Virtual personal trainers: you aren't the boss of me! (But I crave your approval)

My Wii avatar, nomenclature: "Mii". Note the smirk.I've been using two fitness programs on the Nintendo Wii: Wii Fit (for about two years) and EA Sports Active (once two days ago).

Wii Fit was ready to go. No extra stuff to attach to your person. No mess. Bouncy, soft. Yoga a big component. But a lot of the yoga stuff is weird. You must maintain balance as measured onscreen by a red dot centered as you move and hold positions. Then you are given a star rating. Hardly a contemplative or simplifying journey inward based on modulated breathing. More like competitive yoga, a vogue-off in slow motion with softer music.

Well, hell-lo, there. Why, yes, I did splash on a little Paco Raban.There's a choice between having a female or male trainer talk you through the strength and yoga exercises. I went with a lady trainer. I DO NOT perform and stretch and moan and strive for the approval of dudes. No way, José. Eros is a fitness motivator. I don't want to rise from embarrassing positions to be invited by a sausage fest on my television. Even if virtual, I feel better taking orders from a lady.

Dude trainer = Yelling about issues "Is that good enough for ya, Pop? Is it good enough for ya?" or competing for the attention of the female trainer lurking in the background, stored somewhere in the machine. "Hey, virtual guy. Look at MY plumage indicating willingness to mate. Behold and tremble at MY MIGHTY WINGSPAN! I shall DESTROY YOU! (Can you see this dominance display, are you awed by it, yon virtual female trainer?)"

All was well for a while. Okay, I ignored Wii Fit for more than six months. But when I got back to it, Wii Fit was all like: "Hey. You okay? Oh, you weigh the same. Welcome back, prodigal sack of meat." and I got back to hula-hooping and step aerobics and doing yoga EXACTLY WITHIN THE LINES every once in a while. I visit a gym about twice a week, and go on walks and occasional bike rides. So, somewhere in there, I moved through three dimensional space beyond lifting fingers and arms around a laptop.

About a year and a half ago, my kids gifted me with EA Sports Active for the Wii. It came with a crazy pair of devices requiring assembly that was more than I wanted to deal with so I shelved it until two days ago. Here's the ensemble:

That gray thing is not a face mask or a jock strap but a leg strap for the right leg to hold the Nintendo nunchuck controller to monitor your leg movements. The orange ribbon is a resistance band, a contraption that always looked pathetic when seen in fitness infomercials or footage of the elderly or infirm wanting just a TOUCH more challenge than gravity, but not any actual WEIGHTS, fer Pete's sake.

Who was/is Pete, and why are we concerned with his sake?

You will find my enthusiasm, fitness, and bird-like face compelling.See the lady on the box? She's the female trainer and in the exercis demo videos. What of the male trainer? I saw him to only reject him in the initial setup for my profile and options, and he popped up in a video showing how two people could do the same exercise in a chummy way, and at the end he nudges the lady trainer away. "Hey, bub, don't be such a DICK to my new virtual friend here. And RESPECT MY MIGHTY WINGSPAN! BEHOLD MY POWER AND DESPAIR!"

So, chivalry increased the bond I felt with this lady trainer, a real live person in video footage. I had defended her honor, and she would reward me by persuading me to do goofy things like squats back and forth and pretending arm curls with a resistance band resulted in anything at all and, gods help me, her voice (or the voice of another female) made me walk in place, jog in place, then do high back kicks so my heels would nearly touch the rear of my thighs or butt.

We hardly knew each other, yet there she was already TASKING ME to abandon dignity. The nerve! Still, she's cute, seems nice, and has a job (getting me to do stuff), so history is littered with less dignified relationships.

Jogging in place - there's no way to make that cool. In the early 80s my Mom had a mini-trampoline that was used to jog in place while watching television. She gave it a go for a while. Maybe she got bored with it. Using it looked like tantrum calisthenics. Stomp in place a good 20-30 minutes so your legs would be READY to outlast anyone not giving you that thing you wanted. "Holy moley. That mom/dad has been hopping up and down, pace undiminished, for 20 minutes. We'd better cave in and exchange that oscillating fan without the receipt."

The mini-trampoline WAS excellent for bouncing action figures and toy cars off of. Not sure what the statute of limitations is on getting in trouble, so let me say thay my brother and I knew some people who discovered that...

Bob Greene, Oprah's fitness guru sez: "Hey, let's rap while sitting on giant blue balls."EA Sports Active features videos by Oprah's fitness expert Bob Greene. He's been on her show jillions of times (I've heard), co-written books with her (I've seen). One of the few Oprah shows I've seen had her in a restaurant after she'd dropped a lot of weight lecturing/scolding her staff on how they should order a salad that met specific criteria she knew all about, or they utterly hated themselves and were doomed to early death. Have you seen Oprah the last few years? Yeah, I skirted by any Bob Greene videos.

Went through a solid hour of activity from EA Sports Active. It was VERY lunge and squat happy. I did it obediently. Scoffed "This is EASY. People DO this for exercise and think it makes a difference?" Lady voice complimented me on pacing and form.

Tried to pick a suitable customized avatar. I think all the models make you look about 22 years old. Below is the closest I could get:

Nudge that body type thing to the left = too skinny. Tried to be realistic about hairline, color, height, all that stuff. THIS virtual dude is ready to inline skate (one of the activities I did in this hour), in real life? Not so much. Clothing options were all more current and hip than Real Life me, too. Bet this virtual me probably goes to cooler concerts all the time, too.

My avatar, one notch toward chubby. TOO chubby (I hope), but note the arms are still JACKED no matter what the body type selection.Spouse got home from her trip to the gym. I packed up shop. Thought I would probably give this EA Sports Active thing another try down the road. Unstrapped the contraption from my leg. Folded up the resistance band. Started up the morning.

Next day, legs were really, really stiff. Those squats and lunges kicked my ass (or my heels hitting my ass literally kicked my ass). The sort of good muscle soreness that indicates good exercise. Though sitting on the toilet puts pressure on my tenderized haunches and make the pain receptors say: "Hey, hey! What the heck? Ow!"

After I recuperate, I'll use the program again. I want to show that lady trainer that I can do powerful side kicks AND left and right crosses consistently and knock the hell out of that pretend punching bag. She will nod or give a compliment. I shall blush slightly then stand a little prouder the rest of the day hoping I closed the blinds to all the windows so the neighbors couldn't see.