Eyetoy: Kinetic

Geez! Been over a week since I posted. I'm such a slacker.

I've been meaning to talk about Eyetoy:Kinetic for quite some time now. I finished week 7 of the first 12 week program today. It started me on "easy" for everything and I've successfully cranked all the difficulties up to "hard"in the last 7 weeks. It's started throwing more workouts at me, increasing the length of my workouts and I have to say I'm still loving it!

Fitness has always been a bit of a bugaboo for me. The problem is simple: I'd like to work out more but I have a fine line of what I'm willing to put up with. The whole hassle of going to the gym, getting a machine, doing the workout, showering, etc. is just a big pain. I've had gym memberships in the past and it's something that I just don't utilize often enough. The alternate route is to try to get some home equipment, but that is usually flimsy or not very flexible - it either breaks or I get bored. Using DDR worked for a time - but that game isn't really focused on fitness, it's more something that might happen if you play it hardcore. But since I hated most of the music, the hardcore play was difficult to impossible to sustain.

So what is Eyetoy: Kinetic? Short answer is that it's an Eyetoy "game" where the goal is personal fitness. It provides you with a virtual "personal trainer" and a 12-week regimen. I'll be brutally honest - 98+% of the games make me feel like I'm on the Millenium Falcon undergoing Jedi training from Obi-Wan. There's usually yellow orbs you should hit and red orbs you should dodge. When I get into the flow I can almost hear Alec Guinness offering tips. Of course, I mean this description as a positive thing. If if sounds cool to you, then I'd suggest checking the game out.

So does it beat having a personal trainer at a gym? I dunno, I've never paid for that. My guess is that it doesn't. On the other hand it's a one-time $50 expense so it's much less expensive. It works in the comfort of my own home, so I can just do my exercise before my morning shower and I never have to wait for a machine, or drive to the gym or whatever. Does it beat no real fitnes program? Oh yeah. I can easily point to the increased fitness and flexibility. We've been weighing the cats (who are really obese these days), and as a weird side effect I weigh myself every week or so. I've lost about five pounds since starting this - and that's over the Christmas holidays. On days where I get the cardio programs (there are four different types of programming and it varies what you do on what days - for instance today I got double "combat training" which really wore out my arms but only burned less calories than the longer cardio work outs.) I burn 400 - 600 calories depending on the other programming.

Another aspect is that it attempts to do some real training. I mean there's a warmup, a cool-down stretch, and optional body toning (or yoga meditation). When I was half-assedly going to the gym and using the exercise bike I didn't even know what constituted a valid warmup/cooldown sequence. And using DDR was even worse. I was genuinely surprised to see the asymmetries in my body flexibility that the stretches showed. But I'm proud to say some things that I could barely do seven weeks ago I can do now easily. (For instance, stand straight up, then bend one leg behind your butt. Grab that foot with your hand, balance on the other leg and bring the knee in. This stretches the quads in your thigh. I could do this easily with my left leg but I almost fell over the first time I tried it with my right leg. I can do this smoothly with either leg now. That makes me grin every time I do it.)

I mix it in with my Tai Chi - and while I'll still swear by Tai Chi for meditation and general muscle toning (especially on the legs), there are a few gaps that Kinetic addresses nicely.

Anyway, if you have a PS2 and you feel like you're out of shape, give this a spin. It's worth $50 in my opinion.

There are a few downsides. Like all Eyetoy it's a little picky on lighting and space. If you can't clear a fairly wide space about 7 feet from your TV it might not work well. I've had games that were frustrating (and a few games I've really learned to hate) until I learned how to maximize the space and lighting for the game. It really wants a single light source that sits between your TV and you. I've settled on a vertical lamp with two low-wattage bulbs on it (40w incandescent) that I put in the room solely for Kinetic. It's like track lighting only freestanding vertically if you follow. I move it into the room for my workout and stow it behind the speaker the rest of the time. I also had to set the camera sensitivity to "high" before it stopped reading Lee's painting as motion. :-) Otherwise the figures in the triptych would set off the motion detection - no idea why. I've had days where my score was adversely affected by stupid lighting issues. But still - given that I'd never pay for a real personal trainer it's a small price to pay.

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