I’m the Mom Who Lost 5 Lbs. (and a Boatload of Stress) Trying Out the Oculus Quest 2

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There were exactly two times I attempted to exercise during this pandemic. The first, when we were in the bread-making phase: “I think I’ll go for a run this morning,” I announced to my husband not for the accolades, but more as a declaration that he’d be childcare for our busy toddler as I dabbled in the prospect of a new self-care routine.

It didn’t stick.  

You see, we had skipped town in the early days of COVID-19 to a place with fewer cases and more outdoor space…and, unfortunately, no cell phone service. As it turned out, I felt far too vulnerable jogging alone and masked up, no other cars on the road and zero way to phone for help. Le sigh.

My second attempt was much more promising and took the form of a streaming service. Of course, I could fit in 15 minutes a day. I even made a chart to check off my progress. On the third day, my toddler burst through the doors of the tiny home we were sharing where boundaries on work and family failed to exist and thought it was hilarious to sit on my belly while I attempted to keep up with the ab exercises. (I unsubscribed.)

By late fall, in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic, I’d basically resigned myself to the fact that I had time for Zoom calls, childcare, meal planning and the occasional Netflix binge (Schitt’s Creek, OMG). Nothing more.

Then, I discovered the Oculus Quest 2.

Hear me out: I never thought about virtual reality as a fitness routine. Rather, I wrote it off as just another video game and one that was a novelty at best. That futuristic headset that serves as a gateway to a virtual world? That was just an opportunity for me to secretly videotape my husband in his nerdiest form and laugh with him about it later. (Sorry, not sorry.)

But one night, at the encouragement of my spouse—and a publicist who sent me a workout plan—I slipped the headset on myself. As they say, timing is everything. I had just wrestled my “not tired” toddler to bed after reading him a zillion books, getting him one last glass of water and waiting him out as he slowly decided his color preference for the moon and stars cast on the ceiling from a projector to help him nod off. I was ready to blow off some steam.

Could a headset really be the answer? I changed into workout clothes, then adjusted the settings so that the Oculus was sized to my head and the picture came into focus. I also downloaded Oculus Move, a fitness dashboard that would allow me to track my progress (calories burned, how long I’d been active) across all games.  

Truthfully, I still had doubts that this experience would be engaging long enough to get my heart rate up. But the prospect of a virtual escape and chance to try anything new in the midst of a pandemic where I could do anything but piqued my interest enough to lead me to give it a shot.

Escape I did—to a place called Supernatural. This app (which kicks off with a free trial followed by a $19 monthly fee) was the first one I tried, and I was hooked. Right away, I was whisked away to the Great Wall of China, the fjords of Iceland, Machu Picchu mountaintops. Was I really still in my living room? (I peeked outside my headset at my husband in the kitchen making dinner to be sure.)

Before my workout began, I had a chance to select a variety of levels to suit my ability. I settled on beginner, but also chose a playlist that featured tunes I would enjoy. (Hello, Peter Gabriel, Lizzo, Queen.) A very real-looking coach immediately appeared before me, talking me through how to do each move, not over-exert myself and get the most out of the workout. It felt incredibly customized.

The next thing I knew, I had a couple of bats in my hand (a la Beat Saber) and my challenge before me: I had to rhythmically swat at colored orbs that were flying toward my body at a highly choreography pace. Easy enough? It was. I felt like every single iota of stress that had been locked inside my body from the start of the pandemic was released in a burst. I also got a near-perfect score and was dripping sweat at the end of the first song. (In fact, you may want to consider buying this silicone cover that prevents perspiration from building up inside the headset. I did and it was a game-changer.)

I continued on. I tried other workout experiences like The Climb and Eleven Table Tennis, even Beat Saber, but kept coming back to Supernatural.

By the end of the week, I had worked out—wait for it—every single night. It became a routine I couldn’t wait for. Toddler bedtime might be brutal, but I had the Oculus Quest 2 waiting for me on the other side. It was better than wine. My husband even videotaped me in my glory one night (touché) and even I’ll admit, I look so happy. I also felt empowered. (As moms especially can understand, it feels so good to do something just for you.)

At the end of the month, my jeans were going on a bit easier, so I hopped on the scale. I had lost five pounds. A win, considering I hadn’t done much else. Still, the bigger win is the fact that virtual reality led me to a low-lift fitness routine I could actually implement and succeed at while having fun along the way.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...