Things I Learned About Getting Fit…From That “Unlikeliest” of Sources, Video Games

Here’s another guest post by my girlfriend who previously wrote a really detailed review of the Bit Trip Saga. Enjoy!

I’m going to preface this with a little explanation; when I was in high school, I was that kid in the PE class who, upon hearing the words “It’s summer! It’s Athletics Term! Today we’re doing 1600 metres!” would curl internally into a little ball and cry the whole way around the track, probably not completing the circuit before the hour long lesson was up. Seven years later, I just completed my first 5k (on the treadmill, at least), and now next June I’m hoping to complete a 5K Race for Life. So how did that despairing, super unfit girl from high school, who then did no more exercise than walking to work for five years, finally get the motivation to get going to the gym properly?
Video games.

…I’ll explain, don’t go away rolling your eyes just yet.

It helps to have a goal in mind

Mario Jumping on Flag

No game would go anywhere if the characters didn’t have a goal they wanted to work towards, right? Similarly, if you have no goal to work towards (even if it’s something as simple as “improve overall fitness level”) and you’re going to the gym just for the sake of going, then eventually you’ll fall off the wagon. Every protagonist needs a plot to follow that really means something to them.

Characters are helpful!

Silent Hill Murphy Running

Now, this one isn’t necessarily from video games, but as someone who also writes and draws and has a veritable small army of characters from that content, alongside having some self esteem issues (that we won’t go into in detail here) it really helps to be able to imagine someone else doing the motivating sometimes. Got a favourite video game character? Why not try them? Certainly if what you’re doing is running; unless you’re using a Silent Hill protagonist who runs out of stamina on occasion and goes panting down corridors until it goes back up again (and in fairness to them, there’s a lot to run from in Silent Hill) then most RPG characters can run seemingly forever, so although normal humans can’t do that, it’s worth a try.

There’s no shame in slowing down

FFX Omega Ruins

If the game you’re playing lets you go back to previous levels, and the level you’re playing is definitely too difficult (see: almost every Atlus game ever) then there’s no shame in going back to grind somewhere earlier. And if it doesn’t, but it offers you free healing at points even if there are still monsters around – I’m particularly thinking of the Omega Ruins from Final Fantasy X, where there’s a save point right near the entrance – then there’s no problem staying around the restore point so you can level up a bit and not lose your progress. Similarly, if what you’re attempting is really straining your body, and not in a way that feels challenging but achievable, then there’s no shame in dialling it back a notch. You keep a bit more progress that way – and avoid injuries that can be caused by trying to do too much too soon.

Track your progress…

Sims Skill points

Gaining a body skill point!

Granted, real life doesn’t have EXP bars by standard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own. I’m using a system in which the calories I burn are the EXP earned. Apps like MyFitnessPal will also allow you to track how you’re doing, and will work out the best calorie intake for the results you want to see.

…and Celebrate your progress!

Giovanni Pokemon

Like a boss

We’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled for months with battling Giovanni in the Viridian City Gym, before finally achieving what we thought impossible and screaming for joy, leading our mothers to think we’re being murdered. (No? Only me then…) The point still stands; there’s no guarantee of a Hall of Fame at the end of a fitness journey, but that just means you need to find your own way to commemorate and celebrate it! You’ve worked hard for it; don’t end up resenting it.

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