I Boxed in Virtual Reality, and Now I Hurt All Over

I Boxed in Virtual Reality, and Now I Hurt All Over
Image: Supernatural

Virtual reality fitness games have become a thing. It’s rumoured that Oculus is working on getting Apple Health to track VR workouts, and a leaked HTC Vive concept shows that getting sweaty in VR is definitely something headset makers are thinking about. Now popular VR fitness game Supernatural is adding a new workout type: boxing. This trend is clearly showing no signs of slowing down.

For the uninitiated, Supernatural is a fitness game for the Oculus Quest and Quest 2. It’s sort of like if someone said, “What if we mashed Beat Saber with the physicality of Dance Dance Revolution but added fitness trainers like Peloton?” You stand in extremely picturesque locales that look like they should be desktop backgrounds. You smash virtual targets to the beat, and somehow this all tricks you into doing an absurd number of squats and lateral lunges that leave you waddling like a penguin the next day. (The game lets you also stretch and meditate in VR, if you so choose.) On top of the price of a headset, the game itself costs $US180 (A$240) per year, or $US19 (A$25) a month.

The boxing classes come in three intensity levels: low, medium, and high. They’re very similar to Supernaturals Flow workouts, which are full-body cardio. You jab, cross, hook, uppercut, and block targets that are hurled your way, while slipping and ducking laser beam rods. Supernatural says that to start, there’ll be eight boxing workouts at launch, and three new ones will be released each week. The sessions are hosted by Supernatural coaches like Leanne Pedante, and feature music from artists like Kanye West, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Joy Division, and more. You can also link up compatible fitness trackers or smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, to see heart rate and track your workouts.

Image: Supernatural Image: Supernatural

But is it good? Before the pandemic hit, I regularly went to boxing classes because few things relieve stress like pummelling a punching bag. These workouts are essentially shadowboxing, as you’re not hitting any bags (like you do with FightCamp) or people. For the most part, the tutorial instructions were solid, and you do get some good tidbits on form — though since you can’t see yourself it’s hard to know if you’re throwing your hooks (and other punches) properly. Like real life, your trainer will chastise you to return to guard position after each punch combo. Thankfully, unlike in-person boxing classes, no one has asked me to do burpees or pushups — probably because that would be inviting bodily harm to me and my loved ones. One workout sent me to the moon. I mean that literally, as the backdrop for that session was the actual moon.

I regret to inform you these classes will not turn you into Rocky. They are, however, a fun way to trick yourself into exercising. After running through the tutorial and beginner-level workouts, I was pooped. I’m rhythmically challenged, so I hobbled and flailed like one of those inflatable tube men at the harder intensities. The next day, I was foam-rolling my sore glutes because, reader, there was a lot of ducking (i.e. squatting). After about 30 minutes my brain hurt because I’ve never been good at choreography, and bashing targets in the correct order with the correct punch at the correct time is a mental workout, too. Lastly, my eyes hurt because they’re garbage and I can only take about 30 minutes in VR before I need a break. But hey, at the end of the day, I got in a decent sweat and that’s what counts.