There’s no shame in falling off the fitness wagon.
Sometimes, life gets you down. Like, really down. So down, in fact, that you legitimately dread having to leave your bed in the morning. You slump your way to work, autopilot through the day, get home, and drown yourself in your vices until sleep catches up with you. Totally understandable; I’ve been there before and—hell—I’ve been there even with VR in my life. I was there last week.
VR is not the cure-all for laziness and life stress. I used to report on active VR gaming as if it were the holy solution to sedentary living and I’ve found that, for a lot of people including myself at times, that’s really not true. Sure, for some lucky individuals it offers exactly the right mixture of stimuli to get going and permanently stay on the path to better health. But you’re still human. I’m still human. Those people are still human. All of us are on a continuous ebb and flow with the tides of life, and sometimes, well, life happens.
And that’s why I forced myself to sit in this chair and write a step-by-step guide on how to give yourself a proper motivational slap in the face. Yes, you’ll be in VR for a significant length of this motivational self-slapping. (But please don’t go overboard and like, dunk your head into a bucket of water while wearing a headset. We look down on those who feed ammo to the ‘sweating in VR is bad‘ bandwagon.)
Step 1. Drink More Water
This is common sense, right? Well, no. Not really.
I forget to drink water all the time. I used to confuse coffee and water when they are discreetly not the same thing. But when you’re dealing with exercise of any form, you really do need to drink more water than usual. First of all, your body is going to need more of that life-giving liquid once you begin shedding sweat. Why? Because it’s safe to assume that you won’t find the motivation to expend more energy if you’re dehydrated after the first workout. Second, your brain and your muscles rely on those lovely H2O molecules to catalyze the replenishment of damaged cells following a workout.
So how does one manage to drink more water? It’s simple, really. Get one of those reusable water bottles and keep it close to your VR space. If water filtration is an issue, you can get one of those tap water filters that should clear out most waterborne microbes. Failing that strategy, you could always boil your tap water and/or purchase bottles of imported water.
Step 2. Get More Sunlight
To start off, just so I don’t sound like a hypocrite; I’m absolute garbage with this one and anybody who’s met me can tell you in fine detail exactly how pale I am. I’m a writer; furthermore, I write about technology and video games. What more do you need to know?
But lately, I’ve been going on walks out in the Oregon hillsides, soaking up some springtime vitamin D and presenting my legs with a handful of narrow slopes to work over. I’ve noticed that each time I return home from a walk, I’m often rearing to get my hands dirty in a few rounds of The Thrill of the Fight or BOXVR. It’s almost as if the sunshine and the light aerobics gang up on my brain to get those juicy endorphins flowing, and then I want to keep the endorphin train rolling after I get home, so ‘VR workout’ it is.
So, if you’re getting some nice weather lately, go outside and let the sun do its thing. Even if you don’t really get much sunlight in your area and it’s safe to go walking or better yet, running, try to put a few-thousand steps in before heading back indoors. Ideally, you’ll start to feel better and find yourself naturally doing the right things, like drinking more water.
Finally, it should go without saying but you should absolutely wear sunscreen while exposing your skin to the sun. SPF 15+ is preferable, and make sure to reapply it once per hour, or after you sweat it off.
Step 3. Eat… Healthier?
Okay, listen. My diet is still, decidedly, a joke. Even a year and a half into my VR fitness journey, I and everybody else who’s watched me eat knows that my food intake is far from regimented. So while this one is going into the coalescing pile of “steps that I’m advising other people to take, but haven’t completely gotten the hang of taking myself“, at least I’ve been around long enough to know the correct points to touch on.
Anyway—and I’m writing to my ‘one week ago’ self now—stop eating so much damn sugar. Sugar burns you out and makes you more lethargic, more sickly, and less healthy-feeling. When you don’t feel healthy, you shy away from doing anything that can be considered ‘exercise’, even if said exercise consists of playing a fun VR game where you kill robots with swords. Don’t you know that that’s a basic principle of psychology?
Cutting sugar is hard, but I’ve found success in fighting off sugar cravings with the help of sugar-free chewing gum, sugar-free sparkling water, and hot tea. I also love dark chocolate, so if I can get my hands on any, I’d rather eat that than processed sugar.
Check out Jason Coles’ nutrition guide for more comprehensive advice on this subject. Since you and I are coming up together now, just know that I’ve already read it and you’re behind.
Step 4. Set Your VR Things Back Up
If you don’t have a permanent location for VR gaming, make one. I’ve heard an alarming number of people complain that the setup/teardown process associated with VR is too arduous for regular play and—I’m sorry, what? How are you setting your sensors up? Why are you tearing them down when you’re finished playing a game? Stop that.
I have my three Oculus Rift sensors set up in places that I don’t ever need to move them from. How did I do it? I decided very early on that those would be the designated sensor locations, and I’ve since maintained those three spots in harmony with the rest of my room. Sure, not everybody has that luxury. If you’re constantly on the move, consider purchasing an Oculus Quest and/or Rift S.
Step 5. Discover New Games
If you were to ask somebody who doesn’t spend a lot of time in, around, and reporting about VR whether it’s still a hellish cesspool of early access ‘games’ and rudimentary non-experiences, they might be inclined to go with the path of least resistance and return your inquiry with a wide-eyed “Yes. Yes, it is. And it always will be.”
Guess what? I forgot to mention ‘Step 5.5’: stop listening to those people. Instead, follow Gabe Gurwin who regularly reports on new and upcoming active VR games. Also, I couldn’t bring myself to pass this draft in without crediting David Jagneaux (UploadVR) and Ben Lang (Road to VR) for keeping everybody else informed about current VR gaming news.
Step 6. Replay the Classics
If you play The Thrill of the Fight for 30 minutes each day of each week, you’re going to get fit. If you play BOXVR for 30 minutes each day of each week, you’re going to get fit. So on, so forth with Holopoint, SUPERHOT VR, Beat Saber, Sprint Vector, Creed: Rise to Glory, Hot Squat, Audioshield, and others.
‘Getting fit’ is going to happen pretty much by accident at that point, but it’ll happen as long as you get in and play consistently. If you don’t feel comfortable trying new games, stick with what you know. If you don’t feel comfortable playing at the difficulties you did at your peak performance, start lower. Old games don’t stop giving you new results until you stop challenging yourself. And furthermore, once you beat a challenge, you don’t magically keep the progress forever. Maintain your fitness with consistent action.
And follow this 8-week training guide for good measure.
Step 7. Remember Why You’re Doing This In The First Place
Go through those old photos of yourself from before you hopped aboard the active VR/fitness horse. Remember all those feelings of regret and (if applicable) rejection that you used to hide away with terrible decisions? Do you really want to be that person again? No, of course you don’t. Christ, I sound exactly like one of those fitness ‘gurus’ from the Internet, but my point is clear-cut: you’re not going to motivate yourself to do anything without a purpose.
Exercising inside of a VR headset is fun, but it’s never as fun as going out into the world with a group of people you love, and moreso it’s never as fun as not exercising. So you, me, and most other people need a reason to do this that goes further than “because I’m playing video games and getting fit!”
‘Playing video games’ is the easy part but why are you getting fit? Find that inner reasoning, and follow it.
Step 8. Lose Your Way (Again) and Rediscover This Guide (Again)
Because honestly, dear reader, it’s bound to happen.
What are your tips for anyone struggling to keep a fitness routine in VR? Let us know in the comments.