The unique properties of IMMERSIVE cycling mean a whole new audience of exercisers are heading for gyms to try it for themselves.

Chances are, when you reach the end of THE TRIP™ and climb off your machine, you’ll under-estimate how hard you’ve just worked out. The combination of an immersive audio-visual experience and a carefully calibrated cycle program means your mind is as engaged as your body; your perception of time and the energy you are expending is affected without you really noticing.

As Les Mills Immersive Product Manager Chris Richardson explains, other cycle classes will sometimes allow riders to dissociate from the workout because of the intensity of a music track or the way the instructor is teaching, but with THE TRIP another level of psychology comes into play.

“When you’re looking at the top of that hill, you say to yourself, I’m not going to button off two seconds early, because if I do, everyone’s going to roll past me. Or I’m going to have to jump off my bike and walk it up the hill. Your subconscious really starts to believe the experience, and you can even go harder without realising because of that.”

Others concur. Says one fan who is just getting back into fitness after injury, THE TRIP offers a less intimidating option than some other cycle classes.

“With a Trip class I can spend double the time that I have done on a bike in the gym, and I’ve pushed myself harder as we go up that last hill or race that final stretch. I become totally immersed in the journey and stop clock-watching or thinking about my fitness, and just enjoy the ride.”

This identifiable effect saw THE TRIP taken from being a 30-minute class to a 40-minute one, in order to maximize the workout. And it is an intense workout, lying somewhere between Cardio Peak Training and High-Intensity Interval Training. A recent preliminary study by the Auckland University of Technology found that riders will burn up to 790 calories per session, placing it between RPM™ and LES MILLS SPRINT™ in terms of energy spent.

THE TRIP Intensity Zones

Finding the right mix of motivational and physical elements was a complex process, according to co-creator Les Mills Jnr. To begin with they were concerned that a full-screen immersive experience might be overwhelming for some people, and that the projection might be limited to the studio ceiling.

“We got over that pretty quick,” says Les. “We figured that if we were going to do this, we might as well do it right. If we were actually going to create worlds, then people have got to be looking at them.”

Unlike a conventional cycle class, the instructor faces the screen with the class, and this has turned out to be another key component, along with the minimization of technical language in the classes.

“I was lucky enough to be the main teacher during development, says Les Jnr, “so I learned how to teach it along the way. At first I thought the teacher would have to explain everything – ‘look at this, check out the mountain’ – but it’s not like that at all. If the teacher over-coaches, it ruins the experiences. So there was a lot of learning.”

Allowing participants to let their own imaginations be part of the ride, and not interfering with those personal interpretations, has also been crucial. “We lost the technical language, kept it really simple, and allowed people to add their own creative experience to the world we developed for them. It’s simple, quick, sharp coaching – just telling people what they need to do and, at the right time, providing inspiration to drive them through a challenging piece.”

It’s a winning formula, as evidenced by the new customers coming to gyms for an immersive workout. “If it excites the existing group,” says Chris Richardson, “that’s great. But it’s more about getting a larger group – businesses, club owners, instructors, people who wouldn’t normally come to us – to come along and try it. Which is also why we are going to make a point of keeping this really unique.”

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