I understand their usefulness and why someone might want one. But to me they are a last resort, to be used only when weather conditions make outdoor sports unsafe. I’ve tried so many times over the years, but walking on a treadmill is like that boring. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-tech treadmill with fancy runs, incredible tech, or a selection of streaming apps — I can’t help but feel like a hamster on a wheel. So I’m as shocked as anyone that I enjoyed playing a demo level of Lanebreak on the Peloton Tread.
Lanebreak begins rolling out to Peloton treadmills today, but the game itself isn’t new. It’s an in-app video game that Peloton launched for its bikes last year. It’s essentially what you’d get if you added spin classes, rhythmic game mechanics, Top 40 hits, and Tron light cycle vibes.
The Tread version feels similar, although the mechanics have been modified for walking and running instead of cycling. For example, the original Lanebreak game encouraged users to switch between virtual lanes by turning the resistance knob left and right. During a level, players were given visual cues to collect points by switching lanes, pedaling faster, or staying within a cadence range during certain sections of the course. Instead of the resistance button, the Tread version lets users switch lanes by scrolling the incline wheel.
“We tested lane changes with both incline and speed, and the incline felt a lot better,” said Benoit Dion, Peloton’s chief engineer at Lanebreak.
According to Dion, the company initially removed Lanebreak from the Bike without changing anything. However, it became clear that there was no point in leaving it that way. For example, Breakers, a game mechanic from the bike version where you “charge” by pedaling faster to “break” a visual obstacle, didn’t really translate well to running. He also noted that cadence-based “streams” of Bike workouts were another mechanism modified to better suit walking and running. Instead of, the Tread version focuses on hills and speed intervals.
Lanebreak simulates hills via the aptly named “Hill Moments” – when the tread automatically adjusts the slope to match the virtual hills you see on screen. Speed intervals are called Pacer Moments, which tell you to run/walk at an increased pace for a certain amount of time and are represented by a purple track.
You can choose from five intensity levels: light (average pace of 15 minutes per mile), moderate (pace of 12 minutes), hard (pace of 10 minutes), challenging (pace of 8:30 minutes), and extreme (pace of 7:30 ). -min pace). Levels also last anywhere from five to 30 minutes and span a variety of musical genres.
The mechanics were easy enough to understand, but it takes a hot second to master the controls. The Bike’s resistance knob is a bit more intuitive because your game avatar moves in the same direction as the knob. The incline wheel on the Tread scrolls up and down, not left or right. If you’re not careful, you could end up changing lanes in the wrong direction – or completely ignoring the number of lanes you’re crossing. You’ll eventually figure it out, but I’d recommend learning the controls at slower speeds before taking on more challenging levels. Increasing the speed is much more intuitive and recommended ranges are clearly displayed with plenty of time to adjust before intervals.
Aside from that, there’s something about the way Lanebreak visualizes intervals and gamifies workouts that keeps the treadmill running easier. And I say that as someone who can run outside for three straight hours, but normally can barely walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes.
However, a 20 minute Lanebreak level hardly felt like 10 minutes. (I was sweating like it was a 30-minute workout, though.) At one point, I was genuinely surprised to realize I was running up a virtual hill with a 5 percent incline at 6 miles per hour. I would never do that on a treadmill on my own accord. I know, because I took a lot of Peloton Tread classes when I reviewed the treadmill last year.
And while I found classes more motivating than simply running on the tread, no instructor ever made me forget that I trudged through a hill interval. My eyes were always fixated on the interval countdown, waiting for me to bless the incline down. (This is a surefire way to make 30 seconds feel like five minutes.) But in Lanebreak, I was less focused on the numbers because I to see the hill I was on and how much was left before I could enjoy a descent. I saw myself going through it no matter the time. It’s a deft, psychological sleight of hand – but it works! It really works!
“You’re encouraged because you see what’s coming, and you’re willing to push to get there,” agrees Gwen Riley, Peloton’s senior vice president of music and head of content. Riley notes that unlike classes, where an instructor can give you a speed and incline range that you’re free to ignore, gamified workouts yield an instant payoff.
“It incentivizes to go to that higher slope and then get that reward. You got your points, and now you go back to another part of the course.”
The experience reminded me of an immersive Les Mills cycling class I recently took. Unlike regular spin classes, Les Mills’ The journey puts you in front of a giant screen where you cycle through futuristic landscapes that look like a mix between Lanebreak and Supernatural.
In general, I’m not a fan of group spin classes. There’s something demoralizing about instructors barking at you like drill sergeants as the Instagram model outdoes two seats in front of you with not a sweat stain in sight. But putting a group workout in an immersive format where it’s like riding a bike together on a gamified landscape, made the whole experience – dare I say it – enjoyable. I attributed it to a one-time fluke, but after trying Lanebreak on the Tread, I’m starting to think differently.
To me, “immersive fitness” conjures up images of sweaty Oculus headsets and awkwardly waving my arms at Defeat Saber of Supernatural. The few times I’ve tried VR fitness have been fun, but it always felt more like a game than a workout. (Which can be a positive!) Sticking a rhythm-based game onto “ordinary” gym equipment? Well, that eliminates the need for a headset, which in many ways restricts your freedom of movement. With fun mechanics and visuals that naturally lend themselves to a well-known sport? That feels like a more organic way to combine technology, gaming and fitness.
For the first time, I can wrap my head around where immersive fitness could fit in the real world
The only downside is that Peloton’s Lanebreak and Les Mills’ The Trip require expensive equipment and/or memberships. I’m not going to shell out more than $3,000 for the Tread just to play this game, and I’m not about to join my local Les Mills gym. And while I’ve enjoyed Lanebreak and The Trip, immersive fitness experiences like this won’t appeal to everyone. I know a lot of people who prefer group classes where you can interact with people. Others may find instructors more motivating than a game. Either way, it’s not hard to see how parts of Lanebreak could work in a group setting – or even within a regular classroom.
For now, Peloton is sticking to building out Lanebreak’s Tread catalog. Dion didn’t say how often new levels would be released, but noted that it would be similar to releases on the Bikes. As in, there is no set cadence, but you can reliably expect regular updates. Riley also noted that Peloton will be seeking member feedback while building extensions to Peloton’s Artist series. Both objected when I asked if there might come a day when a Peloton instructor tells me to go up the ramp and I can choose to see a virtual hill to better visualize the interval.
Still, for the first time, I can wrap my head around where immersive fitness could fit in the real world — and I like what I see.