If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know of my love for Virtual Active workouts. You also know of my disappointment that they’ve moved away from DVD releases and are now only offering their new releases as downloads. So perhaps the new line of virtual active walks and rides being offered by Ambient will fill the niche left behind by Virtual Active on my DVD shelf?
The first Ambient workout I tried is their Hong Kong Virtual Walk. The DVD contains three workouts.
Walk 1 is approximately 17 minutes and takes you through Kowloon Park. This was my second favourite of the three walks. Even though the park seems to be in the heart of the city, it’s a peaceful place and contains some gorgeous gardens.
Walk 2 is approximately 16 minutes and takes you along Bowen Road, said to be the most famous jogging path in Hong Kong. This was my least favourite of the three workouts, mainly because most of the footage looks no different than any jogging path you would see anywhere in the world. Occasionally you get a glimpse of the stunning Hong Kong skyline through the break in the trees but these are few and far between.
Walk 3 is approximately 30 minutes and was by far my favourite of the three workouts. It takes you along the harbor and the waterfront and you get stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline during the day, at dusk and at night. I doubt I’ll do Walks 1 and 2 again but I’ll definitely return to Walk 3 again and again.
As I was doing the Ambient DVD I couldn’t help comparing it to the Virtual Active workouts I love so much. The first thing I noticed is that the Ambient footage moves at a much slower pace than Virtual Active footage. I’m able to do the VA hikes on my spin bikes easily but the Ambient walk footage moved almost too slowly to be adaptable to a spin bike. (I also have some Ambient rides to try.) The footage is also filmed more at eye-level than VA footage is—this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it may seem weird at first to people who are used to walking/riding with Virtual Active workouts. The VA team uses a chest-mounted camera and I’m assuming Ambient footage is filmed from a shoulder-mounted or helmet-mounted camera. Another thing I missed from VA workouts are their handy subtitles that tell you “where” you are at the start of each stage. I also found some of the Ambient footage monotonous--it seems we stayed on the same path or followed the same person for longer than we typically would in a VA workout.
Much like recent Virtual Active downloads, the Ambient workouts don’t contain music. There are only ambient/nature sounds. Since this was my first time doing the workout, I did it without adding my own music and just listened to the ambient sounds and enjoyed it. All Ambient DVDs are filmed in HD. The Hong Kong DVD did not have a “Play All" option. After you play an individual workout you have to return to the main menu to select another workout. Definitely inconvenient. I’ll have to see if the other DVD’s are missing this option.
I hesitate to make a judgement after trying only one DVD, but my initial impression is that Ambient is a more "budget-friendly" version of Virtual Active. Take Virtual Active and take away the guided option, the music, the subtitles, etc. and you get Ambient. This isn't a negative thing, necessarily, especially for people looking to stretch their dollar. (Ambient DVD's are generally about $5 cheaper than Virtual Active DVD's when not on sale). I still prefer Virtual Active (and The Sufferfest for a different kind of experience) but it's nice to have options.
Even though the Hong Kong DVD was a mixed bag, I enjoyed it enough to look forward to trying the rest of the Ambient DVD’s I have in the days to come. I'm giving the Ambient Hong Kong DVD a 7/10, mostly on the strength of Walk 3.