Every runner worth her (or his) shoes knows that cross training is an important part of a training program. In addition to adding some variety to your running routine, cross training helps to balance your muscle development, maintain or increase your overall cardiovascular fitness and can even decrease your chance of suffering an injury. Steven and I, unfortunately, have been sorely lacking in our commitment to cross training since we started running a little over six months ago. However, as we are planning on running our first half-marathon in 2012, we quickly came to realize that we would have to remedy this deficiency in order to safely, and more efficiently, train to run longer distances. As the temperatures began to really plummet a few weeks ago, Steven and I began looking for a way to stay active on days when weather prevents us from running outside, as well as incorporate some cross training into our fitness routine. Enter the Xbox Kinect and Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012, Ubisoft’s recently released sequel to the original Your Shape game.
As I’ve mentioned before, neither Steven nor I are big fans of working out in a gym setting. Regardless of the extra monthly cost of joining a gym, having to travel to a separate location away from home to work out takes a big toll on our ability to motivate ourselves to keep up our routine. That meant we were going to have to find an at-home alternative. In the past, choosing to work out at home required either buying your own expensive gym equipment, or relying on exercise videos, which, we all know, can become tedious very quickly. Lucky for us, the Xbox Kinect, which has several fitness-based games available, now offers an at-home, interactive, alternative, allowing us to avoid the gym, the expense of buying our own equipment, and the boredom sometimes associated with exercise videos.
After a quick Google search, it appeared that the Your Shape Fitness Evolved games had received the best reviews, so we decided to grab a copy of the most recent version, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. YSFE 2012 includes updated versions of the activities that came with the original Your Shape game (released in 2010), as well as a few new activities. Three major fitness modes are included with YSFE 2012: Activities (includes multiplayer), Body Focus Workouts, and Fitness Classes. Each mode contains multiple categories. Activities include Warm Up, Run the World, Jump Rope, Wall Breaker, Stack ‘Em Up, and Stomp It. Body Focus Workouts include Abs, Arms, Glutes, Back, Legs, Cardio, and Toning, as well as Sports Preparation activities for Football and Soccer. Fitness Classes include African Rhythms, Hip-Hop, Destination Bollywood, Latin Dance, Boot Camp, Cardio Boxing, Yoga, and Zen Zone.
Even though we’ve only been using YSFE 2012 for a couple weeks, I can honestly say that I think it is the best value for your money if you want to cross train at home. Heck, I was ready to call it a win after the first 30 minutes of using it! So, let’s get to it and review my favorite (and not so favorite) points about this game:
- Easy set up. Getting ready to use YSFE 2012 is incredibly simple, even when including the setup of a Kinect ID, which is your Kinect’s way of identifying you when you turn on your Xbox. After you set up your profile on your Kinect, all you have to do to play YSFE 2012 is start the game. It will do the rest of the work to find your profile and data from previous workout sessions. I’ve found that both the Kinect and YSFE 2012 do a very good job identifying me and selecting the correct profile every time I go to use them.
- Variety, variety, variety! I have worked out about 6 times (for about an hour each time) with YSFE 2012 and I am completely amazed by the variety of activities available to me. I am not even close to having tried all of the categories of activities, let alone all of the activities within each category. Over 90 hours of activities are included with YSFE 2012, and they are all super fun!
Goals. You have the option of filling out a short survey to help YSFE 2012 determine your current level of fitness and your goals for using their product in terms of weight loss. I chose “Lose the muffin top”, the moderate option in terms of frequency and length, which set a reasonable goal of working out 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time. Once I chose this option, YSFE 2012 selected and flagged activities to recommend that it believes will help me to achieve my fitness goals.
- Customizability. The ability to customize your workout in terms of content and length of time is great in any setting, and YSFE 2012 makes it easy. I can focus on any body part, or get a full body workout, and there are multiple options in terms of time. For example, I can choose to do a simple 5-minute ab workout, or I can do a more intense, 35-minute-long “Shape and Burn” ab workout. That being said, the activities are so much fun to do and so addictive that doing a shorter workout is often difficult for me!
- Classes are just as good as the gym. The Fitness Classes included with this game are really what make it such a great value when compared to taking classes in a gym setting. The classes are just as hard, and just as much fun, as any class I’ve ever taken in a gym. In addition, each class category includes multiple levels, meaning that they are worlds better than doing the same fitness video day after day.
- Can be used at any fitness level. YSFE 2012 is not just for beginners or advanced users. For beginners, there are several shorter instructional sections you can complete within each category so you can learn how to do all of the moves. More advanced users need not be afraid of not being challenged enough. Many of the routines in the longer classes are hard and will have your heart pounding. You can also chose to make some of the activities more difficult, in categories such as Back or Arms, by using hand weights while you complete the exercises.
- Inaccurate calorie burns. My major complaint with YSFE 2012 is the total inaccuracy when it comes to calorie burns. After each of my workouts, I’ve been totally exhausted and sweaty, but YSFE 2012 will tell me that I burned less than 100 calories during an hour long session. My heart rate monitor, on the other hand, will tell me that I burned 500 calories! Quite the discrepancy, but it is to be expected. This is because YSFE 2012 never asks you for your age, height, weight, or sex when you begin, so it is basing its calorie burns on how it perceives your body on the screen. Hopefully they will make calorie burns more accurate by allowing users to input more personal information in future versions.
- Little to no instruction in some sections. This game relies on you being able to copy what your “trainer” is doing on the screen, without providing you with much vocal instruction. Apparently, the original YSFE included more instruction with each different move. I haven’t had much trouble with this, as long as I make sure to do the slower, shorter sections in each category to learn the moves before I do a full class/workout.
- Not all activities count towards your goal. As I mentioned earlier, when you set a goal, the program will tag certain activities for you to complete. Unfortunately, this means that only the flagged activities count towards your total time for that goal and, in some of the categories, this means you have to do a 20 minute activity to get “credit” for it!
To wrap things up, if you’re looking to add some cross-training to your running routine or some variety to your exercise routine, you should definitely check out the Kinect and Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. At $129-150 for the Kinect and $30-50 for YSFE 2012 (cheapest at Amazon), it is definitely worth the money. You will save yourself hundreds of dollars on a gym membership or equipment and get a killer workout! Just beware; this game is addictive! It’s so easy to overdo it and end up hobbling around like an old person the next day. Enjoy!