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July 09, 2012

30 Minutes of Exercise

A month, or so, ago, I said I'd like to re-structure my days so they included 30 minutes of exercise. It took me a bit longer than that to get properly started, and buy some relevant toys, but it feels like it's embedded now, so I thought I'd write a bit about it. If you'd like a blow-by-blow account in rather more detail, I am user 'BohemianCoast' on My Fitness Pal.

By '30 minutes of exercise', I mean '30 minutes of cardio'. I'm being pretty relaxed about what the minimum for that is; a 30 minute stroll is fine. I'm also just beginning (as of today) to do strength training; probably about 10-15 minutes three times a week.

I sorted the living room out so that there was room to play physical wii games again, and fished out the Balance Board.

I resolved that I didn't mind putting some cash into this. Exercise gear isn't that easy if you're a big size; a lot of stuff that's supposedly 'active wear' in larger sizes is completely useless. Particularly trousers if you don't want sweatpants. Sweatpants are far too hot; they also tend to be about 6" too long for me.

I found some nice things at Sainsburys, of all places. They don't go up all that far in size (up to 22), but the clothes are reasonably generously cut, well-priced and stretchy.

Although I'm doing some stuff outside the house, the constant rain doesn't inspire. So I 'refreshed' my Wii games with a new dance mat game, mat-free dancing games, and a walking game. I also fished out some older dance mat games and Wii Fit Plus.

Wii Fit is still as maddening as ever; although they have put more longer routines into WF+, the strength exercises range from pointless to impossible, with very little in the way of recommendations, and require more room than there is in my living room to do them. The cardio is fun but doesn't always work as well as you'd like, and it's still far too easy to find large gaps between games. The kids like it a lot though. Best for: kids.

The 'Just Dance' style games have rather taken over from Dance Mat and I thought I should give them a go. Abba: You Can Dance uses the 'Just Dance engine. But although it's fun dancing to these tunes, I like proper metrics in my exercise games, and the scoring method is just too arbitrary for me. In particular, you don't really need to move your feet to get points, which is a bit of a problem. There are karaoke modes and you can plug in a microphone. When I was ten or so, my friends and I spent hours singing Abba songs into our hairbrushes. This game would have been the *best thing ever*. Best for: parties, girls' nights in, too much Lambrusco.

Dance Dance Revolution is as fun as it's always been, and it's now possible to play the full game while also on workout mode and play full-length songs. They've also adjusted the difficulty calibration so that dances are ranked out of 20 instead of 10. This is brilliant for working out because it makes it very easy to set up dances that are pitched at exactly the right level, interspersed with some that are just a bit too hard, and some to warm up/cool down. In theory it also allows you to play double (the best mode for both fun and exercise, with one person dancing across two mats) on the Wii. Irritatingly, this feature only works with Konami mats, not after market dance mats. That would be fine if the Konami mats were as well-made and padded as my FutureMax pads. But they're not. I do have two of the Konami-style mats, and I think it will be ok if I turn jumps off. Best for: getting a proper workout on the Wii. Have water handy.

That same restriction applies to using dance mats with Step to the Beat (Walk it Out), but in this case the game is walking (and light jogging) only, so it's ok. This is a bit hard to find, but has a passionate user community. It's sort of like a more extensive and structured version of the jogging section in Wii Fit. You walk around an island to the beat of J-Pop songs, and use your step count to unlock a wide variety of things (houses, trees, zodiac signs, events, bridges, music, people) on the island. The tunes vary in intensity so sometimes you have to walk quite hard or even jog for a few minutes before returning to a gentler pace. It's fun to do with family or friends because you can chat while you're walking and the time just slips by. It's not very strenuous (and has options to make it easier), so I think this would be absolutely brilliant for people who are limited in what they can do through age or infirmity. I use it on rest days. It's no longer distributed in the UK but there's the odd copy around. Due to its rarity some people are selling it for very large amounts of money. Best for: 45 minutes non-stop, relaxation, elderly people.

Outside, the main newish thing I'm doing is playing badminton with the family. Steven bought me a fancy racket for my birthday, and we got a cheap racket for Jonathan so that he stopped complaining about using Steven's 30 year old ones, but otherwise the only serious expense here is the courts, which cost about £10/hour. We've been doing this for a couple of months; if we carry on then after the summer one of us will need to get a gym membership that includes court booking privileges because we're currently spending a fortune.

Food notes: Thai Peanut Turkey Burgers are very nice, and something you can do with turkey mince that doesn't make you wish you were using beef mince. We had homemade pizzas on Saturday night (healthy ones with less cheese and mostly veg toppings), and an actual ready meal yesterday (we don't do this much); an Asda Chinese feast for 2 and half a crispy duck. The duck was great and everything else was sort of ok, so next time we might just get two ducks. Tonight we are having some kind of bacon and veg based pasta sauce; perhaps this one.

Study notes: I'm (just) keeping up with Udacity CS258: Software Testing, which I'm finding a bit serious and worthy. Udacity ST101: Intro to Stats is still easy, though the week 2 programming exercise was harder. I'm slightly behind my self-imposed week-ahead schedule on 6003z, because I got a bit stuck on convolution and have to do some more worked examples. And I haven't picked up any of the self-timed stuff for a week, so hopefully I'll get back on track this week.

Posted by Alison Scott at July 9, 2012 01:24 PM


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