The hype around crossfit is only one example of the increasing need for alternative fitness. However, even this trendy new workout style can fall short in pumping up those who perceive exercising as torture despite group settings, upbeat music and change in routine. Those people need a radical solution, and that’s exactly what ‘The Trip’ might be offering.
‘The Trip’ is an immersive workout experience that combines indoor cycling with virtual reality through projecting different sceneries on cinema-scale screens placed in cycling studios, that would transport participants to different worlds. It is a product designed by the New Zealand company Les Mills which offers group fitness classes in 150 countries. The program was commercially launched in 2016 and is now operating in 51 different sites.
“We saw a real opportunity in cycling, mainly because the barriers of entry into this exercise are low,” said Glen Stollery, the customer experience director at Les Mills Middle East during an interview with Wamda. “In addition to that, the rise of the boutique cycling trend in the US demonstrated to us that we can really change the game,” he continued.
Technically speaking, virtual reality according to Stollery is a natural fit for cycling because it’s a static sport. Stationary bikes allow participants to comfortably look at a screen for the 40 minute duration of the class.
The GCC as a hotspot for virtual biking
Les Mills is specifically interested in distributing the program in the GCC where the weather disqualifies outdoor sports. The program has already been incorporated by GFX studio in Dubai, which is the first in the region to launch ‘The Trip’ two months ago.
Three other Emirati studios are currently signed up with Les Mills, in addition to some others in Bahrain and Muscat.
Stollery believes that the UAE is embracing the product much more than other countries. There are twice the number of studios endorsing the product in the UAE than the entire US, pointed out the director.
The fact that cycling is already popular in Dubai might have attracted the company to sell there. With its specialized tracks and touristic cycling packages, the city has managed to find a place on the world’s cycling map.VR biking therefore serves an already existing community which makes audience building for hosting studios much easier.
“Being an indoor cycling instructor myself, I felt that this would be a great opportunity to bring something truly unique to cycling enthusiasts in Dubai,” said Deepak Lalvini the founder of GFX who, after noticing a successful turnout rate, is aiming at establishing ten ‘Trip’ studios in Dubai over the next two years.
GFX has so far offered the service to around 1,000 participants. Trips are offered twice a day in a studio that fits 41 people and that has two Panasonic laser projectors to display ‘Trip’ movies in what feels like an IMAX theatre. The price of one class is $23. There are 11 alternating trips, each projecting a different scenery ranging from cityscapes to outer space and underground tunnels. The gym receives new trips from Les Mills on a quarterly basis.
According to Stollery, the cost of customizing a ‘Trip’ studio ranges between $60,000 to $80,000 including the technical equipment as well as the visual and audio content produced by Les Mills.
The future of ‘Tripping’
In the future, Les Mills is planning to incorporate VR in other fitness genres including yoga and martial arts. This will also be deployed throughout the Middle East at a later stage.
The company is also working with Oculus to develop a VR headset program which would allow users to enjoy the Trip experience at home but this won’t replace the group exercise at the studio, as Stollery explained.
“Home workout is great and we see it as a fantastic supplement, but it’s kind of like listening to a song on an iPod at home versus going to a live concert,” he said.
International examples of companies that are working on developing VR headset biking programs include Icaros , Wide run and Virzoom. Other companies that are using VR fitness for different purposes include Blackbox, Virtuix Omni, Space Walker, and Rovr.