Core Muscles

I forgot to mention in the Wii post that the Wii Fit talks a lot about core muscles.

I had not heard of “core muscles” prior to the Fit, though I did intuit what they were. Especially when they became “those things that hurt” after doing the Fit’s balance games–which are, in essence, all about leaning slightly one way or the other.

Althouse has a post about this, though with not much commentary, referencing a New York Times article on how people are wrecking their backs in the quest for washboard abs. I had a couple of thoughts.

Like, first, if they meant “abs”, they would call them “abs”, not “core muscles”. There was no stigma attached to “abs”, such that they, like stewardesses, had to seek a new name. If the secret to great abs was just “exercise your abs a lot”, well, that wouldn’t be much of a bloody secret now, would it?

Second, I used to be really skinny. This was a time when I could crank out a hundred sit ups, and was required to, actually, as part of my martial arts training. Never had six-pack abs. I never thought of it as something to strive for. In fact, I thought–and still think–it’s a little effete to focus on that sort of thing.

Third, when did washboard abs get to be the thing everyone had to have? What’s wrong with a nice, flat stomach? Or even a slightly rounded one? And if they’re so gosh-darned important to have, why can’t people face just doing what needs to be done to get them without wrecking their bodies?

OK, I’ve gone into full Andy Rooney mode, which means it’s time for this post to end.

White Devils

I detailed my eight month treadmill desk experiment here and also my water drinking, and noted that neither of them caused any net weight loss. I’m sure I must have swapped some muscle for fat in those eight months, but as the water drinking was accompanied with a reduction in my soda drinking habits, I was expecting some sort of net weight loss. But no dice.

Of course, I started doing the Reams program in solidarity with The Boy and, much to my dismay, it worked. So, now I’m eating a largely vegetable diet, with meat two, three (okay, sometimes four) times a week. And there are things I am not eating.

No white flour. No white sugar. No white potatoes. Also, no corn syrup, and really, I’m not supposed to be eating corn (unless it’s white corn on the cob). I do have popcorn and soda at the movies.

Well, I guess it’s not mystery where my extra pounds were coming from. I’ve lost 20 pounds in two months. Without any exercise at all. I’m not supposed to exercise too much yet though I am finally back on that a little bit.

My interpretation of the various food prohibitions fall into two categories: Some foods are bad because they are actually harmful while others are bad because they take up the space you’d normally have for nutritious food. Shellfish, pork, protein bars are examples of food in the actually harmful category–something about the high protein content. (Again, this is my casual impression. I’m not claiming to understand this.)

Sure has made weight loss simple, though. If you call this living….

Skin and Bones

I don’t want to get in the middle of the fat-battle between Trooper York and Freeman Hunt, but my attention was directed to this Sports Illustrated “models taking their own pictures” post.

Some of these women strike me as too thin, where “too thin” is a purely aesthetic consideration. My friend (mentioned in the Stacked Decks post linked above) was very thin, too, and used to fret putting on five pounds here and there. But, in person, she didn’t look too skinny in person, usually. Meanwhile she had some other friends from back in the day who were the opposite type (shorter and curvier), who were clearly on the higher end of the BMI scale. They also looked fine in person.

I know “the camera adds ten pounds” but it also can subtract ten at certain angles. (There are angles on Chris Reeves in the Superman movies where he looks positively skinny, e.g.)

I’ve been thinking about weight lately because I haven’t lost any. (I lost about ten pounds last year just due to changes in lifestyle, but none since I started doing the treadmill.) I suspect if I keep drinking water I’ll lose weight, though. It seems to change your sense of taste and fullness.

Should be interesting.


I wrote that last post on my new treadmill desk. Have you heard of it?

OK, mine doesn’t look anywhere near that slick. Mine is a plank of wood on top of a used Proform 770 I picked up on Craig’s list for $50. Also, I had to pick up an arm mount for a monitor.

The idea is to replace the time you spend sitting on your ass with time you instead spend walking at a slow pace. Regardless of weight, I tend to think the body needs to be active to function well.

I’ve got some ergonomic issues to work out, still: The desktop (i.e., my plank of wood) is too low, so that’s a ticket to RSI. It might need to be angled away from me, which sounds weird but actually means my hands will be in a normal resting position instead of bent back at the wrist.

So, does it affect my work (negatively)? Can’t tell yet. It’s not completely unworkable. I’ll have to try tackling some particularly challenging problem to see how it goes.

Wii Boy

The Boy is diabetic. The doctors insist, but have no tests to prove, that it’s type I. We think he’s type II, because he’s had the symptoms all his life. (Nobody ever connected the symptoms to Diabetes until he nearly went into a coma but he had them as an infant, even.)

In the weeks prior to setting out the Wii Fit board, he was having trouble controlling his blood sugar. It was consistently hitting the 200s (when normal is in the 70-150 range).

A few days of doing the Wii Fit and it dropped down below 70. He’s had to lower his insulin. The only problem I see is that it won’t last. The games are fun–and he’s highly competitive–but he’ll lose interest once he’s mastered them.

We have a pool coming, too–the Boy loves to swim–and with luck he’ll stay engaged with a physical activity and be able to get off the insulin altogether.

Wii Fits, or “Hey, you, fat, ugly American, eat some rice once in a while.”

