilities questionable, I decide I'll start there for the day. First game, "Soccer Heading," my Paige-a-like avatar stands in a goal while a soccer team kicks balls and other objects at me and I have to lean into them. I get the hang of this pretty quickly, and learn that the balance board requires a light touch-in only three games I move from amateur to pro, though my virtual teammates throwing shoes at me has my ego is about as bruised as my avatar's forehead. More balance games: "slalom skiing" and "ski jumping" leave much to be desired as I start to realize how to manipulate the balance board, but "table tilt" proves to be a real challenge at it requires me to lean in four directions instead of just two. Realize that I am indeed merely "leaning", wonder if one can lean their way to better bod.
Day 3: I'm not exactly feeling the burn from my day of leaning so I decide I'm up for a new challenge. Hula Hoop sounds weird and fun, I am actually standing on the balance board moving my hips and mimicking the motion of Hula Hooping, something I'm not great at in real life but my avatar is killing it! And I'm actually feeling a bit of a burn in my core! Eventually I have three hoops around me and I am racking up the points, and I just may be perspiring a bit! Soon though, I become aware of how I must look, arms up, hips swiveling around, clapping at my avatar, flushed and sweating, shouting things like "you're my bitch, hoop!" I am overcome with shame and gratitude that my roommates are not home. I turn off the game and fix a cocktail.
Day 4: After my embarrassing over-excitement regarding my Hula-hooping skills I decide I should partake in a more relaxed activity: yoga sounds perfect. I name my yoga instructor Jade Dreamcatcher. My mom got me really into yoga when I was in high school and I've been known to hold "bird of paradise" for over a minute so I feel like Jade is going to get schooled. Not so much. We start basic, Warrior pose, keeping one foot on the balance board and one of the ground does not a correct stance make, but once I stop congratulating myself on pointing out Jade's poor instruction I realize she is saying my balance is "poor," ugh, what do you know, Jade?! Tree pose should be simple enough, stand on one leg with your other foot placed on the side of your knee, hands at heart; but I wobble and fail. I am so frustrated and loosing my zen at this point, I bid Jade "namaste" and get the hell out of there.
Day 5: Seeing the Wii balance board on the floor of my living room is starting to piss me off. It is a constant reminder that I am an unbalanced failure with three more days before I can go back to the gym and actually exercise. I'm beginning to believe all that "serotonin level" business about people who get proper exercise. Craving aerobic activity I decide today would be a good time to try out a "Basic Run," which doesn't require the balance board, thank God. To do this I simply have to run in place while holding the Wii magic controller. This isn't so bad! The scenery in Wii world is a lot more pleasant than Prospect Heights, instead of jogging past the creepy men that sleep on the benches outside my house, I'm "jogging" in a peaceful village I imagine is in Sweden: there are waterfalls, and spherical people walking shiny puppies. I soon realize that the stomping of my running in place is not great for my neighbors so I begin to tiptoe, still shaking my Wii controller to simulate jogging; then I stop moving my feet, but continue to shake the controller; then I move my feet into the kitchen and get a Christmas cookie while moving the controller. When I get back in front of the TV my running mates are congratulating me and calling me a "Calorie Burner" as I sit on the couch with my tree-shaped treat. This isn't working.
Day 6: Linus is disappointed in me, I can feel it in his icy stare. In the game, Linus is the captain of the "Strength Training" unit, so I decide to try to impress him. We start off easy with "Single Leg Lifts"-I can do these! "Sideways leg lift," "Arm and Leg Lift," these are all going well. "Lunge," "Plank," I'm doing ok, but after about 15 minutes of "Strength Training" I'm incredibly bored, and without the fear of judgment I'm accustomed to at the gym, I call it quits.
Day 7: My last day. At this point I feel sluggish and tired; I convince myself that my muscles have atrophied and my arms are sore from Linus' "Planks." I'm being dramatic, sure, but I'm starting to long for the gym. Virtual exercise has made me realize that I miss sweating... who would have thought! On my last Wii session I make the rounds: I head soccer balls, hula hoop, go for a faux jog, do some leg extensions with Linus and some Warrior poses with Jade. My BMI is the same, but my balance has improved, according to the Wii team of experts. Honestly, though, after my week away from the gym I feel pretty gross (granted, I did eat a cookie as I fake-jogged), and I don't have a lot of faith in Wii Fit.
Perhaps I wasn't the ideal candidate for this experiment. Perhaps Wii Fit is probably only a good "workout" for the morbidly obese-or the morbidly hyperactive-because all you really have to do is lean or shake a remote control. I also think I need the muscle-y "juiceheads" at the gym to judge me so I stay on the treadmill for longer than 10 minutes. Wii Fit, of course, is not all bad. Inserting yoga into a video game is pretty cool, and it's also nice to see a game that doesn't require you to steal cars or beat up prostitutes, but I feel pretty confident in saying Wii Fit cannot replace the gym. Nice try Nintendo.
Celebrity Wii Avatars Generally Suck