I Worked Out in the Metaverse at a NYC VR Gym Roam149

Roam149 is one of the latest gyms to open in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.



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Inside, there’s a wall lined with gear like weights, Bosus, and a squat rack.

Inside Roam149's gym with yoga mats, treadmills, weights.



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On the other side of the small gym, there are rows of treadmills that are individually separated by a thin “wall.”

Treadmills in front of a screens at Roam149



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And there’s a secret hidden in this equipment.

Inside Roam149's gym with treadmill pods.



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These aren’t your typical treadmills available at everyday gym.

Inside Roam149's gym with treadmill pods.



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Sounds intriguing? I agree. And that’s why I decided to visit for a Wednesday afternoon workout.

Me in front of the treadmill



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I had my doubts (and by that, I mean my confusions). But now that I’ve tried the tech out, I’m hooked.

Inside Roam149's gym with treadmill pods and screens.



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The use of virtual reality in fitness isn’t a new concept, but until Roam149, I had never visited a conventional gym that integrated this tech into its equipment.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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I work out at least five days a week and often find myself bored with strict monotonous workout routines, so variety is definitely an important factor for me.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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Luckily, variety is built into Roam149’s workouts, which center around an “immersive” treadmill.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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Sure there are plenty of treadmill-driven fitness boutiques around New York City.

Inside Roam149's gym with treadmill pods and screens.



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But none have Roam149’s pièce de résistance, its “versafit pods.”

Inside Roam149's gym with rows of treadmill pods.



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I’ve personally never enjoyed running on a treadmill. “Just run outside,” I used to say despite knowing treadmills put less stress on runners’ joints.

Woman runs on Peloton Tread treadmill in living room next to free weights



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But when the weather is blistering hot or insufferably cold, running outdoors can be intolerable for many people.

Treadmills at Roam149



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A normal treadmill will suffice. But many experienced runners will tell you it’s not the same experience as running outdoors, especially if you’re a trail runner who likes battling the terrain’s uphills and downhills.

runners



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That’s where Roam149 comes in.

Inside Roam149's gym with rows of treadmill pods.



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To create a more immersive run, every treadmill faces a large monitor and is separated from its neighboring equipment with tall black barriers to “create an illusion of light flow,” Sid Raman, the founder of Roam149 and a passionate trail runner.

Running pods at Roam149 with screens, lights



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Raman, who has a background in robotics, thought of the idea behind the treadmill in July 2020.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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“It was my goal to see if I can bring the person as close to being immersed into the scene [as possible],” Raman said.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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Runners can use the rail-mounted touch screen to select a course, whether it be the full New York City Marathon route, a tropical beach, or even the moon.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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From there, all controls are managed through arm movements via the wall-mounted camera. There’s no need to look down to select a specific button.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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For example, to start the course or increase the treadmill’s speed, raise your right arm to a 90-degree angle.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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To stop, extend both arms out.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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And unlike the traditional treadmill, there’s no need to manually adjust the incline or decline. Roam149’s platform automatically tilts to mimic the uphill and downhill slopes you see on the monitor as you’re running.

Someone running on treadmill at Roam149



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It’s these shifts that make running on the treadmill feel like you’re running the actual course.

Two people running on treadmills at Roam149



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I was amazed by how gently the treadmill moved with the terrain. During the moon path, it felt like I was actually running on a rocky environment, just without the fear of twisting my ankle.

Me running on a treadmill



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And as I navigated the map and its slopes, I felt the uphills and downhills changing as quickly as I could move.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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The flat sandals kept me on the balls of my feet. And the morning after, I woke up with unusually sore calves.

Two people running on treadmills at Roam149



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Outside of this virtual space, running in Manhattan can be tricky. You have to battle the packs of slow walkers who take up an entire sidewalk, streetlights, and worst of all, severe harassment.

Inside Roam149's gym with treadmill pods.



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But at Roam149, I didn’t have to deal with any of this …

Inside Roam149's gym with yoga mats, treadmills, weights.



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… and I was still able to run a dynamic course that was more entertaining than my typical running path around the city.

Inside Roam149's gym with yoga mats, treadmills, weights.



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Being able to explore new trails — whether it be underwater or through a Tibetan monastery — kept the run engaging, fun, and game-like. And that’s not an easy task for people who enjoy long runs.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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Don’t get me wrong — I still love my morning jogs outside.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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But Roam149 showed me a side of VR-integrated running I never knew could exist. It felt like I was experiencing what could be the future of the fitness industry.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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The gym turns running into a game with limitless possibilities.

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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And you’ll never be bored: The team can add trails and courses “by the dozen” monthly, Raman said.

The touchscreen on a running pod at Roam149



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And these possibilities are endless. Roam149’s designers and engineers can create whatever trail your heart desires (they already did the moon, after all).

Someone running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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But if you’re more interested in the multiplayer gamification of fitness, Roam149 also has the perfect team-building platform for your interests.

Two people running on treadmills at Roam149



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Every course has two options: a pre-set trail or a free run with no path.

A treadmill in front of a screen at Roam149



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When you’re on a free run, you can explore the entire map by changing your direction using intuitive gestures (pointing your arm in the direction you want to run in).

Two people running on the treadmill pod at Roam149.



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And if you want to race other pod-goers, you can go into the multiplayer mode to see the other runners on your screen.

Two people running on treadmills at Roam149



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“What we want to achieve is bringing together exercise, fitness, and entertainment,” Raman said, noting that he wants to integrate more tasks like jumping to make it more game-like.

The touchscreen on a running pod at Roam149



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And it’s not just running.

Roam149's singing bowls and yoga mat



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Roam149 also has “fusion” group classes starting at $40.

A squat rack.



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These classes integrate strength and bodyweight workouts, yoga, and meditation with sound healing and color therapy to create a diverse workout that targets cardio, strength, and relaxation.

Inside Roam149's gym with yoga mats, weights.



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