Back in the Atari 800 days–prior to the smash hit console 2600–there was a game called “Star Raiders”. It was essentially a real-time version of the old “Star Trek” game invented back in the ‘60s, and it pitted you (in first person view) against some blocky “Zylon” warriors. What was interesting was that when people played it, they tended to lean left or lean right along with jiggling the joystick the way they wanted to move.

It was, in its own way, a uniquely immersive game.

I never owned an Atari 800; we went with Apple ][s. In fact, the last time I owned a console, it was a Channel F. I lost a lot of interest in owning gaming consoles when I found I could make my own games. Also, computer gaming, while it converges with console gaming in many respects, mostly appeals to me in the areas where the two are disparate. (Adventure and strategy games and quirky little classics like Nethack.)

Generally, when I pick up a console controller (I gifted The Boy with an N64 and PS2 over the years), I find it foreign. Lots of buttons. And for a lot of games, if you want to be good at them, you’re mastering some arbitrary set of control sequences. But the Wii appealed to me instantly.

Now, I’m really what’s known as a “hardcore gamer”, even though I don’t have much time these days to play. I’ve got over 300 games, easily, mostly acquired in last 15 years, but with a few from going back to the early ’80s. Except for sports simulations, of which I own very few, you can find just about every major game made in the past decade on my shelves. I’ve even played some of them!

Despite all this, the Wii appealed to me instantly. Even though the games are trivial, it’s a million times more fun to mimic all the goofy activities than just smashing buttons. (And there are some wonderfully goofy activities in, say, Wario Smooth Moves.) Also, it drives a lot of the hardcore gamers completely nuts to have this device–this non-gamer’s device!–absolutely crush the XBox 360 and PS3. (That produces a special smile for someone who’s had to listen to the “Are computer games dying?” nonsense for the past 20 years.)

So, we acquired a Wii Fit a few weeks ago and finally had the chance to put it out yesterday and give it a try.

Fun. Guaranteed to drive the poor hardcore console folk nuts. “It’s a gimmick!” they cry. “People will buy it and forget about it!” “You should go outside to be active!” The last being particularly amusing coming from someone who probably hasn’t seen the sun since it actually was heating up the earth untowardly.

However, this simple device plays on the same simple premise that the wiimote exploits: Mimicking the action of what you’re doing is far more entertaining than button mashing. As such, simple games like “Hula Hoop”, “Ski Jump”, hell, “Running” becomes entertaining.

And unlike the wiimote, some pretty demanding requirements are made. As friendly as Wii Sports and other early games were, Wii Fit does not hesitate in calling you fat, clumsy and, probably, funny looking.

It’s a little shocking to have a game call you “obese” or even “overweight”. It’s using the highly flawed BMI standard, of course, but I imagine more than a few folks walking (or not walking) around with a few more pounds than they’d like to admit were offended by the news. (If you’re actually in shape, you’re unlikely to care what the machine says.)

If you fail its balance test, it asks if you fall down a lot while walking.

It gives you a “Wii Fitness Age”, probably much older than you actually are.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Nintendo DS “Brain Age” product–or just think about it for a moment–you’ll realize that the first time through (or first several times), you’re learning how to make the board respond. This tends to give you a nice apparent improvement spike at the front.

I didn’t really “get” the balance test, so I tested at 55 one day and 35 the next. I’m not even sure why I did so much better on day 2. I actually gained 3 pounds according to the scale (though some of that might have been clothes and time of day). Eventually, though, it all settles down and becomes a reasonably interesting and amusing metric.

You do have to put up with your Wii looking all fat and sweaty, though, especially if you are fat sweaty.

I’ve heard some parents worry about the Wii’s effect on their kids’ self-esteem. My kids (all in the “normal” range) just looked at the machine like it was crazy when it said something stupid. But they had fun playing the games–even The Boy, who has a hardcore gamer’s disdain for the Wii in general.

When he got on the board, he pretty much killed in every event. Apparently his balance is near perfect. Who knew? He even worked up a sweat. He did maintain that he preferred to make a jackass out of himself in private. Yeah, one does look as though one is having fits during some of the activities. Heh. It’s good to lighten up.

Anyway, to my mind, the board underscores how much there is still to be done with the whole concept of getting gamers up. For example, on a tightrope game, I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity to the old Crazy Climber game which, itself, was kind of a blast because of the way the controls mimicked the hand movements of the climber.

Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome to act out.

Hell, a lot of classic games would be more fun. Say, Pacman! The running game in Wii Fit has you stick the wiimote in your pocket and not even use the board. Running around a maze, eating pellets, alternately running from and chasing ghosts: That’d have to be more fun. And it’d doubtless change the PacMan championships. The tightrope game also had a kind of Mario feel. I never played Mario, but I would if I could be Mario.

By the way, that’s why I don’t do many sports games or Tomb Raider. Watching a bunch of characters (even animated characters) run around makes me want to do the same. (We’ve always wanted to put a Lara Croft-style obstacle course in the back yard.) I’d rather play football, however badly, then watch it. (I also don’t watch much TV sports for similar reasons.)

So, keep it coming, I say. Nintendo–at least partly responsible for turning the world into couch potatoes in the first place–could turn us all away from the couch potato lifestyle.