Climb on and en­joy the Trip

Ever fan­cied vir­tual cy­cling un­der wa­ter? Well now you can, finds Stephen Heard.

Sunday News - - WELLBEING -

Re­mem­ber the gi­ant dome at Rain­bow’s End that screened 180-de­gree pro­jec­tions and gen­er­ated the feel­ing of liv­ing in­side a film? That im­mer­sive tech­nol­ogy is now be­ing used in the fit­ness world to cre­ate full sen­sory work­outs or ‘‘ex­er­tain­ment’’. Vir­tual cy­cling is not your av­er­age cy­cling class. Take a lineup of sta­tion­ary ex­er­cise bikes, a cin­ema-size screen with an­i­mated pro­jec­tions and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing club sound­track. Your mind and stom­ach re­act nat­u­rally to the dips and curves as the scenery floats past. Riders are also en­cour­aged to ad­just the re­sis­tance of the bike to match the gra­di­ent on the screen. The ver­sion at Les Mills, called The Trip, takes par­tic­i­pants on an im­mer­sive jour­ney through vir­tual moun­tains, oceans and rab­bit war­rens.

Les Mills’ The Trip is found in a blacked-out room with 30-odd ex­er­cise bikes fac­ing a gi­ant screen. After ad­just­ing my bike to suit, the in­struc­tor re­vealed that, should any­one feel sick dur­ing the class, the best way to shake it off was by sim­ply clos­ing your eyes. As the screen came to life, a fur­ther dis­claimer was pre­sented about the per­ils of mo­tion sick­ness.

For this 40-minute class we would be tak­ing a trip un­der­wa­ter. The ex­pe­ri­ence started at a com­fort­able pace rid­ing along an open road. As the road un­du­lated and we were prompted to move with the screen from side to side, my in­nards mim­icked the sen­sa­tion of rid­ing down­hill. A mu­tual ‘‘whoa’’ from the room proved that I wasn’t the only one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a bizarre sen­sa­tion.

An in­cline ap­proached in the dis­tance and the in­struc­tor ad­vised us to dial up the re­sis­tance and move to a stand­ing po­si­tion. Like the real world, the screen al­lows you to see (and pre­pare for) the re­gret­table ter­rain ap­proach­ing on the hori­zon. The breathy air con­di­tioner filled in for an au­then­tic breeze.

As the road came to an end we jour­neyed un­der­wa­ter and the bike’s re­sis­tance was matched to the in­ten­sity of tread­ing wa­ter. We pulsed through a vor­tex, fol­lowed jel­ly­fish and bat­tled up­hill at the high­est re­sis­tance at 30 and 45-sec­ond in­ter­vals. The high-in­ten­sity sec­tion con­tin­ued with sharp in­clines and rapid ped­alling down­hill. We also waved our hands in the air for some rea­son. The mes­meris­ing pro­jec­tions – namely, flu­o­res­cent sea crea­tures, an­i­mal-shaped rock for­ma­tions and aurora bo­re­alis – of­ten over­whelmed the feel­ing of ex­er­cise, and the level of per­spi­ra­tion and mus­cle fa­tigue at the end didn’t seem to match the 40-minute times­pan.

Les Mills Im­mer­sive prod­uct man­ager Chris Richard­son says that The Trip ‘‘lies some­where between car­dio peak-train­ing and high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing’’. A study by Penn State Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land that com­pared ex­er­cise with the au­dio and vis­ual el­e­ments of The Trip found that novice ex­er­cis­ers ex­pe­ri­enced a re­duced per­cep­tion of in­ten­sity, and the pro­gramme may help in keep­ing a reg­u­lar ex­er­cise regime. The beauty with vir­tual cy­cling is that you can take the in­ten­sity and re­sis­tance at your own level. The smoke­screen of the au­dio-vis­ual con­tent also dis­tracts from the near-ver­ti­cal plane you just climbed.

The beauty with vir­tual cy­cling is that you can take the in­ten­sity and re­sis­tance at your own level.

After two dis­claimers, mo­tion sick­ness ap­pears to be the main haz­ard with vir­tual cy­cling. Those who have a his­tory of seizures and light sen­si­tiv­ity should per­haps avoid The Trip, while those with pre­vi­ous heart and back prob­lems should con­sult a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, then in­form the trainer. lesmills.com/work­outs/ fit­ness-classes/the-trip/

The Trip ‘‘lies some­where between car­dio peak-train­ing and high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing’’.

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