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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Extreme training: To the extreme

Extreme fitness challenges such as Tough Mudder are increasingly inspiring the public to push themselves further than they ever imagined possible. We look at how fitness operators are tapping in to this trend

Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 10
Extreme fitness challenges
Extreme fitness challenges
In the UK, obstacle racing enjoyed an 80 per cent growth in entrant numbers between 2011 and 2013, from 40,000 to 205,000

The market for extreme fitness challenges is booming, spawning an abundance of endurance events like triathlons as well as the phenomenally popular obstacle course races (OCR) around the world. Designed to push participants to their limits, both mentally and physically, OCRs are generally set in unforgiving terrain involving varying levels of man-made and natural obstacles, icy cold water and a lot of mud.

In the United Kingdom, obstacle racing saw an 80 per cent growth in entrant numbers between 2011 and 2013 – from 40,000 to 205,000 – according to Muddy Race, a leading obstacle racing website. In January 2014, Muddy Race also reported that the UK obstacle racing industry was worth more than £12m annually.

In the US, four million people took part in an OCR event in 2014 – this according to Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business, a new report by American fitness trainer and research analyst Melissa Rodriguez.

To date, Tough Mudder has hosted 250,000 participants at its UK events and welcomed its two millionth participant globally this August, while Reebok Spartan Race reached its one millionth participant this year.

Rodriguez, who oversees industry research for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), says a rise in participation in related activities – such as running, triathlons, adventure racing and CrossFit – has helped drive the growth of obstacle course races.

Joining forces
So what’s the appeal? Many organisers of OCRs describe their events as life-changing. But they are also accessible, with almost all races popular with men and women and designed to cater for all levels of fitness. Some even host junior races for children, appealing to the whole family.

“Our participants, both veterans and newcomers, love Tough Mudder because our events provide a challenge that’s primal, irreverent and unlike any other athletic experience,” says John Fidoe, Tough Mudder’s vice president of marketing.

Participants become part of a community from the moment they sign up for a race, receiving training tips and nutritional advice to prepare them for the challenge. During the event, they experience teamwork and camaraderie as they negotiate the obstacles – as well as an exhilarating cocktail of excitement, fear and adrenalin.

Health club operators are increasing joining forces with OCR companies to take advantage of this seemingly insatiable appetite for extreme fitness challenges. The partnerships take a variety of formats, from contra-marketing deals and discounts to dedicated classes and training programmes to get people get challenge-fit.

“People who are already at the gym have an interest in fitness and health, even if they’re just starting out. Linking with an event such as ourselves opens the doors to something that can motivate people to continue to go to the gym, to train and reach their goals,” says Coleen McManus, general manager of Spartan UK.

The partnerships also provide useful ways for both parties to leverage their brand. Indeed, some OCR organisers like Reebok Spartan Race have plans to strike out even further. The company intends to host more than 20 free workouts next year, with the help of the likes of parkour, bootcamp and CrossFit operators. There will also be bespoke Spartan training classes in national fitness chains. The future for OCR looks bright indeed.

Virgin Active joins forces with Tough Mudder
Virgin Active partnered with Tough Mudder, which runs team-orientated 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses, at the start of 2015.

The three-year agreement sees Virgin Active providing in-club training to help prepare participants for the challenge. Working with Tough Mudder, Virgin Active developed Mudder Maker, the official training class for Tough Mudder. “Virgin Active has a great understanding of everything that Tough Mudder entails, from the variety of obstacles and terrain, to the importance of completing these challenges as a team,” says Tough Mudder’s Fidoe.

During the 45-minute class, participants work in groups of three or four at their chosen intensity level. They take on nine obstacles before facing The Eliminator, which consists of the Centurion – where they have to do as many reps of a designated body weight exercise as possible – and the Gauntlet, where they push a tackle shield-wearing instructor across the studio.

“There’s a great fit between the two brands, and Virgin Active’s expertise and facilities greatly enhance the training experience for Mudders preparing to tackle our events,” says Fidoe.

Class participants have a reward card, which is stamped after each session; they receive an additional stamp for any personal bests achieved during The Eliminator. These can be redeemed for rewards such as Tough Mudder T-shirts. 

Approximately 23,000 members have attended the classes since they launched in UK clubs in May.

Fitness First and Judgement Day
Judgement Day races offer a combination of natural and man-made obstacles, with no two races the same. The company doesn’t post course maps or a list of obstacles and it varies distances and terrains, so participants never know what to expect.

