100 Push Ups

Now that I’ve ditched 10 pounds of excess flab I’m more interested in building up some strength than weight loss. Sure, I still have another 5 pounds to go to reach my goal, but focusing on my weekly weight loss is frankly a little boring now that my pants fit again. I’m still losing weight, but more slowly than before, and I’m OK with that.

Embarrassingly enough, I cannot do a single pull up. In fact, I don’t think I have ever done a single pull up in my life. In elementary school we had to do the President’s Challenge, specifically the Physical Fitness Test, and I always opted for the “flexed arm hang” instead of an actual pull up. That combined with my unwililngness to do the one mile run meant I never got the Presidents’ Award. Oh well.

So clearly my upper body strength is a little lacking. While I’m not quite ready to head over to the park every day to practice my pull ups, I can do some push ups.

Last week I started doing the One Hundred Push Ups program. In my initial test I could do 2 consecutive push ups.  In theory over the next 6 weeks or so I will build up enough strength to do 100 consecutive push ups. The program has you doing 5 or so sets of push ups 3 times a week, slowly building up the number you do at a time. There’s a similar program for squats, but those I actually have pretty well under control.

I’m now up to being able to do 10 consecutive push ups, and that was after doing 4 sets of 3-5 push ups, so things seem to be progressing pretty quickly. This in combination with continuing the EA Sports Active 30-Day Challenge (which I have been totally slacking on – but getting exercise in other ways)  should turn me into a super buff fitness freak. Or at least make me less pitifully weak. We’ll see.

Cooking, Exercise

Diet and Exercise Work. Film at 11.

As some of you may remember, at the beginning of May I realized I needed to do something about my diet / exercise levels as I crossed into the “overweight” BMI. While it’s true that BMI isn’t terribly accurate as it doesn’t account for your body fat vs muscle, I think it is fair to say that most of my weight was emphatically not muscle.

I made a number of changes to my lifestyle, some of which were relatively small, and some were larger. I enrolled in Weight Watchers, picked up a copy of EA Sports Active, and got more diligent in making sure I exercise every day (even if it’s just 10 minutes). The results speak for themselves:

Wii Fit Weight Chart

Food-wise the changes I’ve made have been pretty minor. I’ve cut out the constant snacking on candy bars, and that alone is probably the bulk of the weight loss. I’ve also switched to more whole grains. I still hate whole wheat bread, and have no intentions of switching from my plain white, but whole wheat pasta is surprisingly pretty much the same as the white stuff once you cover it in sauce. And in the morning I’m too tired to notice whether my multi-grain cheerios taste any different than the normal ones. 

I’m slowly adding more veggies to my diet. Lately I’ve been cooking a lot of broccoli because it’s easy. Throw it in a bowl in the microwave with some water, set a plate  (or, a lid, if you’re classy like that) on top to keep the moisture in, microwave for a couple minutes, add a slice of fat free american cheese, and consume. Normally I’m morally opposed to fat free cheese because its disgusting, but those american cheese slices are all chemicals anyway, so I can’t tell the difference.

Exercise is a little harder. I was doing 10-15 minutes of Wii Fit (mostly the Hula Hooping), and that was getting a little tedious, so I picked up a copy of EA Sports Active. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s nice to have some variety in my exercise. EA Sports Active is also more resistance training than cardio, and I think the switch to that may be why there’s some weight bobbling in the past week or so. Cardio is better for burning calories, but building muscle raises your resting metabolsim, so you really want both. I’ve also been biking around Liberty State Park when I can. And doing little things like take the stairs on my commute (there are 4 flights down and 8 flights up on my morning trek).

I haven’t experienced a magical total body transformation, it’s only been a month and honestly I don’t have all that much to lose, but I can see some physical changes. My stomach seems to be retreating, and my arms actually have muscles in them. But mostly I’m just happy to feel like I’m in control of my weight instead of just watching the scale climb up up up.


EA Sports Active: Day 5

I’ve had a little more time to get used to EA Sports Active now. I stopped using the Balance Board in my workouts and that cut down on the annoying peripheral switching a lot. I’ve done four of the 30 Day Fitness Challenge workouts – yesterday was a scheduled rest day.

Now that I’m a few days into it, the preconfigured workouts – playlists, if you will – are what really make this title. The exercises are all similar to what’s in Wii Fit, but the controls feel sluggish and clunky compared to the balance board. But I’m getting a much more comprehensive workout because it’s leading me through a variety of exercises. On WiiFit I tend to just pick my favorites, do 10-15 minutes of those, and call it a day.

The lack of thought required to get a good workout out of EA Sports gives it a big boost in longevity. I really, really, didn’t feel like working out today, and thought about skipping it. Needless to say the pre-programmed workout was much more rigorous than the exercises I would have chosen this morning. So I got in a good workout despite myself.

I’ve seen a lot of WiiFit vs EA Sports Active articles, and I don’t think that’s really a fair comparison. If you’re just getting a wii as an exercise tool, you should probably go with EA Sports Active because it’s a little cheaper and gives you a better workout. But the price comparison overlooks the fact that WiiFit includes the Balance Board, which is a peripheral that’s useful in other games. Whereas EA Sports Active isn’t.

I’m a big fan of the idea of whole-body gaming, partly because I think it’s neat technology and partly because I like the idea of getting some exercise but find most sports incredibly boring. EA Sports Active is really just an interactive workout video. And it’s great at that, but if I wasn’t already interested in getting in shape I wouldn’t find it particularly compelling. Titles like Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova 2 and Shaun White Snowboarding are games, not exercise programs, and that’s more interesting to people like me who skipped PE as a kid. Unfortunately the Balance Board offerings so far have been pretty meager – most have received awful reviews. It’ll be interesting to see if publishers pick up the slack or just let the Balance Board go the way of the NES Power Pad.

