Him + Me = Wii

This photo shows the Wii Fit box and balance board

“Do you think that you’re paying enough attention to Andrew?”

The question about my husband came from the unlikeliest of sources. I had turned on my television and Wii Fit game console for a few minutes of balance games, coordination exercises, and yoga stretches. Like many days, I was prompted to take a “body test” to measure BMI, coordination, and the like. Today, however, the Wii Fit avatar took a different approach.

“I haven’t seen Andrew lately,” the Wii Fit said. “How has his posture been?” I was given four options for my answer: Better than before, Worse than before, No Change, or I don’t know. I thought for a moment, considering Andy’s posture and carriage through the years. No change, I selected. I pressed the key to go to the following screen.

No change, the Wii registered, then the accusation. “Do you think that you’re paying enough attention to Andrew?”

“What?!?” I squawked at the game. “You’re supposed to be a virtual personal trainer, not a couples’ therapist.”

Indignant, I took a photo of the screen with my cell phone and sent it to Andy (I believe I typed ‘WTF’ as the caption). I then went through the rest of my workout in a huff.

I’ve saved the picture on my phone and have delighted in showing it to friends and family. Most react with equal parts laughter and disbelief.

“Who do you think wrote such a program?” my friend Kerrie ponders one afternoon over coffee, after looking at the photo. “Why would a question like that even come up in a fitness video game? Maybe the programmer has relationship issues.”

That may very well be true. But a funny thing happened, almost subconsciously, since I got the pixellated reprimand from my video game. I’ve started paying a little more attention, at least to our health and fitness habits as a couple.

“Let’s make steak this weekend,” Andy suggests, and when I don’t enthusiastically reply right away, he asks what’s up. I note that we’ve already had red meat twice this week. Do we want to have it again, or is that a little indulgent? Will the Wii Fit take notice of our weight gain, and yell at me again?

Or there’s the reminder card from our dentist; we’re a few months overdue for a cleaning. Instead of ignoring it again, I tack it up on the fridge. “We should definitely make an appointment this month,” I say. “When are you free?”

And it’s funny—with this introspection, I’ve found that that I often feel closest to Andy when we’re attempting some fitness-related endeavor together. Thursday evenings have become gym-date nights, when we meet at the gym after work for our respective workouts and then go home and cook dinner together. (Or, for full disclosure, get takeout.) In our twelve years together, we’ve discovered a mutual love of hiking, a pursuit neither of us tried in our single days, and have tackled trails throughout New England, Nova Scotia, Colorado, the West Coast, and even Iceland and Australia. There’s something immensely satisfying about challenging your physical limits and seeing your partner do the same, and the shared experience of toughing something out, as a united front, naturally results in greater intimacy.

I read recently that the weight-loss show The Biggest Loser actually has the best success rate of lasting relationships resulting from a reality TV program (much more so than any of the actual dating/romance reality shows), and it makes a lot of sense—the contestants are each committed to personal improvement, healthy lifestyles, and fitness goals, and can encourage each other along the way. Sounds like an ideal recipe for good partnerships to me.

As for the Wii Fit and its pesky questions, I don’t know if I’ll ever be so detail-oriented as to notice posture—and its improvement or deterioration—over time. But strangely enough, a mechanical reminder to be cognizant of one’s partner’s overall health isn’t necessarily misguided or inappropriate, even if the source itself does take some getting used to.

Thankfully, whoever designed the Wii Fit program perhaps intuitively knew not to overdo it. I recently logged on for an exercise session and went through the start-up prompts.

“Good evening!” the Wii Fit said. “I haven’t seen Andrew around lately…”

I hesitated, wondering what irreverent comment was coming next. I took a deep, relaxing breath, then proceeded to the next screen.

“Let’s work on improving your balance!” the machine said.

“Yes, let’s,” I said to the screen, and proceeded to do just that.

This story originally appeared on DivineCaroline.com.

Photo courtesy M dela Merced via Flickr Creative Commons.

On the Run

This photo shows sneakers during a run

“We train to race, we don’t train to train!”

Coach Sundberg‘s mantra would be oft-repeated in the three years I ran cross-country, spurred by team-wide resistance to a speed- or hill drill, sluggishness on a long run, or some who-needs-a-reason teenage rebellion during practice.

The first time I heard it, I may have laughed. I was never much of a racer, typically finishing in the middle of the LHS women’s team. I knew I wouldn’t be getting any scholarships for my athletic prowess, so my attitude was always one of showing up, doing my best, but also downplaying competition. And to his credit, Sunny (as he was always called) never pushed too hard – never enough to diminish the love of the sport, create animosity or bad blood among his runners, or cause anxiety beyond the natural pre-race jitters. I can’t remember him once losing his temper, using negative reinforcement, or ever belittling his team.

In fact, it was the opposite: Sunny’s zen-like attitude to “drink the dew” off blades of grass, break up wispy cirrus clouds with one’s mind during in-the-field stretches (“Look what you’re doing!”), or calling out gorgeous scenery during a long training run was a welcome antidote to the hyper-competitive ambitions of pre-college years. If I had a difficult exam, an argument with my parents or friends, or was stressing about some other teenage drama, I knew I could work it out—literally—through a good run, stretch, and lift with my cross-country coach and buddies.

It’s because of Sunny that I still love to go on a run, 20+ years later. Nowadays, I unabashedly train to train, and it’s downright joyful. It’s time for me to clear my head, to meditate, to work out something that’s been puzzling me. Sometimes, a good run is the only way for me to manage stress, anger, or anxiety: The rhythmic breathing, the repetition of each footfall faithfully following the next, the sated exhaustion at completing a route, all work together to quiet my frazzled mind. By the time I’m done, what seemed so stressful has diminished, what I couldn’t tackle before now seems manageable.

And so training to train has become something of a personal motto. Think about it: Most days, we’re not asked to race. We’re asked to put one foot in front of the other, to be steady, reliable, level-headed, on course, yet open to detours—all qualities of a great long-distance run. Marriage, parenting, a full-time job—these are all training exercises of the longest (and highest) order. Approaching each with dedication, a sense of calm, and appreciation make the preparation indistinguishable from the actual journey: An otherwise-nondescript Tuesday evening run has the possibility of a personal best time; a 5K Fun Run with a local running club is an opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends (or make new connections). A solo run on a gorgeous fall day triggers a memory of cross-country practice and reminds one to reach out to old friends on Facebook; a friendly wave from a stranger running by gives a boost of energy, and reinforces the shared experiences of runners, wherever one may be.

I hear through the grapevine that he’s retiring this year, and deservedly so. Thanks to him, even though no race awaits me, I know because of Sunny that the run will still be worthwhile, and worth doing. His legacy, for me, has been as enduring as endurance itself.

Photo courtesy Nick Page via Flickr