In South Park, Laser Tag Becomes a High-Intersity Workout
Los Angeles Downtown News
By Nicholas Slayton
September 21, 2017
DTLA – Laser tag brings to mind childhood games and birthday parties. If a pair of Downtown entrepreneurs has their way, it will become something else for local residents and workers: a unique way to work out.
The husband-and-wife team of Philippe and Lucie Robert opened Lazrfit in South Park in April. It aims to provide high-intensity interval training, but instead of an aerobics or other heart-pounding class, people don special gear and shoot beams of light at each other, while bounding off or scurrying through a series of wood barriers.
“We fell in love with laser tag about five years ago,” Philippe Robert said inside the space at 400 W. Pico Blvd., a few blocks east of Staples Center. “What’s driving us is to create something like in soccer or football, where you’re having fun, but you’re also becoming part of something bigger.”
The regimen is simple: Users get high-tech outfits with shooters and sensors. After a warm-up, up to 12 players enter the studio for a 12-minute, non-stop game of laser tag played amid the four-foot-tall obstacles. It’s a free-for-all, with everyone playing solo.
The studio is a former boxing gym with high ceilings. The Roberts claim that players can burn 200 calories in 12 minutes.
The couple believes Lazrfit is the first fitness studio based on laser tag.
Maria Ramos, who tried Lazrfit a few months ago, said it takes some time to get used to things.
“I didn’t understand it at first,” said Ramos, an English teacher who was visiting Los Angeles. “You don’t realize the exercise you’re getting doing it.”
The Roberts said they got into laser tag as a way to stay active during the winter when they were living in France. The path from players to business owners was inspired by several elements: They found a buzzing online community of laser tag enthusiasts. Additionally, Lucie Robert was finishing an MBA, and her husband had worked as a wakeboarding instructor. They opted to base the business in Los Angeles rather than France because they considered L.A. the fitness center of the world.
Lucie Robert acknowledged the challenge of selling customers on Lazrfit. She said many people initially think the South Park studio is a laser tag space for kids, and are surprised to learn it’s a workout hub.
The gear players wear in the South Park space is a streamlined version of traditional, bulky laser tag equipment. There is a chest piece with a diamond-shaped light target at the center, and two more sensors on the shoulders. Instead of a large gun, players shoot with a handle-shaped device that also covers the back of the hand and serves as another target.
The lasers are narrower than the wider beams used in most laser tag emporiums. As a result, players have to hit small targets while staying on the move. When hit, a player can get back in the game by easily reactivating the equipment. During a session, no one is ever actually “out,” and they can resume play as many times as they want.
Participants move almost nonstop. The instructors join in, though instead of zapping everyone in sight, they constantly urge players to keep running.
The Roberts say that reversing course, ducking and bounding off and around the obstacles improves coordination. The handles have displays that keep track of the score — essentially, how many times you have hit another opponent — and how many calories players burn during a session.
The two said that they’re starting to clear the biggest hurdle with the business — getting customers to see Lazrfit as a fitness activity instead of a game of laser tag.
“It’s an adjustment,” Philippe Robert said. “If I see someone coming in with jeans or Timberlands, they might not be able to run. I don’t want them to get hurt.”
Lazrfit is a unique addition to the Downtown Los Angeles exercise scene, but these kind of specialized fitness studios are on the rise, according to Meredith Poppler, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. The IHRSA found that the number of exercise studios grew by more than 70% between 2012 and 2015.
Still, Lazrfit seems to be the first of its kind.
“It’s so unique, I know of no other,” Poppler said.
Lazrfit arrives as Downtown is seeing a rapid expansion in exercise options. There are traditional gyms such as L.A. Fitness at 700 S. Flower St. and 24 Hour Fitness at 555 S. Flower St., not to mention the longstanding Ketchum-Downtown YMCA and the L.A. Athletic Club. In 2016, the low-cost Planet Fitness opened at Fifth and Broadway.
Downtown has seen a boom in Crossfit gyms, as well as some specialized options. There is L.A. Boulders, a climbing and bouldering gym in the Arts District, as well as the cycling studio SoulCycle, which opened at Olive and Ninth streets last year. The Downtown Dance and Fitness space opened in 2015 at 12th and Hope streets in South Park.
Lazrfit customers pay $19 for a class, which includes a pair of 12-minute sessions. Monthly memberships are $249. Introductory sessions are $15.
Philippe Robert said it can take time to learn some of the more complex moves, but that the cardio workout starts right away.
After one session Xavier Quimbo, a co-founder of the Speedplay gym in South Park, was catching his breath. Quimbo said he checked out Lazrfit to learn about new fitness options in Downtown. He said it turned out to be more fun than expected, as well as a tough workout.
Lazrfit is at 400 W. Pico Blvd., (855) 529-7348 or lazrfit.com.
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