The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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How to Bring the Obstacle Course Craze to Your Gym

This is an IHRSA featured post, brought to you by Power Systems.

Fitness trends come and go, attracting people who throw themselves into the next big thing only to abandon it weeks later. Health club operators are smart to take the long view before investing in a flashy new workout obsession. It’s not always clear what has staying power, but when something takes hold, you ignore it at your peril. 

Such is the case with group fitness activities that build social camaraderie, like obstacle course racing (OCR), which includes the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. Still one of the fastest-growing participatory sports in the world, OCR has endured because these events appeal to men and women of different generations, who are seeking a fun, challenging activity that can be enjoyed in a group concept.

The original OCR events were designed by former Special Forces members from the U.S. and British military, who utilized such courses in their basic training. While most of today’s OCR races don’t rise to that level of difficulty, the challenges require training preparation to scale 10-foot walls, crawl under barbed wire, or cling to swinging ropes and/or rings.

The success of these races and television programs like “American Ninja Warriors” prove that obstacle courses are no passing fad. But with space at a minimum, how do clubs meet the demand for this specialized training? 

Build It—But Will They Come?

Some clubs have actually constructed small OCR courses on their property. That’s what Fore Court Racquet & Fitness in Cumberland, RI, did, converting two outdoor sand volleyball courts into a mini-OCR playground.

Dave Morin, the president of Fore Court, told IHRSA that the response has been impressive. “There’s been a great buzz in our fitness center—its windows overlook the course. We have a chance to watch a lot of people having a ton of fun.”

Jim Worthington, president and CEO of Newtown Athletic Club, also found success when he created an OCR training course outside of his facility. But most club owners don’t have the option of extra outdoor space that can be refashioned for OCR participants.

Fortunately, they don’t need to.

Yancy Culp, a trainer who works with high level OCR athletes, believes any club can create an OCR training environment in their facility at a reasonable cost without needing extra outdoor—or indoor—space.

“Participants are looking for gyms and trainers that provide obstacle course-specific equipment and training to help them prepare for the courses and all their challenges,” says Culp. “Adding specific equipment to go with the functional training pieces and placing them in an area that invites OCR-specific training will be a successful move for your gym.”

Culp, a racer himself, stresses that that there are many different levels of OCR challenges—some extreme, some more family friendly—and their popularity continues to grow.

“In 2017, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder will have a minimum of 13 televised events on NBC and CBS, with NBC coming back for their fifth season of partnering with Spartan Races,” he says.

How Power Systems Can Bring OCR Training to Your Club 

Culp and other OCR brand ambassadors are working with Power Systems to bring OCR-specific training protocols to health clubs around the country. Founded in 1986, Power Systems is one of the premier providers in the professional fitness accessories market, with an inventory of over 2,400 SKUs at the ready.

Power Systems offers everything you need for OCR training, including slam balls, buckets, core hammers, plyo boxes, versa loops, ropes, racks, and medicine balls. But they don’t simply provide you with the tools; they deliver OCR Smart Group Training programs designed to maximize member involvement. These 12-week fee-based courses have already received an enthusiastic response. One recent OCR training session held in a club in Tennessee recently attracted 4,000 Facebook and Instagram followers during its run.  

Clubs have found that these OCR SGT programs can generate additional revenue and increase retention, while inspiring members to challenge themselves. These courses also promote social connections and encourage members to recruit friends and family to participate.

With their well-designed, crowd-pleasing courses and club-appropriate inventory, Power Systems can bring the excitement of OCR races to your club without you having to turn your club into a mud-caked race course. It’s all the fun without the mess. 

To learn more about OCR equipment and training courses, check out the Power Systems site or call (1) 800-321-6975.