This Virtual Workout Platform Has Me Sweating In the Most Beautiful Places Around the World
Raise your hand if, after almost two years of at-home workouts during the pandemic (!!), you've hit a wall with exercising in your living room or backyard. Same, same. My workouts (when I actually felt motivated to do them) started to feel stale, my high-performance leggings became "house pants," and I started to question if I could even get an effective workout in at home that would leave me breathless afterward and sore days later.
That was, until I was introduced to the Oculus Quest 2 and Supernatural, an immersive VR (read: virtual reality) workout app, at the beginning of this year. To be clear, I am not a techie gal. I still need to Google my way around my iPhone. But the idea of sweating it out in some of the most beautiful places around the world — after a year of not leaving the United States, much less my parents' home in Florida — piqued my interest enough that I wanted to give it a go. (Related: 10 Adventure Vacations to Take for the Fitness Thrill of It)
If, like me, you're wanting to freshen up your at-home workouts — whether it's because cold winter weather is trapping you indoors, your gym is still closed due to COVID, or you're not comfortable exercising in a public space yet — the Oculus, paired with Supernatural, could be the thing for you. The app offers daily fitness classes (for all levels), encouraging music, and photorealistic scenery that'll make it so fun, you'll forget that you're working out.
What Is the Oculus Quest 2?
To break it down for those not familiar with VR, the Oculus Quest 2 is a virtual reality headset that comes with two handheld controllers. It's wireless — giving you freedom of movement — and all the apps and games are stored on the headset, meaning you don't need any additional hardware for it to work. You wear the Oculus Quest on your head, much like a snorkel mask (don't worry, you'll get used to feeling a bit top-heavy and nerdy!), but instead of a clear window to peep fish, you have a padded pair of goggle-like lenses that house a screen, offering you 3D visuals. (Related: Turn to These Streaming Workouts When You Can't Break a Sweat at the Gym)
Once setup is complete, you'll find yourself standing in a gorgeous virtual living room, featuring a floating panel, your Oculus system menu. Here, you can browse app, game, and video content, manage your settings, and connect with friends through Facebook. New Quest 2 owners need to have a Facebook account in order to use the headset, while existing users have until January 2023 to switch over to Facebook. It's important to note that you cannot use Oculus Quest 2 without a Facebook account — so if you don't have one and don't want to set one up, this is not the VR set for you. (Related: Lana Condor Talks About Her Two Favorite Workouts and How She Stays Chill During a Wild Time)
Wondering how you stay safe while working out within this virtual reality world without, say, stubbing your toe on your couch or knocking over your favorite vase? When you activate the headset, its external cameras will show you a grayscale view of your surrounding environment in real time on screen. Using the controllers in your hand, you'll draw a circle around you to show the headset the boundaries you can freely play within. (FYI, the Oculus suggests a minimum of 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet.) Once finished, the "guardian wall" is revealed, which is a grid-like wall that makes itself visible if you try to cross it. For instance, if you stick your head through the guardian, you'll see your real-world environment, signaling that you're out of bounds. Also, keep in mind that guardian may not be able to detect people or pets that enter your play area.
The only downside I found with the Oculus Quest 2 was that the headset was a little awkward and it slips a bit, which can be distracting during use. It has an adjustable headband, but I have a small head, so it's not a perfect fit. Not to mention, you can't really wear a ponytail comfortably while wearing the headband — important to note for those who like to throw their hair up while working out.
All About the Supernatural Workout App
While there are a bunch of workout apps to load and try, my go-to sweat session is Supernatural, which offers total-body workouts that are more like a game than a follow-along class. It may sound too good to be true, but it's a seriously great workout (I'm actually more sore the next day than I was after some of my cardio classes pre-Covid), and it allows me to exercise in the most picturesque locations around the world — as if I'm teleported out of my living room. (Related: 5 Eco-Friendly Trips That Are Better for You and the Environment)
Picture this: You open your eyes and find yourself standing on the Great Wall of China, floating above the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, or perched on the ruins of Machu Picchu. After glancing around at your breathtaking surroundings, you notice black and white targets floating towards you. Your task? To slice them with the corresponding black and white light saber-type bats (controlled by the controllers in your hands) to an upbeat playlist. Before you know it, your heart beat is racing and you're dripping in sweat, as you swing your bats, squat, and lunge through virtual triangles.
You can pick from low-, medium-, and high-intensity workouts, along with more relaxed stretching and meditation sessions. Whether you only have a bit of time to spare between Zoom meetings or like to kick off your Saturday mornings with a solid workout, Supernatural offers options ranging from around 5 minutes to 25 minutes to suit your needs.
Like with any workout class, you'll start with a warm up to get limber while a virtual coach motivates you. Once the workout begins, you follow instructions from your coach and use the controllers in your hands to smash black and white orbs coming towards you, while jamming to music, ranging from country to 90s to today's hits. But if you think this is an arms-only workout, that's where you'd be wrong. Supernatural also sends triangles toward you, and you must squat or lunge your way through them — and trust me, it burns in a good way.
