A lifelong, self-proclaimed “computer geek,” Richard Bernsee recognized in his late teens that he needed to make working out a priority if he wanted to be fit. Exercise is also a nice compliment to his mostly sedentary occupation as senior IT analyst for the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Fitness is important to me as I have been unhealthy for a lot of my life,” states 29-year-old Bernsee, who was recently announced as the Grand Prize winner of the 90-Day VR Fitness Challenge. “I was always the fat kid and was determined to prove others wrong. Along the way, I realized sometimes it’s not the flower that’s the issue; it’s where it grows.”
For the past seven years, the native Chicagoan has run marathons, done weightlifting, and developed a consistent schedule at LA Fitness. When Covid-19 began, it disrupted the workout routine Bernsee had grown accustomed to. As he began searching for other options, he says he “stumbled upon VR Fitness Insider, which was a god send.”
The idea of working out with VR was appealing to Bernsee and the 90-Day VR Fitness Challenge was the impetus he needed.
Participants in the fitness challenge were asked to workout at least three times per week while logged in to YUR Fit, a fitness tracker that logs information about a person’s workout time in VR. One of Bernsee’s personal motivators for better health and wellness is to get into pro wrestling physique so he decided to spend his workout time playing FitXR’s BoxVR.
“In the same way virtual reality engages [the participant with the experience],” he explains, “so does professional wrestling. There’s a great deal of time for presenting things perfectly to illustrate a story.”
“I would love to debut on AEW as Bascura Bernsee against Kenny Omega at an All Out or something,” says Bernsee.
As he pursues that goal, he can practice his boxing skills and work toward improved health and fitness with games like BoxVR, which he discovered offered a multiplayer mode with regular group sessions.
“Instead of being by myself working out,” he states, “I was competing with other VR and fitness enthusiasts, which gave me a new motivation to get better at the game.”
Over the 90 day period, while Bernsee continued his BoxVR workouts, he also began to experiment with games like Beat Saber and Audio Shield to add diversity.
He points out that Beat Saber was something different from BoxVR, but he still burned calories and felt better after a good workout. The immensely popular rhythm game also tickled his nostalgia for games like Guitar Hero, which he would practice for hours. Similar to traditional games, sports, music, and many other experiences, the possibility of improving their skills keeps people coming back to virtual reality games.
During the 90-Day VR Fitness Challenge, the death of a dear friend and mentor devastated Bernsee to the point that he felt lost. While watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the story of Fred Rogers, a popular television personality, Bernsee was inspired by this message.
“I have anger. I can use it to harm myself, harm others, or do something positive with it.”
He spent a lot of time in VR during the weeks following his friend’s death, allowing himself to work through the sorrow.
“I’ll never forget playing Bad Liar by Imagine Dragons in Beat Saber while crying. VR provided me an escape from reality while engaging in very real thoughts,” he explains. “In a way, being enclosed in a VR headset forced me to be in the moment and focus on myself. It allowed me to finish stress cycles from work and allowed me to engage my feelings in my personal time. Tranquil is an understatement.”
Ultimately Bernsee lost four inches around his waist during the 90 days and he says he feels more toned, more flexible, and more alive.
For others considering the possibility of VR fitness, Bernsee encourages them to give it a try.
“It’s okay to not want to play traditional sports or participate in traditional workout routines,” says Bernsee. “Let’s blaze the path together and find a way for us to engage in this new frontier of fitness and positive living while having fun along the way.”