Why You Might Soon Be Scaling Walls and Climbing Cargo Nets at Your Gym

Photo: Stocksy/Jojo Jovanovic
It used to be that there were only two places where you could climb cargo nets, scale walls, and crawl on your elbows as part of your exercise routine: basic training and obstacle races.

But if you love to go all out for mettle-testing competitions, it's about to get way easier to make this gritty fitness approach a part of your everyday life, because boutique studios and gyms are jumping in the fray (sans mud). Call it the endurance-challenge effect.

Some CrossFit boxes and local rec centers already provide unofficial training programs for race participants. But now major players on the endurance circuit, like Spartan and Tough Mudder, are getting in on the action, too, with branded gyms, online offerings, and more.

"I've found plenty of people who said 'I’m never going to do one of these races, but these workouts are just really fun.'"

For example, the new Spartan Gym at 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami is outfitted with monkey bars, climbing ropes, and other familiar obstacles found on the popular outdoor racing courses. The Florida franchise marks the brand's first foray into boutique fitness territory. John Gauch, vice president of Spartan training, says there are no plans for additional gyms in the works at the moment, but that “with all the positive feedback we’re receiving…we definitely see opportunities on the horizon for future Spartan Gyms.”

For now, he says, they're more focused on bringing their challenges from the cargo net to the internet. That's right: It's now possible to "train like a Spartan at home" for $14.95 per month—which is cheaper than the average gym membership—thanks to a partnership with the online workout purveyor Daily Burn.

Each routine in the series helps viewers develop the strength and mobility needed to address a specific obstacle using simple equipment, like dumbbells and resistance bands. And the online platform isn't just popular with subscribers readying for obstacle courses either, says Daily Burn CEO Andy Smith."I've found plenty of people who said 'I’m never going to do one of these races, but these workouts are just really fun.'"

That crossover seems key if these obstacle races' foray into mainstream fitness is going to hang on longer than, say, someone hoisting themselves up a rope for the first time. Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder, which is in the midst of rolling out a chain of boutique fitness studios, told the New York Business Journal that he's focused on opening locations in small and mid-sized markets across the country (although there are no details yet on where they will be). But the idea, he says, is to not only train people for the races, but also to offer a quality "functional fitness" option to people in locales with few similar options—which means workouts might be getting gritty in city near you, soon.

In the meantime, work on your fitness prowess on your own by fine tuning your planking skills and learning to lift slow and heavy

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