Seeking thrills and chills in virtual cardio courses

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, April 1, 2017

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Due to [insert a million excuses], I’ve been slow to try and figure out all the new gym equipment at Fit-N-Wise, but one area I visit on a kinda, sorta regular basis is the cardio floor.

You hop on a treadmill, elliptical or bike, and through virtual courses, your workout is transported to the mountains, forest, canyon or cityscape. As you walk or cycle, it’s as if you’re doing so in the setting on the screen in front of you. And these are real places! You may have even visited some of them in real life.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

As you’re walking along, you not only see beautiful sights, but you also pass people (one of which waved at me and totally freaked me out), as well as cars and other vehicles. In one cityscape, you actually walk by a McDonald’s, which seems counterproductive to the task at hand. I see the golden arches, and I just want some fries.

Contemplating these settings, got me to thinking. What if the virtual courses were a bit more adventurous? I had just taken the young Tribes to see “Kong: Skull Island,” which may have influenced these grand ideas.

But just imagine, what if you were walking along a jungle trail (on the treadmill) and suddenly a giant gorilla foot drops down in front of you. Now that would get your heart rate pumping! You escape Kong, just to be met by a giant spider, huge water buffaloes and eventually, Skullcrawlers, just like in the movie.

Maybe when you run into them you have to speed up your workout to move past them, and if you don’t, you get eaten … virtually, of course.

And that makes me think of zombies. Imagine a virtual course filled with zombie jump scares. Again, good for the heart rate. It would be just like the zombie runs that have become popular. You can sign up to run a 5K where zombies pop out on the course and chase you (truth be told, this terrifies me), so why not make it a virtual course? It could end the same as the Kong course. If you don’t move fast enough, you get eaten.

I think this would be a highly entertaining way to get my workout on. But I realize these courses might not appeal to everyone, so I thought of a few low-key options, as in more “exciting” than the current walking trails but not focused on avoiding death and dismemberment.

How would you like a virtual shopping course? You walk a path through a high-end department store or down Rodeo Drive. If the course was ultra-fancy, you would actually make purchases from these places during your workout. If that seems too far-fetched, just imagine virtual window shopping. Nature may not be your thing, but if you like pretty shoes and purses, there you go.

Another fun course would be virtual scuba diving. I get it … you’re walking. But why couldn’t your walking be simulated swimming through the ocean? I was certified to scuba dive in a past life, and once underwater, it can be an incredibly relaxing experience. For the workout, you could “swim” along a coral reef and see all types of fish and plant life … and at the end a huge shark swims from the deep and tries to chomp off your leg. Just kidding. That would be totally inappropriate for this peaceful, underwater course.

Although I have no idea how the virtual courses are created, I’m interested to learn more about the process. They’re truly remarkable and really do make working out more fun. My current skill set won’t allow me to create the more adventurous courses I’ve dreamed up, but if there’s a tech guru up for the challenge, call me up. I’d be happy to be a course consultant.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Messenger.

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