Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is a revelation, turning otherwise bland and gruelling workouts into fun and fully customisable play sessions.
Unsurprisingly, copies of the Nintendo Switch game and its intuitive peripheral were impossible to find during the height of the 2020 lockdown. Cut off from our usual exercise routines, many of us looked for an alternate way of staying fit. Ring Fit Adventure was waiting with a well-timed one-two punch, balancing interactive entertainment with its tailored workouts.
Jim: From personal experience, Ring Fit helped me through those depressing first months of isolation. Shedding well over a stone in weight, it instilled discipline in an otherwise rudderless time in my life and helped me become a more active and mindful person overall.
Meanwhile, Sam was ready to embark on a journey: after recovering from an injury, could Ring Fit get him back in shape to smash his 5k record?
In May 2020 it became clear the pandemic wasn’t a short term thing that would blow over in a matter of months.
I was losing my daily walking commute for the foreseeable future. I took up running to try and out-train my terrible diet. In August I found out that the London Marathon was going to be virtual and decided on a whim to sign up. In October I ran the marathon and raised over £1,000 for Musgrove Hospital.
After the marathon I picked up some pain in my knee and couldn’t run for the next few months. And when I came back to my new hobby I was much slower and very out of shape.
My previous 5k average time was around 27 minutes, but I was struggling to break 32 in February 2021. I wasn’t even able to complete the whole 5k without some walking for the first few weeks, which was actually worse than when I first started running in May 2020!
This trend unfortunately continued without much improvement until the end of April 2021, when I purchased Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure.
My plan was to run a test 5k to find my current speed and then to spend a month doing Ring Fit for at least 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. Would I be able to drastically reduce my time from 31 minutes 56 seconds?
Test 5k time – 31m 56s
I started out well, alternating easy runs with Ring Fit sessions. In the first week I managed 3 runs and 4 Ring Fit workouts, joined the game’s Reddit community, and bought a yoga mat. In my notes that week I have mostly complained about how the planks are hard and that Adventure’s opening 30 minute session was mostly story/cutscene.
I alternated this week and did 4 runs and 3 sessions on Ring Fit, but I have started to unlock more moves now to use in the battles and I’m enjoying these more. I’m unable to stop from only using the most powerful moves in battles, which are not always the most challenging. Planks are still the best core move and that’s a crying shame. Literally, I could have cried.
For those who haven’t played, Ring Fit is basically a fitness JRPG. The story mode is split between obstacle courses that each represent a stage in your journey. Instead of issuing attack commands during turn-based battles, you’ll need to select one of the exercises slotted into your loadout. For example, 20 Tricep Kickbacks, or 15 Wide Squats. Successful reps will chip away at the health bars of your opponents.
There’s a layer of strategic nuance for fans of the genre. Exercises are colour-coded to deal extra damage, items can be crafted, and there’s a hefty skill tree loaded with character upgrades. These elements are intriguing though not essential. Running the same stages with minimal interaction with the RPG mechanics is certainly viable and no less fun!
I noticed some improvements this week – I’m able to run the entire 5k route now without walking breaks. I’m also starting to enjoy Ring Fit’s minimal story. I’ve increased the difficulty a few times to get a harder workout and am in the upper set of levels. I finish the week with a test run.
This isn’t a great idea.
On the last few hundred yards of the run I feel a twinge in my knee. A short, sharp pain that is not unlike an injection. I finish the run and walk home, but the pain doesn’t go away. I’ve managed to re-injure myself.
I’ve been unable to run for two weeks now. I’ve also been unable to Ring Fit, as squatting causes the same knee pain. I think this is around this time Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart comes out. Good game.
I’m back! Taking it lightly, but I’m now able to play and run again. I manage 2 Ring Fit sessions and 2 runs, trying to take breaks and go for walks to recover.
With a lot of stretching, foam rolling and recovery walking I am back to full strength. I did 4 workouts and 3 runs. I’m planning on taking the final test run the week after next. I feel strong and my runs are feeling very easy, maybe this is the Ring Fit working.
I do 4 workouts and then 3 runs again. I’m feeling strong on my runs and strong on Ring Fit. I’ve increased the difficulty to the maximum to feel like I’ve worked out for long enough as there’s a lot of admin. I’ve seen the subreddit talking about custom workouts, so I start doing those.
The hidden benefit of playing Ring Fit is the sense of routine it can help create. Blocking out just 20 minutes a few days a week can really show results not just in terms of your figure, but your mentality towards exercise. Away from story mode, you can start creating your own customised workouts, ideal for focusing on certain muscle groups, especially when you have an injury!
This is it. I’m doing custom workouts all week this week, pulling back on the running so I can go out on fresh legs for the test. I do 4 workouts in the build up.
The time has come. I lace up my trainers and go out for the run. I set my watch to keep me on pace to run 5k in a specific time – 25 minutes. That’s 7 minutes faster than the beginning of this and 1 minute 42 seconds better than my best ever 5k time.
I start out how I start out every max effort run – too fast. As I come up to the 1k point I check my watch and I’m 40 seconds ahead of pace. This is bad, I’m likely to tire out and not be able to run my best. I consciously try to slow down. 3k in and I am unable to keep up. My lead is dwindling away and by 3.5k I am now behind. I’m still going faster than I’ve ever run.
At 4.5k my watch is estimating my finish time around 26 minutes 45. 3 seconds over my 5k PB. Not today. The final 200 meters starts with a descent. I sprint down and allow the momentum to carry me to the finish line. My watch chirps away to let me know I’m done, kind of like the music that plays when you win a battle in a JRPG. Fitting.
26 minutes. 11 seconds. 31 seconds over my fastest EVER time! I struggled for months to regain the speed, then not only regained it but smashed past it in only a few weeks with the help of Ring Fit.
Instead of gluing us to the sofa, Nintendo has helped many gamers get up and moving, encouraging healthy habits and no doubt changing the lives of some players who would never have tried home workouts. Ring Fit has been an overwhelming success for the Switch and this will hopefully inspire Nintendo to revisit the concept in future for a potential sequel.