HEALTH & WELLNESS

On this cycling Trip in Santa Monica, the scenery is on screen but your workout is real

Imagine replacing the seats at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome with stationary bicycles. The movie: a road that curves and ascends through an animated cityscape, synchronized with pumped music. Visualize that scaled down to a 32-bike cycling room, and you've grasped Les Mills' Immersive Fitness concept, in action at the 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Santa Monica.

The cinematic workout, termed the Trip, creates a "suspension of belief," said Jesper Magnusson, Les Mills' U.S. chief executive. "You get lost in the experience, and so you don't think about the duration of the workout."

Aura

The cycling room resembles a sizable home movie theater; walls, floors and ceiling are painted black. Four rows of stationary bicycles, some placed on tiered steps, afford optimal views of the 32.8-foot radius screen.

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I chose a front-row cycle — the better, I thought, to become saturated in the blast of graphics screening about 10 feet in front of me. In truth, it was a bit like arriving late for a movie and getting stuck with a front-row seat. The at times fast-moving projections, while fascinating, left me slightly disoriented.

A woman in the second row also said she grew slightly dizzy, adding that it didn't, however, detract from her experience. The second to fourth rows may be a better choice for some, although a bit of that wrap-around feel is sacrificed.

Style

Slick black buildings rose before us as the road — printed with a reflective circuit board — ascended. The yellow-lined highway sped or slowed as we lessened or tightened resistance knobs.

Instructors encouraged us to lean into turns, and later, as an impossibly steep hill loomed, I realized my brain had indeed become tricked. I really felt like I was on that road. The ability to actually see a hill — and moreover the anticipation that visual created — made me push all the harder to ascend it.

After speeding through a tunnel, we entered a futuristic Tokyo City — miles of vivid, vertical neon. At times the video seamlessly loops, so yes, that was the sixth time I passed that hip-looking dry cleaner.

The instructors were bright and friendly. They passed around fist-bumps after especially grueling stints. After the 40-minute workout, we all felt like family.

Effort

The Trip often employs High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): short bursts of effort amid recovery periods. The workout is polished off with a longer recuperation — amid fluffy clouds. The instructors encourage participants to exceed personal limits — much easier done with those bracing graphics. But in the end, of course, only you control that resistance knob.

Cost

Free for 24 Hour Fitness members at 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport, 2929 31st St., Santa Monica. 24hourfitness.com. Non-members can request a day pass ($25 at the door).

health@latimes.com

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