Wiintervention

January 22, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

wii_fit_box_front.jpg

Dinner parties are rarely life changing events. Usually, you sit around a table with friends, drink wine, eat cheese, and talk about light subjects like abortion and torture and then you all head home. At least, that’s always how it’s been for me until this past weekend when our friends Dara and Kieran–who’ve kindly hosted us before– invited us to dinner.

Things began innocently enough. We sat in their living room first, sipping wine and eating cheese (excellent cheese, actually, from Blue Apron Foods on Union Street and 7th Ave.) Then we moved to the dining room where we ate apricot lentil soup (a beguilingly good combination), a salad with pomegranates and blood orange segments, and, finally, a pasta with crab and asparagus. We were pretty stuffed, even before Kieran delivered his individual chocolate cakes, and it was before the dessert and after the dinner that I spied the Wii Fit in the corner.

In case you don’t know, Nintendo Wii released a fitness device last year that looks like a simple white scale. And though it is indeed white, it is anything but simple: it’s the most sensitive, perceptive white scale in human history.

I didn’t know that at the time. I innocently said, “Oooh, is that Wii Fit? Can I try it out?”

“Sure,” said Kieran and he led us all over to the TV where the Wii Fit was set up.

He created a new profile for me, letting me choose my own avatar (I chose Conan O’Brien). He asked me how tall I was, I said “5’9″ (though I think I’m actually 5’10) and he entered that into my profile. Then he told me to step on to the Wii.

Folks, can you imagine going to a dinner party, eating a huge meal, and then standing on a scale in front of all the congregated guests? That’s exactly what I was doing only I didn’t know I was doing that. I still thought this was some kind of video game.

A high-pitched female voice said, “Calculating data.”

Before I knew it, the Wii was asking me to balance by tilting my body back and forth and trying to place the on-screen pink squares into the on-screen blue squares. At first the squares were big and it was easy; then the squares got smaller and before I knew it I had failed, complete with the buzzer noise you hear on “Family Feud” when someone guesses wrong.

Then the true mortification began. “Calculating your Wii age,” said the high-pitched voice.

A drumroll. Conan O’Brian walked sheeplishly on to a dark stage, spotlight illuminating him, as the Wii Fit announced: “You have the body of….

A 49 YEAR OLD!”

Embarrassment! Terror! Outrage! (Note: I’m only 29 years old.) I was like one of the subjects of A&E’s intervention, led naively into a room for their final interview only to find their whole family sitting there telling them they need help. And though, to their credit, my dinner party hosts and friends all assured me that the Wii was off–”way off!!”–I took this as a much needed wake-up call that maybe it was time to join a gym again.

The last time I joined a gym was in April and I went for a few weeks but stopped. I just felt directionless there, and unmotivated.

But several years ago, my friend Ricky turned me on to “Body For life” which is a book by Bill Phillips with a very specific program: 12 weeks to ultimate fitness.

When I did the 12 weeks all those years ago, all my friends commented that I was looking really fit and I definitely felt really good too. What I liked about it then and what I like about it again now is that it’s a very specific program. It tells you EXACTLY what to do every day at the gym for those 12 weeks: there’s no confusion, it’s a strict plan.

If you want to know the plan, I’ll type it out at the bottom of this post. But suffice it to say two days after the dinner party, on Tuesday–right after the inauguration–I marched over to the gym and re-joined. (Funny story: the guy working there said it’d be $65 for one month or $225 for 3 months. I said, “Why would anyone choose 3 months if they could go month to month and spend $195 for 3 months?” His response was: “Exactly!”)

Now I’m on Day 3 of building my Body For Life (note: you’ve gotta read that sarcastically, because the book says it so sincerely). I’m not necessarily doing the diet (which cuts out ALL fat and has you eating 6 small meals a day), but, after looking at the posts below this–my bacon/cream chicken and the gloppy sausage carb-bomb pizza–I will certainly make more of an effort to eat healthier (today: sushi for lunch, for example.) I’ve also built incentives into the program, so if I stick with it for 3 weeks I can get myself a new pair of headphones; 6 weeks, maybe a massage, and if I do all 12 weeks, a celebratory dinner, which you’ll all get to read about.

I don’t plan to blog my progress, though, because that might get a bit tedious after a while. All I’ll say is that if you need your own private intervention to motivate you to join a gym again, I recommend eating dinner at Dara & Kieran’s and trying their Wii Fit afterwards. It might seem like good fun at first but before you know it, you’ll be an emotional wreck and ready to start life again anew. So thanks Dara & Kieran for an excellent dinner and, even more importantly, changing my life. Here’s to 12 weeks of ultimate fitness.

* * * * *

Ok, so here’s the program–and feel free to do it with me, if you’re so motivated.

