The problem with a fitness routine is just that — it's a routine. And it can get dull and boring very quickly. I enjoy new challenges and innovations when it comes to my workouts, and I'm looking to change things up with colder weather keeping me at home more often. That's why I eagerly tried Supernatural, a virtual reality (VR) fitness app for the Oculus Quest.
On October 26, Supernatural released its newest modality, boxing, to join its library of full-body cardio workouts. Download the app to an Oculus and in minutes, you can throwing punches in the safe confines of your home gym (or in this small apartment dweller's case, my living room).
I was a little dubious at first that I could actually work up a sweat using VR, but I can tell you: I did and I ended up loving the blend of breathtaking settings, the variety of soundtracks, peppy and encouraging trainers and the unique qualities afforded by 360-degree virtual reality. More than that, the sheer fun of it totally saved my workout routine from falling into a rut.
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Supernatural on Oculus Quest, explained
Supernatural is an app for the Oculus Quest that costs $18.99 per month or $179.99 per year. If you've ever tried Beat Saber, it's somewhat similar.
Their motto is "Workout near, go far" because all of their programs take place in high-definition, 360-degree locations from Chichen Itza to Death Valley to the moon (literally — it's built from NASA panoramas and footage of the 1969 moon landing). The sessions are guided by coaches, each with their own specialties and styles.
Like other connected fitness apps, Supernatural comes with a companion mobile app that allows you to add friends, keep score and share photos and videos of your workout. It is also compatible with Apple Watch and most major fitness trackers.
Their first modality, Supernatural Flow, involves swinging with lightsaber-like bats at flying orbs. When you first get a started, an instructor guides you through smashing the orbs with different hands, squatting and turning around in the area you've designated as your Oculus play area.
Supernatural Boxing is similar, but you punch with your hands instead of swinging bats. You throw jabs, crosses and hooks at the orbs, while ducking and weaving under flying bars.
In both, you work out to over 1,000 hit songs from all genres, including pop, rap, rock, country and even classical and jazz. The app also offers meditation and recovery sessions.
So far, Flow has 400-500 workouts, with new ones release daily. Boxing launched with eight workouts and will add new options every week. (Learn more at GetSupernatural.com (opens in new tab))
My Supernatural workout left me sweating
After downloading Supernatural to an Oculus Quest headset, I took a short quiz about my fitness level and preferences. Then, I fired up a Getting Started program led by Leanne Pedante, Supernatural's head of fitness and a Muay Thai athlete. After a quick warm-up and instruction, I found myself in the Yuanyang Rice Terraces of China and holding two bats — a white one in my right hand, a black one in my left hand. To the lively beats of "Walking on Sunshine" and "Take on Me," I swung my bats at the orbs flying toward me, matching the bat to the color of the orb.
In my ear, Leanne relayed helpful tips and tricks, such as swinging all the way through and pivoting to a new orb-releasing portal.
After I felt comfortable with the movements, I tried out one of the new boxing programs. This was a low-intensity workout called Boxing Basics, led by Mark Harari and set in the Ad Deir in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. The thumping soundtrack included Kanye West's All of the Light's and Lupe Fiasco's Superstar.
Even at low intensity, my heart rate started rising as I began jabbing at the orbs and weaving under and to the side of incoming bars. After the 20-minute session (including warm-up and cool down), I left slightly breathless and sweaty — the ideal result for basic cardio. Other, high-intensity sessions left me breathing heavily and perspiring profusely. I was tired but exhilarated in the way that a good workout should make you feel.
Virtual reality fitness may get me through winter
The VR element is what separates Supernatural from following along to an instructor on a YouTube video. In the case of the latter, I'm never sure if I'm doing something properly or if my form is right. I just copy their movements as best as I can. With Supernatural, I felt like I achieved a better stance simply because I had to time my punches and swings to smash orbs, pivot to reach others, and duck a certain amount and in a certain direction to avoid bars.
Supernatural sets itself apart from some of the other VR fitness apps with their stunning visuals. Every time I put on a new workout, I eagerly waited to see where it was taking place. I was delighted that most workouts push you to pivot and turn, so you can take in the entire 360-degree experience. It really did feel like I was traveling around the world to work out.
Aside from the satisfaction of a proper workout, I also had a blast. The sessions had the feel of a game — sort of like playing Fruit Ninja but in 3-D. While I didn't keep score with friends or vie for a place on a leaderboard, I celebrated whenever I achieved 100% accuracy on strikes.
With winter approaching, I know I'll be less inclined to go outside to work out (and I've completely given up my gym membership). I was resigned to the same old routine of jogging on my treadmill, but now I can sweat on a Tibetan glacier. Ain't technology grand?
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