Ridin’ sweaty

Of all things that one would nearly never associate with one another, video games and physical fitness are surely frontrunners.

Of all things that one would nearly never associate with one another, video games and physical fitness are surely frontrunners. Conjuring up the image of a gamer in their mind’s eye, one will almost certainly see a portly person with a controller in-hand, sitting behind a stack of Doritos wrappers and empty cans of Mountain Dew—not exactly the picture of health.

To be fair to gamers, those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s enjoyed video game/exercise hybrids like “World Class Track Meet” for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game utilizes the Power Pad, a mat that the player stands on and jogs in place while racing against their computerized 8-bit opponents. Of course, everyone I knew cheated at the game, rapidly slapping the mat like a bongo with his or her hands, but it was still exercise…I guess.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. We now have much more advanced games like “Wii Fit.” The only problem is that a Wii system still costs about $200 and the great-grandchild of the Power Pad, the Wii Balance Board, costs about another $80 bundled with “Wii Fit.” Since most of us had to drop that would-be Wii money on textbooks, what is the health-conscious student gamer supposed to do?

Once again, PSU Campus Rec has us covered. On the top floor of the Rec Center, amongst all the other cardio training equipment, await several Expresso stationery bikes. By the name, you’d almost expect a bicycle/coffee machine hybrid, but they are actually interactive video games.

After a quick registration and login, the rider can choose from 30 virtual terrains to ride through a first-person perspective. These levels include snow-covered mountains, peaceful countrysides, foreign lands and even an outer space level.

The rider can compete against computerized opponents and other riders in the facility, or try to beat their previous times, which the machines keep record of. There are also open courses with no set path to follow where the rider must track down and collect a variety of objects, the strangest of which being Asian-style flying dragons. While all of this is going on, performance is monitored in real time. The Expresso displays the rider’s speed, cadence, gear, power, heart rate and calories burned.

While the graphics aren’t quite on the level of a modern gaming console, they aren’t too shabby by any means. Based on my experiences, I’d say the graphics are probably on par with the Nintendo GameCube.

The Expresso controls pretty well, though it can take some getting used to (especially since most of us have never had to steer a stationery bike), but the challenge level is ultimately up to the rider. One can go for a slow, relaxing pedal through the countryside, or crank up the difficulty and race against the computer on a more challenging course. Either way, the rider is sure to have a fun. It’s much easier to stick with a fitness plan that is fun and enjoyable, rather than monotonous and mind numbing.

Whether you’re a fitness nut or a hardcore gaming geek (and I mean that with all the affection in the world), give the Expresso bikes at Campus Rec a try. For those of us already involved in a fitness-geared lifestyle, a little variety can go a long way. For those not yet in engaged in regular exercise, the Expresso bikes offer a fun and exciting way to start. ?