Fitness and me

I’m your prototypical nerd, sports never came easy to me. Over my childhood and youth, various teachers and trainers tried to change that, but I was content being unsporty and reading books.

Thankfully, my metabolism and various eating and movement habits formed in my youth prevented me from gaining too much weight. As a resuilt, I am still overall slim and have retained some minimum level of physical fitness so I can take the stairs if I need to.

But I am also in my mid-forties and work a desk job. There aren’t enough trained muscles to keep my back healthy. Some parts of me go slightly flabby and I carry more than a bit of superfluous around my mid-section. All of this gets even more noticeable due to the lack of muscles being trained to keep everything straight.

All this, and the drive to LGN (Look Good Naked), kept nagging at me in intervals to adopt a sporty habit. I tried a lot of things: Gym memberships, running, martial arts, biking, pilates, using an ergometer at home. Alas, nothing really stuck for more than a month. Sports is just so damn boring, and often also frustrating. I don’t get any sense of achievement except of being exhausted and sweaty.

I realize that for a lot of people that state of exhaustion is what they perceive as achievement and that they get satisfaction from it, but I never made that connection. I’m just miserable from it.

Then, earlier this year I discovered Virtual Reality as a fitness motivator. First Beat Saber, and then BoxVR, which turned out to be even better for this purpose. The basic game is simple: Blobs fly at you and you have to hit them with your fist at the right time. The blobs come in at various heights and you have to hit them at different angles. Occasionally some obstacles appear, forcing you to duck out of the way.

There’s music and a highscore, all the trappings of a videogame, so the whole thing doesn’t get pegged into the mental space of a „workout“, but, well, a videogame.

But make no mistake: For the average un-fit nerd, this is very much a workout! On average, I burn about 400 calories within a 30 minutes session. That rivals running a treadmill in HIIT or joining a vigorous spin class.

The great news: I have been doing this for nearly every weekday for a few months now. There was a break in the routine when my PSVR headset broke down. Eventually I replaced it with an Oculus Quest, which rids me of all the cables and thus gives me more flexibility in terms of location and time.

Two weeks ago, I added Guided Tai Chi to my routine. I make no assumption that this is anything like real Tai Chi, and the girlfriend says that the end result looks rather amusing instead of elegant. But it is surprisingly relaxing and taxing at the same time: You stand in a simulated landscape that is quite beautiful to look at. Then there are two translucent spheres dancing slowly through the air in front of you, while you try to follow them with your hands. The end result sort of resembles Tai Chi. 

And it is effective: Keeping the arms stretched out in front of you, and moving them in precise and slow movements is surprisingly taxing. After 10 to 15 minutes the arms start to ache a bit, and I feel the muscles holding my spine.

So this is my routine now: When I get up in the morning, I don the VR goggles and first do 15 to 20 minutes of sort-of Tai Chi, then another 30 of sort-of boxing. This has become an actual habit, which is a new thing for me and sports.

I don’t follow it completely on weekends when I occasionally sleep in, but for weekdays, this is set. And I start to notice the effects too. Nothing outrageous, but a bit more tone to the upper body and arms, a bit more stamina.

So, if you’re as nerdy and unsporty as me, you might want to look at getting into VR. It works for me, and the technology has matured enough to be really simple to use and setup.

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