I've been using the Xbox 360 version of UFC Personal Trainer for almost three weeks now, and a few people have asked about the game - there's definitely been more interest in this from the VideoGamer.com community than almost every other fitness game on the market combined. I imagine that's because it's based on a sport where men punch and kick each other very hard, and sometimes in the face.
I've been keeping a diary of my progress, which should shed some light on what it's actually like for a grumpy fat person to attempt one of its 30-day programs.
Spoiler: it's not pretty.
Thursday July 7
Like many human blobs, I'm enormously fat. Even as I type this I'm thinking about going to the shops and buying a share-sized bag of Doritos all for myself. I'm also incredibly poor and surprisingly lazy, so while I've always wanted to have a body that other humans find attractive I'm clearly unprepared to put the work in. Still, an opportunity to (try and) get fit on company time while messing about with a Kinect sounds like it's far too good to pass over.
So, away we go! I'm going to be using THQ's UFC Personal Trainer and one of its 30-day challenges, and in the interests of full disclosure I am also taking part in a fitness competition sponsored by THQ.
Friday July 8
I didn't exercise yesterday, sadly, as I was much too busy thinking of an introductory paragraph for my fitness article. Today, however, was the Fitness Evaluation test. I also had to run the Kinect Tuner and move most of the furniture in the living room: some of that furniture is quite heavy, so I'm fairly sure that's enough calories burnt that I can treat myself to a free pie or something.
The Fitness Evaluation goes like this: some video of a really muscular dude with nipples the size of a 50 pence piece instructs me that I'm going to get really fit (disclaimer: neither THQ nor Zuffa, LLC are responsible if I do not get really fit) and then I have to do as many push ups, sit ups, and jumping jacks as I can over the course of a few minutes. I can't do very many, so I sort of floundered around on the floor feeling a bit sorry for myself.
With a noticeable whiff of pity, the game declared that my fitness level was 'Beginner' and said that I could get better if I tried really hard. There was even a moment where the game insinuated I could get the body of a real UFC fighter and I laughed, and the game and I had an awkward moment.
Saturday July 9
Exercise! Exercise is happening! Greg Jackson has trained some of the world's best UFC fighters, such as Jon Jones and George St-Pierre, and now a virtual Greg Jackson is taking on his toughest challenge yet: me.
You have to start with a warm-up routine, which is always arm circles, a few leg raises, some squats, and then some mountain climbers.
Mountain climbers, if you ask me, are the kind of exercise designed by really fit and athletic people purely to humiliate fat, lazy people. I can't do them. I do about five seconds before I'm knackered, and then I sort of sit on the floor puffing away while virtual Greg Jackson carries on for another minute. Why do none of these exercises seem to involve rolling around gently on the floor and drinking milkshake?
The game offers you six different kinds of workout - 30 and 60-day variations of building strength, building endurance, and losing weight. I'm doing the latter, because I am rotund and spherical.
I'm going to be painfully honest, here: these exercises sting like a mother**ker. I feel that the game is kicking me when I'm down, and then asking me to do ten more leg lifts while I'm at it. Virtual Greg Jackson would probably say something about how I need more passion and intensity, but I am actually doing the best I can.
Monday July 11
I don't feel much thinner yet - how long is this supposed to take? My gut instinct tells me seriously wanting at least two bowls of Maple & Pecan Crisp for breakfast probably isn't a step in the right direction, but my gut is at least half to blame for this situation to begin with.
Diet is obviously important, isn't it? That's the kind of thing they say in motivational videos and exercise tapes. The game doesn't tell you what to eat, but there's plenty of contradictory information on the internet for you to wade through.
There are obvious things I need to cut out - the daily VideoGamer.com staff outing to Greggs is right out, for instance, as is my regular habit of having fish and chips with my girlfriend on Saturday evenings. Phasing out that kind of stuff is obvious.
The problematic stuff, I find, is everything else. I eat of lot of carbohydrates, because they are cheap and delicious and they are easily the best food group of them all, provided you exclude the ice cream food group.
The basic gist of my diet plan is this: more protein, more fruit and vegetables, some healthy fats, and no starchy carbohydrates unless I'm eating after exercise. The latter one means I spend most of my life feeling hungry.
