A wii bit
By Scott Nicholson
A local woman has taken fitness into the virtual realm, helping form an online support group for those wanting to work out, lose weight and share tips and triumphs.
Sarah Pinnix of Fleetwood was using a video gaming system — Nintendo’s Wii Fit — for her workouts, but as a socially oriented mother, she found enjoyment in sharing her activities. Because exercise is often a solitary endeavor, she used her available connections and networks to build a gathering place for Web workout junkies.
Pinnix is one of four founders of Wii Fit Mommies, but what makes her workout group special is that her partners are scattered across the country: Julie Maloney in South Carolina, Cynthia Werry in California and Jenn Hethcoat in Kansas.
Pinnix said all four founders had “mom blogs” and Nintendo was sponsoring a series of Wii giveaways.
“We wondered if we could have a Wii Fit blog and have people follow it online. We got a group of four moms together and started it.”
Sarah Pinnix of Fleetwood uses a Wii Fit program to work out online with friends across the country. The program integrates an interactive training program on a monitor or television (pictured in screen shot, left) with a balance board, which measures weight and center of balance. The training program offers 40 different tracks, including yoga, aerobics, push ups, strength and balance tests. Photo by Mark Mitchell
Wii is a gaming system that has motion sensors that require the the operator to mimic the action that will appear on the game screen. Nintendo produced various fitness activities like yoga, step aerobics, hula hooping and other regimens. The game has a balance board that allows users to measure their activity and body-mass index. "The games get more advanced as you go," Pinnix said. "It's really a more interactive system than watching a video and doing the same thing over and over again. You also get instant feedback on how you are doing and if you're doing something wrong."
The group members meet online every Friday at www.fitness.coolmomguide.com for "Fitness Friday" and have a revolving guest blogger from another blog who is engaged in Wii Fit. It's a non-profit effort and offers unbiased reviews of the Wii Fit as well as support and interaction for system users.
"I see it as a way to help other women and keep growing and encouraging other people to get fit," Pinnix said. "Hopefully, we'll get more exposure for people to exercise. We disguise it in so much fun that it helps people get some exercise. We hope to get some sponsors for prizes to give things away to moms who participate."
Group members post their goals and encourage each other. A blog forum allows the moms and their site visitors to post comments and share schedules and routines. Pinnix said there were about 300 forum members, with many different people sharing their weight-loss and activity goals.
Pinnix is no stranger to either mom groups or technology. She is involved in High Country Mommies, High Country Mom Squad and Mothers of Preschoolers. She also edits her own blog at www.reallifeblog.net and operates the Mom Squad Web site.
As the mother of three young children, Pinnix found the computer a convenient way to get feedback on her exercise and fitness.
"To drive to the gym, 25 minutes back and forth, was too much time and too much gas, so I was looking for something I could do at home that was interactive," Pinnix said.
In her three weeks of activity, she's lost three pounds, and she posts her progress every Friday. She sometimes posts video tips of her workouts. Maloney, one of the other founders, has lost 60 pounds using the Nintendo system, though the group notes it is not sponsored by the game.
Despite the title, Wii Fit Mommies isn't just for mothers. Anyone can join in, and there's a special "Dad" section. Together, they envision the Web site’s mission as “building a community of people supporting one another in their weight loss goals using the fun, entertaining Wii Fit system manufactured by Nintendo."
The Wii Fit Mommies have held two successful Twitter parties, which are virtual online parties during which participants send messages, or “Tweets,” to engage in chat. Hundreds show up to share tips and win prizes, with the next party scheduled for Feb. 13 titled “Lots of Love (Handles) to Give.”
The use of technology doesn't stop there. The group has partnered with NewBaby.com, a video blogging website, so members can share their experiences by posting video using the Flip Video Camera. The Wii Fit Mommies will be featured on NewBaby.com as the site’s “Fitness Experts.”
Pinnix said though the group is non-profit, it is seeking prizes and sponsorships, and she also encourages people to visit the Wii Fit Mommies forum.