Several weeks ago, if you’d told me I’d be excitedly looking forward to my work out each day, I’d have thought you were insane. I have never craved a good cardio session and I haven’t had a gym membership in years. That said, I’ve recently gotten absolutely hooked on my Supernatural workouts on Oculus Quest 2.
But let me back up a bit to give you my story, so you can compare it to your own fitness style.
I’m a working mom of four. I homeschool my kids. My youngest has special needs and attends therapy sessions every day. I don’t have tons of free time. Also, I have only eaten in a restaurant once since the quarantine started, which means on nights that I’m too tired to cook we usually order pizza or fast food. I shouldn’t have been surprised when my doctor sat me down at my recent physical and said, “So, let’s talk about your weight.”
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I was ready to eat healthier, but didn’t expect to be able find a realistic workout option for myself until the weather got nicer. Gyms are out for me (COVID + expense + logistics with special needs child). Whenever I try at-home workouts, I get totally distracted by what needs to be done around the house. Practical exercise—like walking my youngest to school or mowing the grass—are great for me, but not during winter.
Then I saw an Instagram ad for Supernatural, a new VR exercise app. (It must have been listening in on that doctor convo). We’d been having a lot of fun as a family with the Oculus Quest 2 my daughter got for Christmas, so I asked if she’d mind if I tried the app out. It actually looked … kind of fun.
After a week of exercises, I was telling the CMT team I had to write about it. Here’s why I’m obsessed, what I think could be better, and who I think it’s perfect for.
First, what is the Oculus Quest 2?
For those of you not familiar with VR, an Oculus Quest 2 is an all-in-one virtual reality headset with two controllers. By all-in-one, I mean you just put it on and click start. All the apps and games are loaded onto the headset itself and you need no other hardware to make it work.
I’ve tried other VR devices before—the kind where you slide your phone into a headset—and the Oculus blows those out of the water. This is a pretty remarkable piece of technology. Our family has been playing a lot, from the thrilling mountain climbing game where you dangle off the side of cliffs to the fun cart-racing game that feels like you’re actually in Mario Kart. It’s been a big hit.
What is a Supernatural workout like?
When you open Supernatural, you start by choosing a workout for the day. They range from low intensity to high intensity, with some stretching and meditation sessions too. They range from around 5 minutes in length to 25 minutes with a variety coaches. You’ll start to learn which ones have personalities and styles you like (and dislike) as you go.
The playlist options range from classical music to country, 90s prom hits to rap, Fleetwood Mac to Ariana Grande. Honestly, I’ve loved every music set I’ve chosen so far, and it helps that you can preview the song list before the workout starts.
Once the workout stars, you’ll find yourself standing on a floating mat in a variety of gorgeous, picturesque remote locations. The coast of the Galapagos Islands. A mountainside in Switzerland. The Great Pyramids. A dense forest in Romania. They change with each song, so you are transported around the world with just one workout.
The only critique I have is that I wish I had longer to just stand there and look around before the action starts. While I know I’m not actually in that location, it’s a brilliant way for me to disconnect from the household tasks that typically distract me from my workouts. And I get to feel a little bit like I’ve done some traveling, which is especially nice right now.
You’ll start with a warm up, where a virtual coach gives you some motivational thoughts while you loosen up. Then, you’re transported to a new location where a ring appears on the horizon and black and white orbs float toward you from it. Your task is to slice the black and white orbs with the corresponding wands (light saber-type bats controlled by the controller in your hand). Each orb also has a translucent cone on it, indicating which direction your hand should travel to slice it.
It’s kind of like real-life Fruit Ninja.
You’ll also see triangles come toward you, and you have to squat or lunge your way through those…as the orbs keep coming. All of it is timed perfectly with the music, so you’re slicing away at the orbs and squatting through the tunnels to the beat of the song…with gorgeous waterfalls or towering forests or incredible ocean views 360º around you.
How do I feel after a workout?
