Healthy Gamer

Healthy Gamer: “Cheating the System” Or “How Tetris Got Me In Better Shape”

There exists no better picture to exemplify this post.
There exists no better picture to exemplify this post.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass

Last time around, I gave you, my two readers, a fair warning about the dangers of the AMT. While I’ve returned to the lair of the beast several times since then, I’ve learned to avoid its wrath.

With my quads still sore (but functional at this point) I returned to  the gym with the intent of doing what I meant to do last time, which is to say, the whole damn routine prescribed to me by the professional that I had as of yet not managed to complete.

I climbed on the elliptical machine (the RIGHT kind), plugged my iPod into some Girl Talk and started moving. Just a minute or two in, the pain in my quads melted away and I happily bobbed along to the rhythm. I know that Girl Talk isn’t for everyone, but I defy anyone to find a better cardio soundtrack.

Back when the NES ruled the electrum age of video gaming (the golden age of course belonging to Super Nintendo) (Doi) the perennially popular puzzle game Tetris was a favorite of mine.

You could set up the game to start at any difficulty level 0-9, with it automatically increasing with every 10 lines scored. I would hope at this point I don’t actually have to explain what Tetris is to anyone, but the times they are a-changing.

Pretty much.
Pretty much.

When I was a kid, level 9 seemed impossible to beat. By the time I crossed into that threshold, my panicked mind had already made several mistakes causing single annoying gaps buried under tons of bricks. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies increased to a menacingly fast tempo heralding my impending doom; certain, unavoidable and redundant.  

I tried again and again, and while I got incrementally better, those increments were pretty tiny. It was going to be a long time before I muscled through level 9.

One day my friend showed me a trick he picked up with the game. Turns out if you held down a certain button when you made your level selection, it would add 10 to the difficulty. This would allow me to start at level 10. Yeah, it was faster than 9, but I had no debris to start with.

Sheerly for the sake of amusement, I started a game at level 19. Predictably, I lasted under a minute under those brutal conditions. Entertained at just how much more difficult it was, I tried playing that way for 5 or 6 more games. This is where the phrase “exercise in futility” was born.

I had a light bulb moment and went back to start at level 9, which in comparison to level 19 was painfully slow. I played through 9 as well as 10 and 11 with little difficulty. Amazing what some exposure to hard conditions can do to your ability to endure. 

The lost two minutes on the elliptical machine came and went with little notice and another 13 minutes besides. The next day, I took that initial recommendation and doubled it. Apparently, my laughably short session on the AMT made me a lot more capable of handling the standard elliptical machine. Life imitates Tetris. It’s surprising how often that happens (says someone who is packing to move right now.)

This is pretty much how I felt this time around.
This is pretty much how I felt this time around.

You’d think that doubling my time would be enough, but at that point I was a bit obsessed with outlasting the person on the machine next to me, who was one of those people who didn’t have sweat glands as far as I can tell. This didn’t happen, but make no mistake,  you’re next on my list,  Some Random Woman I Will Probably Never See Again. You know who you are.

I conquered these things and was rewarded with a fantastic feeling of accomplishment and an endorphin rush that granted me a temporary ability to fly. No shit! I didn’t use it because it didn’t grant any such landing ability, but it was totally there.
Next visit to the gym, I’m going for a solid hour. Stay tuned to hear of my probable defeat, most likely at 58 minutes.

NEXT TIME: America is calling collect. Will you accept the charge?


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