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Wii Fit U vs. Plain Ol' Fitness, Week 1

Is Wii Fit U a viable alternative to conventional fitness? Pete and Cassandra investigate.

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Pete Davison News Editor

Hey, Cassandra. It's now just over a week since we started our respective fitness challenges, so I figured it would be a good time to check in with each other and see how we're getting on.

I must confess I've had mixed results, though this was at least partly due to external influences; it was my girlfriend's birthday last Tuesday, and so we went out to a favorite restaurant that does all-you-can-eat Japanese food. We were both hungry, so we both ate quite a bit, which probably didn't help.

As such, at the time of writing I haven't lost any weight, but then I haven't gained any either, aside from the usual daily slight fluctuations. Wii Fit U does a good job of reassuring you about said fluctuations, incidentally, and encourages you to check your weight daily to understand how weight loss -- or gain, for that matter -- isn't necessarily a smooth line; there will be peaks and troughs along the way for various reasons.

Wii Fit U's obstacle course events essentially amount to playing a Super Mario level with your feet.

What I am pleased about, though, is that Wii Fit U has done what I hoped it would: motivate me. As I noted in our communal discussion of the Wii U, Wii Fit U's games are genuinely fun to play as well as getting you up and moving -- and they're satisfying, too.

As such, despite starting with the intention of doing at least half an hour of activity a day, I now feel confident and motivated enough to bump that up to an hour. While I have a lot of work to do, getting into good habits is an important hurdle to overcome as early as possible.

How about you? What have you been up to?

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Cassandra Khaw Content Editor

I walked two hours for a cupcake on Wednesday. Two hours. In the sweltering Malaysian heat. I'm not sure how I imagined that could be a good idea. I suspect it was a not-quite-but-mostly subconscious attempt to justify the dainty, designer cupcake that I wanted. To steal a line from the Grumpy Cat meme, "It was horrible." Horrible.

Happy to hear that you're doing well on the motivation front. I'm not. Working out while squished by deadlines is hard. I faltered on Tuesday while I was trying to wrap up the Tearaway review in a satisfactory fashion. I swam, but only for half an hour as opposed to the usual stretch. It was simply too difficult to distract myself from the understanding that every single moment spent away from the keyboard was one invested in arguable productivity.

Curiously, I find it a little embarrassing to go to the gym. The denizens of my apartment building aren't unfriendly but they're aloof, something that leaves me feeling out of sorts. Even though I'm fairly certain that this isn't the case, I can't shake the perception that I'm being subtly judged each time I putter towards an available machine. I suppose it might be the sterility of the gym environment especially those within residential areas. They're not meant to welcome you, they're just .. there.Steel equipment and padded seats, the hum of air-conditioning and the faintest smell of antiseptic spray and sweat.

On the flip side, my nonsensical shyness is also responsible for renewed efforts in the dancing department. Instead of madly lifting weights, I'm doing popping drills like Doomsday's coming next Tuesday. I'm hoping to eventually get back into the physical state I was in during my first stint in New York. For reference's sake, here's some video footage of me dancing in Union Square. Can you guess which one I am?

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Pete Davison News Editor

Funny you mention dancing. I'm not big on dancing generally -- I tend to find it extremely embarrassing, particularly if I haven't been drinking -- but I've actually been enjoying Wii Fit U's dance routines. So far, I've only braved the "Beginner" jazz, hip-hop and locking routines (the "Advanced" ones require coordination I haven't quite mastered yet!), but I've found them all to be enjoyable and quite liberating. My girlfriend didn't even mock me that much when she walked in on me doing jazz cross-steps and wrist-flicks. She hasn't seen me bouncing along to hip-hop or doing big flourishes while locking, though; nor have I summoned up the courage to activate "Mirror Mode," in which the camera on the Wii U GamePad will show you exactly how ridiculous you look at any given moment.