The higher intensity your workout is, the more complicated your slicing motions are. I’m throwing my hands all around the room to the beat of the music, and it’s pretty thrilling. Let’s just say, I’ve considered perusing the classifieds for “Drummers Wanted” ads or auditioning for the next big Medieval period piece that would require lots of sword fighting. I’ve never taken a Pound workout class, but I imagine it’s similar…just more beautiful and fun.
After the first two workouts (both Low intensity, around 23 minutes each), I was really sore—especially in my legs. I’m definitely sweaty, and I appreciate that Supernatural sends a free sweat guard for the device. I’ve tried Medium intensity workouts and my heart rate stays higher and my arms are more sore (from more complicated swiping patterns). I tried one High intensity workout, and the movements were too complex for me to say up with …. for now.
I’ve had surgery on both my knees in the past, so I appreciate that the VR technology calculates how far my body is from the floor and adjusts the exercises to the right squat depth to be safe for my specific body. It’s kind of mind blowing.
At times the device does feel a little heavy on my head, or I might feel the need to readjust it as I go. If my face is itchy or sweaty, it can be a little distracting. And I am always careful to be sure I have the wrist bands on, because I’ve knocked the controllers against my legs or the chair nearby and dropped them more than once.
That said, I’ve also noticed that I’m smiling during the workouts. Singing along, sometimes. Even kind of bopping and dancing to the music. I think it’s really fun, and my family loves giggling about me from the other room. I’ve been doing the workouts after I put my youngest to bed, and it’s become something I look forward to all day.
Will Supernatural workouts get boring?
Supernatural has done a really good job keeping their workouts exciting and interesting. They add a new workout every single day, and there are a variety of instructors and musical styles to choose from, which keep it interesting.
A strong feature of the game its “dynamic difficulty” feature, meaning that the better you get at the workouts, the harder they become. You can go down to lower levels to perfect your form and power, but as you up your intensity levels it will continue to challenge you.
I thought I might get tired of seeing the same five or six locations rotated through on each song, but I’ve been delighted by how many different locales around the world there really are. Iceland, Ethiopia, Macchu Picchu, Scotland, Oregon…it just keeps surprising me.
That said, if you are a fitness lover who thrives on variety, you might get tired of the fact that the routines are all based on the same idea—slashing orbs.
What is the cost?
Supernatural is only available on Oculus Quest 2. The entry level device is $299—which is a little more than what I’d spend on a gym membership for a month…plus your kids will love you for getting a device they can play games on too. (Side note: One thing I’ve liked about the Oculus in general is that the games my kids have picked are in the $30 range, instead of the $60 range like their other gaming systems.)
The Supernatural app is a free download with a 30-day free trial. After that, it’s $19 a month and you can add four profiles per headset. So, that’s around $5 per person, per month to use it.
Who is Supernatural good for?
Supernatural is working for me because it takes me away from the monotony of everyday life in quarantine right now. I’m standing in beautiful locations around the world, and the workouts are fun.
If you enjoy gaming or are competitive, you’ll be motivated by the leader boards and scoring functions of the “game”—you get an accuracy score, a power rating, and an overall score at the end of each song.
If social connection does it for you, you’ll be motivated by the community aspect you can add to Supernatural…connecting with other users, sharing scores and workout streaks, rating the workouts and songs, holding each other accountable and so on.
If you love travel and have dreamed of attending a yoga retreat on the beaches of Hawaii or doing some intense cardio first thing in the morning while you explore Petra, then you can satisfy that itch…then hop in the car to pick up the kids from carpool.
I have used the phone app to set an alert to remind me to workout, and it pairs with my Apple Watch to track my movement throughout the day—giving me an entire picture of my physical exercise. For a data-driven list-keeper like me, this is great motivation to continue.
And finally, if you’re a visual learner, this is a good way to push yourself harder in your workouts. When I’ve done Zumba classes at a gym, it’s easy for me to halfway follow through on the motions. But when I have to reach across my body to hit those orbs and squat lower to get through the tunnels, it pushes me to go all out in my workout. The visual immersion of being inside the world of the game takes the fun and motivation to a whole other level.