Overall I think WiiFit and EA Sports are both good titles, but they server different needs. If you want a workout program, get EA Sports. If you want to play games and get your heart rate up a little along the way, get WiiFit.


EA Sports Active

I caved to internet peer pressuer and picked up a copy of EA Sports Active. I was getting a little bored with Wii Fit, and sort of annoyed that it takes you 45 minutes to get in 30 minutes of exercise because you have to pick a new task each time… you can’t just queue up a workout.

Plus I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.

So far Sports Active is being touted as THE MOST AMAZING EXERCISE GAME. As of this morning 100% of its reviews on Amazon were 5 star.

The game starts off like pretty much every other workout video/ad/pitch you’ve ever seen. Some guy in a fleece vest starts telling you how awesome and perfect your life will be once you follow him and stop being such a pathetic lump. There’s some upbeat ambient music to emphasise this point. It’s cheesy but inoffesive.

I started the 30 day fitness challenge because it required the least amount of thought. Over a 30 day period the game picks workouts for you each day, mixing it up and making sure you’re getting an even workout. If you don’t feel like doing that you can do any of the dozens of pre-programmed workouts or build your own. But, I’m lazy. If I wasn’t lazy I wouldn’t have bought an exercise video game, now would I?

See this girl? She is way more into it than me.
See this girl? She is way more into it than me.

After day 1 I’ll concede that it’s a strong title for the Wii exercise genre, and fills some voids Wii Fit left behind, but I’m not sure it’s my new religion. I had trouble getting some of the exercises to register – particularly the lunges. Overall things seemed a little sluggish – my avatar would follow me about 2 seconds behind. The balance board didn’t bring much to the experience, and I’ll probably leave it out next time just because it was one more thing I kept having to bring out / push out of the way.

The exercises themselves were pretty good, and things changed up pretty quickly so I didn’t have time to get bored… which was nice. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to do 10 minutes of hula hooping now that my boyfriend isn’t around to appreciate the effort.

My biggest beef is that it felt cumbersome to switch back and forth between all the gear. Nunchuck in leg strap. Nunchuck in hand. Get on the wii balance board. No, with the nunchuck in the strap. Now stand on the resistance band. Oh but holding the nunchuck this time. Yeah.

It’s a title worth picking up if you want to add something to your exercise routine but don’t actually want to join a gym / go outside. Also it tells you how many calories you’ve (theoretically) burned, and that’s a lot like points. And you all know how I feel about points. I’ll post updates as I go through more of the workouts and get a better feel for the overall game. Program. Whatever.

Exercise, Hacking

Weight Hacking

I was dismayed recently to find my WiiFit calling me fat. Yes, it actually said (in its squeaky little voice) “that’s overweight.” While I’m not in the habit of letting an $80 plastic washboard dictate my lifestyle, my pants agreed. They said “lose 5 pounds or buy new pants.” Since I’m self-employed and like designer jeans I have no choice but to go with option one.

Let me start by saying that I will do anything for points. It doesn’t matter what the points are for, I want them. When I was saving up for video games as a kid I drew little thermometers and filled them up as I saved my money, just like your college alumni drive does. I play Xbox Live games more than others because there are points and a leaderboard and achievements and the achievements get you points and I want them all. And lucky for me, WeightWatchers is all about points.

On WeightWatchers you get a certain number of points per day, and all food has a set value of points (based on the fat/calories/fiber in it). And you can eat whatever the heck you want… as long as you don’t go over the points. You can also earn extra points by exercising, and get a bank of 35 spare points per week so you can eat normal people food and not blow your whole diet. Although tedious to some people, I find this to be an entertaining numbers game. And a challenge to hack my diet to maximum delicousness.

For example: a Chipotle Burrito with cheese and guacamole is 22 points. By comparison, my daily target is 20. Obviously the cheese and guac are big contributors here, and I’m sad to see them go. But all in the name of progress (and not having to buy new pants) I forgo the cheese/guac. Now we’re down to 15. In theory I could just eat half the burrito and save the rest for tomorrow and thus not totally blow my points for the day. But that’s not much fun now is it?

What’s interesting is that according to this handy-dandy calculator (which gets its values from Chipotle’s nutrition facts) the tortilla used to wrap the burrito is also a huge contributor. Nixing the tortilla and opting for the “burrito bowl” brings me down to 9 points. And it is a rather lot of food, so I eat 3/4 of it and save the rest for lunch tomorrow. So now I’m at 7 points, and honestly I didn’t miss the cheese/guac. That much.

You can figure out the points values with some simple math or another handy-dandy calculator and the printed nutrition facts. For stuff you cook at home you can guesstimate using the ingredients list and google… there are a handful of points charts floating around that tell you the value of things like eggs, broccoli, etc. For folks who like beer there’s a nice points values for beers list. It’s by no means comprehensive, but gives me a rough idea. Most of the beers I like are around 4 points.

Having to add up my points for everything has cut out a lot of my snacking, or at least made me switch to healthier options (bananas instead of chocolate). By skipping the cheese/guac on my burrito I freed up 7 points. An ice cream cone is about 5 points. I would much rather have ice cream than cheese on my burrito.

It’ll take about a month before I can tell if it’s actually helping, but in the short term WiiFit has stopped calling me fat. Now it says I’m just festively plump. In addition to the WeightWatchers I’ve been biking more and getting pretty darn good at WiiFii hula hooping, but I think not eating candy constantly will go a long way towards staying in my current pant size.