EA Active Day 8

I know, I know, I promised this wouldn’t turn into a fitness blog, and it really isn’t. But I’ve been mega-overdrive busy lately (back to work after this post) and what gaming time I’ve had has been spent in LOTRO, and y’know, it’s LOTRO. I enjoy it but don’t have a lot to say about it other than “Hey, I really enjoy this!” Enough that I spent all day Sunday playing, and blew off work on Monday to play some more, and I’m paying for that now. Shoulda spent the holiday getting a jump start on the week.

Anyway, so today was Day 8 of EA Sports Active.  Before I start I want to point something out. This isn’t a game. I keep hearing people as “Is that EA Active game any good?” There’re no game modes in the package. It’s just a workout tool. I just don’t want someone to be disappointed and think they’ll be getting stuff like the downhill skiing that comes in Wii Fit.

So Workout #6 and I’m still getting new things thrown my way…today was shooting baskets (which was kind of difficult for me…the game registering a throw when I didn’t mean to be throwing, ending up with a wimpy toss that wouldn’t make it halfway to the basket). It was a nice break but didn’t feel much like exercise.

Aerobic boxing has turned out to be an awesome workout, when you have to hit that bodybag 90 times as fast as possible it gets the heart pumping!

But I wanted to post because today I noticed something. Last Tuesday I did my first 30-Day Challenge workout and one of the first things I did was squats. The idea is you lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. I couldn’t do it. I was that out of shape. I got down low enough for it to count, barely (there’s a guage on the screen showing how low you’ve gone) and when I was done, I was in pain.

Today I did squats as part of the warmup. I got down far enough to put the indicator about halfway down the gauge, and doing them felt like a warm up. I think the light workout has you do 8 squats, and that was really nothing at this point.

It just really dawned on me as I was doing them. In one single week I’d made this much progress!! Now I know it won’t always come so easy…one benefit of being totally out of shape is that getting slightly-less-than-totally out of shape is pretty easy. Getting in-shape is gonna be hard. But it felt like real-world progress that I could point out and say “Look at what I can do!”

Now mind you, there are plenty of other tricks up Active trainer’s sleeve and I was still wiped out when I was done.

But at least I was nicely rewarded. I was in the shower after my workout, conditioner in my hair, washing my face, covered in soap and lather, and the building maintanance crew turned the damned water off!!! ARGH! Angela had to bring me a couple bottles of water out of the kitchen so semi-rinse off with. BRRR!

Anyway, I’m trying to eat better, too, and that’s both hard and expensive. They say 6 (?) helpings of veggies a day. If I get in 2 I think I’m doing really well.  And I always get dinged on that “How many hours did you spend in front of a computer or watching TV.” The answer tops out at 12 and that’s usually where I am. My schedule is that I get up in the morning, spend 2 hours writing and publishing a blog post for ITWorld, then go to work and spend 8 hours coding. If I watch an hour of TV and take care of my email and catching up on RSS feeds (or writing in this blog) then bam, 12 hours right there.  Oh, and I get pinged on hours of sleep. During the week I’m glad to get 6 and often get 5 or less and the trainer is always yelling at me over that.

So lifestyle changes still have a ways to go, but I’m doing great on the workouts, and I’m feeling great, too. I have a lot more energy during the day, and when I go to sleep at night, I go to *sleep*. Like deep, restful sleep, which is really nice.

There might be something to this ‘get in shape’ stuff after all!

Active Day 5

Today was Day 5 of the 30-Day Challenge in EA Sports Active for the Wii. It was workout #4, since Thursday was a rest day (every 3rd day is rest, it seems).

Yesterday’s workout felt easy and it was over before I knew it. I was feeling cocky, then today came. Jump Squat and Jump Lunges and lots of running. Oh my aching legs.

I am doing better with the running but I’m not really sure how/why other than I’m feeling less reserved about the whole process. I realized as I started to really huff and puff that I’ve been so non-active for so long that I subconsciously have started thinking that heavy-breathing means something is wrong, and I pull back.

