Apparently, it wasn't enough for Supernatural when its original cardio virtual reality workouts made my glutes so sore that I couldn't walk down stairs the next day. Tuesday, it introduced boxing to its lineup, the latest expansion of its guided exercise and wellness categories after expanding into stretching and meditation earlier.
Now my oblique muscles ache whenever I have the misfortune of breathing deeply. I dread gentle coughs. ("Listen, don't be surprised if your body feels a bit sore tomorrow," Coach Mark explained in my introductory boxing session. "That's a great thing!" I'll try to remember that when it hurts to bend and tie my shoes.)
Supernatural broke ground last year when it launched its sleek, reimagined concept for VR fitness with a $19 monthly subscription model. That happened to be soon after COVID-19 lockdowns suddenly trapped much of the world inside their homes, without open gyms or even the certainty, at the time, that outdoor exercise would be safe if you entered the proximity of a stranger. Interest in virtual reality -- and VR fitness -- jumped during the pandemic.
VR was one of technology's buzziest trends a few years ago, attracting giant investments by heavyweights like Google and Facebook, which bought
for about $3 billion in 2014. But the hype fizzled, as widespread adoption of VR remained elusive when consumers were ambivalent about these bulky boxes you strap to your face. But when Supernatural launched during the pandemic, Facebook's official Oculus Quest store was out of stock of devices, with eBay listings auctioning them at a 40% price markup. When Oculus later rolled out it newest headset, the Quest 2, it was in and out of stock for months.
Supernatural isn't the first VR fitness app to feature boxing. FitXR, for example, has boxing-based workouts that are the same basic concept as Supernatural -- soaring targets to jab, uppercut and hook plus glowing bars you duck. The Thrill of the Fight has a different stance, acting more as a simulator of actual in-the-ring fights.
It's notable how motivating it is to keep punching past exhaustion in a format like The Thrill of the Fight, where a humanoid avatar is punching you back.
But Supernatural's boxing sets itself apart in many of the ways that its original cardio-focused workouts did too: It has volumetric recordings of real humans standing in front of you, helping you warm up before your workout and walking you through short cool-down periods with brief stretching at the end. While you're punching and jabbing, the disembodied voices keep you motivated and remind you how to stay in safe form, particularly important with boxing.
The boxing sessions come in low-, medium- and high-intensity selections. Supernatural has eight initial workouts available Tuesday, and it will release three new workouts each week. Like the rest of Supernatural's programs, boxing sessions take place in 360-degree captures of some of the most beautiful natural locations on Earth, and their soundtracks include hit songs across genres. And boxing workouts pair with a range of fitness-tracking devices.
If you sign up for the monthly format, new members get a seven-day free trial; if you register for an $180 annual subscription, you get 14 days free before you're charged. A subscription unlocks all of Supernatural's fitness categories; there are no additional costs in the app.