So I completely blew off Move It Mama Monday last week. I had expected to do the blog post a day late, due to the fact that I was at Balticon through the entire four-day weekend. I was completely unprepared though for how wiped out I was after the convention. Seriously, Balticon kicked my ass. I’m forty, a stay-at-home mom, and not used to partying like that anymore. What was I thinking, staying up until 2AM every morning?! Especially when I normally get up at 5AM?
It took me all last week to recover, and then catch up on work as well. I worked straight through the weekend and got a lot done (audio recording, 2 stories written, 2 book covers finished for a client, and I got to see Wicked! the musical), but to do that I had to let a few other things slide, like say… exercise. And house work.
Of course, we’re not here today to discuss the state of my house (it’s bad, really bad). Instead, we’re here to talk about exercise, and I do have something to discuss. Namely, EA Sports Active, the new game for the Wii! I ordered this game over a month ago as a wedding anniversary present for my husband and I. It showed up the day after I got back from Balticon and I let it sit until Friday, being too wiped out to even open the box. On Friday, when I finally did pull it out and get it set up, EA Sports Active proceeded to kick my ass just as badly as Balticon had, only using tortuous exercise in lieu of partying.
Since Friday, I’ve used the game three times. That’s long enough for me to give it my initial opinion, I think. And that opinion is…
I like it. It’s not as perky or game oriented as Wii Fit, but it does have a lot going for it. Active is based on a 30-day challenge by Bob Greene, he of the sacred circle of Oprah experts. Bob Greene is probably the only one in that circle I can tolerate, having read one of his books and decided for myself that his advice on fitness makes sense. You only get to see Mr. Greene in the little introductory video, which is probably good because he’s so damned healthy it’s scary.
After the intro video, Mr. Greene disappears and you have a choice of two smiling trainers to guide you through the workouts. These are real people as opposed to the digital trainers used in Wii Fit. The workouts in Active are the best part about the game. You can either go with the preset routines, of which there are several, or build a customized routine. There is also something called the “30-day challenge” that puts you through 30 days of workouts, pushing you a little harder each time. These workouts switch up between several exercises, mostly strength but with some cardio, and each day gets a different focus, so it looks like this won’t get boring any time soon. And from what I can see, if you decide not to do the 30-day challenge, you can still pick from PLENTY of preset routines to do, though if you want to build your own routine, you’re free to do so. It will probably be a while before I feel the need to customize a routine. I’m opting for the 30-day challenge right now, letting Active pick the routines for me. This means I can just workout on autopilot and not have to think about what I’m doing. This right here is one of the biggest differences between EA Sports Active and Wii Fit. With Wii Fit, there are no preset routines. You have to decide for yourself what you’re going to do each day. I find that I tend to avoid certain exercises on the Wii Fit because of that, and those are probably exactly the exercises I need to do. I could avoid certain exercises on the Active game as well, but I would actually have to go to the trouble of picking through the routine to decide what I don’t want to do. If I just shut off my brain and go with the routine, that doesn’t happen and I get those extra exercises in.
Another big difference between Wii Fit and EA Sports Active is on what aspect of fitness the two games focus on. Wii Fit places a lot of emphasis on balance and core muscle strength, tracking your center of balance through every strength and yoga exercise. Not so with Active. Active favors more traditional gym exercises like lunges, arm curls, etc.. With Wii Fit, I usually only do one set of a particular exercise per workout. With Active, I may visit the same exercise 2-3 times, depending on the preset routine. That’s not to say I don’t sweat when I do Wii Fit. Doing each exercise once usually lets me work up quite a sweat, so I have no preference of one over the other here.
Accessories is another category to look at. Due to its focus on balance and posture, Wii Fit utilizes the balance board heavily (in fact, I don’t think there was no balance board before there was Wii Fit, was there?). For Active, however, the Wii balance board is an optional accessory. You can use it for some exercises, but if you don’t have one, don’t sweat it. Those exercises that use it don’t actually require it, so that’s nice if you haven’t shelled out for the balance board yet. Instead, Active uses an elastic resistance band included in the game package to do a lot of the strength exercises. The band is pretty light weight, and after another week, I’ll probably pull out one of the bands I used to use for physical therapy to up the resistance. There’s also a leg band that you strap around your upper thigh. This has a pocket in it to hold the nunchuk through out exercises that only require the one remote.
One final big difference is the body test and goal setting. Wii Fit does this, Active doesn’t. In fact, Active doesn’t even check your weight. This is both good and bad. I can’t stand being scolded by Wii Fit, especially when I know my weight gains are due to water-weight or some other excuse not in it’s “why are you fat today?” list. But tracking my weight as well as my activity does make me more likely to eat better and drink more water in addition to exercising, and that’s what it takes for me to maintain a healthy weight. Active will track my workouts and ask about my eating habits if I choose to fill out my journal entries. But it doesn’t track my weight or test my balance.
So those are the main differences between the two games. Do I like Active better than Wii Fit? I’m going to say no. It’s different, but not better. I like having the preset workouts, but have to admit some of the exercises in those workouts, like lunges and side-to-side jumping, are a little rough on my knees. Still, I can get through that and I’m hopeful that my knees will improve as I continue to do these exercises. What I miss is the check on my balance. I swear, Wii Fit and the balance board did more to improve my knees than even several weeks of dedicated physical therapy. I need those balance-oriented exercises to maintain my knees’ health. I also miss the game aspect of Wii Fit. I like scoring points for stuff that I do. Active sort of does that, awarding trophies for workouts completed and such, but it’s not as much fun as Wii Fit. Graphics-wise, I definitely prefer the Wii Fit. I can’t help it, I like being a kitschy little cartoon character. Seeing my Mii run and box and do other stuff is just too fun. My avatar in Active looks like a real person, sort of, and that also serves to remind me this isn’t a game so much as a work out.
I’ll have to find some balance between the two games. I want to continue doing both, but having limited time, I’ll need to be careful how much time I spend on each. With the 30-day challenge, I’ve pretty much committed myself to using Active almost everyday for the next month. Juggling that with karate, swimming, Wii Fit, housework, and career might be… tricky.
We’ll see what I do. I haven’t had time yet to think about how I want to incorporate EA Sports Active into my workouts, but I’ll get it sorted in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a good workout that provides plenty of variety, check it out. You’ll be sore like I was for a few days, probably, but I think it’s going to be worth it.