‘Some riders may experience altered spacial awareness’. This warning might be enough to make some people reconsider participating in this particular exercise class. Not me. I was intrigued. The last time I took a class which involved spinning madly on a stationary exercise bicycle was a decade ago – right before I bought my first adult bike. From then, the trees, the breeze and helmet hair had me hooked. I never returned to an indoor group cycling class… well… until now, that is.
I found myself at the Melbourne Fitness and Health Expo, suitable dressed in my active-wear, and ready to participate in ‘The TRIP™’, the latest and greatest Les Mills indoor cycling workout. Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the inaugural Les Mills fitness programs: BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™, and RMP™? The TRIP™ is in the same vein as RPM™… but with a sensational new ingredient: virtual reality. This new program allows you to ride through digital worlds, projected onto huge curved screens. You are guided by a live instructor, who cues the moves, all of which are perfectly choreographed to the music and graphics.
Would I be climbing virtual mountains? Or traversing digital plains? Oh no. This trip was a little trippier than that. We passed through imaginary worlds, starting in a futuristic city with towering spires. As we sped along a neon edged superhighway, I was reminded of Tom Cruise’s high speed chase in Minority report. The technology even played around with gravity and our sense of balance, looping us through corkscrews. Altered spacial awareness: check.
As we raced through a land of glaciers and rugged icecaps, I became so fully immersed in the experience that at one of the bends, I momentarily forgot that my feet were strapped into the pedals of a stationary bike. As I attempted to freewheel around a bend, I was almost flung off my bike onto an unsuspecting neighbouring cyclist! I was able to laugh, regain my composure, and pedal on. After 35 minutes, I left the studio sweaty and satisfied.
Intense? Yes. Yet for this demonstration at the Melbourne Convention Centre, we apparently only experienced 40% of the full immersive effect. The 7 purpose built studios (not yet in Australia) boast 270° screens that span 3 entire walls.
So – are you wheely tyred of the same old exercise routine? Are you geared up for the next level of fitness product? If you want to try The Trip™ right now, you’ll have to book a ticket to Auckland, London, Paris, New York, Santa Monica, Stockholm or Hong Kong. But if you can wait, immersive fitness should be in Australia by the end of the 2016.
Anna E. is a Melburnian bike-rider, coffee-drinker, and dog-lover who is always up for trying new experiences. You might find her balancing on a slackline, training for a triathlon, or building a terrarium.
Check out Les Mills for further details on their classes and to keep updated on THE TRIP.