I don’t want to get too touchy-feely but I really feel like I’m starting to think differently about things. Even after just 5 days. After my first workout I felt terrible and really gross (sweat? EWWW!) but now, yeah, I’m wiped after the workout, but I’m kind of, I dunno, proud of the sweat? And I know I’ll feel GREAT in an hour or so, which is the best part of the whole experience.

I’m not eating any better, but I’m intending to eat better. LOL. We’ll see how that goes. Getting lots of veggies is a challenge for me. I take some baby carrots to work to snack on, but what other veggies are convenient & portable? Any suggestions?

I’m considering getting a set of these, once they release:
I just don’t know how they’d work with having to put the Nunchuk into the pocket. Maybe have 2 Nunchuks and just plug the appropriate one into the Wii Remote?

So far, really happy with the product, and feeling a bit better about my self. I already seem to feel like I have more energy, though maybe its all in my head. But I’m not questioning it for now.

If you’re on the fence about Active, I heartily recommend you give it a shot. It’s actually working for me in ways that Wii Fit never did.

EA Sports Active Day 2

I promise I’m not going to make this a daily workout blog! But I did think it might be of interest to some for me to relate a bit more EA Active experience.

I woke up this morning sore, but not uncomfortably so. In fact it was that “good feeling” soreness, though oddly it seemed to get worse, not better, as the day went on. That said, I worked from home today so my ‘commute’ was 15 feet from the bedroom to the office and plunked back down in the chair to write code.

I went out to do some shopping this afternoon and that loosened things up, but then it was back to work for part of the evening, so I didn’t get to EA Active until about 9:30 pm, which I think is much too late to do this kind of thing. But life happens, right?

Tonight’s workout was different from last night. A few new things, a few varieties of things I did yesterday. Yesterday I did side lunges, today it was side lunches with a toe touch, for instance. No boxing today, instead it was tennis (just returning balls at a target, not actually playing).

The leg strap was fussy again. I finally got it to stay put after Angela insisted I should wear it higher on my thigh than I’d been doing. After I looked at my on-screen trainer I saw she was right, so I put it almost as high as it would go and cinched it down pretty tight and it finally stayed in place. I kind of tucked the leg of my shorts around the pocket in the front and that seemed to work well. I think you’d have to do that with anything the least bit baggy. So under the shorts unless you’re wearing spandex or something, and believe you me, you do not want me wearing spandex. Even if you can’t see me, it would cause a darkness that would spread across the lands.

I’m already getting better at using the tension strap and pocketing/unpocketing the Nunchuk. The upper body exercises really feel kind of trivial. I know you can double up the strap but I’m afraid I’m going to break it (and I know some folks have broken them). I might see if I can find a heavier weight strap the next time I’m at a department store.

On the other hand, the lower body exercises continue to kick my behind. And I struggle on the track when it comes time to run. It *always* tells me I’m too slow. Brings back bad gym class memories. I was blaming the system, but then I just went for it and I got into the “Perfect” range, which I could maintain for about 10 seconds before I started wheezing. Plus we live on the 2nd floor and it was closing in on 10 pm and our office is technically the master bedroom so I was worried I was stomping on the floor when someone was trying to sleep.

But bottom line, it’s clear that the running is going to be an on-going challenge for me. But that’s ok.

I’ve also found that you have to be careful with the exercises and do them as instructed. For instance, I was doing these standing leg crunches… you lift one knee up high and are supposed to cross your hands over your belly and ‘crunch’ your abdomen forward. I was just lifting my leg, and I wasn’t getting any Active love. Turns out you NEED to cross your hands over you belly (thereby placing the Remote on you belly) and then you have to crunch forward in order to move the Remote, and then the rep counts.

In general, smooth controlled motions work best, but I guess those are best for maximum performance anyway. It’s important to know that you don’t have to start the exercise with the on-screen trainer…it’ll wait for you. So get your breathing right and then start. But once you start, you have to maintain cadence with him/her/it, and it will do things like make you hold a position for an extra few beats now and then. You WILL curse at this thing.