As a bonus, you can pair your heart rate monitor or fitness tracker with the app. You'll receive workout summaries revealing your accuracy and power during each session. There's also a community feature on the Supernatural app that allows you to share your workouts and find your place on the weekly leaderboard — if you're into that. (Related: How Might Virtual Reality Porn Affect Sex and Relationships?)
(FTR, Supernatural is currently exclusive to the Oculus Quest 2 — you'll just pay a $19 monthly subscription fee after a 30-day free trial.)
My Experience with Supernatural VR Workouts
The first time I used the Oculus Quest 2 was also my first time using Supernatural. I was a total newbie to the VR world and had never done a virtual workout before. Being an editor in the fitness and wellness space for years, I've tested my fair share of workout classes, from barre and spin to Muay Thai and kickboxing. As excited as I was at the thought of a completely new way to get active, I was also nervous that I'd feel overwhelmed by the technology — that it would have a learning curve I wouldn't be able to master. Not to mention, I wasn't convinced virtual fitness would be all that effective.
I couldn't have been more wrong. Setting up the Oculus and Guardian wall was much easier (and more intuitive) than I had anticipated. I mapped out a safe play space in my living room, selected the Supernatural app, and started with an introduction session so I could get the hang of things — i.e. wearing the headset, using the controllers, adapting my body movements, and adjusting to a virtual world. (Related: 10 Ways to Do Squats with Weights)
Because I have a knee issue, I panicked slightly at the thought of all of the squats and lunges. However, the VR technology actually accommodated for my modifications, so that I could exercise safely with Supernatural. It calculated how far my body was from the floor and then adjusted the exercises to the squat depth that was comfortable for me.
Once I entered my first workout session, my Oculus controllers became bats — one black and one white. A coach appeared on a floating yoga mat in front of me, guiding me through the warm up (and their voice provided me with tips as I progressed through the workout afterward). Before I knew it, I was dropped into an incredibly real-looking landscape where I was floating over the most beautiful turquoise water, as if I was on vacation. The scenery was so unbelievable that I wanted to stare in awe at my surroundings rather than get down to business and exercise.
But there was no time; music started pumping in my ears as black and white orbs floated towards me, forcing me to jump into action, swinging my arms and blasting the orbs with my batons. Shortly after, glowing triangles began rushing toward me, signaling that I would need to either squat or lunge through them while still slicing orbs. (If you're not good at multitasking now, trust me, you will be after Supernatural.) As the pace quickened, I tried my best to stay focused and coordinated with my swings, but I also found myself laughing and smiling — this was fun. By the time I completed the workout (which was like five minutes, BTW), my heart was racing, I was breathing heavily, and was coated in sweat. Color me shocked.
Though I hadn't been super motivated to work out from home during the pandemic, this was a total game-changer. For the first time in a long time, I was actually excited to sweat it out at home — because I wasn't ~really~ home. Sure, my feet might have been planted on the same familiar carpet, but my body felt like it was actually transported to an incredible destination thousands of miles away — which also helped save my sanity during a year of being stagnant at home. Not to mention, the workouts are killer (to the point you'll be sore, I promise), the music is super motivating, and the coaching helps to push you forward.
Celebrities Love Supernatural, Too
If you need more convincing, Eugene Levy, Kelly Ripa, and Ryan Seacrest are all big fans of the Oculus Quest 2 and Supernatural. On an episode of LIVE with Kelly and Ryan, Kelly Ripa shared that, after complaining to her executive producer about being sedentary during the pandemic (with gyms and fitness studios being closed), he suggested she try the Oculus Quest 2. After receiving the device, she downloaded the Supernatural app, and she said it was exactly what she had been craving. "Heart rate goes up, dripping sweat, I'm still sore from three days ago," she said. "I'm sore, I was sweating, dripping with sweat. I was out of breath. It's everything you want."
The Oculus Quest 2 even gets the stamp of Shape's social media director, Marietta Alessi, who says that it's brought so much fun into her life. "Six months into the lockdown, I felt like it would be eons until I got to travel, but then I got the Quest 2 and my world literally opened. I was able to climb snow mountains, explore caves, and traverse a tropical island, all while getting a great upper-body workout in The Climb app (a virtual rock climbing game). I perfected my putt in Top Golf, which I never got to do IRL. I felt like a kid again playing wacky games like Sports Scramble, which lets you play traditional games like tennis and baseball with unique equipment like a fish foam finger — yes, really. I could even let super loose and have a dance off in a club or a at a fitness studio. Since getting the device, I've convinced four people to buy it, and no one regrets it. I've only scratched the surface of this amazing gift and can't wait to go further!"
VR sets can be extremely pricey, and, fortunately, the Oculus Quest 2 doesn't come at a huge expense — just $300 in comparison to others that are upwards of $1,000. If you feel like your at-home workouts have gotten stale over the last two years, or if you just flat-out hate working out at home, do yourself a favor and try Supernatural — it's physically tough, but a total treat for your eyes, thanks to amazing views. You'll thank me later.