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The Fit Guy's Guide to Virtual Reality

Silicon Valley wants to change your traditional workout forever—by transforming it into a totally immersive, wildly engaging, and undeniably ass-kicking 3-D video game experience.
Levi Brown / Dan Patitucci

It’s a little disorienting at first, flying 1,500 feet in the air with nothing between me and the ground but a mythical winged horse. As we crest over a small rise I glance down past Shadow’s flapping wing—for the record, I’ve named my Pegasus “Shadow”—when suddenly the rocky hillside below gives way to a sheer, grass-covered canyon. A jolt of pure adrenaline flushes through me as I feel like I’m going to die. But then I feel free. It’s just Shadow and me now, soaring off into the bright blue sky.

Peace out, Earth. Nice knowing you.

“Cool, right?” says a disembodied voice behind me.

For the past 10 minutes I’ve been huffing away on a bike in a drab office at VirZoom, a tech company based in Cambridge, MA, about a half mile from Harvard University. And the voice I hear behind me isn’t disembodied at all—it’s coming from VirZoom exec Spencer Honeyman. He’s actually standing just feet away, but I can’t see him because I’m wearing an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset, which works in conjunction with my present ride—the $400 VirZoom stationary VR bike that officially went on sale last month.

After slaloming through some trees where Shadow and I chase after floating apples, I decide to let him rest his virtual wings and end the game. Honeyman, the company’s director of business development, then saddles up on a bike next to me and proceeds to lead me through a dizzying number of virtual worlds.

I ride along with seven prototype games in total, including a tank shooter, an Old West game in which you chase down and lasso bandits, and a helicopter game similar to the Pegasus; but it’s a multiplayer race car game that finally makes me sweat. The reason is simple: The faster you pedal, the faster your car goes—and thanks to my competitive nature as a former bike racer, I’m on a mission to beat Honeyman.

By the time we’re done, 20 minutes have flown by and I haven’t even noticed. When I finally remove the damp headset, I look down and find my shirt entirely soaked in sweat. I can’t tell what I feel like more: a kid who just played Mario Kart or an adult who just had his ass kicked in some high-octane spin class.

Honeyman shoots me a knowing look.

“Right now we’re at a crazy-weird intersection between fitness, gaming, and VR,” he says. “It’s something that’s actually fun and with the added result that you get a really badass workout.”

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