Welcome to your first month in VR. You’ve unboxed your setup and mounted your sensors to the wall. You’ve turned everything on and sampled all the free stuff. How do you truly dive into VR fitness, and what can you expect that first month? Here, I offer some firsthand insight on how VR fitness can transform your life from day one.

Budget for Games

About $100 can get you some amazing titles that offer incredible diversity in workout potential, which is ignoring the Steam sales offering even deeper discounts. For less than $100, you can get Thrill of the Fight and Holopoint for cardio, Superhot or Sairento for fun lighter experiences, and still have money leftover to consider something like Skyrim or Fallout for a deeper narrative that is less physically demanding. In fact, lighter titles can be excellent for the first month because you are more likely to play for enjoyment and forget you’re exercising.

Protip: learn to wait for Steam Sales when you want higher priced titles. Credit: Ars Technica

VR games are surprisingly affordable without sales. Saving $5-10 each week will get you one or two new games a month to sample. Those who do wait for Steam sales will be rewarded with deep discounts on fairly recent titles. Learning how to budget for games is a good idea, but it also opens you up to a world of diversity. If there’s one thing to be said for VR Fitness upfront: it’s anything but repetitive.

You Will Feel Soreness

VR fitness games ask you to move in ways you might not be used to, like certain sports. You will need to bend and twist to avoid incoming fire, and spend extended periods of time in squat or half squat position. Some games have you holding your wands out for long periods. Boxing is extremely taxing and heavy on cardio, and many of the boxing titles grade the strength of your punch in determining your gains.

Even games you might not expect, like shooters, will have you dodging incoming fire and seeking virtual cover that can work your legs and core. VR games want you to get up and move, and developers have come up with some intriguing challenges.

Stretch it out before you enter VR! Credit: Sports Science

Stretching and proper preparation are critical to avoiding muscle strain. It’s also a good idea to tackle lighter games so you’re not always pushing yourself as hard as you can go. You don’t want muscle fatigue, and muscle strain is even worse. Yet another reason for keeping many games in your library.

VR Fitness is Vast and Diverse

There’s a simulation experience for whatever you want to do, even if you’re a non-gamer looking for a reason to try something new. In fact, light gamers (or those who never play) may find the most benefit in VR because of how physical it is. You can interact with the world around in a very intuitive manner, but there are other benefits too.

BoxVR offers structure and goals you can set to motivate yourself to improve. It will feel familiar, even exhilarating, to anyone who has ever attended kickboxing class. Narrative adventures like The Wizards offer reasons to come back, like upping difficulty or seeking to hit that top score.

From shooters to sports, VR has something for everyone. These pre-packaged experiences don’t replace triple A gaming for those who love their desktop PCs. They enhance your experience with arcade-like games that offer challenges and a community. Love Soundboxing? So does its community, and they are competing right now for high scores on your favorite songs. You can be the hero, the villain, or your best self in VR fitness with real-world implications on your health.

Progression Rocks

Progression is the cornerstone of VR fitness. It’s why players keep coming back. Earning that new weapon, that next achievement, or just seeing the next level is exciting. It’s why gaming caught on in the first place. People crave everchanging stimulus. It’s so gratifying stepping off an exercise bike or elliptical, but getting there is a challenge. The experience is repetitive and relies on many external motivators for consistency. The sense of progression comes from the results you see in your body.

Credit to: Black Box VR

In VR, you don’t have to worry about a plateau when the game is calling you to the next objective. You just go, and the results follow alongside you. Just make sure you have stockpiled all the accessories you need to keep your workouts going. Downtime lowers your heart rate and really hurts immersion.

Fitness Hacks Turn Any Game into a Gym

One unexpected joy that I found was turning almost any VR game into a fitness experience, basically at will. My first discovery of this amazing power came while playing Fallout 4 VR. I was crouched behind a rusty car hiding from raiders, after high stepping in place to avoid motion sickness from the locomotion system, when I realized: my heart rate is up and I’m having a blast! Fallout 4 is pretty much the last title you would expect to work up a sweat, but I do for about two hours each week while I explore the ruins of Old Boston.

I found ways to hack boxing games like Virtual Boxing League to turn downtime in to uptime. I squat in Holopoint to get more out of my legs, and I sidestep in room scale in archery games to add some steps to my daily count. All of these ideas occurred to me naturally while playing. Some, like sidestepping in my room, even helped me in game. I can dodge more effectively if I’m a moving target in real life.

Fitness hacks add a new dimension to your gaming experience, and if you just want an off day then you’re not required to do them. These tiny challenges add a little something extra that makes beating a level I’ve conquered before that much more interesting.

Final Thoughts

I spent about 80 hours in VR during my first month. I feel like I’ve gained more energy in my day, I don’t feel sedentary anymore and I am excited for VR experiences. I’m the last person you will find at a gym, but my first month in VR had me tackling body bags in Thrill of the Fight like I was addicted.

Going into VR fitness, I had concerns that the system would fall by the wayside. I thought only a handful of titles would help improve my fitness, and that I would be stuck playing the same five games to get a workout. What I found is that VR fitness is like creative fitness, in a way. It allows you to get a full body workout, lose weight (I lost 12 pounds combined with a healthier diet), and I keep coming back. Some days, I’m frustrated that I’m too sore to go back in or play the exact game I want.

For you to take VR fitness seriously, budget well for a good computer and some games. So, fellow readers, what was your first month like?