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Sitting all day ruined my well being. VR saved me.

You most likely don’t know me. I’m not a well-known author.
However I’ve labored on some well-known video games, reminiscent of Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat 11. This story isn’t about writing preventing video games, although. It’s about how my sedentary, workaholic writing habits made me chubby, and slower and weaker than I ought to have been. And the way it quickly went downhill from there.
Then I’m going to let you know how I fought again.
Placing your ass within the chair
“The artwork of writing is the artwork of making use of the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
—Mary Heaton Vorse, circa 1911
Ask any skilled author for the key of their success, and there’s an excellent likelihood they’ll reply with some variation of the above recommendation. It was handed right down to me by my Aunt Nene, up to date for the modern technology as “the key of writing is ass in chair.”
Ass-in-chair produces outcomes, as a technique. However it might probably weaken and destroy your physique in observe, which is strictly what occurred to your humble narrator. I spent 10 to 16 hours a day with my ass in a chair, writing — or usually making an attempt and failing to write down — comedian books and video video games from 2014 by means of 2016. Day-after-day I wakened, put my ass within the chair, labored in my chair, ate in my chair and, for all intents and functions, lived in my chair.

An image of my workplace from 2014, full with child. That is how I spent manner an excessive amount of time.

Shawn Kittelsen

I gained about 20 kilos in these two years, and I wasn’t pleased with myself. I attempted altering my consuming habits, however weight-reduction plan alone wouldn’t take the fats off. I needed to train.
The difficulty was that the extra I exercised, the extra ache I felt in my decrease again, which zapped me with searing bolts of lightning each time I jumped, ran, climbed, or swam. I wanted to be extra lively, however I used to be able to doing much less and fewer. Even sitting turned painful, which precipitated me to order a standing desk and eventually see a health care provider, however it was too late.
After I couldn’t ignore it anymore
It was January 2017. I used to be alone at house, standing in my kitchen, ready for a tea kettle to boil, after I coughed. A fiery lightning bolt pierced my decrease again. The ache shot down by means of my toes and swept my legs out from underneath me. All the pieces flashed white. Then I discovered myself on the ground, motionless and in worse ache than I’ve ever identified.
An MRI confirmed the culprits: two herniated discs in my lumbar backbone. I couldn’t sit, drive, or do a lot of something comfortably for months. I had no paid break day as a freelancer, so my solely possibility was to write down whereas standing up. It felt unnatural at first, however I tailored.
I now favor to inform up-and-coming writers that the key to writing is habitually making use of phrases to clean pages, in whichever place works for you.
Placing my work collectively was straightforward sufficient, although. The tougher half was placing myself again collectively.
My highway to restoration
I remained in fixed ache, regardless of some great benefits of my standing desk. I couldn’t decide up my child boy with out throwing out my again. I couldn’t assist my spouse carry heavy groceries or baggage. I felt like a prisoner in my very own physique.
My horrible American medical insurance lined essentially the most generally advisable remedies for herniated discs and sciatica: painkillers, painful surgical procedures, and extra painkillers. Popping drugs gave the impression of an effective way to destroy my life with an opiate dependancy, so I went my very own manner in quest of extra wise options. These options ended up being long-term bodily remedy, medical marijuana for ache, and, in the end, digital actuality.
The difficulty was that the extra I exercised, the extra ache I felt in my decrease again
Bodily remedy concerned a spread of remedies, however an important components had been the workout routines assigned by my coach, which I repeated each day. Our goal was to construct a girdle of robust core muscle groups that might carry and maintain my torso indefinitely. I turned robust sufficient to sit down comfortably for as much as an hour or two inside 4 months of the deadly cough.
My features had been plateauing, nevertheless. My blood strain and coronary heart charge had been excessive, and I couldn’t lose the final 10 of the 20 kilos I’d gained. I wanted cardiovascular train, however makes an attempt at operating, biking, rowing, and swimming resulted in agony and struggling. I had strengthened my core, however different areas of my physique had been nonetheless weak and liable to harm. It was a irritating cycle.
Coming into the Rift
I wanted full-body, high-intensity cardio exercise that will not irritate my again. I discovered it by chance, whereas experimenting with the Oculus Rift.
Making an attempt Batman: Arkham VR with PS Transfer controllers on the ground of E3 2016 had woke up me as a VR evangelist. The extent of immersion achievable in VR was past audiovisual in nature. It was visceral and physiological. I instantly began saving to construct a PC that might deal with VR.
I purchased myself an Oculus Rift six months after my harm, and rearranged my workplace to create space for a room-scale VR setup, with IR sensors posted in three corners to trace my motion.

