Dialing within the Proper Stage of VR Depth
When you climb onto a treadmill or recumbent bike and adjust the speed or resistance, you can expect consistent performance. In other words, if you sit on a treadmill and suddenly accelerate or stop, it doesn’t matter. You tell the machine how hard or how fast you want to go and you are forced to keep it until you change the settings accordingly. Virtual reality exercises, on the other hand, will only push you as hard as you push yourself.
The Virtual Reality Institute for Health and Exercise provides an invaluable resource for filtering VR games based on calorie burn rates. At the bottom end of the spectrum are walking equivalent experiences like Superhot, which burn 2-4 calories per minute, and on the other end, The Thrill of the Fight holds the top honors for a whopping 15+ calories per minute.
While these are great for giving VR trainers an objective yardstick for choosing a VR practice game, it’s worth realizing that a person’s personal experience will be extremely subjective. In my own experience with Superhot, I burned about 5 cal / min and in The Thrill of the Fight about 14.5 cal / min.
While my own experiences have been very close to their realizations, they still fell just outside of their intended ranges, and your own experiences can vary widely based on your own unique fitness and training variables. The VR Institute explains this in its own methodology. While using their ratings is extremely useful in gaining an insight into the calorie burning potential of these games, it is only an estimate.
If VR training is something you take seriously in order to achieve fitness and health goals, it is worthwhile a) determining what intensity levels you are aiming for and b) determining what intensity levels your games will give you.
Determine your intensity goals
The intensity as I use it in this article is a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Your Maximum Heart Rate (HR) is the absolute highest number of beats per minute that your heart can pump under maximum stress. To find your estimated maximum HR, simply calculate 220 – (minus) your age. This is a quick and easy way to get your HR estimate, although other, more accurate methods exist. You can use this table to calculate which heart rate zone corresponds to the specified training effect.
Each intensity zone has a practical benefit that can be incorporated into your VR training program. In general, the lowest three zones (50-80%) can be sustained for longer periods of time, and the highest zones (80% -100%) should only be sustained for shorter periods of time before your heart rate can drop closer to 80% around yours restore stamina before climbing again over 80%. For example, the thrill of the fight is set up like a traditional boxing match, with only three 3-minute rounds in the orange / red zone before taking a minute’s break in between. This is a reasonable approach.
Determine your VR intensity output
The best way to see how intense your VR workouts are is to use a monitor to keep track of your HR. The two most popular consumer monitors on the market are optical and electrical. Optical sensors are usually worn on the wrist and use an emitted light to measure blood flow. Optical sensors are less accurate than electrical sensors, especially when it comes to tracking sudden spikes or drops in HR fluctuations. In my experience, they are great for tracking runs and bikes, but less so for VR fitness. I recommend using an electrical sensor like the Polar H7 chest strap for tracking in VR.
Regardless of whether you are using an optical or an electrical sensor, you want your HR measurements to be exported to an app that visually represents your HR zones.
Representing your VR workouts this way can help you see how effectively your workouts are achieving your intensity goals.
Based on the measurements you have collected, you can now adjust your workout to meet your goals. If your heart rate is slower than you’d like, you can either try harder by moving more vigorously, adding a weight vest, or choosing a more challenging game. If your HR intensity is so high that you cannot endure a longer workout at an effective pace, you can hold back how hard you are by either choosing an easier level of difficulty or choosing a more moderate game. This gives you the most productive use of your time.
What suggestions do you have for monitoring your intensity? Do you have a favorite HR monitor or app? Let us know in the comments below!
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