Holodia Holofit Review - Bringing virtual reality to rowing machines, bikes and ellipticals
A personal aside (or how I went from rowing to not and back)
With the launch of Holodia's Holofit for the home VR market, my personal VR fitness journey has come full circle. I always wanted to be active. I developed Hodgkin's lymphoma in my twenties, which eventually required a bone marrow transplant and left me with restrictive lung disease. During my recovery, I hired a personal trainer and joined a gym, but I quickly decided I wanted my own equipment so I could exercise more easily on a daily basis, thinking about saving money in the long run. I invested in some quality equipment, a decent exercise bike, a Concept 2 rower, and some Bowflex adjustable dumbbells with a matching bench. It was a heavy expense, but it was worth it, and for a few years I was consistent in my efforts and significantly improved my health. However, over time, my good habits diminished and the bad habits took over. Before I knew it, my gear was no longer in use, reduced to just expensive luggage that I was never able to sell. I kept telling myself that I would start using it again "soon", which of course never happened, unless you count the effort of physically carrying everything with me every time I moved house, four times in ten years. . My exercise habit was long extinct.
Then I discovered virtual reality.
Like many VR users, my first realization that VR can be good for fitness came from playing a rhythm game, in this case Audioshield in 2017. Then I jumped into BoxVR early access, investing well over 100 hours into upgrading my original Oculus Rift, with a pair of rear sensors to allow for a scaled experience total, at which point I switched to Thrill of the Fight. A number of other games have come and gone, but Beat Saber aside nowhere has managed to control the exercise itch that BoxVR and Thrill of the Fight caused, so these three became the foundation of my physical training. I trained daily and got addicted to exercise again. I discovered VRFitness Insider, gave an interview about my journey to a healthier life with VR workouts, and finally started contributing articles to the site.
Eventually, I wrote a guide on how to build an entire home gym around the Oculus Quest, replacing those boring cardio machines you see in every gym, (and filling my living room) with a new reality headset modern wireless virtual space that would transform your living room into a boxing ring, a training dojo or an elevated platform in space where you can wield lightsabers and split blocks to funky techno beats.
So a funny thing happened. I was contacted by Virzoom, developers of VZFit, a fantastic subscription service that brings your exercise bike to VR. Suddenly I found myself riding again, although I was no longer looking at the walls. Now I was riding anywhere I wanted around the world, in VR!
I enjoyed it so much that I found myself regretting that no one had come up with a way to connect my Concept 2 rower to VR too...
Let the review begin!
Which finally brings me to Holodia Holofit. Like VZFit, Holofit is a subscription software service that connects not only compatible indoor bikes, but also ellipticals and rowing machines to a VR headset. In short, thanks to Holofit I finally got back to paddling, although I don't look at the walls anymore. Now I'm paddling around a space station facility on Saturn, heading for a black hole.I'm paddling underwater past giant killer whales and paddling across a lush tropical island populated by hippos, monkeys and crocodiles
I can't tell you how great it was to finally sit on the erg again, twelve years after I bought it, and about six years since I last actually used it. A love affair has been rekindled and I am finally rowing again, with passion and enthusiasm. The intensity of my workouts has skyrocketed, and I'm enjoying it so much you'll have to excuse my hyperbolic chatter when I say that Holodia Holofit might be the best fitness app available for VR today.
Holodia Holofit - What is it? and for whom it is intended
I have already written in detail about the Holofit in use with two guides, a hands-on with Holofit and a Concept 2 rower, and a hands-on with Holofit and an exercise bike. Check these articles for more details on how Holofit works in practice. In this game review, I am rating it by its fitness potential. However, a quick overview of the service is required.
Holodia Holofit is a subscription service that for $9.99 per month or $108 annually gives you a license for two products, Holofit Pro which works to connect compatible rowers, bikes and ellipticals to a PC VR headset and Holofit Go which is the standalone version, for use with Oculus Quest, HTC Vive Focus and even Samsung Gear VR. If you have mobile and PC VR headsets, Holodia will activate both versions for you for the same subscription fee, similar to Oculus cross-buy.
Connectivity and compatibility
How supported for so many headphones and fitness equipment, it can be confusing to calculate compatibility in specific use cases. Basically, any FTMS Bluetooth compatible cardio equipment will natively connect to the Oculus Quest, without the need for external accessories. For PC VR headsets, Bluetooth is not supported, so you will need to connect your cardio machine directly to your computer via USB or cSafe output. Any indoor bike can be Bluetooth compatible with the purchase of a cadence sensor. Most will work, I used Holodia's recommendation, the IGPSport C61, which was very affordable for just £16 delivered on eBay.
