Just... A handful of reps to go... C'mon…
A-a-and, there! Phew, that was an intense workout indeed!
Wait a minute... Wasn't there something I was working on?..
Oh, right! The blog post!
One Moment, Please...
It took a while to finish this post.
I was planning to publish it exactly a year past the previous one with the goal of showcasing what kind of progress one might expect over a similar timespan doing 2-3 Ring Fit workouts a week. As I still play the game and the numbers keep changing, let's pretend it's still March 2021 — the month I took all screenshots and videos for this post — and use those as reference.
Ahem... Where Was I?
A Full Cycle Later
Well, 2020 sure was a year of... Interesting events, news and developments. As for me, it was also a year of getting back in shape thanks to a very special and exciting video game titled Ring Fit Adventure.
Join me today, as I share my experience with the game, the console, go though some of the personal mile-stones, and provide several tips and tricks along the way. Hopefully, by the end you'll be able to tell how exactly this product had improved the quality of my life and maybe consider doing the same.
Disclaimer: since it's almost a requirement nowadays when talking about products and services, I should clarify that this post was not sponsored by any person or a company. These are my personal thoughts and recommendations.
Let's begin by examining the hardware.
As you are no doubt aware, the signature aspect of Ring Fit Adventure is its proprietary Ring Controller, which makes the unique game-play mechanics of the title possible. So here's my Ring Con after over 75 000 full presses and press&holds and 6 000 seconds of pull&holds — still good as new.
I have to give credit where it's due: Ring Con is an exceptionally well-made controller. Even after such a beating it doesn't squeak, wobble or show any noticeable wear and tear neither on the outside, nor in operation.
The same more or less goes for the leg strap.
It still tightly holds a Joy Con and doesn't slide off the leg during workouts. Albeit my strap did eventually develop a small tear either due to either it being too tight or me being not so gentle swapping the joy-cons back and forth between recharges. Either way, it holds the controller well.
The Joy Cons themselves are also doing well, although the left unit did ultimately succumb to the notorious stick drift after about 200 hours of play-time in various other games in-between Ring Fit workout sessions (hey, it's a game console after all, might as well use it as one). So I had to fix the drift by replacing the analog joystick module. Which, thanks to the fact that all components are modular, is a trivial ordeal as long as you can get your hands on the new part and the tools to disassemble the controller. No soldering required.
I will neither commend Nintendo for manufacturing a Joy Con with an analog joystick that lasted for a whopping 200 hours, nor bash them for making it only last a meager 200 hours. Any component designed to move experiences wear and tear to a certain extent, so it's destined to fail sooner or later.
When it comes to Joy Cons, even if you completely lack the tools, a couple of third-party replacement parts, tweezers and screwdrivers will take you back a mere 15 bucks. And there's a plethora of video-guides online explaining how to get the job done.
Finally, this fault has nothing to do with Ring Fit Adventure, but it's something I had to get off my chest.
As for the console itself…
Oh, my. The console is a different story. Switch is built like a tank and designed to last. It's so well manufactured, solidly assembled and capable of keeping its thermals completely under control, that I'm genuinely filled with delight every time I pick it up to play on the go. My unit has survived over 500 hours of use both handheld and docked and doesn't exhibit any signs of wear: it doesn't crash or g͜l̛i̡̛t̀͞͞c̴̵̀͞h̵́͠͞͝, the cooling fan is operational, the battery is in tip-top shape and the LCD-panel and the back-light are as good as new.
Even more impressive is the fact that my unit comes from earliest retail batches. It's not a newer 2019 HAC-001(-01) series model with an improved 16-nm FINFet X1 SoC. Oh, no! It's the OG HAC-001 produced in 2017. So not only is the console over 3 years old, it had to deal with a power-hungry 20-nm X1 SoC and the battery had only lost 10% of its capacity after all this time!
Truly impressive stuff.