Foods I am currently missing: Doritos, toast, Hob Nob biscuits, almost everything sold in Greggs, chips, mash, spaghetti Bolognese, and chilli con carne. Also I'd quite like some noodles and Jammie Dodgers, but not together.
And for some reason I've just developed a strong desire to eat an entire packet of Party Rings. How on Earth can Virtual Greg Jackson question my commitment and intensity if I'm not indulging my very real Party Rings fantasy?
Wednesday July 13
Still doing the exercises, although I do I think about how nice it would be if I wasn't doing them. I don't think I'm going to ever become a real UFC fighter.
Am I thin yet?
Friday July 15
Bloody hell. Has it only been one week? I feel like I'm dying.
If I'm being honest, though, the exercises have got slightly easier. I can now do mountain climbers without passing out, and I can finish at least one set of bicycle crunches, v-ups, and leg lifts without feeling like my abdominal muscles have been ripped out of my torso.
What I find odd, though, is the massive contrast between abdominal exercises and the ones targeting the arms and chest. I'm not using any resistance bands or free weights (the game asks if you've got these at the beginning) but there's something noticeably lacking about certain exercises.
Take the bicep curl, for instance. The game is asking me to bicep curl the air twenty times. Is that supposed to be difficult? I could probably do it two thousand times. All I am doing is waving my arms about - is this really going to give me guns of steel?
Sunday July 17
Despite doing the cool down stretches after yesterday's workout I find myself in a lot of pain this morning.
I'm allowed Sundays off. Thanks, Virtual Greg! Hopefully my abdominal muscles will be able to use this day to recover.
But it turns out maintaining a diet over the weekend is much, much harder than during the week. Is it possible to get a diet sponsor? I feel that I need a number I can call for emotional support every time I walk past a cake shop. I almost broke down walking past a Starbucks and looking at the muffins and frappuccinos.
My girlfriend says dieting makes me grumpy and unpleasant to be around.
Monday July 18
Even though it's only been 10 days I'm already feeling healthier. Which is a little bit surprising - I imagine I'd just give UFC Trainer a go and notice virtually no difference, just like when I tried Your Shape: Fitness Evolved last year.
I notice it in little ways: I can climb stairs easier, for instance, and I can walk around at a faster pace.
Some newfound optimism meant I approached today's exercises in a slightly better mood. I'm still shit at bicycle crunches, however.
Tuesday July 19
Stood on some scales this morning, and I've lost 3kg (almost 7lb) in 11 days. I'd like to make it a full stone by the end of the 30-day routine.
I'm not going to measure my weight again until I've finished, though, as I could already feel myself becoming bizarrely obsessive compulsive over the scales. I do not want to be That Guy.
Thursday July 21
Exercises are coming along nicely. I can now complete most of the abdominal stuff, which is an achievement in itself - two weeks ago I could barely finish half the set.
After a workout I load up one of the 'Hit the Mitts' activities, which is basically punching the air in specific ways. This really shows up the flaws in the Kinect sensor - it's very, very easy to cheat the game. I also have to do it because the game has an uncanny knack of not saving my workout progress, and I've read on the internet doing a few activities forces the game to save.
Cheating isn't really in the spirit of the proceedings, mind, but part of my profession means I'm always looking for ways to break software.
Saturday July 23
The canned animations start to get a bit old after a while, I think. It would also be great if the game mixed up its warm ups and cooldowns a bit, because doing the same routines every day starts to get a little bit boring.
Lots of people have been telling me I've lost weight this week, which is certainly encouraging.
Sunday July 24
When this 30-day program is over I'm going to go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant and seriously pig out. Once won't hurt, right?
Tuesday July 26
Felt absolutely knackered this morning, and my energy levels seemed suspiciously low. I found myself finding it harder to do the routine, which was a relatively simple one: two circuits of v-ups, leg lifts, and bicycle crunches followed by two sets of push-ups, front raises, Arnold presses, and rear tricep extensions.
I didn't really have much motivation to exercise, but I managed to thrash through the exercises. I think my grace period with UFC Trainer - that initial excitement of trying everything out - is starting to wear off, but I also think I'm going to keep using it after finishing the 30-day program.
I'm clearly seeing results, and while I imagine there's a fitness level where it makes a lot more sense just to go to a gym, that's certainly a bit out of my reach at the moment. I'll stick with the game for now - and I reckon I'll easily be able to have lost a stone by the time gamescom rolls around in August.