I mounted my Rift’s sensors on the wall to provide myself loads of room to maneuver round.

Shawn Kittelsen

I performed for hours my first night time, sampling a bunch of nice video games that I nonetheless advocate at present: Lone Echo, Robo Recall, House Pirate Coach, and The Climb, a rock-climbing recreation which lets anybody indulge their internal Alex Honnold and free solo their manner up some intimidating mountains.
My again, shoulders, legs, and arms all turned sore the following day. Not injured sore, however post-workout restoration sore. Possibly I hadn’t mounted an actual area station, fought a military of robots, or scaled Siberian glaciers, however my physique appeared to assume it was actual sufficient. This greater than enjoying video games. It was rehab.
I performed The Climb each different day. Stretching from one ledge to a different, or pulling myself as much as the following grip, I’d faux I used to be there and flex my muscle groups to create dynamic pressure, making use of genuine effort to digital challenges. I needed to ice my shoulders after each climb.
My scores in The Climb had been restricted by my relative weak spot and ache, not the sport mechanics. I didn’t simply “really feel” my energy and agility creating within the subsequent weeks, I demonstrated that improvement by beating my very own excessive scores repeatedly.
Websites like VR Health Insider, VR Institute of Well being and Train (VR IHE), and the /Oculus subreddit helped me discover extra exercise-worthy video games. Three video games caught my eye for notoriously punishing out-of-shape gamers with high-intensity cardio exercise:
The primary was Holopoint, an archery recreation that includes a lot ducking and dodging that I nonetheless haven’t overwhelmed the sport after enjoying for 2 years. 20 minutes in Holopoint makes for one hell of a leg day.
Subsequent was Thrill of the Struggle, a boxing simulator so intense that it produces comparable exercise ranges to rowing. I’ve all the time needed to field, however I received’t danger throwing palms in actual life as a result of my carpal tunnel and the game’s potential for concussions. This warning felt smart after the primary time I stepped into the digital ring.

Taking part in Thrill of the Struggle

I lasted all of three rounds earlier than getting knocked out in that first match. Possibly I hadn’t been absorbing physique photographs in actual life, however I’d been working. I used to be gassed, drenched in sweat, with my coronary heart pounding out of my chest. The muscle aches lasted virtually every week.
Lastly, there was Audioshield, a rhythm recreation during which your shielded palms block and swipe beats out of the sky as they fly at you. Suppose Guitar Hero meets boxing. Audioshield was addictive. The mix of rhythmic gameplay, psychedelic graphics, and bodily exercise was like doing SoulCycle on LSD.
However tragedy struck. Some glitch precipitated my Contact controllers to cease producing rumble whereas enjoying Audioshield, despite the fact that they labored high quality on each different recreation. Being unable to really feel the strike of the beats in opposition to my palms made Audioshield unattainable to play. I turned to BoxVR, a cardio-boxing recreation, as a substitute.
BoxVR, Holopoint, and Thrill of the Struggle turned the pillars of my each day VR exercises. Holopoint strengthened my legs, Thrill of the Struggle strengthened my higher physique, and BoxVR was my cardio exercise. I used a coronary heart charge monitor to trace physiological metrics alongside gameplay. I misplaced a couple of extra kilos, and my common standing coronary heart charge dropped from 85 bpm to 78 bpm.
Though BoxVR joined Holopoint and Thrill of the Struggle as a everlasting fixture in my exercises, it couldn’t recreate the rhythmic circulate conjured by a chic session of Audioshield, which had been my excellent exercise. Would I ever fall in love like that once more?
The reply was no. As a substitute of falling in love, I used to be about to search out faith.
The gospel of Beat Saber
If Audioshield was Guitar Hero combined with boxing, then Beat Saber is Guitar Hero combined with the Jedi arts. It’s the high-intensity, low-impact holy grail of cardio.
You play whereas standing on a platform in a neon-lit industrial void. There’s a crimson plasma-saber in your left hand, and a blue plasma-saber in your proper. Beats fly towards you in crimson and blue bins as your selection of music performs. You must slice every field in half, whereas matching your saber colours to the colours of the beats.