There isn't much to write home about when it comes to the system Software of the Switch (a.k.a. Horizon OS). It provides an e-shop, easy access to the game library and a bare minimum of save data management and peripheral connectivity utilities. Since the console lacks any meaningful productivity Software or even the most basic internet browser, Nintendo Switch is just what it is — a game console.
That is… Unless you were lucky enough to get a hold of a "hackable" unit which makes it possible to do all kinds of cool stuff and even run Android or Linux on it. You can imagine what possibilities these can provide on such a powerful mobile platform. In fact, a portion of this post was typed using a Bluetooth keyboard paired with a Switch running Android 10, via a VNC viewer app connected to my PC over the internet.
So, yeah. Possibilities.
Still, limited or not, Switch is a very peculiar device. Even though I'm not much of a gamer nowadays, I do find myself leaning towards trying out new games on Switch, rather than on PC or the Playstation, simply due to it being a hybrid platform. Most of us could only dream of owning such a "transformer" of a console in our childhood. Being able to play on a TV or a projector and take it with you to a friend's place or school? Wicked cool, man!
Last summer, on a hot and sunny day, I actually packed up my Switch, a yoga mat, the Ring Con and the leg strap and cycled to the nearby forest to… do a Ring Fit Adventure workout in a nice and quiet spot in the woods, surrounded by Mother Nature.
Am I an absolute dork for doing that? Oh, totally!
Did I enjoy the hell out of it? You better believe it!
Anyway, enough about the hardware, let's get to business!
The Good Stuff
There's so much I want to show and tell, I almost don't know where to begin!
The Story Mode
Believe it or not, to this day I still haven't completed the Story Mode (a.k.a. Single Player Campaign)!
It was a great way to ease me into the new fitness routine. And for while it lasted — about 3-4 months — provided enough entertainment and incentive to keep coming back time and time again, until I discovered another game mode I'll cover in detail later in the post. So as not to repeat myself, I won't go deep into what the Story Mode looks and plays like, but if you're interested, check out the previous post.
In the mean-time I'll point out some features I found particularly noteworthy.
Changing Things Around
The game does a great job of diversifying the kind of exercises it thinks you should be doing more by varying the types of enemies you face (and the kinds of moves or attacks they are vulnerable against) as well as the nature of challenges you can take up along the way.
One moment you are paddling up a waterfall in your makeshift kayak...
...to later find yourself battling the three fabled champions of the game world – each with his or her own special type of attack (and an exercise to match).
This variation in enemy and exercise types, regular introduction of new game mechanics, items, consumables, challenges and the like, makes Ring Fit as addictive as it possibly can be. Which for a fitness game is an outstanding achievement.
It also quite satisfying to see the game track your progress and celebrate some of the outstanding milestones along the way:
It exploits every trick in the book to make you want to come back:
- Did you do your first 100 sit-ups? — Have a round of applause
- Achieved 1000 mountain climber reps? — Watch Tipp jump around extatically
- Did you do some additional ring presses outside of the game? — Check those in and get some coin!
Don't even ask how great "Leveling up" feels.
Every session begins and ends with quantifiable, visible progress: time spent exercising, calories burnt, total distance "covered". This also adds to the overall feeling of achieving something after every workout.
In the screenshot above you can see my total "activity timer". It only ticks when you're moving or striking a pose. If you're wondering how much total time was actually spent in the game, allow me to indulge your curiosity:
Almost a 2:1 ratio, so 50% of play-time was spent resting or fiddling in the in-game item shop.
While playing it's quite easy to get carried away and lose track of time, which is exactly how I managed to clock this longest session of mine:
I wouldn't advise making a habit of working out for this long, though. For instance, I needed 3 full days to recover completely after such a lasting playing session. Although your mileage may vary, naturally.
From the screenshot you can easily estimate how many calories you'd be able to burn doing such fitness-type exercises at a moderate pace — 4.5-5 kcal each minute.