A word of warning. Training with Holofit is hard work. Sweating prepping your headset is a must. For my Oculus Quest, I use VRCover cleanable replacement covers and I also use a protective headband. If you're using an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift CV1 removable and original cleanable covers are also available making them great for workouts and you'll have no problem doing sweat proof, but I've learned that my Rift S is a Horrible device to use as an exercise tool thanks to all its non-removable foam inside the Halo wristband design. I tried to mitigate this as best I could by wearing a cycling cap to keep the foam free of sweat, but the excess heat this caused was uncomfortable in longer rows and negatively affected my performance.
Fortunately, the Virtual Desktop wireless streaming works flawlessly with Holofit and I was able to enjoy the PC's superior graphics while using my Oculus Quest headset much easier to exercise.
For this review, I initially decided to run two tests , one on the bike and one on my Concept 2 rower. Unfortunately, my Fitbit Charge 2 proved to be quite useless at capturing accurate heart data when using either machine, as it often misses my heartbeat.I had this issue with my VZFit game test too, it took several tries to complete a fitness test session without the heart rate dropping, finally getting an accurate reading on the third try
After some crashes in the cycling mode test on Holofit with my Charge 2, I finally gave up and bought a Polar H9 heart rate monitor. I used it to capture a 5000 meter line and luckily it worked perfectly.
First of all, sorry for my slow pace of paddling, as I said at the beginning of the article, I have quite serious lung disease from extensive chemotherapy, but as my heart rate can attest, I still gave it my all of me. The final 1000 meters was almost entirely anaerobic for me and I thought I might actually pass out before it was over. But I did, and my 24:48:9 time is, according to my Concept 2 rowing record, the fastest I've done that distance since 2010, and just 30 seconds off my (post-cancer) best time of 24. :19:3 that I did in 2008. Before using the Holofit, I had rowed maybe twice in the last six years, so regularly rowing again and seeing my times improve is incredibly encouraging. According to the Holodia app, I've already put in more than seven hours of rowing time in the weeks I've been using it, and I'm making sure to row at least twice a week from now on.
How You can see from my stats, rowing is a fantastic and versatile exercise, burning 11 calories per minute and with an average heart rate of 153, it's the highest my heart rate has ever reached when using VR for workouts. Since rowing works 80 percent of your body's muscles, it's not surprising that it's such an effective tool for losing weight, increasing muscle tone, and improving your aerobic and cardiovascular health. I therefore have to score the Holofit a perfect 10 for intensity.
There are some solid bodyweight exercises in VR. BoxVR, The Thrill of the Fight, and the new Supernatural VR fitness subscription service are a few that immediately spring to mind. But none of that can compare to the sheer trauma of pushing yourself to exhaustion in a Concept 2 rower. It's the Olympic Athletes' training tool, the king of cardiovascular equipment, and Holofit's ability to immerse you in a variety of beautiful worlds. virtual machines ensures that your training sessions are fun, satisfying and challenging. Cycling also works well, and it's especially fun to race against the computer's AI over longer distances. I don't have an elliptical to test, but in this mode you take on the appearance of a runner, obviously a treadmill in VR being a safety hazard! By supporting three different types of cardio equipment, Holofit allows you to cross-train and develop a much more comprehensive and complete cardio program than any other VR game or app to date. For a VR enthusiast who is serious about fitness and has access to these cardio machines, it's the most complete home user software I've used so far.
Of the three supported cardio machines, rowing will give you the best arm and shoulder workout, especially when you pull your shoulders towards your chest towards the end of the thrust phase of each stroke. Using Holodia's cardio mode, you can select HIIT interval training sessions that will alternate between high-intensity sprints and recovery phases. During high-intensity moments, you will be generating a lot of force that will strengthen your arms and shoulders and help you build muscle.You'll work your biceps and triceps on an elliptical if you use high resistance, although it's primarily muscular endurance work. Obviously, a bike only focuses on the lower body.
Any whatever cardio machine you are using Holofit on will give you a great leg workout. Again, high-resistance sprint work will provide the greatest strength gains, while steady-state cardio will increase muscular endurance. There's a reason rowers are famous for their leg strength, while cyclists are famous for their leg strength. Regular training with these two pieces of equipment will strengthen, tone and shape your legs better than any other cardio machine.
As an ancient history buff, the opportunity to paddle through the wonderful city of Babylon was a special pleasure. Over the course of twenty minutes, you will be able to experience the Ishtar Gate, Assyrian sphinxes, a giant ziggurat, elephants and even the famous hanging gardens.