The good news is that after I was done, I didn’t feel the need to pass out. I managed to get right to the showers (yesterday after the workout I wouldn’t have trusted myself to stand up near all that hard porcelain). So Day 2 wasn’t as bad as Day 1. And Day 3 is a “rest” day and I have to confess I’m glad of that!

I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the product. I do feel like I’ve had a full body workout, and I sure do sweat (I barely broke a sweat on Wii Fit). I’d just love to see EA take advantage of the Wii Motion Plus add-on when it comes out.

Oh, and my apologies for any typos. Apparently my brain is slightly oxygen starved after working out and my writing gets really sloppy, but I don’t really notice how bad it is until the next day!

EA Sports Active — this ain’t no Wii Fit!

I just got out of the shower. Over-share? Well, there’s a point to it. I’m a morning shower guy. I can’t leave the house without my morning shower. So why did I just get out of the shower at 9:30 at night?

Because EA Sports Active came out today, and I figured I’d start right in. You remember your first day with Wii Fit? You headed some soccer balls, hula’d some hoops, did a little downhill skiing. No biggie. So I fired up EA Sports Active and figured I’d jump into some relaxing introduction to the program.


Now in all fairness, I’m about as out of shape as a person can get while still being able to get out of a chair on his own locomotion. I spend my days sitting in front of a computer, and my evenings…sitting in front of a computer. And I’ve got the body to show it.

But still, I told Active I wanted a “lite” workout. That ended up being about 20 minutes of running in place, squats, side lunges, held-squats camouflaged to look like an inline skating mini-game, and some upper body stuff that honestly was pretty easy. It was the leg/thigh stuff that kicked my ass.

By the end of it I was a sweaty ball of jello, barely able to stay on my feet. It took a good 15 minutes before I could manage that shower.

So was it fun? No, frankly it wasn’t, but I feel better for having done it. The boxing exercise was fun (pretty similar to the one in Wii Fit, honestly), and the inline skating thing might’ve been fun had my legs not been screaming in agony by that point.

Was it convenient? Well, nothing works like it does in the ads. Active comes with a belt that you strap to your thigh, and for exercises like running, you stick the Nunchuk into it. That belt was a pain in the ass for me. I was wearing sweats when I started, and no matter how tightly I cinched the belt, after a while it’d slide down and finally off. I finally ditched the sweats and just worked out in boxers and a t-shirt, and then it did a better job of staying put. Guess it’s time to invest in some gym shorts; the guinea pigs were shocked.

Once you get the belt in place, you jam the Nunchuk into it. The fit is really tight and I worry about damage to the analog stick on the Nunchuk. And you only use the belt and ‘chuk for some exercises; for others you have to hold it, so you’re constantly jamming it into this pocket and pulling it back out.

You also get a ‘resistance band’ which you use for doing curls and stuff. You hold one end in each hand, and stand on the middle of the thing. Seems really easy, until you’re trying to grab the end of the band and the Wii Remote in one hand, and the other end of the band and the Nunchuk in the other, and trying not to get the cord between the Remote and the Nunchuk tangled in the band. I mean it ain’t rocket science but I did find myself wishing I had a third arm a few times.

I’m sure all of this will become less of an issue once I’ve used all this gear a few times.

The software itself is decent. For every exercise you can first watch a video to see how it’s done (demonstrated by a real person, not an avatar) and then during the exercise, your avatar takes up most of the screen, while a trainer leads you in an inset window. Encouragement is fairly constant but the trainer will bitch you out if you start messing up.

It all worked pretty well, except for the running towards the end of the workout. Suddenly it stopped registering consistently. My guess is that the belt/nunchuk had become twisted or something… I was about to pass out from fatigue so it isn’t all that clear to me what was going on 🙂 but I was jogging in place at what I thought was a consistently plodding pace, and my onscreen avatar keep slowing way down, then speeding up, then slowing again. Apparently the game watches the distance between the Nunchuk and the Remote to determine your pacing, so you do need to pump your arms as you run…maybe I was screwing that up? Running was working a lot better early in the session though, so it was something wonky, not bad software.

