Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer Resolutions Revisited, Part I

In June, I wrote an entry with my summer resolutions, meaning things I wanted to accomplish over summer break. I had planned to write a quick update, but some of the resolutions deserve a little more time, either because they got done or didn't get done and the story of why and how is interesting to me. Today, I'm tackling #5 and #6: Walk two miles a day and work on strength and balance. This resolution was supposed to be about buying a Wii Fit, but I felt that that was going to be impossible since the Wii and the Wii Fit were nowhere to be found.

So, I'll start with walking two miles a day. I did this with a handful of exceptions. Having dogs to keep healthy makes this one pretty easy. One of the joys of having a dog is how easy it is to make them happy and excited, and all I have to do is get up every morning, throw on some clothes and say, "Let's go for a walk!" and Marcel's tail starts wagging and he starts jumping all over the place. Madeline, being the more sensible of the two, would rather sleep longer, but she comes along anyway. My neighborhood dead ends at a creek, so we walk to the creek and back and that is one mile. We do it in the morning and in the evening and that's my two miles. The nice thing is that a lot of people walk along the same path and I get to know my neighbors (actually my neighbors' dogs--it is a strange phenomenon that dog owners can name most of the dogs in the neighborhood but not their owners). The not so nice thing is that I had fooled myself into thinking that this was making me more fit. About a month ago, my friend D invited me to go along on her dog walk, which is about three quarters of a mile up a hill. I went, feeling that my daily walk surely had prepared me for this. Uphill walking is a whole different thing, it turns out. I was literally gulping for air. I tried again a week later. The next time was easier, and I plan to continue trying.

Thanks to kind friends and family, I did get the Wii Fit. My friend E, who loves shopping as much as I hate shopping, called me from a Walmart in late June. She had just found two Wii's. Walmart would only allow her to buy one, which was for her sister, but she called her son, who kindly drove down and bought the other for me. The Wii has some fun games on it, but it was the Fit software and balance board that I wanted. That's when Cameron went into action. He found a site that tracked where popular electronics could be found. He began checking it every morning until, one morning, in early July, he found one for me and ordered it right away. Soon I was ready to become fit!

When you first turn on the Wii, you are asked to make a Mii. This is an avatar that is supposed to look like you. You work with a menu that offers you many choices in eye types and colors, skin color, face shape, etc. It's kind of creepy how close you can come to making a copy of yourself.  Aging is a problem.  In real life, there are so many indicators of age:  hair loss or loss of hair shininess, loss of skin tone, weight gain, great wisdom.  The Wii has no such indicators, so men can add facial hair, if they have grown any, but women and men without facial hair are stuck adding wrinkles to keep from looking twelve.  You can also change your avatar to reflect changes in you. I cut my hair this summer and I noticed I was depending upon my glasses more and more, so now my avatar has a haircut and wears glasses.  So my Mii ages along with me, which is absolutely delightful.

Imagine getting up in the morning before the sun is up.  Bleary-eyed, you walk down to the room that contains your Wii Fit.  You turn it on and happy music fills the room.  You are told to turn on the Balance Board, which is a white plastic board (about 12 x 18 inches) that remotely talks to the Wii console.  The board's avatar comes on the screen, standing on end and tells you to step on.  You do and the board says, "Oh!"  In English, the word "oh" must have a hundred meanings and we can interpret all of them.  The meaning of this "oh" is quite clear:  I did not expect anything quite this heavy to step on me.  Then music that I can only describe as robot thinking music comes on while the Wii calculates your weight.  Then, in a voice that sounds like Shirley Temple doing an impression of Mickey Mouse, it says, "That's Obese!"  

If your BMI puts you in the obese category, as mine does, it's not a bad thing to face reality, though I wish I could turn off reality every once in awhile.  But, in case, after five minute or so of exercising, you forget you're obese, the Wii kindly helps you out.  As soon as it measures you as obese, it makes your Mii swell up to a larger size.

The activities are fun, and I've been going strong with them for more than 55 days now. I don't think I'd recommend the Wii Fit to someone who already has a workout routine. I don't think it would be challenging enough. In fact, I'm finding the aerobic menu to be kind of easy, but still very enjoyable. But there's also a strength, a balance and a yoga menu and I find all of these still very challenging. I also am guessing that there will soon be a Wii Fit part 2, which I will buy immediately. I love the rhythm boxing option, where I do ten minutes of boxing the air, while my Mii is hitting a bag. It's a great stress reliever. The running in place option is boring because, well, you're running in place, but at least you get to see your Mii run past waterfalls and cliffs. It's also fun that all the other Mii's you've made are running past you, sometimes falling down, other times encouraging you. So, when I'm running in place, I see my mother, Cameron, Marin, Marin's boyfriend, PJ, and Marcel and Madeline.

The funniest one is a balance game in which you suddenly appear on the screen dressed in a penguin outfit while standing on an ice floe.  You need to shift your weight on the balance board to make your Mii slide left and right on its belly.  Why?  Well, so you can watch a copy of yourself in a penguin suit catch fish that are jumping out of the ocean in its mouth.

The best thing is that being able to complete some of the Wii challenges has made me gain confidence in trying other activities. For example, I have started to look for more difficult workouts on the television's On Demand Menu. I look forward to exercising. Eventually the fun of the Fit will probably wear off, but I am hoping that it will be replaced with the fun of other ways of being active.

But I still wake up to the same two words every morning, and changes are slow, but instead of big losses, I have to try to be satisfied with slightly better fitting clothes, and a little more energy.  The other day, I was sitting in a chair that I have sat in often and I went to stand up.  Only after standing did I realize that I had always grabbed the arms of the chair to get up, and I didn't this time.  Small changes, but at least in the right direction.

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