Core and Balance 9/10
The paddle is a fantastic tool for building a strong core, broad, strong abs and back. A popular tip for increasing core activation is to practice rowing with your feet loose. If you just drive vertically, you'll likely fly off the back of the machine, which forces you to engage your back and abs to keep your balance on the rower and bring your body back to the beginning of the drive phase. Rowing this way, your abs will feel it quickly!
Elliptical trainers are less effective for core work, but still provide benefits as long as you stand up straight and contract your core muscles. Don't just bend over and slouch on the machine, but allow your body to do the work!
Cycling is probably the least effective for core work, but it will provide a tremendous cardio and leg workout. Of course, for most people, it's by far the most affordable of the machines too.
9/10 Timing Awareness
The Holofit is a blast to use. The environments are beautiful, full of incidental details and fun scripted events, and the character models for your avatar are fantastic, with your entire virtual body rendered. It gives you a real sense of presence and immersion and makes every world a pleasure to travel. Even within each game world, there's real variety with multiple sub-locations so you're never just paddling or cycling through endless repetitions of the same scenario. Equal attention was paid to sound and music, with all vehicles, birds, animals and mythical creatures voiced authentically. Paddling across Antarctica, past a waddle of penguins as they called and cackled in that peculiar penguin way was one of the memorable highlights, surpassed only moments later when a giant killer whale launched itself out of the water in front of me. As punishing as the workouts are, Holofit is so engaging that I sometimes find my training almost magical. I mean, how often do you associate your cardio day with coming face to face with the spirit of a giant deer or a wild boar and its piglets in an enchanted snowy forest? Exactly.
Holodia claims to have over 100 different workout options, including a good casual, explorer mode, time attack, HIIT cardio sessions and a very fun and intense racing mode, which take place in one of fifteen or more game worlds. If you're lucky enough to have access to two or even all three compatible cardio machines, you can mix up your training even more.There's a great foundation of game modes and content here to build a solid training program that will keep you motivated for a long time to come.
9/10 Fitness Scalability
Like the cardio machines it supports, Holofit of Holodia can be enjoyed by fitness enthusiasts of all levels. With my lung disease leading to shortness of breath and an unsurprising natural aversion to physical exertion, I find the immersion of seeing myself in the water, traversing wonderful, fantastical landscapes, is enough of a reward for the effort I need. Meanwhile, a more experienced and stronger rower, Slyvain Davril used the Holofit for 5x his rowing performance in three months and also completed a rowing half marathon.
Lack of Nausea 8/10
The move in VR can induce a feeling of motion sickness in some people, usually as a result of the disconnect your brain experiences when your eyes show you are moving while you are actually still. In Holofit, your in-game movement syncs with what you're actually doing in real life, so it shouldn't be an issue. I've never felt bad about using Holofit, however for highly susceptible people, who might get car sick or sick, it can trigger the same feelings.
Social Competition 7/10
One of Holodia's goals is to build a multiplayer community. You can compete with a friend online and competitive multiplayer events have started to be organized. There's also a great mobile app where you can see how you rank on each fitness equipment and your position in your own country or around the world. As the user base grows this should lead to some fun competition and maybe finding a regular training partner to train together. As you would expect from a relatively new and niche product, at the moment the user base is small.
Races, like this one around a mining facility orbiting Saturn, are a lot of fun.
VRFI Fit Score 9.5 / 10
Holofit takes your workouts to the next level
Holodia's Holofit is an excellent fitness subscription app that really stands out if you have a rower compatible. Arguably the king of cardio equipment, rowers have been sadly overlooked when it comes to mainstream fitness apps like Zwift. Holofit makes rowing fun and engaging and you are much more likely to follow a training program if you enjoy it. Cycling performance worked very well with the IGP Sport C61 cadence sensor. I haven't tested the elliptical mode, but I'm sure it works fine too. By providing support for three different cardio machines, you can upgrade your home gym with more equipment to enjoy, or maybe if you don't mind the looks, pop into a commercial gym and take your Oculus Quest there to use on all the machines. Be a pioneer and popularize VR!
If you've been using VR for a while with games like Beat Saber and BoxVR and you're convinced of its usefulness for workouts, I'd say Holofit is what you can use to take your workouts to the next level.
With support for 3 cardio machines, PC VR and mobile versions of the software, and up to 5 user profiles, all included for a single $9 monthly license, 99, Holofit represents excellent value for money.
Exceptional environments that are truly a visual and auditory delight to explore.
Tons of variety in locations around the world and multiple training modes.
The PC version requires scanning one QRCode each time, which is a minor annoyance.
The Quest version occasionally stutters when processing complex visual scenes.
You can download a 7-day free trial of Holofit for PC VR from the Holodia website or download a trial of the Oculus Quest version of Sidequest
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