I Tried a VR Workout to Shake Up My Exercise Routine — Here’s What Happened

published Jan 17, 2022
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Credit: Supernatural

You’ve probably heard or thought this before, but finding a workout I actually like has been tough. I’ve gone through the “joins a gym, gets bored of the gym, and then quits the gym” cycle more times than I can count. Every single time I felt defeated, called myself lazy, and took a long break before repeating the process again. Going to the gym takes effort and can lead to too much comparison and self-consciousness. It just isn’t for me, and that’s okay.

But with gyms closed or limited for much of the pandemic, at-home workouts have become even more popular and diverse. I always thought of VR as a gamer’s thing, so when I heard about Supernatural, the VR (virtual reality) fitness app for Oculus Quest, I was surprised — but intrigued.

Supernatural promises to turn your living room into an outdoor dance floor with a variety of boxing, cardio, meditation, and recovery workouts. Oh, and it can also drop you right in the middle of some breathtaking landscapes, from the Great Wall of China to Ethiopia’s Erta Ale volcano, and even the surface of the moon.

It sounds like science fiction, but in an attempt to become one of those people who actually enjoy working out, I gave Supernatural a try for the past two months, and this is how it stepped up my at-home workout game.

Supernatural let me try their product for free. For new customers, there is a 30-day free trial. After that, the service costs $19 per month or $179 per year.

Credit: Supernatural

It gave me a sense of privacy.

Being the new kid can be hard, and when trying new things workout-wise, it can be intimidating to be the beginner in a room full of pros. But VR offers a safe space for me to jump the cliff — sometimes literally — and test my limits without the fear of missing a step or the pressure to learn at the same speed of those around me.

I joined a real community.

While most of the time, my greatest joy from these workouts is that I don’t have to deal with anyone but myself, sharing my journey with people struggling the same way I do helps me push myself further, especially when motivation is lacking. Supernatural’s official community on Facebook hosts 36,000-plus members who use the group as both a daily source of inspiration and a platform to share their fitness journeys and struggles, which helps keep the whole experience very down to earth. The first time I joined I spent about half an hour just scrolling through threads and felt so seen and inspired by the stories I read. I still go there to find some extra motivation whenever I feel like I just can’t.

It’s harder to come up with excuses.

With time I’ve become an expert at finding reasons not to go to the gym — from “it’s too cold/hot outside” to “I’ll skip it today but do it tomorrow” to “the commute is too long.” But with these VR workouts, there isn’t a lot involved in the prep, so it’s harder to make excuses. Bad weather? I can do it from the comfort of my temperature-controlled living room. Too tired? I can go for meditation or recovery-mode sessions. No time? I can do a 15-minute workout and call it a day.

Credit: Supernatural

There’s less room for self-consciousness.

Mirrors in a gym can be super helpful when trying to improve your posture, form, or moves, but they can also make you feel self-conscious and push you to compare yourself to others. When immersed in Supernatural’s universe all I see are the orbs coming at me, the bats in my hands, and the breathtaking scenery around me. I’m never visually present in the picture, which helps me judge myself less and listen to my body more — plus it’s a great way to exercise my muscle memory.

The coaches are relatable.

It may only be me, my headset, and my controllers in the room, but I’m not doing this alone. Every workout features a coach who “appears” in front of you at the beginning and the end of every session for a brief warm-up and cool-down so your body is well prepared for exercising and able to gradually recover afterward. Their voice accompanies you throughout the whole workout with motivational statements, tips to perform better, and comments to remind you that you should feel proud that you showed up and are pushing yourself.

The coaches are also an active part of the Supernatural community and are allowed to reference their real lives and backgrounds. That makes it easier for member to see them as actual humans instead of drop-down-and-give-me-five-more kind of instructors.

It doesn’t feel like I’m working out.

At one point in my life, I realized that in order to enjoy exercising and not feel like it was an obligation, I had to rebuild my relationship with the whole concept of working out. I always thought of the gym as this place where I was supposed to go if I wanted to get fit and lose pounds — and that I was expected to suffer through the experience. But that’s exactly where Supernatural made things different for me, as the goal isn’t set on sweating uncontrollably or becoming the next fitness guru. It’s not about the pounds you lose but about becoming a healthier version of you based only on yourself.