Bite Mii

Wii Fit makes a pretty irritating personal trainer.

After talking about it for a while, I finally took the plunge last Friday and bought the Wii Fit software bundle for my Nintendo Wii. With a commute to work that’s nearly four hours round-trip, and an office job that mirrors my sedentary lifestyle, I figured this was my best chance to start an exercise regimen. I was also tired of the creeping feeling of shame I felt while eating chocolate and watching “The Biggest Loser” on Tuesday nights.

But so far, with just one Wii Fit workout under my belt, the early results have been humbling. I’ve heard from a few friends that have tried it and were mortified when the game collected their height and age and weighed them (using the Wii Fit’s included Balance Board), only to matter-of-factly inform them that they were overweight. At 6’1″ and 160 pounds, I dodged that bullet. The shrill-voiced avatar on my TV screen informed me that I was in the “Normal” range, with a Body Mass Index of 20.89. But just because I’m at an acceptable weight doesn’t mean I’m in shape.

After my vitals were taken, I was treated to an appraisal of my balance. Apparently, I shift my weight slightly to the left when I attempt to stand still. Poor posture can lead to health problems, the preachy software told me. So I was instructed to do a quick, basic balance exercise in which I had to move around on the Balance Board to even out some colored bars on the screen. Time ran out before I finished, and the avatar smugly suggested that this “basic” task might not be my strong suit. I moved on to the workout menu before my tormentor could start insulting my mother.

I started out with some strength exercises, which ranged from lunges to leg twists to push-ups. The push-ups were the most physically taxing — unsurprising, given my complete absence of upper body strength. I was encouraged to mirror the movements of a ceaselessly chipper and robotic “female trainer,” who was not nearly flirty enough for my tastes. I received a score ranging from 0 to 100 on each exercise, usually based on my ability to stay balanced (there’s that dirty word again). My movements were shaky on a few occasions, prompting Robo-Lady to gently suggest that I’m not strong enough to tackle the exercise in question. I can see how one might need a thick skin to stick with this regimen.

From strength training, I moved to yoga, grateful that I was learning the Half Moon and Sun Salutations in the cloistered seclusion of my basement. Yet again, I was admonished when I leaned too heavily to one side or the other. Next came the aerobics, which are my early favorite based on their creativity and simplicity. There’s a hula hoop exercise that involves swiveling my hips and occasionally bending forward to catch another incoming hoop. When I miss, my computerized self on the screen gets bonked in the head. There’s a running minigame in which I jog in place while my character winds his way through a park, passing smiling strangers and puppies. Finally, there’s a stripped-down facsimile of Dance, Dance Revolution in which I’m supposed to place my feet on and off the Balance Board in time with the on-screen instructions. Any Mii avatars that are stored on the console might show up on stage to follow the footsteps; since the characters I’ve downloaded include Abe Lincoln, Conan O’Brien, and Rodney Dangerfield, this is worth a few laughs.

But that brings us back to Balance. I tried three balance exercises, all of which require the quick reflexes and sure footing that I so clearly lack. Doing “headers” on soccer balls, I scored a 6 out of 100. Attempting to slalom ski, I missed so many marks that I would have been chased out of the Olympic Village with torches and pitchforks. There was a tightrope walk that resulted in CG-me plunging to a grisly death.

Maybe I’ll just master the aerobics and strength training before I subject myself to the snide mockery of Nintendo’s Balance Gestapo.

Article © 2009 by Kevin Brotzman