New Year, New Lockdown, and a New Workout Routine
Hurray! 2020 has finally come to an end, and the UK (and world!) is ready for a fresh new rotation round the sun COVID-free and ready to get back to it. I hope you made the most of those 4 days, because we’re now back in the lockdown!
Let’s be honest, we knew this was coming didn’t we. All that xmas mingling was bound to bring an issue straight after, so most of us were somewhat prepared. For me, this will be the first time since July that I am working exclusively from home as it was essential to be in the office up until December. I’m not psyched, for a few reasons. A social workplace means a lot to me, I like actually seeing something other than these four walls everyday, but more than anything I feel like a new year is a great excuse to compose a new routine for exercise, healthy eating, sleep, outdoors and all sorts of other components of life that get thrown out in place of pigs in blankets and mulled cider over the festive period.
I really wanted to join a gym this year, as opposed to just running which has been doing more harm than good in recent months, and almost pulled the trigger on a membership on the 3rd of January. Good thing I didn’t commit, because the following day brought news that all gyms were to be closed for at least 8 weeks! But now I have the conundrum of alternative exercise to a park run, how can I get some exercise in that’s low-impact, engaging and makes me want to come back to?
The Virtual Gym
Nice touch BoxVR. The BoxVR lobby is designed like a (very fancy) gym dressing room.
I hate video-based workouts. Well actually I should rephrase that. I hate/envy people who can actually enjoy video-based workouts. I wish I could be excited to jump up and down with Joe Wicks or get my downward-facing-dog going with Adriene, but I just can’t connect with it. For me it’s the lack of pressure, there’s no consequence to falling behind, sitting out a couple of reps or half-arsing a stretch. I never felt like I could take it seriously for a prolonged period of time.
Late one night, and proof of another failed new-year-new-me sleep routine, I begun reading more about different gaming-centred fitness activities. I started at the ring-fit, Nintendo’s switch attachment that is quite literally a plastic bendy ring (and a steal at £50). Bundled with it is a game, Ring-Fit Adventure, which honestly looks pretty compelling and I would like to try it one day. BUT, fancy plastic ring and gaming aside, it was still a screen-based fitness routine. Could I truly believe that I wouldn’t get bored with this just like with those YouTube videos (now in the millions of views since our first lockdown back in March)?
While it’s a neat idea, Nintendo’s approach to fitness with the WiiFit doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Now I know what you’re thinking, why would you not think of virtual reality straight away it’s clearly what you need? I did think of VR first! Of course I did! But I had one big issue, and that was my own comfort and the safety of the hardware. The idea of doing a workout routine with what is basically a mini TV strapped to your head sounds uncomfortable, and very warm which leads me to the second point. This warm TV heating your forehead will make sweat, which will inevitably result in the headset being exposed to this salty liquid as you play. My head TV cost me a fair bit of money, and so I don’t want to be buying a new head TV soon.
Long story short, my decision was based on price. I could buy the switch hardware and a new game (£50+) with no promise of me enjoying it or sticking with it. Or I could just buy a steam game, with my love for VR hopefully forcing me to be more lenient when checking out what the platform can offer to my fitness. I opted for BoxVR, buying the base game and both DLCs for £20.
Two Fists Up
Simple but effective. A BoxVR class in action.
I tried three beginner workouts, each 2 minutes in duration, wearing my everyday outfit of trousers and a hoodie. The hoodie came off after the first 2 minutes, and after the second routine I decided I had to change to some sports gears because I was sweating so much. I still can’t believe how intense the first 2 minutes were, it was shocking in a great way.
The following day I was dressed appropriately and ready to hit a long session (40-45 minutes) and it was great! The time flies, no more clock watching on the treadmill, because the simplicity of the game is so engaging. It’s paced wonderfully, allowing short rest time but never allowing you too long to think why you’re flailing around in your living room and calling it a workout. The weight of the touch controllers are actually a benefit for this application, and you do feel them after 30 minutes of jabs, uppercuts and hooks, although I would like to try sessions with some boxing weights to add an extra workout for the arms. It should be said that I did need to buy a headband for BoxVR to catch sweat, even on top of my headset’s VR Cover, as you can’t wipe sweat off your brow when there’s a mini TV shielding it.
BoxVR is VR boxing, bet you wouldn’t have guessed that! It is effectively Beat Saber, but instead of effortlessly slicing blocks you are properly punching through similarly floaty blocks (although circular) and squatting under obstacles for some leg work. There are just 6 components to the whole thing: jab, hook, uppercut, block, duck, dodge. These 6 aspects don’t get stale though, they are varied enough for all the classes to feel unique. My one issue would be that the music seems to be recycled a lot across classes, but BoxVR now creates custom sessions based off of a playlist you can create including tracks on your computer. I can’t wait to dive into this feature, I feel like it’ll be a boost to have a warm down of your favourite tracks rather than the standard gym-hype tracks that most are used to hearing in a Tuesday night spin-class.
Finishing on a Catchy Hook
If I had to describe BoxVR in a sentence I would say it’s a workout for people who don’t want to workout. The technology and design makes it feel like just enough of a game to distract from the genuinely taxing workout you get, and for that I think I could be a convert to VR fitness. I’m looking forward to trying more fitness applications for VR beyond boxing.
While we’re on the subject I should also recommend YUR Fit, an app that tracks your movement in VR games and tracks it in fitness metrics. The website also rates most popular VR apps by workout intensity, which may be of use to people who want to try other VR apps for fitness purposes. It even has a mobile phone app, all free!
Some Other Apps Recommended by YUR