The Drevitches, Week 13: The Weather Outside Is Delightful

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

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Natalie and Adam frolic in the snow. Courtesy Gary Drevitch

School vacation was brief this year.

With Christmas and New Year's Day falling on Saturdays, the kids had just a week-and-a-day off. But they threw themselves into recreation with abandon, aided and abetted by the biggest snowstorm to hit New York City in years.

The blizzard dumped 20 inches on Central Park here in Manhattan, and for the kids, that meant just one thing: sledding. Lynn awoke early the morning after the snow and took everyone into the park, where they spent more than two hours barreling down the hills, racing, crashing and otherwise exhausting themselves. All that climbing back up the hill, in the snow, in the wind, carrying a sled, was a great workout for the crew. (The next day, Natalie, 8, slept in, and Adam, 4, napped for hours.)

I had to work that day, but didn't want to completely miss out on a snow workout, so I walked to the office, a little more than two miles, through the park and into midtown, dodging snowplows and wide-eyed (and stranded) tourists all the way.

The white stuff put everyone in good cheer throughout the week off, although Benjamin, 10, and Natalie had one complaint: "Why couldn't it snow while we were in school so we could have snow days?"

As much fun as it is playing in the snow, when the kids weren't frolicking, it kept them pretty well trapped inside. Fortunately for them, a few weeks ago we got a Wii game system, including the Wii Fit Plus program and its Balance Board. (Or, as Benjamin would say, "We FINALLY got a Wii.") The storm gave the family the time to try out the components and games.

The wireless balance board, with its range of built-in sensors, is a pretty amazing piece of technology. Many of the exercises take the form of standard video games, but instead of Mario jumping over an obstacle, you jump -- well, actually, you bend your knees and extend, because you're actually not supposed to jump up and down on the platform. Other games simply ask you to shift your weight, sometimes subtly, from side to side. That the system can recognize these shifts so accurately blows my mind a little.

The core of the Wii Fit Plus system is that it allows you to create an individual profile, including your Wii Fit Age, determined by evaluating your age, weight, body mass index (BMI), and performance on a series of strength and balance tests. Once you know your Fit Age and BMI, you're encouraged to create goals for improving them. When we first used the game, the Fit Ages struck me as a little off. The Wii initially told Adam that his Fit Age was 30, and urged him to work on building his strength. Natalie's initial Fit Age was 31.

Mine was 51, which was scary enough, but I can only imagine what it would have been back in September, before I lost 27 pounds.

I'm resolving to enjoy the Wii Fit Plus exercises without worrying too much about its evaluations, but my goal-oriented kids hop on the platform each morning to exercise and bring their Fit Ages down. And, in fact, as the kids used the game more and got comfortable with its features, they succeeded. Natalie exulted like she'd won a marathon when the screen finally told her she'd brought her Fit Age down to 8.

My favorite Wii game, though, remains the three-point shooting contest in the Wii Sports Resort game. I find that a few quick rounds of jump-shooting gets my heart rate up (and I have the house record).

Another new device (at least for me) that gets my heart rate up is the elliptical cross trainer. I know, I know. This is not new technology. But I used to be a gym creature of habit, sticking to the recumbent bike and, when I felt frisky, stepping onto a StairMaster or treadmill. The elliptical trainer? It always just looked ... strange. But Victoria Gallagher, my master trainer at New York Sports Clubs, has gotten me up on the machine, selling it to me as running-without-the-impact.

She's right. I've been using it for a couple of weeks, and now I'm hooked. I especially like the stride-length indicator, which tells you if you're really running, or just plodding along.

Victoria also has me using a much less new-fangled cardio machine: the rower. It's something I used to love in the early 90s when I was in much better shape, but have ignored since. It's nice to be back on it now. Even better to be in good enough shape to actually use it.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.