As Challenging as You Want It to Be
Finally, here's my experience climbing up the "difficulty ladder" in the game. Initially, after the fist in-game estimate I was offered a Difficulty Level of 21. Since then I've gradually worked my way to to level 27 which I'm quite comfortable with.
The Difficulty Level mostly affects the number of reps you need to do as well as fine-tunes how much health the enemies get in the Story Mode. You can always dial the difficulty back without any penalty.
The Custom Mode
Like I mentioned before, the Story Mode kept me entertained until one day I decided to muck about in the game menus and discovered a Custom Mode, where you can build your own routines using all of the available move-sets and activities: exercises, jogs, rhythm and mini-games. Since then it became my go-to mode for playing the game. So in my case it makes roughly 50% of the total time spent in Ring Fit.
In fact, here's a short overview of some of my Custom Mode play sessions. 35 of them to be specific, recorded Oct, 1 — Mar, 14:
Each session is followed by the Session Results screen:
My Custom Workouts
Here's a small sample of some of my workout session programs.
And a couple of intense ones, which I call "stamina sets", here labeled K and L and meant to be done in succession:
For about half a year I kept the workout activity timer at a 30 minute mark, which was achieved by doing 2 custom Fitness Lists though and through. Ultimately though I settled on on shorter but more regularly spaced workouts at around 15 minutes each. This lighter schedule ended up being easier to stick to, less taxing on the joints and the results were just as good. Or rather — as good as your diet is, a topic I'll touch upon further down the post.
Quality of Life Improvements
At its core Ring Fit Adventure is still just a fancy electronic exercise journal.
Therefore it makes sense that regular diverse workouts can help you maintain good shape. So here's what I look like after a year of regular fitness and aerobic workouts, the majority of those being Ring Fit Adventure. You can especially notice the gains on the legs which is not coincidental, since I do have a long history of ice- and rollerblade-skating, so for me it's much easier to build up lower body muscle mass, than to further bulk up the upper body. I won't post the "before" photos because I never bothered taking them in the first place, for Ring Fit took me by surprise and by the time I got an idea to even begin logging my progress, I'd already shaped up too much for the photos to be considered any sort of "reference". Just imagine a fair amount of an "office worker's belly fat and love handles" and you'll get the idea.
So... Does It Work?
Would I say sticking to regular workouts with Ring Fit Adventure helps get in shape? Absolutely. But for me personally Ring Fit was the missing piece of a "puzzle" called "How to motivate my ass to exercise regularly". And I couldn't praise Nintendo any more for coming up with such an original approach to workout gamification.
Just to sum up, here are some QoL improvements I actually noticed over a year of playing Ring Fit:
- No signs of carpal tunnel. You know, the cramps you sometimes get in your wrist when using a computer mouse for extended periods of time? Yeah, those. It used to be a rather regular occurrence for me, but ever since I started playing (remember the ring? — you hold it with your hands) I haven't had a single instance of even the slightest of cramps while using a mouse, keyboard or any other tool or a peripheral
- Increased endurance. No more heavy breathing going up a flight of stairs or two
- Increased lung capacity. I can hold my breath for longer and recover quicker after sprinting and swimming intensely
- Reduced and more even heart-rate. Sudden changes of intensity in every-day life don't bother me as much as before
- Less joint crackling. Don't know about you, but I was always prone to loud joint crackling after some time of inactivity. Maybe it's because of the accumulation of salt or something like that, but after getting back to regular exercises this issue has been largely mitigated
- And last, but not least, — playing Ring Fit Adventure helped me establish a healthy diet as well. The game showers you with dieting advice and even one of the in-game mechanics revolves around making smoothies with various ingredients and recipes. And although the game takes place in a magical world, those recipes are real. And just looking at those colorful smoothies you "squeeze" in a mini-game made me want to try them out in real life. Which I did and discovered some new drinks and soups along the way.
