Confessions of a Virtual Reality Gym Rat
Unlike Peloton and its imitators, Supernatural has no living element. Classes are recorded and although you can compare your stats with your friends on a leaderboard, you cannot compete with them in real time. The company recently added guided meditations to its offerings and plans to add more types of classes and community functions.
Supernatural was built before the pandemic but has peaked in recent months as more and more people look for alternatives to the home gym. (The company wouldn’t say exactly how many subscribers it had, but Chris Milk, CEO of Within, told me it was five numbers.) The Supernatural official Facebook page is filled with enthusiastic fans, many of them that don’t fit the stereotypical image of a VR-obsessed gamer.
Mr Milk, who produced virtual reality content for the New York Times Magazine, said the difference between Supernatural and other types of fitness at home is that it feels more like a game than an exercise.
“The fundamental flaw in most fitness systems is that you are essentially doing something that isn’t fun, whether you’re pedaling a stationary bike or running on a treadmill,” he said. “We use VR’s tool to transport you beyond the walls of your apartment and offer you an activity that is fun in itself.”
One downside to Supernatural that goes beyond the monthly subscription costs is that it is currently only compatible with the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 headsets. These headsets aren’t cheap (base Oculus Quest 2 models start at $ 299) and are little available this year. Another downside for the privacy conscious: Oculus is owned by Facebook, which recently caused a sensation in the VR world when Oculus users were asked to log in with their Facebook accounts.
The other downside to Supernatural is that – how do you put that carefully? – You look like a big fool who does it. I feel this pain more acutely than most. I don’t have a room in my house that is big and free enough to swing my arms safely, so I often exercise outside on my patio. My wife has learned to tolerate it, but I feel sorry for my neighbors who have no doubt noticed the strange, sweaty man crouching angrily, throwing himself up and waving his arms as Skrillex roars from the box on top of his head.
But if you can ignore the fun look, VR workouts should be a try. They’re cheaper than a peloton, more fun than YouTube workout, and healthier than watching The Crown. While it doesn’t quite scratch the itch in the gym, it’s a good alternative until a vaccine makes it safe to breathe hard again in public.