Perspective: Spring 2016

The Immersive Product Manager for LES MILLS asks, are we making the most of the opportunity when someone steps into our club?

How often do we hear or see the words ‘the future of fitness’?

As the Immersive Product Manager for Les Mills International I’ve seen this thrown out there more than once or twice. In fact I’ve used the line myself on a few occasions.

Our fast-paced lives are quickly becoming inundated with fast-moving trends and cutting edge technologies designed to engage with a market that is becoming more and more distant from the person delivering them.

It’s the reality we live in, and the fact is, it’s OK. But as someone who has spent years attending and working in gyms, I always find myself asking the question, ‘Are we making the most of the opportunity when someone steps into our club?’

In my opinion, the trick is to actively engage the people attending our facilities by providing an environment that heightens the senses, creates the desire to repeat the experience and, most importantly, encourages them to share it with others.

Average fitness experiences can become amazing fitness experiences with targeted investment in resources. As an ex-Group Fitness Manager and club consultant, I have spent a lot of time in this space.

For years now, Les Mills International has shared its experience and expertise with thousands of clubs, with a major focus on how group exercise can help clubs maximise attendance and retention.

Great studio design, music, workouts backed by science, and ongoing training for instructors to produce captivating and motivational experiences have always been at the forefront.

For clubs looking to go next level, it’s all about the immersive experience, an area I’m fortunate to be working in with a product called THE TRIP, co-created by Les Mills Jnr. The combination of an immersive audio-visual experience and a carefully calibrated 40-minute cycle program, it has riders moving through animated worlds where reality is stretched to create an immersive fitness experience.

Cinema-style curved screens and surround-sound amplify the experience and fill the senses. Tiered studios provide the best seats in the house (or in this case the best place in the pack), and a control panel on the lead bike provides instructors with fingertip control of sound, lights and screen.

Unlike a conventional cycle class where the instructor is on a stage facing the audience, THE TRIP instructors face the same way as the class, creating a more inclusive environment. The training they receive highlights the importance of immersing riders in the experience by minimising technical language and allowing riders to let their own imaginations be part of the ride. At the same time, clear direction is provided to ensure the workout factor is maximised and riders leave feeling successful.

Cycle classes often allow riders to dissociate from the logistics of the workout because of the intensity of a music track or the way the instructor is teaching. But with THE TRIP, a whole other level of psychology comes into play. The perception of time and energy are affected without you really noticing.

When you’re looking at the top of the hill, you say to yourself, ‘I’m not going to back off early, because if I do, everyone’s going to roll past me.’ Your subconscious really starts to believe the experience, and you can go harder without realising it.

It’s a winning formula that is currently being delivered by a small group of clubs globally that have seized the chance to excite their members and participants. And while they are relishing the opportunity to energise their existing members, an even bigger opportunity exists to engage a larger group – the people who wouldn’t normally attend our clubs.

So whether it’s a full immersive fitness experience like THE TRIP, or simply one that engages more people with our clubs, let’s keep asking the question: ‘Are we making the most of the opportunity when someone steps into our club?’


Chris Richardson is the Immersive Product Manager for LES MILLS™, a role in which he provides direction and leadership on program design and development. A Program Coach for numerous LES MILLS programs and International Master Trainer, he says he has ‘the best job in the world’. lesmills.com/immersive-fitness