Wouldn't be fair to not mention that as with any game where you play with yourself, there's a chance to get a trauma or a spraint. In my case the only two instances I remember were:
- As I was running overly-eagerly, I kind of lost track of my movements and made a crooked step, spraining my ankle. It took a couple of weeks to get back in shape and gradually return to the previous levels of workout intensity. My bad, really
- When I first started playing the game, I was doing it barefoot, for I thought a yoga mat would be enough to cushion the shock of stomping my feet on the ground. Nope. After just a couple of workouts I realized that I had actually bruised my feet, such strong were the shocks when running in place during game-play. So I got myself a pair of running shoes and haven't had such an issue ever since
Tips and Tricks
If you decide to try the game out or do similar regular workouts, I have some tips and tricks of my own I can share.
Before You Play
- Yoga mat. A good non-slipping mat is the perfect place to perform all those intense moves
- (Paper) towel. Depending on your weight and the intensity of the exercises, you will probably sweat quite a bit, so a couple of paper towels are a must. Yes, I do mean paper towels. I found they work best because they soak in sweat quickly and can be easily disposed of after a workout
- Running shoes
- A bottle of fresh water
- A large TV or a projector. It makes the whole experience even more fun, especially when the environments and the characters are "life-size", especially when playing on a 120-inch projector screen
Before the Workout
Warmup. A good warm-up is paramount! Those couple-minute warmups you do at the beginning of a play session are not enough to effectively warm up the body and the muscles, so make sure to stretch and warm up for at least 10 minutes before the workout
Hydration. Try to never exercise when you feel dehydrated. Drink a fair amount of water and if you're dehydrated, wait for at least half an hour to let your body rehydrate
Switch to "Silent" running. Although designed to replace track running and knee-lifts with doing quick and deep squats instead, this mode works just fine if you actually run as well. Sometimes you might feel like you want to exert less stress on your feet and ankles by switching to squatting instead. Well, in the Default mode that won't work very well for the game will always expect you to perform "run"-like motion. In the "Silent" mode it's harder for the Software to really discern the type of exercise you're performing, so it ends up working either way. Even when instead of deep squats you still do knee-lifts wherever appropriate on a track. Naturally, it will slightly affect the precision of the calorie loss calculations, but it was always meant as an estimate in the first place, so I don't see it as an issue.
Switch the Fit Battle setting to "Always complete the last exercise" or "Complete exercises that switch sides". It's a fairly new setting introduced with an update. Ideally you always want to train both muscle groups evenly, that's why this option is important and in my opinion should always be enabled.
During the Workout
Drink water! During 30-minute sessions I usually end up drinking at least half a liter of water
It's OK to stop to catch your breath! Something you should avoid doing during any fitness workout is running out of breath and trying to push through. Unless you're deliberately going for hardcore stamina training and know what you're doing, you'll simply end up over-training which will require longer recovery between training sessions
Alternate the Story Mode and the Custom Mode to mix it up and keep yourself motivated
Watch your form when moving or striking a pose. When you do exercises incorrectly it might be easier, but it's also less effective, hurts your overall progress or might even cause trauma. If you find it difficult to do certain exercises, try lowering the Difficulty setting or creating a Custom workout list with a focus on similar moves and poses to help you improve
Try performing Plank with Push-ups instead. Both exercises produce pretty much the same data for the joy-con attached to your leg, so feel free to switch things around, especially considering that the game doesn't have an "official" push-up move-set
Don't skimp on stretch-type exercises. In the Story Mode most of stretches are used to recover your "hearts". If like me you're almost always stocked up on smoothies and are good at blocking enemy attacks, in most cases you won't need to recover your hears very often, which means less incentive to use them at all. This is not ideal so you might want to still do them in-between battles to mix things up or set up a custom workout list consisting mostly of stretches to go though from time to time
Some exercises can register imprecisely. The most notorious for being tracked non-ideally is the Mountain Climber exercise. For me it registers most of the movements at a tolerance of 80-100%, so the final score settles around 85-95% even if I do all of the moves perfectly. I've heard that for some players it can be worse, but don't let this demoralize you! Again, Ring Fit is about exercise, not on-line ladders and competition!
