THE SHIFT : Virtual Reality fitness that really makes you sweat. The pandemic year turned the world on its head and created a lot of very reluctant converts.

Months ago, in less dire circumstances, we swore, we'd never do any number of strange-sounding things : attend Zoom weddings, embrace ring lights, feed sourdough starter. And yet here we are making do.

The best thing about Supernatural is the coaches who lead each workout. They're cut from the peppy, affirming cloth as SoulCycle and Peloton instructors, and they make it possible to briefly forget that you're working alone in your house rather than in a crowded studio.

Another plus is that every Supernatural workout takes place in some impossibly beautiful landscape -I've batted orbs inside an Ethiopian volcano, next to a placid mountain lake in Patagonia and on top of the Great Wall of China.

As a bonus, the company has paid dearly to license Top 40 hits, so users can work out to Lizzo and Kendrick Lamar instead of the bargain-bin dance music you find on other workout apps.

Unlike Peloton and its imitators, Supernatural has no live element. Classes are recorded, and though you can compare your stats with your friends on a leader board, you can't compete with them in real time.

The company recently added guided medications to its offerings, and it says it's planning to add more types of classes and community features.

Supernatural was built before the pandemic but hit its stride during the last few months, as more people look for at-home gym alternatives. 

[The company wouldn't say exactly how many subscribers it had, but Chris Milk, Within's chief executive, told me it was in five figures.]

The official Supernatural Facebook page is full of avid fans, including many who don't fir the stereotypical image of a V.R. obsessed gamer. 

Mr. Milk, who has produced a virtual reality content for The New York Times Magazine, said the difference between Supernatural and other kinds of  at-home fitness is that it feels like a game rather than exercise.

''The fundamental flaw of most fitness systems is that, at your core, you're doing something that is not fun, whether you're pedaling on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill,'' he said.

''We use the tool of V.R. to transport you beyond the walls of your apartment and give you an activity that is intrinsically fun to do.''

One downside of Supernatural, beyond the monthly subscription cost, is that it's compatible only with Ocuklus Quest and Quest 2 headsets at the moment. Those headsets are not cheap [base-level models is of of the Oculus Quest-2 start at $299] and they've been in low supply this year.

Another downside for the privacy-conscious; Oculus is owned by Facebook, which recently sparked a furore in the V.R. by requiring Oculus users to log in using their Facebook accounts.

The other drawback of Supernatural is that - how to put this delicately? - you look like a huge dork doing it. I feel this pain more acutely than most.

I don't have a room in my house that is big and unobstructed enough to swing in my arms safely, so I often work out outside on my patio. My wife has leaned to tolerate it, but I pity my neighbors, who have no doubt noticed the strange, sweaty man furiously squatting, lunging and waving his arms while Skrillex blares from the box in his head.

But if you can ignore the funny looks, you want to give the V.R. workouts a try. They're cheaper than a Peloton, more fun than a YouTube workout and healthier than bingewatching. ''The Crown''.

Even if it doesn't quiet scratch the gym's itch, it's a good-enough  alternative until a vaccine makes it safe to heavy-breathe in public again.

The World Students Society thanks author Kevin Roose, yet again.


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