This cult workout got a virtual reality glow-up, and we’re sold

Not to brag, but I’m usually pretty good at the morning hustle. I’m out of the house by 5:30AM, and after a bus ride and a short walk, am settled on a pilates mat for a 6:00AM class.  

But today was one of those Monday mornings where your eyelids feel like they’re glued shut, and your five-minute snooze alarm feels more like 20 seconds. Even so, I managed to pull myself out of bed in my half-conscious state and get myself down to the bus stop, only to be stood up by my regular ride. Ticking over to the point of missing the class, I turned around and headed home, pretty peeved that my week had started this way. 

Then I remembered the box on my kitchen table. I’d been lent a VIVE XR Elite headset, loaded with a few workouts to try. So, gaining a second wind, I reluctantly stepped into the world of virtual reality, choosing to believe I had not put on activewear in vain.

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Breaking down the class

I’d come across Les Mills before, seeing the highly popularised American fitness chain pop up on the Instagram accounts of models and well-known fitness buffs. With a cemented reputation for their hardcore workouts and a strong sense of community within the classes, I was intrigued to see how well the experience would be captured with a pair of goggles in my living room. 

But immediately, my fears of graininess and glitchiness were proven unnecessary. As my entire surrounding environment maintained a crystal clear image, keeping up with any slight movement, my perception of virtual reality was transformed as soon as I put on the goggles. 

The only time I’d use easy to describe the class that ensued is the manner in which it is to follow. The virtual trainer definitely filled the gap created by a lack of physical people enduring the sweaty torture alongside me. They intricately coached me through a variety of movements, creating a far more interactive experience than any pre-recorded video, and pushing me beyond even some crowded in-person classes I’ve been in.

My entire perception of virtual reality was transformed as soon as I put on the goggles. Image: Getty

Aside from Les Mills BODYCOMBAT, the headset can be loaded with dozens of immersive fitness apps, with new experiences being added each month, with everything from freestyle dance fitness to gamified martial arts-inspired programs. 

Following my sweaty session, I selected a quick guided meditation. I’m usually the person checking my watch in a yoga class, finding it virtually impossible to meditate and relax on demand. In seconds, I was transported to a tranquil forest, guided through a series of breathing exercises and mindful meditations. 

Thomas Dexmier, Australia and New Zealand Country Manager at HTC VIVE, shares why virtual reality may soon become a staple in our workout rosters. According to Dexmier, the programs are built to support variety, offering users every kind of specification to design their perfect workout experience. 

“Outside of working out, wellness apps like AtOne have grown in popularity as a way to relax, zone out and de-stress,” Dexmier says. “With research showing that mindfulness virtual reality experiences can effectively reduce anxiety, it’s exciting to see the potential impact of apps like these on people’s well-being as immersive technology becomes more prevalent.”

Virtual reality experiences have been found to effectively reduce anxiety and promote mindfulness. Image: Getty

The range of immersive workouts available on the XR Elite uses guided coaching and tactical cues, differentiating the experience from other at-home training options. 

“While working out to a video or listening to a meditation on a phone can easily feel stale and repetitive, apps like Les Mills BODYCOMBAT and AtOne provide a 360 experience that wearers can lose themselves in, with virtual instructors and regular new content to keep things feeling fresh,” Dexmier says. 

Is virtual reality the future of fitness?

According to Dexmier, opting for an immersive virtual experience is fast proving to be a welcome reality for many people who are balancing a busy schedule or prefer working out alone at home. 

“There is a vast potential for the role that mixed and virtual reality can play in enhancing exercise, whether that’s simulating a challenging environment or incorporating interactive elements to make working out more difficult or more fun, to connecting us with friends and instructors from across the globe for virtual training sessions,” Dexmier says.  

The programs eliminate some of the biggest barriers stopping people from prioritising their fitness, such as rigid class timings, long commutes, and discomfort around others. 

“With XR headsets you can do intense workouts at home while making it look and feel like you’re somewhere else,” he says. “And you can do it on your own schedule, no rigid class times, and no waiting for equipment.” 

The programs eliminate some of the biggest barriers stopping people from prioritising their fitness. Image: Getty

While the whole idea of a virtual workout might seem too complicated for your routine,  the virtual reality expert says there are some exciting industry developments in the near future that could see virtual reality advance into all areas of our lives, not just fitness. 

“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg regarding the possibilities of virtual and extended reality and its potential in our everyday lives,” explains Dexmier. “Immersive experiences are reinventing how we exercise, multi-task, unwind and work, combining physical and virtual worlds unlike ever before.” 

All up, I was pleasantly surprised by the immersive experience, not only in the difficulty of the workout but in the quality of the graphics and motion. Find out more about the VIVE XR Elite here. 

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