I haven't settled into a regular daily routine of specific activities as yet -- part of the reason I'm enjoying myself is due to the variety Wii Fit U offers -- but I'm starting to find I'm hitting particular exercises more often than others. Although I get out of breath very quickly, I try and get in one or two rounds of "jogging" (actually running on the spot with a Wii Remote in your pocket), since that gets my heart rate going and the sweat flowing. (I know, ew.) Super Hula Hoop (twizzle for several minutes one way, then repeat in the opposite direction) is a regular fixture in my lineup, too, and I'm always up for a game of Puzzle Squash, which is just plain fun. I've also been impressed with the Rowing activity, which actually does a pretty convincing job of simulating being on a rowing machine using nothing more than a chair, the Balance Board and a Wii Remote clutched desperately in your sweaty paws.

Out of shot: Pete trying to keep up.

I've largely been concentrating on the aerobic and balance-based exercises so far and have barely touched the yoga or muscle workouts. The reason for this is that I'm not very flexible, and these aspects of Wii Fit U are the ones where you need to have a certain degree of baseline fitness that I don't think I quite have -- they hurt a bit, to be frank, and thus I've been avoiding them mostly so far. As I build up my confidence and get myself back on track, I'll probably visit them a bit more, but for now I'm having an enjoyable time with the colorful, surprisingly tiring minigames on offer.

I know what you mean about the gym; when I've attended a gym regularly in the past, I always made a point to wear headphones and listen to some of my favorite music to blot out what's going on around me. (Pro-Tip: lifting weights to the Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack is awesome.) It's easy to get demotivated if you feel like people are watching and judging you -- even if they're looking at you and thinking "good on you, fat guy, for getting off your arse and doing something." With Wii Fit there are no such concerns!

So while last week was tough with deadlines and the like, what are you planning to get yourself on track this week?

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Cassandra Khaw Content Editor
The Dessert Course game, which challenges your balance, doesn't help the cake cravings.

Hello, car accidents! They tend to put in a kink in one's plans. Don't drink and drive, kids. Not unless you want me to loom menacingly around the radius of your shoulder, wide-eyed with disapproval. Anyway, that's my excuse for a slothful weekend.

Anyway. Dancing. Lord Dancing. I'd like to think that that would have been my full-time vocation had I picked it up earlier in life or not been indoctrinated to believe a good job required considerable stability. (Not that our industry's particularly rooted on firm ground. Hmm.) I'm ecstatic to hear that Wii Fit U is slowly imparting a fondness for one of my favorite hobbies. Still, I'm curious. When it's teaching you how to look, does it tell you how to wrist-twirl and Scooby Doo too? (There's a reason I'm asking this. I'll tell you. I just need to know first.)

Again, I'm envious of the variety that you seem to be enjoying. I suspect that's probably one of the Wii Fit U's biggest advantages -- it makes exercise into less of a chore, more of a game. Especially for gamers. We're built to enjoy scores, to relish in the chance to measure ourselves against our friends. I hear there's a Gym system there. Is it a cool thing or does it make you feel slightly awkward like a real gym?

One thing I'm super-curious about, though, is whether Wii Fit U fixes a digital eye on your eating habits. Does it provide a nourishment plan? Does it remind you that it's more diet than daily motion? Nutrition is probably one of the most integral parts of losing weight, but it's something that just doesn't get discussed enough. I'm wondering if Wii Fit U serves that quadrant too.

Working out seems to be a cycle of calisthenics these days. I type a few paragraphs. Then, I stop. Do 50 crunches, and a set of planks. I get up. I write some more. Another 50 crunches. Get up. Then, it's the regular walk and the extensive swimming each day. Over and over again. It's rigorous and I'll admit, also incredibly boring. The only things I really enjoy? My popping drills. I'm wondering if I should be televising those too. Just for larks. What do you think?

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Pete Davison News Editor

Do it! Why the hell not?

As for the dancing, well, I'm not sure how "authentic" the moves are as it has to work within the limitations of you stepping on and off the Balance Board and jiggling two Wii Remotes around in your hands, but it certainly makes each of the various types of dance unique. Hula, for example, is all about swaying lightly from side to side and doing smooth arm movements; jazz largely involves not tying yourself in knots while doing cross-steps; hip-hop is about being all bouncy-bouncy; locking is the one that feels "coolest" even though I almost certainly look ridiculous; flamenco is surprisingly tiring and energetic; salsa is seemingly impossible, though to be fair I have only tried it once so far.

