You push off from the curb, pedalling along a cobblestone street lined with historical buildings leading down to the Seine. You roll past a bustling café, Parisians enjoying their morning coffees. Rounding the corner, the Eiffel Tower looms on your left, rising in the morning sun. You wave to the elderly lady feeding the pigeons and they scatter around you. You continue winding along the river then past The Moulin Rouge and up the hill to Montmartre…

Twenty minutes later, your heart pumping, lungs flush and muscles glowing, you slow your pace to a stop. Your stats appear on the heads-up display: 5000 metres completed, 250 calories burned, and 150-watt average power. You reach back and unclip your headset, wipe the sweat off your face and take stock of your surroundings. You’re back in the basement, snow blowing against the windows and the kids padding around overhead. You check your stats on the companion app, wipe down your rower and head upstairs to your busy day. Au revoir, Paris!

Virtual Reality is here and is adding a whole new level of engagement to the fitness experience.

The above VR experience is courtesy of Holofit, a fitness app developed for the Meta Quest 2. It syncs with any Bluetooth-enabled rower, upright/recumbent bike or elliptical. It can also be used in ‘freestyle’ mode with just the controllers or non-Bluetooth device. It is one of a growing number of fitness-focused apps available for VR headsets. Other outstanding titles include Beat Saber, FitXR, Reakt, Les Mills, and Supernatural. 

Supernatural is an instructor-led full-body workout where you groove to your favourite tunes while bursting balloons to the beat using lightsaber-like bats. All the music is fully licensed with various levels of intensity. Use this app as a quick warm-up or power through a 40-minute HIIT session. The app also includes a boxing set-up where the balloons turn into focus pads. Guided meditation and stretching sessions are included as well. The best part? Each mode transports you to a real-life location like a windy mountaintop in Tibet, a sandstone canyon in Australia or a glistening beach in Tahiti.   

We have great VR success stories from our gym. One of our clients would struggle to complete 1,000 metres on the rowing ergometer due to the monotony of staring at the tiny LCD screen. The moment we put her into the Holofit, she completed 3,500 metres just to finish the map. She now routinely rows 4,000 to 5000 metres. Another client tried fruitlessly for years to find the motivation to complete 20 minutes of physical activity per day. The first time she tried Supernatural, she was hooked! She ended up purchasing her own unit and now rocks out for 20 to 40 minutes a day, quite often chased with a few minutes blasting zombies. Kids won’t put their devices down. Strap them into a headset and watch them dance around the room for an hour without realising they’re doing exercise. 

Headset prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on resolution, viewing angle and processing power, with the Meta Quest 2 easily the most accessible. 

Apps range from $15 to $45 with most offering a trial so you can try them out before committing. 

All the subscription apps have virtual leaderboards for the more competitive participants and most incorporate live or recorded ghosts (human and AI) to push you along and add a social component.

Want to try before you buy? There are loads of VR arcades around with experiences from multiplayer shooting games to dropping you in a racing simulator so realistic that you swear you’re travelling at 300 km/h. Chances are, a friend or colleague probably has one by now too.

Video: VR Fitness Platform HOLOFIT

Photo: Geoff Starling, founder of Every Body STRONGER, works out with Virtual Reality. Photography by Katy Whitt

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