I am in a heated competition with my 12-year old son over who can do the best Tree Pose. My daughter and I are neck and neck in the all-house hula hoop competition. And I absolutely dominate in the downhill ski slalom. (Yes!) Okay, so I’m focusing on the positives here. The 12-year-old boy is by far the most agile, possesses the healthiest weight, and boasts uncanny hand-eye coordination. And the 10-year-old girl easily outpaces her digital running partner without breaking a sweat. But they can tell you about how much they rock in their own blogs.
This all started when my husband bought me a Wii FitÂ for Valentine’s Day in a pathetic (or so it seemed at the time) attempt to make up for the fact that he was planning to be in Spain on the day he was supposed to be here doting on his wife. I told him there was no way a video game (even this one) would make up for his absence. But the truth is, my buff-if-poorly-drawn personal trainer in theÂ Wii Fitis pretty good company. Sometimes he is a bit condescending; suggesting that I need to build up strength to attain perfect posture but friends tell it like it is, right? And pretty often he tells me I’m awesome. I like him.
The first thing you do when you start up theÂ Wii FitÂ is step on the board, get scanned (er, that is, weighed), and perform some basic balance tests to attain your level of fitness and Wii FitAge. And that was where the competitive nature of my family showed its true colors. There was some poking of fun when some of our cartoon selves got redrawn not-so-thin after the weigh in. But one after the other, we got our turn and the fun-poking turned to a festive, supportive competition. It turns out no one is perfect. The tween boy â€“ much to his surprise â€“ does not dominate every event â€“ though his on-screen self is quite svelte. It turns out I’m pretty good at downhill skiing after a decade spent as a serious recreational roller blader. And the 10-year-old-girl-child is pretty good at yoga, since she takes actual yoga classes. So he backed way off and the competition became friendly.
My 80-year-old mother dropped in on us on Sunday while we were deep into our lost Wii-kend so we roped her into the fun, too. She was intimidated at first but when she discovered that her weight was healthy and her Wii age was the same as her real age, she was with us. Balance gets worse with age â€“ her trainer told her in an honest but encouraging tone â€“ but doing balance exercises could improve it. She said she could feel her balance improving after half an hour in the balance games section and asked if we could set her up with a daily training schedule.
I know this isn’t news â€“ the Wii Fitlaunched early last year — but this balance board that works with the Wii console is an amazing piece of technology. When I’m on the downhill slalom, the focus required is intense. It may not be exactly like doing an actual downhill slalom â€“ of which I have done quite a few — (wiping out doesn’t hurt for one thing) but it is realistic enough that everyone in the room flinches if I hit one of the flags and you can throw me off my game by simply asking a question. And though the Yoga section would not pass muster with serious Yoga practitioner, the visual feedback you get on the standing balance poses gives it a measurable goal, which I found motivating.
The Wii Fithas been criticized because it isn’t as good as real soccer, yoga, or hula hoops. Those are legitimate criticisms. You certainly wouldn’t want to lose touch with the truth, here. This is a video game. It has also been criticized by gamers for not being a very good video game. That’s true too, I suppose. The graphics aren’t great and the games are a bit silly. But I don’t really think of it as a video game in the same way that Halo or Civilization are, either. I think it falls somewhere between sport and video game. It’s sort of like bowling (without the cheap beer and pervasive cigarette smoke): It’s a blast, you can do it with friends, it’s mildly competitive, and reasonably active. It also improves balance and pulls no punches when it comes to dishing up the honest truth about your weight, agility, and balance. Well worth the price of admission, especially if you have a sedentary gamer in the house. (As it happens, our in-house gaming nut is also very fit but he didn’t complain about the gaming elements either.)
The kids and I had a blast with the thing for the entire weekend and I’m sore in a few places today. So, to loosen up, I started my day this morning with a Wii workout of Yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance exercises. It took about 40 minutes and while it may not have been as intense as the Pilates class that hurts my wrists, I broke a sweat and worked some muscles and didn’t have to leave the house to do it. And the more I do it, the more games it unlocks, and those seem to be more intense. I have already brought myÂ Wii FitÂ age down so that it is the same as my real age. I’m hoping to be 25 by next week.
Right now, though, I have a dilemma. Do you think it would be in poor taste to call my kids at school to tell them that I did so well in the hula hoop and yoga this morning that I unlocked a boxing game?