Why Your Health Club Should Embrace Obstacle Course Training Techniques

Why Your Health Club Should Embrace Obstacle Course Training Techniques

The popularity of obstacle course racing has made many health club operators sit up and take notice, creating new programs and buying new equipment or using old equipment in new ways to help members train for races. This movement is as much a social movement as a physical one. How is your health club getting involved to take advantage?

Approximately seven years ago, people all over the world were introduced to what arguably has become the largest fitness movement this planet has even seen.  The sport of obstacle course racing (OCR) has been the fastest-growing participatory sport for numerous years. In 2017, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder will have a minimum of 13 televised events on NBC and CBS, with NBC coming back for its fifth season of Spartan Race. 

To give you some perspective, Spartan Race alone has at least one event—if not two or three—almost every weekend of the year in the United States. An average weekend event will draw 10,000 to 15,000 participants. Both Spartan Race and Tough Mudder host events in more than 20 countries combined. It turns out running around in pastures, through forests, and up and over mountains while tackling obstacles is popular.

OCRs come in a variety of forms. There are sprint-length obstacle course races (i.e. American Ninja Warrior and Alpha Warrior) that last three to 15 minutes. There are also the more common, longer-distance races that vary from a 5K to a 10K, to half- and full-marathon distances—and even all the way up to 24-hour and multi-day challenges.

OCR has created a strong sense of community and passion to serve others. At the festival areas during events as well as on social media, one can sense the OCR community developing into an extended family. These events are about so much more than the race alone. Even though the sport has pro-level athletes competing for podium spots, prize money and sponsorship deals, the majority of participants aren't there to race; they are there to uplift one another mentally and physically as they tackle obstacles out on a course just as they do in everyday life. Life can be a bumpy road, and it doesn't always make sense. The sport of obstacle course racing is helping many make sense of it all, as they gather in massive numbers every weekend at locations all around the world and tackle obstacles together.

Common obstacles in these various races challenge participants in virtually every area of fitness. To be successful out on the course, participants must train in the areas of grip and pull strength, full-body strength training, balance, power, acceleration, hand-eye coordination, ascending and descending steep terrain and trail running. The type of obstacles that competitors tackle on the course has changed the ways in which gym operators are outfitting their spaces with training equipment. New training equipment is being developed to assist athletes with training for specific obstacles and terrain. Obstacle-specific training gyms are popping up all over the world, and many people are purchasing equipment that helps them improve their fitness in areas required to tackle varied obstacles and terrain. 

All areas of strength training must be developed to handle any challenge, from a quick burst of power to a long-duration strength and endurance trial. Training methods used by fitness boot camps and group and personal exercise trainers now include training specific to obstacle course races. It’s common to see people wearing Spartan Race and Tough Mudder T-shirts in many gyms these days. The sport has created a huge fitness movement, and the health club industry is realizing it can't be ignored.

Obstacle course racing is arguably the largest fitness movement the world has ever seen. New equipment is being manufactured to help train for obstacle racing, and existing equipment is being used in ways it has never before been used. New gyms are popping up, and existing gym spaces are being modified to accommodate training needs. Countless inactive people all over the world are becoming involved in OCR training with like-minded people.  They are also involved in large social media groups and are out training and racing together.  This movement began with a goal of challenging people to step out of their comfort zones, and it has since motivated so many to get out and get moving. Now, ask yourself: How will your facility play a part?

Reprinted from Club Industry Magazine sponsored by Power Systems

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