Active Day 30!

So today was Day 30 of my EA Sports Active 30 Day Challenge. I wish I could say it felt great, but it didn’t; I was just having one of those off days, and so was Active (exercises I never have a problem with weren’t registering properly). I toughed it out though, as I’ve had to tough it out about 5 other times during the month. I wish I could figure out what leads to these really low energy days, so I could stop doing whatever it is that causes them!

Of the 3 goals that are automatically set for you (you can change them, of course) I hit 2 really quickly… easily within the first two weeks of the program. And the third I never hit. 🙁 It’s a goal of spending X hours with Active in 30 days, and I only got 96% of the way there.

I’m going to take 2 days off, and start another 30 Day Challenge on Light. I’m going to use a stronger band to increase the challenge of the upper body stuff. The lower body stuff is still enough of a struggle that I think I can get plenty more out of the Light program (my body and running do not get along well). I want to get where I can do all the running in a workout at “Perfect” speed, for one thing, and my left leg in particular got hurt 3 times in the 30 days, so I think it needs more work at Light. I’m in this for the long haul.

I bought a box of Pilates bands at Target for $10 or so, but they’re a little short. I can use them for bent over stuff, but doing overhead presses just seems impossible with them. You can feel when these bands ‘run out of stretch’ and that’s what happens when I try to use these bands in overhead workouts. I think I’m going to buy a 2nd box and just tie them together. If the knot is always between my feet it should be fine.

Fitting the workout into life continues to be a challenge. On workout days we don’t get to dinner until nearly 8 o’clock, which really cuts into free time, but I guess that’s a small price to pay in exchange for not being a decrepit old man in a few years. 🙂

The weight loss isn’t really coming too consistently yet. I tend to go down during the week then shoot back up over the weekend, so at least I know where to focus my attentions. Too many opportunities for snacking on weekends, I guess.

This will probably be my last Active blog post for a while. It’s all fairly routine at this point and I don’t have a lot more to say about it. Maybe I’ll check in after my next challenge, or if something dramatic happens.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the program even if it isn’t perfect. It’s better than any other ‘home gym’ solution I’ve tried, at least for me.

Active Day 22

Today was Day 22 of my 30 day challenge in EA Sports Active.

First a recap. On Sunday, I pulled/tore something in my left calf during the “warm up” portion of the workout. Nothing terribly serious but I kind of limped/hobbled through the workout, then limped through the rest of the day. Happily yesterday was a rest day.

One of the few complaints I (and many others) have about Active is that the warmup and cooldown periods are so short as to be useless. The warmup when I hurt myself consisted of, Exercise 1: RUN! with the trainer urging me to pick up the pace, which I did, and suddenly it was like someone drove a knife into my calf (the pain eased a lot fairly quickly, but that first ouch was intense). Active needs both some stretching exercises built in, and a longer warm-up, at least. Maybe in the expansion coming this holiday.

So today, my calf was still tender but I finally did what I’ve *known* I should be doing all along. I stretched first. Angela helped me out there as she used to do martial arts and knows all kinds of stretches from doing them. And what a difference that made! I was so much more limber, and exercises like the side lunge with toe touches became pretty easy, and touching the floor with the tip of the remote was a cinch (without stretching I’d get about as far down as my ankle).

Luckily today was heavy on upper body stuff, so it was easy on the hurt calf. I still jogged very slowly on the final ‘cooldown’ run, just to be safe. So it wasn’t a particularly strenuous workout, but it felt really good, and I felt really good after it.

I’ve got a bit more than a week left in the challenge and I’m not sure what the program will point me towards when its done, but left to my own devices, I think I’ll re-do the 30 Day Challenge on “Light” difficulty, only using a Medium weight elastic band to increase the difficulty of the upper body stuff. I know there’s a fine line between being careful and slacking, but I am nearly 50 and horribly out of shape. I can not yet do the “Long” running sections at a “Perfect” pace (when I started I couldn’t even get up to a Perfect pace, now I can do about 1.5 laps at it…the program wants 2.5) and I figure a second time through Light will help me get up to speed on that. At the same time, the upper body exercises with the Active band have been so trivial that I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress with my arms/shoulders, so doing those all again with a store-bought medium band might get some development going on there.