You go to the gym 6 days a week. 3 of those days are cardio days, 3 of those days are muscle-building days.

On the cardio days, you only have to do 20 minutes of cardio, preferably on a treadmill. Here’s the Body for Life technique: you start out on the treadmill at your personal 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is sitting on a couch and 10 is the most you could possibly exert yourself. You do your personal 5 for 2 minutes and then you bump it up to 6 for one minute then to 7 for another minute then to 8 then to 9 and then you go back to your 5 again. You repeat three times until you’re in your 18th minute and then you go to your personal 10 (which, for me, was a 6.5 speed.) In your last minute (the 19th minute) you go back down to your personal 5 and you’re done.

It may seem crazy, but I find that not only am I a sweaty mess when it’s over, I feel fully exercised and–more importantly–while I’m doing it, I’m really engaged in what’s happening. When I did the elliptical back in April, I just swung my legs indifferently for 30 minutes and didn’t really have a strong agenda. Here, I know what I’m there for, what I have to do, and 20 minutes later I’m done.

Now, on the muscle-building days, you alternate upper body and lower body. So, for example, this week it was: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday cardio; Monday lower body, Wednesday upper body, Friday lower body. Then next week it’ll alternate: Monday upper body, Wednesday lower body, Friday upper body.

When working your upper body, just look for Nautilus machines that allow you to exercise your chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps. You just have to do one machine for each muscle group and you’re done.

On the machine, you start with 12 repetitions of an easy weight. Then you do 10 repetitions of a slightly harder weight. Then 8 of a weight that’s even harder. And then 6 of a really challenging weight. Finally, you do 24 of your easy weight again (though the book tells you to do 12 of that machine and then 12 of another that exercises the same muscle but that’s too confusing.)

You rest for 1 minute between each set and then for 2 minutes between each machine.

You’ll easily find machines for your chest, shoulders and back at most gyms; for biceps and triceps, you should use free weights and look online for techniques. I just do a simple curl for biceps; I haven’t figured out triceps yet.

As for lower body, you want to work quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominal muscles. Again, you should find machines pretty easily for those, except for abs which you can simply do crunches for.

I realize that the fitness gurus among you might read this and have very strong reactions–everyone has an opinion about how to work out. But for someone like me, who hates hates HATES going to the gym, I really like this program because it’s purposeful, specific and logical. I also like that it splits the week up between cardio, upper body and lower body so it doesn’t get too repetitive or boring too fast.

Anyone who’s seriously considering doing this along with me should probably check out the Body for Life book before proceeding, just so you can get the specifics down. Even I plan to flip through it before going to the gym tomorrow to make sure I have the formula down right (especially for some of those muscle exercises.)

I’ll certainly let you know after the 12 weeks how it all worked out; and if any of you seriously do this along with me, maybe we’ll have a celebration of sorts. But, til then, this is your ever-loving Amateur Gourmet about to head to the gym for another day of cardio. I promise to wipe down the machine when I’m done.

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  • http://meru-neechan.livejournal.com Melissa/uninorth

    I used to work in an orthopedic physical therapy clinic, so if I remember correctly, there are two things you can do for your triceps while lying on a bench with your feet up and your knees bent and with a weight or two.

    One I can’t remember the name of, but you basically take one heavier one, or two smaller weights (try 3s and work your way up when you get the idea). Usually we work with just one weight. But you basically cup one knob of the dumbbell and hold it above your head. And then the next step is to pull it back behind your head and let it dip just below, but not too far or you’ll overextend. And then slowly bring it back up. The idea is to keep the weight vertical, or perpendicular to the floor at all times. I think that also works your pecs.

    The other one is called skull crushers and you take two smaller weights, holding them normally at the handle and have them raised above you with your arms extended fully above you. The weights should be parallel to the ground. Then you bend at the elbow so it looks like the weights are going to hit you in the forehead. I can’t recall, but I think triceps are the secondary muscle that you exercise in this one.

    Or you could just do the simplest tricep exercise, which is to take the same weight you use for your biceps, sit on the bench, and using your free arm to stabilize yourself on your knee, hold the weight like normal, bend your arm so that the weight is perpendicular to the floor, and just pull back and extend your arm downward from that bent elbow position.

    That should get your triceps into shape. Or as one of the women in my ballet class says, “arm wings.” -_- And that’s all assuming that I explained that appropriately that won’t kill you accidently.

  • http://helene-lacuisine.blogspot.com/ Hélène

    Wow, that would have been a wake up call for me also. I have the book. I’ll go have a look and I think I should give it a shot. Thanks for maybe changing my life.

  • http://starchymarie.blogspot.com/ Marie

    Eeesh, what a way to be jolted out of post-dinner party meal reverie! I also need to get back into the gym as my “I got a wicked blister breaking in new flats” excuse expired days ago. Good luck with your 12 weeks!