Try to maintain a moderate heart-rate without suffocating and gasping for air. You should try to keep your exercises as aerobic as possible, since the body needs oxygen to burn fat
Calibrate the Ring Con at least once every 5-10 sessions to ensure it correctly tracks the extent to which you press or extend the Ring
After the Workout
Update your weight in the Settings from time to time. Regular workouts almost always lead to weight loss. The less weight you have, the less calories you burn, so to keep that "Calories Burnt" estimate as close to the ground truth as possible, make it a habit to regularly weigh yourself in the morning and update this setting accordingly every, let's say, 5 sessions.
Take breaks between workouts and never exercise if you're not feeling well. That doesn't mean you should slack and look for excuses to avoid working out at all!
Develop and stick to a schedule. Patience and discipline, it takes time to get in shape, especially if you haven't been particularly active before starting your brand new workouts
The game doesn't end after you complete the Story Mode! In fact, you can't complete this game. it's a part of your life now. Embrace it
Dieting is a complicated topic. And I'm no nutritionist. But what I do know is physics. And the Laws of thermodynamics. To lose body mass you need to consume less calories with food compared to how much energy you expend during the day. There's no way around it, no magic pill, no "secret technique". Don't take it from me, take a listen to what an actual physicist has to say:
Prior to going back to regular exercises I used to pretty much eat non-stop:
- Watching a movie? — Chips and pop-corn!
- Coding? — Some nice hot tea or coffee with a fat chocolate muffin, naturally
- Playing games? — Well, goodness me, I absolutely need to get me that sweet-sweet sugary drink to stay energized and aware!
In reality a good diet makes a world of difference and every little meal adds up, ultimately forming both your eating habits and the contents of your gut. Unhealthy foods lead to gut problems due to imbalance of bacteria, hence the name "unhealthy". By changing my diet and without any additional modifications to the workout routine I was able to go down from around 80 kilos to 76.5 with a healthy BMI of 22.1 (for a 34 year old adult). There's nothing particularly special about the diet itself, but this is what helped me:
Oatmeal and grains
Cutting down on sugar in the form of sweet drinks and as an additive. Not only does sugar rot your teeth, it causes insulin spikes which lead to increased fat production
Consuming 300-500 kcal less per day. The easiest way to do that is to just start splitting meals. First you take away 1/4 from your your plate. Then 1/3 and eventually you'll start splitting your meals all the way in half. In my case, it took about 4 months to get used to the new eating habits. Yep. Just like the Universe itself, changes in our bodies take time, but those gradual changes stick for longer. Try using a calculator to estimate how many calories a day you might need and consider cutting down on that chow
Eating less junk food. Hamburgers, Hot Pockets, chips, chocolate bars, pudding and the like are definitely inferior to a good diet. For reference, 1 hour of fitness exercises will usually burn 150-250 kcal. Now stop for a moment and consider the following: one 100-gram slice of pizza contains around 300 calories. Now tell me: do you usually have just one slice or is it more like 2 or 3 when going out with friends or family or just ordering pizza delivery? Or maybe you sometimes chow down the whole damn thing, hmm?..
- And lastly something I would've done if I were a drinker: saying no to to alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is a toxin. No mater how you look at it, it's not good for you, never has been, never will. Not a single controlled study came to a conclusion that even small amounts of alcohol are good for the body. It's all empty calories, some buzz and finally — a hangover.
Phew. Well done getting all the way to the end! Shows how dedicated you are to improving your well-being.
Now it's time to take it to the next level and actually begin working out. Whether you choose to go with something like Ring Fit Adventure, come up with your own exercise routine, or better yet — ask a professional to help you with an exercise program — I hope it... works out (ha-ha) and you end up having some good time with an added benefit of getting in shape along the journey.
And remember: there's no "end game" to fitness, it's something you make into a part of your life.