After the torture workout was over, my trainer gave me a glimpse at what we’d be doing tomorrow, and then I had to answer a couple of surveys about eating habits and exercise outside of the game. I found myself feeling guilty at not having eat enough veggies, or drinking enough water, and for only getting 3 hours of sleep last night. I found it interesting that I was already giving my digital trainer a ‘personality’ and wanting to please her. But I am a geek with something of a robot fetish, so there ya go… ok, over-sharing again.

For my trouble, I got a trophy for completing my first workout, and another for burning at least 100 calories . 🙂

So that was day 1 of EA Sports Active. It offers a much more real workout than Wii Fit ever did, for me. The pre-set 30 Day Challenge doesn’t let you just do the easiest things over and over, and downtime between exercises is basically the amount of time it takes you to change gear…none of that 2 minutes of mini-game, 2 minutes of loading screen that Wii Fit offers.

By the way, the game will work with the Balance Board, but ours is still out for repair, so I couldn’t test that.

At this point it’s pretty clear that I have the tools. If I stick with Active, I’ll wind up in better shape than I’m in now. I can tell you that just by how my legs and thighs are feeling after that 1st workout.

Gamer Grub!

I’m so totally stocking up on this stuff:
Gamer Grub, One-Handed Food For Gamers

This stuff has apparently been scientifically formulated to provide the perfect balance of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to perform “such as visual input, cognitive processing, signal transmission and muscle reflexes” during marathon gaming.

Who’s gonna pwn n00bs now, huh?

Action Pizza for me, Strategy Chocolate for the woman.

No more supermarket runs from here on out….

Iced Mocha

Had a craving for some Honey Dew Donuts iced mocha today, but when I opened my wallet a few moths flew out and that was it. So I took a shot at making my own and it came out ok. Wanted to capture the “recipe” because I have a mind like a sieve and if I try to do this again I’ll forget.

1) Made coffee in the french press. 4 scoops of fairly generic Folgers ground coffee.
2) 2 packets of Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate hot cocoa mix
3) 4 tablespoons of sugar
4) 12 oz boiling water
5) ~10 ice cubes

Combined hot cocoa mix, sugar and hot water in a pitcher while the coffee brewed. Got that all dissolved, then added the coffee. Mixed it up and added the iced cubes (just to jumpstart the cooling process). The coffee was made strong so that the iced cubes wouldn’t weaken things too much.

After a couple hours in the fridge, serve it over ice and add a couple ounces of milk to each glass.

It’s decent, but I think the coffee could be stronger and/or more of it compared to the other ingredients.

Yoga For Regular Guys

OK, so I have to admit I bought Yoga for Regular Guys (Yoga Babes Included!) half jokingly. I was looking in the yoga section for some kind of basic book that’d maybe teach me a few moves to help me get un-kinked. I swear as I get older I feel more stiff and brittle every morning.

Anyway all the books looked rather, ah, effeminate. But here was a yoga book written by a professional wrestler with a foreward by Rob Zombie and full of pics of hotties in yoga poses. How could I resist!? (I did end up buying a more ‘serious’ yoga book as well…I’ll be reviewing that at a later date.)

I sat down this afternoon and read it cover to cover and damned if I didn’t find myself getting motivated. Basically its a yoga workout aimed at both getting you stronger and more flexible. Diamond Dallas Page starts with the story about having mangled his back and being told he’d never wrestle again, and how his wife got him to try yoga, which led to him eventually getting back into the ring.

In addition to the exericises we get plenty of anecdotes and ‘real guy’ sexual innuendo about getting yourself a flexible yoga babe, and the models are an even mixture of hot babes and ‘regular guys’ demonstrating the moves. It’s all pretty good natured fun, but the workout seems real enough. I’ll let you know because I’m going to give it a go…

The book is a bit ‘padded’ in that the exercises are illustrated in both left and right handed positions and so forth, but at the same time this makes it easy to follow along without losing your place, so that seems like a wash.

No word yet on whether the regime is effective, but it was certainly an entertaining read, and yes, fairly inspirational. I’ll report back after I’ve done the beginner routine a couple of times.