Weight-wise I’ve been all over the place, according to the Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit. I was losing, then one day it said I’d gained 1.8 lbs, then the next day another .4 lbs, then the day after that it said I’d lost 1.5 lbs! Averaging it all out, I don’t think I’ve lost anything, but I haven’t changed my eating habits significantly, beyond snacking.

I’m not too upset about that, though. This first 30 Day Challenge is more about making a habit of working out. Getting myself and Angela used to the new schedule, getting used to having pleasantly sore legs and sort of being more aware of my body. If I lose weight, great. If not.. well I *know* I’m feeling more limber and my legs feel stronger, so the program is having a positive impact. The weight can come later after I’ve laid down the foundations of a healthier lifestyle.

EA Active Day 13

Ran into a bit of a setback with my 30 Day Challenge yesterday, when I wrenched my back (this was on a rest day, and it was doing chores, not working out.) By mid-afternoon I could barely walk or stand  up straight. I popped a bunch of naproxen and then after dinner laid on the couch watching TV all evening with one of those heat packs strapped on. I sorta curled up in a semi-fetal position so my lower back muscles could relax, and that helped a lot.

Side note: I can’t believe there are people who watch 3 hours of tv every night. I was going stir crazy by the end of it.

This morning it was feeling somewhat better, but I still decided that working out would be a bad idea. I didn’t want to risk hurting my back worse and missing a week of exercise. But as the day wore on I felt more and more guilty about missing a day, so I ended up doing the day’s workout afterall, with the adjustment that I just kind of shuffled along during the running part, because when I really ran, the jarring started to make my back twinge. Nothing else really bothered it, which I guess suggests my form is ok, since they’re always telling you to hold your back straight.

Today’s new torture was Squat & Hold. Sounds so simple, so un-threatening, but I was cursing a blue streak as the timer counted down. The idea is simply to squat and stay in that squatting position for 20 seconds. Something little kids do without a 2nd thought. It killed me.

Also more basketball, which I really have trouble with. The idea is you turn left to “grab” a ball from a bin, then face forward and “shoot” the ball at a basket or “pass” it at a target. I can’t get this to work reliably. I’ll turn and reach out for the “ball” and my onscreen avatar doesn’t budge. Other times I’ll be holding still and my avatar suddenly turns, grabs a ball and flops it towards a target. If I do get the avatar to grab a ball, when I turn to face forward he almost always throws the ball before I mean to.

Basketball is the one activity that I just can’t get to work right. I’ve licked my issues with the running, I don’t have troubles with the leg strap sliding down. Everything works pretty well except basketball (which feels more like a gimmick in any case).

If anyone has tips for getting this to work I’d love to hear them.

I’m not closely monitoring my weight, but I seem to have lost a couple pounds since starting to use Active. More importantly I feel better, more energized (most of the time). We’ve been slowly modifying our diet. Just as an example, we used to have sandwiches and chips for lunch (when we were both home). Then we replaced the chips with Triscuits, which were probably just as fattening but seemed slightly more nutritional. Then to low-fat Triscuits. Now we’ve been having veggies (baby carrots, celerey sticks or raw brocoli) with non-fat veggie dip along side our sandwiches. This is to try to meet Active’s “eat 5-6 helpings of veggies every day” directive.

I used to drink a vat of a blend of ice tea and yerba mat´ with sugar to start every day. Now I’ve been taking a 32 ounce bottle of filtered water with me in the morning. And curiously I feel just as awake after that hydration as I did after the morning caffeine injection (Ihaven’t “give up” caffeine though… I still enjoy a Pepsi Throwback at lunch). I did this to try to fill Active’s “drink 8 glasses of water a day” directive.

So all in all, things are looking good. I feel better, am eating better, less caffeine, lost a few pounds, and I’m sticking to an exercise routine. And I’m almost half-way through the 30-day challenge!

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.