Exercise isn’t always exciting, unless you do it like this that is. From ‘spinema’ to cinematic yoga against an Alpine backdrop, immersive fitness will make you see, feel and experience workouts in a whole new way (and you won’t be tempted to bail)
Ever clockwatched through a cardio class on a treadmill facing the wall? How about that ‘hamster on a wheel’ feel on cycling to nowhere during a spin session that’s dragging? Mental stimulation is a key factor in the motivation to get moving, but during the cold, dark winter months especially, the prospect of sprinting into a gale or confining ourselves to an over familiar gym floor or windowless studio often isn’t the kind of mojo most of us need to push towards a PB, feel inspired to try a new move or frankly just give it some welly. Which is why the rise of immersive fitness is just so damn exhilarating. If you fancy riding through Ibiza before 8am, ending the day with a scientifically backed multi-sensory yoga experience to help you to sleep or competing in a visual Tour de France mountain climb to spur on winter training, immerse yourself in the following…
The holiday on a bike
If you’ve ever spent a spin class staring at the rider’s bum in front of you for lack of any other visuals, you need to get thee on board with First Light . Literally alighting a bike can take you to Rio, Dubai, Ibiza and many other stimulating global locations by way of an enormous 30ft ‘magic mirror’ screen, and each skyline you cycle past is accurate enough to claim you’ve been there IRL.
The 45 minute spin classes begin at sunrise and end at sunset so you’ll do a day in your chosen location and each vista features lifelike light experiences- desert light in the Middle east is warm and orange hued while Balearic scenes feature fresh blue skies that’ll take you right out First Light’s grey west London studio setting (I can say this because I live round the corner). Seeing sunset on the horizon is a far more galvanizing final push than counting down the minutes and bathing in light while sweating it out before work is a supreme weekday wakeup call. There’s currently only one location but we’re hoping the travelling spin classes begin to actually spring up everywhere. In the meantime if you’re heading to Westfield Shepherd’s Bush it’s a energising way to steel yourself before battling the crowds…
Beginners get two credits for £20, book online
The ‘Sydney Opera House’ of spinning
More stimulating spinning but this time in the world’s first spinning amphitheatre, just to get all dramatic and Roman on you. 1Rebel’s London Victoria outpost is dedicated to Ride classes, but don’t for one second imagine that this makes it a one trick pony. The cavernous, metallic clad studio takes workouts to new levels in every sense - there are three floors, 85 bikes and a £600,000 audiovisual system the likes of which are apparently only seen elsewhere in the Sydney Opera House. Suitably, this spin experience is all about the drama - “rockstar” instructors dub this place the “theatre”, there are multiple themed rides to choose from throughout any given day or week and immersive pyrotechnic effects plus hand weight sessions and varied class lengths keep things interesting.
Beginners get three classes for £45, book online
The multi-sense stimulating yoga
East London’s ChromaYoga founder Nina Ryner was fed up of ‘blah’ fitness classes that followed a predictable formula and was inspired by live art installations to take exercise into more experimental territory. The result is yoga classes encompassing scientifically proven monochromatic light therapy to stimulate melatonin production (red) to help you to unwind or get the body’s sleep-wake in-sync to give you energy when you need it (blue). This is complemented by the power and dynamism of the yoga flow alongside curated soundscapes to promote tranquility, focus and positivity (you can choose a single ‘colour’ or a class that encompasses multiple elements) and tailored aromatherapy to match the mood and aim of each class.
It’s a seriously cool concept, whether you take the creatively lit studios at face value or go fully holistic with a Super Pink class that incorporates restorative light, sound and colour therapy with yoga, acupuncture, reiki, meditation and bespoke massage. If that’s not immersive I’m not sure what is.
7 day intro offer for £35, book online
The most satisfying spin class you’ve ever done
At least that’s what a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise would suggest of Les Mills’ The Trip cycle class. When comparing the immersive cinematic class format with audio only classes, both taken by beginners over the course of eight sessions, researchers from Penn State University identified that, while exercise intensity was equal in both groups, perceived exertion was lower among The Trip attendees and satisfaction levels higher. Basically, they worked out to the same degree but had far more fun. Which would obviously have the knock-on effect of encouraging them to return to the studio, becoming fitter in the process.
If you’re wondering how they got so much ‘bums on seats’ enjoyment, The Trip allows riders to tap into stimulating audio visual ‘worlds’, whether soaring up glaciers, cycling underwater or even through ancient realms. The spinning class essentially game-ifies your workout, with the aim of transporting mind and body and allowing you to sustain effort and motivation that you might otherwise struggle with. Given that it was Kiwi trainer Mills who first came up with Bodypump, we predict big things for The Trip - you can attend classes all over the world, but in the UK you’ll find The Trip at David Lloyd clubs.
Find out more about David Lloyd membership
The screensaver yoga space
Granted, the backdrop to Fly Ldn ’s yoga classes are more cinematic than bog-standard screen saver but the natural vistas do have something of the slick Macbook background to them - think abundant pine forests, crisp alpine scenes and calming glacial lakes. First choose your flow, ranging from basic classes for beginners to yoga teacher training programmes, then take a deep breath and get moving in a zone that couldn’t feel further away from the studio’s hectic City location - the ever-changing meticulously curated playlists will also help with the escapism aim.
First class for £10, book online
The IRL training exercise
If you’re training for a triathlon or simply want to flex your competitive muscles, Digme ’s Perform class will provide analytical ground in which to test your limits - you’ll be up against your classmates in a Tour de France style cycling race, complete with your own avatar shooting through landscapes on the big screen and extensive data as to how you’re performing and where you stand on the leaderboard. It’s pretty savage stuff - I went to a class when I was slightly under the weather and came last (go figure), but it’s satisfying to see where your strengths lie and get a sense of how a solo training programme is going.
Find Digme studios in London and Oxford with three class intro offers from £16
The six floor central London health hub
Psycle became a spinning phenomenon very soon after its initial launch back in 2014 and this winter in particular is seeing the primarily spinning based concept (although it’s all change there) going from strength to strength. First off Psycle has just opened its fourth London studio in Clapham and secondly the 9th of December will see the soft launch of its new 13,000 square ft Mortimer Street expansion, making it immersive in scope even if there are no virtual reality headsets as yet. It’ll be London’s largest boutique fitness space with 60 classes catering for all abilities, from challenging OMFG yoga (yes the acronym means what you think it does) to barre classes using gliders for an extra challenge and an hour long Stamina class to test your mettle. Also added to the Psycle portfolio are workshops with health, fitness and wellbeing experts, mindfulness courses, one-to-one coaching, a new Energy Kitchen cafe and six and 12 week ‘Energy Project’ programmes for a deep-dive into improving physical and emotional health. If you’re looking for immersion of the literal kind, it’ll be here by Christmas.
Buy your first two classes with a complementary buddy credit for £20