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Michael Phelps dives into Kinect with a swimming game

Michael Phelps was the male swimmer of the yea...

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Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps is going to be the star of an Xbox 360 Kinect game called Michael Phelps: Push the Limit.  According to a USA Today article, the game (due in June) doesn’t need water – you swim while standing upright, and Phelps will teach you the correct stroke techniques to “beat” him.

The article adds:

Even diving into the pool has its intricacies. For instance, to start a freestyle swim race, you bend down as if to touch your toes, and at the start of the race, move into an upright position to trigger your swimmer’s dive into the pool. How quickly you transition from bent over to proper swimming position determines your velocity entering the pool.

So having a good hip snap could help you beat Phelps.  This may be the first video game where kettlebell swings can train you to get higher scores.


Kathy Smith’s kettlebell secret

Last year, popular workout-video instructor Kathy Smith tweeted that she was getting ready to make a kettlebell DVD.  No further details were given, but if ever there was a sign that kettlebells were in the mainstream, that was a big one.  Kathy’s been making workout videos for nearly three decades, and she brought specialty workouts such as yoga and boxing to the attention of K-mart shoppers by having “special guest” experts (Rod Stryker for yoga, Michael Olajide for boxing) do the training while Kathy played the friendly, hand-holding host.  I was really hoping she would do the same for kettlebells:  bring out a certified trainer to do the actual teaching, instead of trying to do it herself.

Well, no such luck.  The resulting product, Kathy Smith’s Kettlebell Solution, is a “system” that includes a DVD, workout chart, the usual diet plan, and 2 plastic, sand-filled kettlebells weighing 3 pounds and 5 pounds.  I haven’t seen the DVD or any clip of it, but with those weights, it is not going to be a real kettlebell workout.  It’s more in the category of “dancing with an object” – whether that object is a stick, flag, pom-pom, Wiimote or 5-pound plastic bell, you might have fun and burn some calories, but it’s not kettlebell training any more than doing the Chicken Dance while clutching a sand-filled rubber chicken.

I’m disappointed, because I like Kathy – her old Fat Burning Workout on VHS was my intro to home fitness more than 20 years ago – but I’m also puzzled.  You’d think there would be a big marketing campaign for this product, what with a big-name instructor, a red-hot workout tool and it being the high season for workout marketing campaigns.  But instead they kind of snuck it out under the radar.  Besides the Stamina website, Amazon had one in stock (now gone) and I can’t find any reviews, press releases or any other hype.  What gives…perhaps all the negative reaction to Jillian Michaels’ (lack of) kettlebell skill made Kathy or her people a little timid?

Exercise should be a skill, not a weight-loss pill

Right now I’m participating in a November 200-swing challenge on a fitness forum, where you do 200 kettlebell swings per day all month.  I’ve missed a couple of days due to a fall chest cold, but otherwise, I’ve taken this opportunity to bone up on the kettlebell technique I learned last summer.  I’d also like to get better at one-handed swinging, and as luck would have it, the guys at Jersey Kettlebell just put up a great video on one-handed swings (I can’t embed it for some reason).

Now that I know how to do them right, I can’t believe how easy and fun one-handed swinging is.  It’s so cool to learn something new and even cooler to get better at it with practice 🙂

And what do you get when you subtract the work from your workout, and add fun?  Any kid can tell you: it’s called PLAY!  Sadly, too many folks view the joy of movement as a form of punishment and purgatory.  They’re trying to transform into a bikini babe, an action hero, or warrior physique.  Or the gym is “cardio confessional” where (after fighting for a parking spot closest to the door) you try to cleanse away last night’s cheeseburger with the most boring, tedious exercises you can think of.

Instead of flogging your sinful self or chasing some Hollywood mirage (created by drugs, nicotine, surgeons, starvation and Photoshop), use your workout time to actually achieve something.  Do a pull-up, a set of pushups on your toes, a Turkish get-up, run as far as you can in 15 minutes or pass a DDR song on Expert.  Whatever it is, if you can’t do it yet, then work on doing it.  Then do a victory dance when you’re done!  It’ll seem more like play than work, and you’ll end up with a healthy habit and a feeling of achievement that no scale can give you.

Cheers for the little successes

we cheer 2We Cheer 2, out today, is still on its way to me, but I have a couple of things to cheer about anyway.  Recently I wrote about taking two-minute fitness breaks throughout the day, which I have been doing, and I’m happy to report that I’ve lost just under 5 pounds since I started 🙂  I’m not a big scale junkie, but I weigh myself maybe once every 1-2 weeks, and lately I’ve noticed my pants getting looser.  So I guess these mini-workouts were just the thing to give my aging metabolism a jolt.  Woohoo!!

I’ve also been getting my butt in gear, literally.  Someone on another forum I frequent mentioned this article on T-Nation called How Strong Are Your Glutes, Really? It contains two exercises, straight-leg and bent-leg glute extensions, designed to test your glute muscle activation.  I passed both tests, but just barely, so I’ve been doing 15-20 reps of each exercise as a warmup prior to my first set of kettlebell swings.  In only a few days, there has been some real improvement in my swinging!  My back used to give out after about 50 reps, but now I can go 60 or 70 reps.  Activating my glutes has made SUCH a difference – almost like uncovering a hidden fuel tank.  Yeah!!

I love how making little changes like these can produce real results.  By the time We Cheer 2 hits my doorstep, I’ll be able to tackle those tuck jumps with renewed spirit and a lighter load.  Cheers!!

The two-minute fitness manager

tamagotchiRemember the Tamagotchi and other “virtual pets” that were popular a few years ago?  That fad has died out (although they still exist) but that technology could be put to good use in fighting obesity.

I had that thought when I read this post in Obesity Panacea about a study concerning the effectiveness of automated cell-phone text messages to help people stay on track with their weight loss program.  The participants who simply received automated reminders throughout the day on their cell phones lost an average 10 pounds in 4 months compared to the control group–not too shabby.  It’s often said that nagging doesn’t work for weight loss, but maybe it depends on whether the source is a bot or your mother.

Since I spend way too much time on the computer, I looked around for a free (the best kind!) program that would remind you to get up and move, at intervals of your choosing.  I found Scirocco Take-A-Break, which sits in your icon tray and gives you a popup window at break time, then a countdown clock during the break.  I set mine to go off every 20 minutes, and did 2 minutes of some sort of exercise during the breaks.  Here’s what I did today, using a 12kg kettlebell and a Wii:

10:06 – kettlebell deadlifts

10:26 – 30 seconds each of kettlebell deadlifts, slingshots, high pulls and slingshots.  (Thanks to Kettlebell Wall for the idea!)

10:50 – turkish getups, “naked” (no weight)

11:13 – 12 cleans on each side, and 10 goblet squats

11:35 – 4 cleans and presses on each side, and 33 swings

After lunch, at 1:30 – 1 Helix song on Wii

2:00 – 12 presses on each side

2:18 – Plank, 1 minute (ouch!) and 1 Helix song

And so on – I was just winging it, but later I might put together a deck of index cards with simple 2-minute mini-workouts on them.

I’m going to make these workout breaks a habit and see where it gets me.  And if they come out with the Biggest Loser Tamagotchi, I hope I can get a cut!

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