Fitness Friday: Trying to (Ring)Fit Exercise Into My Life

During my freshman year of college, I reached what was probably the peak level of fitness in my adult life. I’d always been under-active due to my hobbies and my extracurriculars. But each morning at the university I would wake up and just walk around the campus, getting a lay of the land and getting a bit of exercise in before needing to shower and get ready for class. Instead of gaining the Freshman 15, I lost the Freshman 50. And while a walkable campus and my youthful metabolism are certainly aspects of that experience that I miss now, what I really find missing when it comes to maintaining my health is time.

A typical day in my routine goes about like this. Wake up at 6:10 for work, shower, and eat breakfast. Drive to the office, sit at my computer all day doing statistics or talking in meetings, and then leave the office and get home around 4:30 PM. At this point it’s time to cook dinner, during or after which I’ll either fit some chores in or hang out with my kid until their bedtime. Only after my child is in bed does my time truly become my own – and two nights a week, my evening free time is dedicated to livestreaming. Add in my tabletop RPG hobby and the prep time that takes – prep time that has to happen before the next game session or the session won’t be doable – and there are some days of the week where it feels like I simply cannot get exercise in without reducing the amount of sleep I get.

Now I know that a “fitness expert” (read: troll) could probably point out spots in my process where an opportunity could be created, but ultimately that’s part of what I am trying to accomplish with my new workout journey. I want to find the motivation to squeeze exercise into spaces where I might otherwise be tempted to ignore it. It’s part of why I bought Ring Fit Adventure – turning game time into exercise time and attaching it to an opportunity to create articles for my website seems like a win-win-win situation. So how have things been after my first full week of Ring Fit? That’s what I’m here today to answer.

Some of the most productive exercising I managed during high school was being able to walk on a treadmill at home in my pajamas while watching shows. I’ve missed that vibe!

One of the biggest changes I made to my approach to Ring Fit during my first week was trying out additional modes. The mode I featured in my first Fitness Friday article was the adventure mode, which is a story-driven mode where you jog or squat through levels and do turn-based exercise battles to progress the narrative. But Ring Fit has other options from quick play to multitask mode to a rhythm game mode where you exercise to music. I tried all three out over the past week, to varying degrees of being impressed and varying degrees of success.

The mode I would say I am least impressed with is quick play. It’s not that quick play is bad per se – it is simply least like what I am really looking for from the game. Quick play has multiple activities including the ability to jog through courses from the main game, play mini games you’ve found in the main game, or do short, targeted exercise routines based on the attacking moves from the main game. You’re essentially getting the workout part of Ring Fit without any of the narrative components or mechanical incentives. It’s great if you are self-motivated but for me, a big part of why Ring Fit works is because it hijacks the gaming part of my brain and appeals to the version of me that loves to beat monsters, get EXP and gold, and spend those resources on leveling up and buying gear. So while I think quick play is valuable for times when you don’t feel like you really have time to dive into a few levels, it’s definitely not my favorite way to engage with Ring Fit.

Rhythm mode, though…that’s the good stuff right there. In rhythm mode you use the Ring-Con to do a light workout to music, performing presses, pulls, twists, and squats in time with the various songs from the game. Color coded ring symbols fly in and your goal is to perform the corresponding exercise in time with the beat. Remember how I like Ring Fit best when it hijacks my gamer brain? Something about watching the “excellent!” pop up each time I squeeze that little circle right on time with the music gets me pumped up and hits my brain with that sweet sweet dopamine. It helps that the music in Ring Fit Adventure is actually pretty solid! If you haven’t heard the theme for the Dragaux battles, for example, you ought to check it out – it’s absolutely a danceable song.

Finally, there’s multitask mode. This one is interesting in that it is a game mode you engage with when you’re not playing Ring Fit Adventure – hence the name. With your Switch in sleep mode, you can slide the right Joy-Con onto the Ring-Con and hold press the control stick to activate multitask mode. While the Ring-Con is like this, each push or pull of the Ring-Con is counted, accompanied by a couple of little beeping sounds. You can use this to count the number of times you use the Ring-Con to exercise while doing another activity where your hands are idle, like watching a television show, YouTube video, or Twitch stream. These reps can then be loaded onto your account the next time you play the game and earn you rewards for the exercise you got during your time away. It’s a nifty idea, and for me it has worked great for those evenings where I felt like I ran out of time for a good workout. Even if I didn’t have the energy to get my legs moving, I could work up a decent sweat and get my arm, torso, and shoulder muscles worked by doing different moves with the Ring-Con while watching a video or something right before bedtime. Just working part of my body is better than working none of it, and multitask mode has been valuable for getting a little somethin somethin going on those nights where a full workout seemed untenable.

While a week or so is clearly not enough time to start seeing physical benefits to exercising, the mental changes have definitely been noticeable. On days where I exercise I’m less likely to throw back a soda or eat unnecessary snacks out of a desire not to “cancel out” the workout I did. Working up a sweat also makes me genuinely thirsty and encourages me to put water in my body – this is particularly valuable on the weekends, as I drink a decent amount of water during the week due to work but rarely have it on the weekend while at my house. And perhaps most importantly, the feeling of accomplishment after exercising is a nice confidence and mood booster. I try to use that feeling to motivate future exercise; on a day when I think I don’t feel up to it, I remind myself that while it doesn’t seem appealing in the moment, I’ll feel good about it and be glad I did it after the fact.

This first full week with Ring Fit Adventure has been a hectic one, and I do wish I’d done a better job of getting a full workout with the game every day. But I am proud that despite a busy schedule, I was still able to squeeze in some exercise and use the time I did put in as a motivator to keep at it. Even if I didn’t hit popular thresholds like “exercising every day” or “exercising for at least 30 minutes at a time,” the time I did put in was higher than my record the week before: zero. It’s a start, and it’s a start I hope to build on moving forward. I’m never going to perfect having a healthy lifestyle and I’ll always have something to complain about when it comes to my body. But I think the tools that Ring Fit provides have been useful for getting me started on a better path, and the real goal I want to strive for this time is not just to “lose 50 pounds” like my freshman year. I want a healthier approach to life to become a normal part of my life, and from that perspective I think I can call this past week a win.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this feels like a good time to get in some exercise!

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