Each routine has a basic and an advanced version, and before you can just jump into it you have to do it once with an instructor talking you through the moves first. They're each split into three parts -- for example, the basic jazz dance starts with just cross-steps, then introduces flicking alternate wrists while you continue to cross-step, then sees you throwing both arms out flamboyantly instead of flicking your wrists. The lessons are paced well to give you a chance to practice before demanding you perform the full routine, and if you balls up during the explanatory phase, you'll have to try it again. It's pretty forgiving, though, so even an uncoordinated lump like me can score a decent accuracy rating.

There's also a "beginner dance" that largely consists of stomping and waving, and a "Stamina Steps" routine that you perform continuously for 5, 10 or 15 minutes, involving continuous marching and various arm movements. You could also arguably group the Step and Rhythm Boxing activities carried over from previous incarnations of Wii Fit into the "dancing" category, too, though these are handled a little differently in gameplay terms.

Wii Fit U's luge event. Only for those with a strong back and firmly-defined buttocks.

The Gym system you mention is essentially Miiverse connectivity. You can either join one of Nintendo's default gyms or set up your own, which creates a unique "friend code" allowing you to invite anyone you like. If you're a gym member, this means several things. There's a stat screen showing the breakdown between male and female participants and the most popular types of exercise. Also, the game's main menu pulls in Miis from other gym members and shows them doing things -- you can see the costumes they've unlocked and whether they've accomplished their weight loss goals (though not the specific figures), then give them a "Yeah!" right from Wii Fit U without having to jump into the Miiverse app. Your activity is also automatically posted to your gym community as you do it, and you can post high scores and other achievements as you go. If anything, the auto-share is a little too enthusiastic; that said, it's provided the most interaction with other users on Miiverse I've had in months.

As for eating habits, Wii Fit U doesn't specifically provide food tracking functionality, but it does give you a running total of how many calories you've burned using the game that day. It also provides a "calorie check" function comparing the number of calories you've burned to various food items, so if you're trying to "burn off" something specific, it provides a decent guide. There's also an option for the game to create a routine of exercises for you designed to burn a specific number of calories or continue for a certain amount of time, and you can customize the intensity, too. I haven't tried that yet; I've largely been just manually selecting exercises and it seems to have been working well for me so far. The routines might encourage me to be a bit more adventurous, though.

Anyway, I've rambled enough for now. It's going well so far; I'm not too worried about the weight not coming off just yet because I know I have to look at my eating habits too. The important thing is that it's got me moving and enjoying it. After payday I'll be picking up a Fit Meter and starting adding that to the routine; I'll be interested to see if that makes a significant difference to the way I think.

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Cassandra Khaw Content Editor
Some events, like Orienteering, challenge your mind more than your body.

I checked my weight while waiting for a response from you. I'm down about two pounds, much to my surprise. I'd have thought I'd gained some from being a little lax recently. Constant strength training is good for you. Oh, yes.

Heh! I suspect it probably isn't very "authentic". Which is a shame and a concern. Fundamentals are crucial in dancing and poor habits can follow you forever. I suppose it's irrelevant if you never intend to turn dancing into anything more than a reason to excite the metabolism but if you decide to pursue it seriously? It'd be a hassle. Trust me. I've been there. It's not a pretty place to be.

Locking is wonderful, isn't it? It's slightly too giddy to jive with me but I can't help but smile each time I see a locker breaking it down. There's something so inherently joyful about the style that it's hard to believe that it exists in this cynical universe of ours. Let me know if you're keen on looking into classes or even expanding on your knowledge base on this front. (You too, voyeuristic reader-type people!)

I think it's a shame that the Wii Fit U doesn't come with, at the very least, a passing guide on how best to manage your personal diet. Eating well is integral to good health and a streamlined physique, I think.n Nonetheless, being able to keep tabs on calories burnt is, well, better than nothing.

Rock on! I'll be bringing a piece of equipment home to add to the workout. It's this weird stretch of blue rubber that can apparently work in lieu of free weights. Yes. Quite.

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Pete Davison News Editor

Enjoy your twangy thing. Let's continue this discussion next week!

Tags: Article wiifitu

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