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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
This month, a staggering amount of people will sign up for a new gym membership.
But it can be hard to discipline yourself to run on the treadmill for an hour every day -- which is why, according to statistics, 80 percent of those memberships will be cancelled by the second week of February.
Enter the obstacle gym, hoping to break that cycle by making workouts much more engaging.
Obstacle gyms are basically adult playgrounds. Usually housed in large, open warehouse-type buildings, these gyms feature equipment such as ropes, rings, cargo climbing nets and monkey bars, which can be used for a range of bodyweight exercises, from moving pull-ups to hanging leg raises. Obstacle gyms were created with obstacle races in mind, so the classes, training and equipment are based on what you'll see in a notoriously challenging race like the Tough Mudder or Spartan Race.
And the owner of Chattanooga's Conquest Obstacle Gym, Marc Baker, knows all about a challenging race. A former triathlete and triathlon trainer, he believes working out this way not only builds more functional muscles, it also brings out the inner child.
"People work out for two hours in here and don't even realize it," Baker says. "They're playing again."
When Baker wanted to become an Army Ranger at 39, he says he prepared for the Rangers' physical test using the kinds of functional fitness workouts he might now employ in his gym. For instance, instead of doing push-ups, he would lie on his back and toss and catch a medicine ball. His wife, Laura Baker, soon followed his lead. When he was deployed, she and the wives of other Rangers on deployment began competing in obstacle races. Now, she is head coach of Conquest.
While the goal for most Conquest members is to get ready for events like the Tough Mudder, the coaches adapt to their clients' needs.
"Everything around our lives is about being comfortable and making things easier and faster," Laura Baker says. "Sometimes it just needs to be uncomfortable in order for you to feel a connection to yourself and people around you."
What to expect
If you are one of the 6 million people who watch the show "American Ninja Warrior," you have seen some of the obstacles you will encounter at Conquest. In fact, one of the coaches is training to be a contestant on the hit show.
In addition to monkey bars, Conquest houses pegboards requiring you to move pegs as you climb. The "bird cage" is a more challenging version of the pegboard, shifting and moving as you climb. Don't worry -- there are mats to catch your fall. There are also hangboards designed to give you a great finger workout, improving your grip strength so you can get back to those monkey bars; plus two rock climbing walls, a self-propelled treadmill, an 8-foot cargo net and more.
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