Brave New Workout

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Virtual reality and calorie burning collide in this high-tech spin class known as THE TRIP.

The music swells into a pulsating crescendo as you plummet down the neon-laden track, pedalling furiously through the unfolding futuristic cityscape. You lean into the momentum of the steep decline with a satisfying whoosh, and then throw your body into a tight corner, pulling out on the straight with a satisfied grin.

Except you’re not on the open road. The track is projected onto a giant cinema-like screen and you’re cycling on a glorified spin machine. The other dozen or so participants on either flank aren’t about to cut you up or send you careering off the track.

But your body doesn’t know all that. Those loops and turns feel somehow real, and somewhere in the process you forget that this is supposed to be a workout.

The experience

This is how THE TRIP by Les Mills is supposed to be experienced. The high-tech spin class is billed as an ‘immersive fitness’ installation, and it’s now a permanent fixture at seven flagship gyms around the globe, including David Lloyd Leisure in London. Given the rising demand for virtual reality and augmented reality entertainment it’s a no-brainer to incorporate these immersive elements of technology with real-life fitness.

Despite all the tech running under the hood, the actual classes are straightforward to follow. The class instructor cues exercise moves to audio-visual cues in the videogame-esque projection, which creates a visceral and intuitive response in participants. It feels like there’s synchronicity between the environment being projected and the physical actions being played out.

“The benefit of training in an immersive environment is the heightened sense of anticipation and reward,” says fitness expert Elaine Denton. “By suspending belief, you’ll stop thinking about the length of the workout, pushing yourself harder.”

Get motivated

Cardio workouts are often dreaded and dropped when they become too monotonous, but the nature of immersive fitness has workout motivation built-in.

“From being ‘immersed’ into the activity you are only mindful of the class and energy input, allowing you to challenge yourself without distraction. Because of this the session appears to be over quickly, and you feel like you have truly accomplished what you set out to do,” says Denton.

It’s no stretch to imagine the concept taking off into other areas, and with a big name like Reebok on board alongside Les Mills we can only begin to fathom the potential. In Hong Kong THE TRIP fans enjoy a 270-degree studio experience giving them complete immersion, enveloping them within scenes of arctic glaciers, digital velodrome and sci-fi metropolis, all unfolding at breakneck pace.

With beautiful visuals, a heart-pumping soundtrack and pitch-perfect exercise choreography, it’s no wonder Les Mills has struck gold with this new workout formula. But much like the Oculus Rift, or Google Glass, it has to be experienced to be truly understood.