Challenge! Exercise With the Ring Fit Adventure

Welcome to the first installment of Challenge! This is a series in which I regularly push myself to try something new. It’s loosely based on the (excellent) Do By Friday podcast with Alex Cox and Merlin Mann, which I’ve followed and loved for years.

I haven’t always been proactive about expanding my comfort zone, so this is an attempt to make a change by using you, dear reader, as my form of accountability. First, I’ll tell you about how the challenge went, what I enjoyed (and didn’t), and if I think it’ll fit into my life long-term. Then, at the end of each post, I’ll let you know what the next challenge will be if you want to join me.

Let’s get started!

A Brief Review of My History with Fitness 🏃

For most of my life, I haven’t had to think much about staying fit. The activities I gravitated toward were intrinsically active, and I’ve enjoyed running for fun ever since my year of cross country in middle school. But my metabolism has naturally declined as I’ve gotten older, and my job took more and more time away from the hours I used to spend hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. This meant over the last couple of years, I’ve had to start watching my diet and exercise more regularly to stay in shape.

I should stay; I’ve had to try to exercise more regularly. The thing is, fitness kicks have always come in fits and spurts for me. I’ll get really into it for a few weeks or months and then stop cold turkey without really meaning to. That means I’m always looking for new workout options that I can drop into when I get bored or burned out. Here are a few things that I switch in and out of throughout the year: road and trail running, indoor biking, Apple Fitness+, the 7-minute workout, and rep-based bodyweight workout plans. You’ll notice that all of these have something important in common: they require minimal equipment and can be done from the comfort of my home. Actual gym equipment is intimidating, overwhelming, and just generally a non-starter for me.

Enter the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure 😅

Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure Box
(Image: Nintendo)

My insightful wife gave me the Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch as an anniversary gift a few weeks ago, and I was psyched to give it a try. But what is it? Just a resistance ring (called the Ring-Con) with a Joy-Con connector, a leg strap that holds the second Joy-Con, and the game itself. That’s it! Upon starting the game on the Switch, I was guided through attaching my Joy-Cons to the ring and strap (Pro-tip: cinch the leg strap on tightly against your skin, even if it’s under your workout shorts. Otherwise, it slides down.) and was off to the races.

Ring-Con and Leg Strap
The Ring-Con and Leg Strap (Image: Nintendo)

If you’re thinking, Hey, wasn’t there some other Nintendo fitness thing that tried to gamify exercise,” then you’d be right! When I was growing up, my family had the Wii Fit, which used a balance board and other accessories. I can tell you straight up that the Ring Fit is much better and more straightforward with just the ring and a leg strap. But I find it interesting to think about how technology has served as a good motivator. If I’ve got a gadget to try out, whether it’s a system like the Ring Fit Adventure, new headphones, or even apps, social challenges, or a built-up streak, I’m way more likely to jump into a workout.

Playing? Exercising? Can’t It Be Both? 🤷‍♂️

So far, the experience of playing” the Ring Fit Adventure game leaves a little to be desired as a 27-year-old man. Partly because I’m barely into the storyline, but also because the game is clearly designed for kids. I don’t say that as a knock against it; I knew that going in, but it’s worth mentioning. A brief synopsis: you, the main character, team up with Ring,’ your exercise mentor/magic ring, in order to beat (and reform?) a muscular monster who had been Ring’s protégé and is now terrorizing the land. You run (jog in place) through each level while blasting away obstacles, vacuuming up coins, and flying through the air by turning, squeezing, and pulling on the ring in your hands. At several points, you encounter monsters that need to be defeated by correctly performing a (surprising) number of reps of various exercises like squats, leg lifts, overhead presses, and more. Each of the early levels ends up being about a 1/4 mile jog, with 10-20 minutes of exercise in total.

Girl with Ring-Con and Leg Strap playing Ring Fit Adventure
This clearly isn’t me, sorry. I aspire to be that stylish while playing. (Image: Nintendo)

A few other observations:

  • It’s accurate! I was surprised as to how consistently it matched my actual movements on screen. The IR heart rate sensor also consistently detects a rate that’s in line with my Apple Watch. (By the way, I start a Mixed Cardio workout on my watch to get credit there. It seems like the most relevant workout type available.)
  • The ring offers more resistance than I expected, especially for a game that is supposedly designed for kids.
  • I appreciate that the game always offers warm-up and cool-down stretches. You can skip them, but I don’t.

Enough description, here’s the brass tax:

The Good 👍

  • It works. Every time I play, I feel like I’m getting a proper, full workout. I’m sweating, sore, and out of breath.
  • It’s engaging. I rarely look at the clock during the workout, probably because I’d miss a coin or run into a barrier.
  • The interaction method adds to the workout. All the interactions like making menu selections or moving forward through dialog require a squeeze or press of the ring, which adds up!
  • It’s perfect for morning workouts. Since getting started is as quick and quiet as plugging in the Joy-Cons and turning on the TV, I can exercise without disturbing my wife, even if she’s sleeping in the adjacent room.
  • I can multitask while working out. And by that, I mean I can listen to other music or podcasts while playing since everything is demonstrated or written out onscreen, unlike Fitness+, where I have to listen to the instructors to get the full effect.

Room for Improvement 👎

  • It’s got a pretty simple storyline. There’s not a lot of nuance to the story, which means it can feel receptive from level to level. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but I do hope that things will get a little more complex as I progress through the game.
  • Exercises are also repetitive, even in Shuffle mode. When battling monsters, you can either choose the exercise or have the system select randomly for you. But it feels like the shuffled selections are anything but random. This, again, is probably a byproduct of not having gotten too far into the game yet, and I’m confident that more variety will be added throughout the journey. If not, I’ll just have jacked triceps from all the overhead presses I’m doing.
  • In the same vein, I’m hoping there will be more creative ways to use the ring in addition to all pulling and squeezing. I don’t know what it could be, but my hopes are nevertheless high.

Going Forward ➡️

As you can probably gather, I’m planning on sticking with the Ring Fit. I want to see how the story plays out, and I’ve enjoyed each of the 30-40 minute workouts I’ve done with it so far. As the months turn colder and the days get shorter, I’m expecting the Ring Fit to be a great option to stay active while indoors this winter. And when I’ve worked my way through all the levels, there are still mini-games to come back to time after time. This last bit is significant because, as I mentioned above, when I inevitably fall off the Ring Fit game, it will be nice to have a way to ease back in.

All in all, I’m super pleased to have the Ring Fit Adventure as a new tool in my fitness toolbox, and I am impressed with the quality of workouts it facilitates. It gets my full recommendation. And if the Wii Fit’s history provides any roadmap on what to expect from the Ring Fit, there will (or could already) be other games that utilize its clever hardware. But based on even my brief time with it, I expect the Ring Fit to fit (hehe) in my life much longer and more effectively.

Thanks for reading this installment of Challenge!. I’d love to hear about how you motivate yourself to stay active. You can hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an email. Those are also great places to connect if you’re participating in the challenges or have a future challenge idea to share.

The next challenge: Track Calories With an App


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