Detox Battle Results

The Raw Food Detox Diet  



The Great American Detox Diet

When I first came up with the idea of comparing these two books, I was a little worried they’d be so similiar as to be interchangeable. Boy, was I wrong. I also kind of assumed that Alex Jamieson would be a little bit whacky, being hooked up with the Super-Size Me guy. But if either of the books is more ‘out there’ it’d have to be Natalia Rose’s.

The basics of the diets offered in these books is fairly similar: more fresh foods, no processed foods, no or very little meat. That’s probably not rocket science, I guess. The biggest places the two differ seems to be the topic of soy. Rose is strongly against soy products and Jamieson features it frequently in her recipies. So why does Rose hate soy?

Because its mucusy. The main emphasis of Rose’s book is eating foods that leave your stomach quickly. “Sticky” foods like soy, she says, gum up your insides and slow things down, allowing food to ferment or harden inside of you. A big part of her plan is also figuring out what you can eat with what. You can have as much fruit as you want, as long as you eat it alone, and stop at least half an hour before eating something else. Why? Because, she tells us, fruit takes about half an hour to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine. Veggies go with almost everything and…hell, I can’t even remember the other combinations. I found trying to figure out what I could eat with what was too complicated and too annoying to go with.

Also some of her science seems pretty suspect. You don’t want to eat acid and alkaline food together because the stomach releases acidic digestive juices to digest the alkaline food and alkaline juices to digest the acid food, and if it has to release both at once they’ll neutralize each other. Huh? Who ever heard of stomach alkaline? Also she warns us not to drink too much water with food because it’ll dilute the digestive juices and make your system less efficient. And if you eat just one big meal in a day, make it dinner, which goes against all common folklore I’ve ever heard. Why? Because when you go to sleep your whole body can focus on digesting the meal.

The plan is, first, to eat lots of raw foods (no big surprise, given the title) because of their natural enzymes (which break down in cooking). That much makes sense to me. Second, we should attempt to keep as light a load as possible on the digestive system, so your body can get digestion done quickly. The theory is that it’ll take all the energy it was spending on digestion and use it for taking care of self-repair in other parts of the body. That, to me, sounds a bit far fetched.

Jamieson, on the other hand, is a lot more straight forward. Drink more water, and cut out all the things we already know are bad for us. Sugar, fat, caffeine, and so on. Cut out processed foods completely. No white flour. Lots of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, and so on. She includes no meat in any of her recipies but suggests that organic meat now and then is ok.

Her 8 week system has you going cold turkey on a new thing every week, except for week 1. Week 1 is all about drinking a lot more water (but not from plastic bottles because they’re toxic, she says. Ummm, ok….). Week 2 is getting rid of refined sugar, and she’s kind enough to realize it’s going to be hard for a lot of people. Week 3 is caffeine, and so on.

Contrast this ‘item by item’ system with Rose’s 5 step plan. She has you adjusting your eating across the board. At the first step (step 5, we’re counting down), for instance, she tells you not to worry about a morning cup of coffee because you’ve got so much self-repair to get through that a cup of coffee isn’t going to make much difference at this phase. And though the title is about “Raw” she acknowledges that many people will never get to the 100% raw stage. But by step 2 and 1, life is getting pretty weird for the person following this diet. Rose strongly urges monthly visits to a colonic therapist to flush out the toxins that are loosening up from the sides of your colon. Fun stuff. And basically fasting every day until mid-afternoon, or at most having some ‘green lemonade.’

So which plan am I following? Mostly Jamieson’s. It just makes more sense to me, and its much more manageable, really. I’m taking bits of Rose when I can fit it in, or sometimes as a way of ‘cheating’ on the Jamieson food plan. For instance Rose has us indulging ourselves with a bit of 74% chocolate now and then. I’m all for that! And I’m eating a lot more things raw. Like corn on the cob. I just shuck it and eat it, and actually its pretty good, but once I bit into it I remembered that from playing hide and seek in cornfields as a kid (stealing an ear now and then for snacks). I’m buying raw nuts instead of roasted. Avoiding peanut butter (another of her no-nos) and replacing it with almond butter. Cutting way down on dairy. Yogurt and a bit of cheese, although Rose would frown upon either of those.