  • http://lavieinenglish.blogspot.com babeth

    Whouhaou a life changing experiment! When are you becoming a full time coach?

    Cheers++

  • http://www.judithgreenwood.com//thinkonit Judith in Umbria

    I should be so lucky! Anyway, I concentrated on Brain Age and my brain is only 27. I have to settle for that.

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com Sara

    I recently got on a scale and had a wake-up call, too. I injured myself running last fall and apparently have still been eating like I was when I was running 25 miles a week.

    I started a strengthening program that the physical therapist gave me and am adding in more cardio. I am also eating more balanced meals.

    Good luck!

  • http://lesjoujou.blogspot.com Stephanie

    I HATE going to the gym too. I’m taking a spinning class right now and the first day, it kicked my butt! Seriously. But the second day was better, so I’m hoping that means that it’s doable. Good luck with sticking with it! I know that’s the hardest part.

  • http://whatilikenyc.blogspot.com Laura

    That sounds too traumatic for words.

  • CG

    Oh Adam, don’t feel so bad. I’m 31 and according to my Wii Fit Balance test I’m 43. Plus, even more disheartening, I’m a total klutz; so I don’t know that my score will improve no matter what I do. My bf pushed the screen button to show my EXACT WEIGHT in front of everyone!! No matter what you weigh, who fancies that?!? Needless to say a lot of angry silence followed that…

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com Yvo

    See, it was the opposite for me. I got on my own Wii Fit and was eager to have it blast me for being a slob, but it told me I was 27! I was like, shut UP! and sat back down on the couch.

    BTW — I’ve been meaning to write you an email… I wrote about you today and I owe you an email of gratitude (for today’s post and something else a teeny bit more personal). Thank you

  • http://chewonthatblog.com Hillary

    I haven’t had the pleasure of trying out the Wii Fit yet but Wiis in general are my favorite gaming systems ever created.

  • http://www.behindtheburner.com/ Caroline Alexa McBride

    Hilarious!!! I never heard of it before, I want to try it!

    The gym is important not only for anger management (New Yorkers can relate) but for your body, mind and spirit. For those of us who love to eat–the more you work out the more you can chow! Also, I find that I crave less fatty/sweet food after work outs.

    Regardless of what the Wii Fit says–EXCERCISE and eat well!

  • Craig

    I think this calls for a “Before and sexy After photos” follow-up post.

  • Beth

    If you need healthy recipes, this blog has some great ones – I find myself referring to it pretty frequently.

    http://desertculinary.blogspot.com/

    And for triceps – I find that a heavy weight lowered and raised behind your head is a good exercise.

  • Farrel

    That Body for Life program really is awesome. I do the same thing: ignore the diet suggestions, and follow the gym instructions pretty closely. It’s really handy to be able to go into the gym and know exactly what you need to do!

  • http://bittersweetfeast.blogspot.com Emily

    So, um….yes. I have that exact same problem with the Wii Fit. I love it, but good lord, I practically faint of shock everytime it gives me my Wii Fit Age. I’ve had it be up to 37 (I’m 23), and once got it down to 23….but that was only once, and it tends to be way way too high.

    Stupid, loveable game system.

  • http://rpidrivestick.blogspot.com cara_mia

    Wow, am I spoiled by living in the (Sm)Albany, NY area! My gym is $20 a month, and includes any classes I want to take. $65…I think I’d stick with home videos.

    I’m a big fan of yoga. If you think that yoga’s easy, because it’s not all jumping around etc. like aerobics, you should try it.

    If you can find a class – yoga, spinning, whatever you’re into – that you really enjoy, and go to it regularly, I think it helps you stick with your fitness goals more than just using machines. (Turns out, that with yoga, you’re learning to use your body as a machine.)

  • http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com Heather

    It’s nice to know that the more-established bloggers are willing to give information [how to start blogs, make them successful, etc.] to us newbies. I just started a blog earlier this week and was grateful to your posts from days past. If you’re up for it after that traumatic experience – yeoouch! – stop on by :)

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

    http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com

  • http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com Heather

    It’s nice to know that the more-established bloggers are willing to give information [how to start blogs, make them successful, etc.] to us newbies. I just started a blog earlier this week and was grateful to your posts from days past. If you’re up for it after that traumatic experience – yeoouch! – stop on by :)

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

    http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com

  • http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com Heather

    It’s nice to know that the more-established bloggers are willing to give information [how to start blogs, make them successful, etc.] to us newbies. I just started a blog earlier this week and was grateful to your posts from days past. If you’re up for it after that traumatic experience – yeoouch! – stop on by :)

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

    http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com