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A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF FITNESS INNOVATION

by Rachael Newsham

bodycombat-vr
bodycombat-vr

I’ve got some exciting news to share with you all! Finally, I have a thrilling answer to the age-old question: "Where do you see BODYCOMBAT in the future?"

The future has arrived in the year 2022 and it comes in the form of our very own online workout that gives THE MOST personal Dan and Rach workout you can have – aside from getting on a plane and taking our class at the mecca of all clubs, Les Mills Auckland City! Good luck doing that #thanksbutnothankscovid19.

I'm talking about the launch of the BODYCOMBAT VR app. The BODYCOMBAT VR app transports you into the middle of the most popular martial arts workout on the planet. The gamification and stunning VR vistas combine with the incredible moves, music and instruction BODYCOMBAT is famous for, to create an exhilarating experience that’s so fun you forget you’re even exercising.

Get your hands on an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and you can dive into this exciting new world of BODYCOMBAT without leaving your home. This takes workout/me time/escapism to a new level. Well, the type of escapism where a couple of Pommie/Kiwi fitness leaders become the best voices in your head you’ve heard from in a while, hahaha!

If you fancy a sneak peek, check out this short trailer…

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Let me start by telling you where this all began.

Early in 2021, myself and Dan (Dan Cohen, BODYCOMBAT co-Program Director), and a crack commando team of highly intelligent people from all corners of the world, came together to begin this insane adventure, where we imagined BODYCOMBAT in the gaming world of virtual reality.

After the initial buzz and dreaming phase, the work kicked in (sorry – bad pun habit I’m trying to kick, LOL).

Dan and I went on a journey of discovery which entailed hours of playing with the technology; shortlisting the soundtrack; designing the workouts; trialling the game/workout; iterating; and obliterating virtual targets and worlds. The best part is we’ve really only just begun!

What was so unexpectedly awesome was that this project showed up at the exact time Auckland (in New Zealand, where I live) was plunged into total lockdown. I spent the second half of 2021 working from home, so while my real world felt very small, this virtual world allowed me to escape and ‘get out’ without breaking any lockdown restrictions!

I recall sitting at the sound studio one afternoon back in August. Dan, myself and the sound engineer, Howard – who we fondly refer to as “Tank from The Matrix movies” – had been recording the coaching for several workouts. Dan had just left but I'd stayed on to finish a couple of pieces. I saw a notification on my phone from the national newspaper that we’d just had our first community transmission case of Delta COVID 19, at which point my intuition said we were going to be put into lockdown for a wee while. I wasn’t wrong!

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It was very interesting to realise how quickly my home – ordinarily my sanctuary from the world – started to feel like a shoe box. It also began to feel like a useless storage house, storing items that I would ordinarily take to places, but which were of little use during a lockdown. I was the metaphorical shoe and my house became the shoe box.

The BODYCOMBAT VR trials we were working on became this exciting venture into a new place, and for the 30 minutes or so of testing, I felt like I wasn’t a shoe (LOL!). Suddenly every second was filled with a sense of heightened alert and immediate purpose. I loved it.

I found myself laughing out loud when I startled myself by reaching beyond the virtual ‘boundary’ to grab something. While logically I knew full well it wouldn’t hurt, my brain was convinced I was doing the impossible, haha! The workout would always sneak up on me. I made the darn workout, but it somehow took on a life of its own in the digital space. All I can say is: expect the unexpected.

The experience will feel familiar like your favourite workout shoe, but completely different in the sense that you have a different focus. It’s not the teacher, it’s not the mirror, and it’s definitely not the clock. It’s a healthy time vampire. One that you don’t feel guilty playing. It's one that parents don’t have to worry about adding to the sedentary levels of their kids, but rather a game that increases activity levels and improves hand-eye coordination.

If you're like me and get completely immersed in your environment, you'll quickly lose yourself in the world of the BODYCOMBAT VR app. You’ll have so much fun! And that is key, because one thing we can be sure of is that a fun workout gets done more often. As you enthusiastically play the game, you’ll be fuelling your body with bite-sized bundles of activity that add up – ensuring you reach your desired levels of activity for the day.

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Our Les Mills mission is to create a fitter planet and I’m thrilled to add another exercise option (in addition to the live classes and online workouts) that focuses on fun, engagement and activity. The BODYCOMBAT VR app enables us to reach new audiences and break down barriers to exercise, helping more people to start their fitness journey and reap the rewards of an active lifestyle. I can’t wait for you all to give it a go. This really can bring us all closer together, even when we're miles apart.

Speaking of possibilities, I fully predict being tagged by you all in videos of yourself, your friends and your family kicking butt and smashing your way through the day. It’s pure brilliant fun doing it (and it’s great watching someone do it for the first time too!). The fun started for us on day one, when I pulled my camera out and filmed Dan and myself trying it out. We both cracked up laughing at each other on the playback. Then watching the wider team of Jackie [Mills], Diana [Archer Mills] and Les [Mills Jnr], get stuck in, seeing their excitement, was so rewarding.

Ultimately, we aren’t losing ourselves, but rather finding new horizons by opening up to the possibilities that this virtual world offers.

Again, it’s just the beginning…

From the 3rd of February, anyone with an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset will be able to download the BODYCOMBAT® app and be transported into the virtual Les Mills BODYCOMBAT Training Lab. Dan and Rach will be there to greet you, and take you through an onboarding sequence to set you up for success. You can then choose from 30 workout sessions – there are Basic, Intermediate and Advanced options, spanning 5 to 25 minutes.

Once you select your workout, you’re joined by other players and the challenge begins. Can you climb to the top of the leaderboard?! You’ll punch and kick in all sorts of cool environments; a desert on Mars, a desolate snowy tundra, ancient Rome, scenes from Japan, or an evening in a Tokyo-inspired neo city. As you’re playing, the targets come flying your way and you punch, dodge, or strike them with your knee – the harder and more accurate your strike, the bigger the explosion and the higher your score. Dan and Rach provide coaching and the music will keep you on your toes (thanks to our growing library of brilliant tracks created by Les Mills artists). At the end of each workout, you can track stats, see your leaderboard position, and if you want, try again to hit your new personal best!

Learn more at www.lesmills.com/bodycombat-vr/