But mostly I’m on the Jamieson plan. More water, a lot less refined sugar (I can’t in all honest say none yet; I haven’t been able to give up crystalized ginger, for instance) and in particular no high fructose corn syrup and or other heavily chemicalized sweeteners. No caffeine, no soda. No processed foods, very little animal fat. I haven’t cut out alcohol when going out, and in general if I go out for dinner I eat pretty freely. I give a bit of thought about which choice is more healthy (or least unhealthy, as it more often turns out), but I’m not going to sit at a Mexican restaurant drinking water and eating a salad when my friends are into burritos and margaritas. Life is too short.

So what have I found out? First, eating healthy is freaking expensive. My food bills have gone through the roof. I finally had to admit I couldn’t afford to eat all organic fruits and vegetables; they’re just too expensive. I also have to shop at least every other day, as opposed to the every other week that I used to.

Second, my body is in some kind of a shock state. Do I feel better? Honestly, no. I feel worse. I have a lot of stomach/GI issues that I’ll spare you the gory details of. I’m hoping that this is just an acclimation phase. Rose in particular warns us that we might feel like shit for a little while as our body adjusts. In my case, at least, she’s right.

Third is that I have lost some weight, while not exercising much at all (been too damned hot). Not a lot, but a bit. That’s a good thing.

Four, juicers are noisy, messy, and churn through a LOT of produce. They feel very wasteful to me. A huge colander of washed fresh vegetables gets reduced to a couple of glasses of juice.

But the most interesting thing that I’ve found out is how much impact some foods have on us. After about 2 weeks of no caffeine and eating better, Saturday morning I binged and had a large iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso, and a couple (OK, OK, three!!) donuts from Dunkin Donuts. And my god, was I wired for the rest of the day. I honestly felt very much like I was on speed (don’t ask me how I know how that feels) and really didn’t start feeling ‘normal’ until Sunday. Once the speediness wore off, I just felt… gross. Greasy or something. Donuts of course are loaded with trans-fat, and I felt like I’d been dunked in it.

So anyway, back to the Detox Battle. Who wins? I have to give it to Alex Jamieson. The Great America Detox Diet: 8 Weeks to Weight Loss and Well-Being makes sense, is easy (technically easy…willpower is something else) to follow and an interesting read. Rose’s The Raw Food Detox Diet : The Five-Step Plan for Vibrant Health and Maximum Weight Loss is also an interesting, sometimes fascinating book but I still doubt some (ok, lots) of the science behind it. And its hard to follow the plans. You end up obsessing over food. “Let’s see, it’s 11:20. I can eat this peach as long as I eat it in the next 10 minutes…I’m not really hungry yet, but if I don’t eat it, I might get hungry at 11:40 and then I’ll have to delay lunch… hmmm.”

By the way, despite the titles, neither book really concentrates on losing weight, and neither is a “diet” in the most common sense of the word. They’re more books about changing your lifestyle and life-long eating habits. Its a big committment. I’m interested to see how long I can keep this up.

“Green Lemonade” Pt 2

Today I followed my intended recipe (see prior post). The only other change is that I realized yesterday I used red kale, and today I used green kale. WTF is kale, anyway? What else is it used for?

Anyway, the results were much better. First, I got a lot more juice. I filled up the juice catcher to the point where it started to overflow just as I finished (oops). Second, it took a lot less time to do the actual juicing. Celery is a perfect food to juice because you can push/guide the other foods into the juicer with the stalks. Third, the actual juice is less challenging. It’s a much lighter green and tastes vaguely of V8 (that must be the celery). This batch isn’t as limey as the first was. which I guess makes sense seen I got more jucie but used the same number of limes. But it also isn’t bitter. The ginger flavor is still too subtle. So probably next time, another (or a bigger) lime and more ginger.

The downside of all this is that I can’t see myself having time to go through all this on a weekday. At best, I could juice the night before. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, though. I had the tail end of yesterday’s juice in the afternoon and the flavor had improved quite a lot. I guess, like a good stew, it needs time for the flavors to blend.