Taking part in Beat Saber can look very foolish …

I used quick, tight motions to play at first, till I discovered that an ideal 50/50 slice and a 150-degree arc on every swing would maximize my rating. The beats got here at me so rapidly in later ranges that I needed to grasp advanced swing patterns, two-handed slashes, crossovers, and drumlike trill strokes. Power partitions typically flew at me with the beats, forcing me to squat and dodge whereas swinging my sabers.
Beat Saber turned the brand new centerpiece of my each day routine. I performed it for over an hour on my greatest days, swinging by means of songs repeatedly to grasp them because the sweat fell on my yoga mat. I discovered myself catching a runner’s excessive about 40 to 50 minutes into most periods, inflicting the entire world to soften away because the Pressure flowed by means of my physique, guiding my sabers to their beats. No aches, no pains, and no strains. Simply pure, kinetic circulate.

… however the expertise in VR can’t be beat.

Optimizing my Beat Saber periods required optimizing all the pieces outdoors of the sport. I diversified my VR exercises and supplemented them with a DDP Yoga subscription to construct joint assist and vary of movement. I lastly prioritized eight hours of sleep every night time, and caught with a eating regimen with numerous proteins, wholesome fat, and greens as an alternative of extra carbs and sugar. Happily, I can burn sufficient energy to earn a scoop of ice cream most days.
I’ve ascended the Beat Saber ranks from D scores to S scores, from comparatively accessible Skilled ranges to astonishingly troublesome Skilled+ challenges. I’ve even sliced my manner onto the Skilled+ leaderboards among the many high 150 greatest gamers in a couple of songs. I’m nonetheless pushing in opposition to my bodily limits, day after day, and getting higher.
My outcomes
It’s now been over two years since I coughed and hit the kitchen ground. How am I doing?

common standing coronary heart charge, January 2017: 85-90 bpm
common standing coronary heart charge, April 2019: 67-72 bpm

weight, January 2017: 216 kilos
weight, April 2019: 201 kilos

common each day exercise, January 2017: zero minutes, zero energy
common each day exercise, April 2019: 45 minutes, 500 energy (minimal)

I by no means reached my aim weight of 196 kilos, however that’s as a result of I’ve changed a lot of the further fats with muscle fiber. At 35 years previous, I appear and feel higher than I’ve in 10 years.
My again nonetheless hurts, typically fairly a bit. I train till it feels higher.
I can decide up my son once more. Regardless of being two years older and a number of other kilos heavier, I can hug him, carry him, play with him, and revel in myself. I’m additionally there to assist my spouse actually and figuratively carry the load of parenting, housekeeping, or heavy objects.
Understanding in VR gave me my life and dignity again. And I’m not alone. Miraculous tales seem on blogs, Reddit, and group boards, telling of individuals with well being points way more extreme than my very own, who’re altering their real-life our bodies utilizing current-gen VR.
The frequent thread in so many of those tales, in addition to Beat Saber, is that so many people have spent too lengthy residing, working, and enjoying in sedentary states. Charges of weight problems, coronary heart illness, and work-related repetitive stress accidents are all on the rise.
Humanity has not survived, tailored, and developed for tens of hundreds of years to show into home vegetation. We are able to’t go on like this, and we received’t.
The revolution could also be digital
For those who’re studying this and considering that you can use much less ass-in-chair time, I like to recommend buying any VR system that permits you to play Beat Saber. I favor my Oculus Rift, however you may break a sweat whether or not you might have the Rift, Vive, PSVR, or Home windows Combined Actuality.
For those who’ve been injured or inactive for a very long time, take into account that my restoration started with the steering of my household physician and the crew at Ahead Movement Bodily Remedy in Los Angeles. By investing of their counsel, I prevented compounding my again issues with extra accidents.
I’m actually grateful for my herniated discs. They uncovered the delusion of my ass-in-chair mentality, forcing me to make more healthy selections. Beat Saber and VR exercises have made me higher, sooner, and stronger. I’m preventing the specter of impending disabilities with each beat I slice.
Don’t wait round for the worldwide VR health revolution to return. So many people are making it work proper now.

Shawn Kittelsen is a contract author and narrative designer. Most not too long ago, he’s served as narrative lead and co-writer of Mortal Kombat 11 for NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Video games. He needs younger writers to know that he accomplished his work on MK11 with out as soon as making use of the seat of his pants to the seat of a chair.