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The Nike+ Kinect Expedition Day One: No Pain, No Gain




I'm pretty sure that's the noise that came out of my mouth the morning of Janurary 2nd after day one of this grandiose experiment. I fondly remember the act of actually rolling out of bed onto the floor because my legs hit the snooze button when the rest of my body started to wake up. My shoulder started to make noises that I'm not sure a shoulder is supposed to make. My stomach, starved from a whole day without some sort of greasy sandwich or a packaged snack with wonderful flavored powder substances sprinkled on top, demanded sustenance.

And that was just day two.

Anyone who has recently started to work out somewhat seriously after an extended period of general slothery will probably remember how much the first week sucks. Imagine every muscle in your body at the office, getting coffee, bragging to each other about how great their fantasy team is going to be, then getting a sound kick in the ass as word comes down from the boss that it's time to be productive for the first time in years. Needless to say that there's an adjustment period for both sides.

Nevertheless I was excited to get back on the wagon and wore my aches like badges of honor while I tied up my shoes ready to hop back in to Nike+ Kinect Training. Last week I laid out my plan towards a better-er version of myself, and how I hoped to accomplish this by primarily playing a video game. I'm sure my mother would be so proud.

DAY ONE: Meeting Mr. Molden

After redesigning my basement and lighting setup to create a more perfect Kinect play area (which is something you shouldn't be forced to do and probably isn't feasible for most of the people reading this), I thought it was best to get everyone's favorite camera controller thingamawhatsit calibrated and make sure it can read me properly. In my previous work out escapades, the Kinect sat about five feet off the ground atop of my TV, but since then I've upgraded to a very flat flatscreen, so perching it back up there wasn't an option. Now it's underneath the TV about three feet up, so the viewing angle needed a slight adjustment. Then, figuring this game was going to potentially be played four times a week for the next six months, I went ahead and installed the game to the hard drive to maximize performance and keep the console quiet (ish?).

The first thing I did in the game was sync my Nike+ account so that I could track my Kinect Training activity alongside my runs, which my iPod keeps track of, then syncs to the site when I plug it into the computer. You can then go onto the Nike+ website and set goals, compare your stats with others, and keep track of personal milestones. This extra layer of connectivity is easily the neatest part of the whole process. As of this writing I've earned 2,571 Nikefuel points (whatever the hell that means) with 1,223 coming from my runs and 1,348 from Kinect Training.

Right from the start, it's clear that Nike+ Kinect Training, from a production standpoint, is leaps and bounds above the other Kinect fitness games I have played. EA Sports Active 2 was a port of a Wii game, so it wasn't exactly fun to look at, the music was horrendous, the menu's were clearly designed for a WiiMote in mind, and its “pristine desert locale” reminded me of some sort of lame fat camp in suburban Phoenix. THQ's UFC Personal Trainer was another game I burnt some calories with last year, but its extreme emphasis on all things bro almost turned me off of it completely.

Very little of that can be found here. I actually grew up about three miles from the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. It was always kinda jarring as a kid growing up in a small suburb knowing the home base of one of the biggest corporations on the planet was tucked away behind a wall of hills and trees right by the Costco on Jenkins. I remember taking a school field trip there and playing soccer in the big field by the front gate. As a delivery driver in college, I hauled $100 worth of pizza to the Bo Jackson Sports Fitness Center inside the main campus. While collecting the money, I'll never forget walking by some sprinter running on a pristine, white treadmill from the future with a baker's dozen cords and hoses attached to her, making her resemble some sort of strange science experiment.

This game makes me feel like I am at the Nike campus. Everything from the modern look of the environments to the font used in the menus has the shoe giant's prints all over it. The music is a pleasant blend of uplifting but never obtrusive beats that fits the decor of the game perfectly. The game is also filled with professionally made live action video to show you many of the game's features. There's a distinct goofiness to other games of this ilk that is completely gone here, and it shows that everyone involved from Microsoft to Nike to British developer Sumo Digital were on board with the idea of creating an authentic, slick, consistent, and polished mystique.

Once you decide it's time to get moving, the first step is to select your trainer. Your two choices are former NFL cornerback (and former Oregon Duck) Alex Molden or Nike Master Trainer Marie Purvis. This is another section where Nike+ is, so far, excelling over its competition. I cannot tell you how much I hated my trainer in EA Sports Active 2. I can still hear his medicated, Canadian voice slowly telling me the benefits of cooldown exercises. Both Molden and Purvis are both obviously exceptional personal trainers who know how to properly motivate and play the part, so both of them come off as enthusiastic, prepared, and extremely natural. Furthermore they are also exceptionally well rendered, as their in game avatars are easily the most impressive character models in any fitness game to date.

So being a dude who likes football and finds the idea of ogling at digital interpretations of women to be kinda creepy, I went with Alex. I figured a guy who had to chase down Jerry Rice for a living has to know something about staying in shape. The next step is setting up your personal plan. Nike+ runs on four week cycles, and at the start of each one, you'll select if you want to get strong, get lean, or get toned as a general guide for the coming weeks. Wanting to lose some of the gut earned from the holidays and start my regiment with improved cardio, I decided to get lean.

It's at this point where you assume the role of guinea pig, as Nike+ then sets you through a series of tests to check your mobility, flexibility, and general fitness level. My mind was somewhat blown when the game informed me I tend to favor my left side, which made sense given how I recently avoided using my right arm for just about anything over a four month recovery period. This is the kind of precision that helps to make this game feel as right as it does. After the tests and your initial fitness exam, the game shows you your first Fuel Print. It's a 100 point scale that measures overall fitness and athleticism. The day one results pegged me with a rating of 44 on the fitness side and 55 on the athleticism side, which felt pretty good considering the current average of a male age 18-25 is a 36/44.

Day one wrapped with me implementing my schedule for the next month. The plan is to play the game on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while running Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday is my day of rest (if you count working in a busy kitchen for eight hours as “rest”) where I'll also occasionally bend the rules of my diet. If I want a some pizza or a coke on Saturday, I'll have some. Moderation is the name of the game here.

Nike+ certainly left a great first impression. It's clear that Microsoft was obviously shooting for a next level fitness game and everything from this first encounter made me excited to hop right back in the next day (until I rolled out of bed, that is). I wanted this entry in the series to focus mostly on the introductions, so I'll be talking far more in detail about the workouts themselves and how well Kinect reads my movements next time. I also plan on giving a full rundown of my current diet in that entry, so watch for that too. For now, know that I am optimistic. I see a goal that I feel is attainable and well worth the trouble, and I look forward to the upcoming challenges. It's not going to go perfectly. I'm going to miss a day, or I'm going to give in and get some sort of blue cheese bacon burger at a bar one night with some friends (Which is going to be sooooooooooooo damn good), but I'm confident that I have the tools necessary for success.

John F. Kennedy once said, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I look forward to the hard part.
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About badbadleroybrownone of us since 12:29 PM on 09.03.2009

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