Launched in March, Fitness First’s partnership with Judgement Day aims to drive awareness of OCRs and prepare members for races. In addition to discounted entry to races, Fitness First members can access training and advice to prepare for the event, says a spokesperson for the health club chain:

“Our personal trainers offer training programmes where you’ll be tasked with movements and exercises that replicate a lot of the challenges you’re likely to encounter during an OCR like Judgement Day. With our Freestyle group training sessions, members also develop strength, power, agility and speed, which are all essential to succeeding in an event like this.”

The chain is working with Jon Albon, current OCR World Champion and Spartan World Champion, who works with personal trainers to advise how to tackle the hardest of obstacle courses and give tips for preparing and recovering from an event.

Fitness First also offers outdoor group training classes to prepare members for the types of environment they might experience during OCRs. And its OCR training programmes on the Fitness First website have proved to be one of the company’s most popular workout regimes, with more than 2,000 downloads to date.

24 Hour Fitness and Atlas Race
US group 24 Hour Fitness partnered with Atlas Race early this year. “We chose Atlas Race because it has a young, entrepreneurial team, and its races were a little less intimidating than many of the larger obstacle race formats. We felt its races reflected our membership well. Many people would be doing this obstacle race for the first time and Atlas Race events are accessible, with attainable finishes,” says Richard Boyd, the group’s senior VP of fitness & strategic initiatives.

The partnership, which has now ended, saw 24 Hour Fitness promote Atlas obstacle events to members, with discounts for those who registered for races.

Boyd continues: “Obstacle racing, as with many other sporting events, gives us an opportunity to engage with our membership base. It adds value for our members and connects them with fun outdoor activities that provide more purpose to the time they spend in our clubs. We offer a group training programme, Ignite, which is a terrific introduction to group fitness and also helps prepare people for all of our experiential races.” 

“We’re constantly introducing new fitness event opportunities for our members. We have a number of special events coming up that are both challenging and help our members continue their fitness activities outside of our clubs. Some of our exciting new programmes include a series of fun runs, Fitness On the Rocks and our own outdoor obstacle event series, which will be held locally at school athletic fields.”

LA Fitness / Pure Gym and Reebok Spartan Race
Reebok Spartan Race offers 5km, 13km and 20km courses, culminating in the annual Reebok Spartan World Championships. The races feature global rankings to encourage competition, and participants who complete all three distances in one year earn a place in the Spartan Trifecta club.

“Spartan isn’t just a race – it’s a lifestyle where we encourage a positive change in attitudes towards workouts, nutrition and everyday challenges,” says Spartan UK’s McManus.

“Partnering with LA fitness and Pure Gym has allowed us to reach a broad group of people. Gym partners can offer Spartans access to membership and training for race day, and it’s a great fit as both parties want to inspire everyone up off the sofa, to get exercising and to challenge themselves to do something new,” she adds.

The company’s relationship with Pure Gym includes cross-promotional opportunities, with Pure Gym members receiving discounted entry to Spartan races.

“We advertise the races in our clubs and on the internet and have a presence at Spartan events,” says Francine Davis, director of strategic development at Pure Gym. “We don’t offer specific Spartan training, but it’s common for people in the gym to train with each other and put a team together with our personal trainers for a race.”

The company also looks for other ways to reinforce the relationship. “We have a monthly gym challenge across our 106 gyms. Burpees are Reebok Spartan Race’s exercise of choice, so one challenge was to do as many burpees as possible in 60 seconds, with the winner receiving free entry into a Reebok Spartan Race.”

Xercise4Less partners with Total Warrior
Low-cost gym chain Xercise4Less is the official place to train for those who want to take part in a Total Warrior Event. The races cover 10km, 12km or 10 miles of rugged terrain featuring 25 to 30 specially designed obstacles.

Xercise4Less gives ‘warriors’ discounted gym memberships for £9.99 a month (peak is usually £14.99), while its own users receive a 15 per cent discount on entry to Total Warrior events.

The chain has also introduced Warrior classes – one-hour sessions that include running, circuits, Tabata and resistance work to prepare participants for the events. “We run three classes a week in all sites and consistently have 30 to 40 people in each class,” says Lauren Rainforth, PR and events executive at Xercise4Less.

Nuffield Health and Human Race
Human Race owns and delivers more than 50 events around the UK, from triathlon and cycling to running and open water swimming.

The company has a new partnership with Nuffield Health, which launched as HCM went to press.

“The new partnership runs across all Human Race public events,” says Sandy Case, new business director of Human Race Events. “It gives Nuffield Health an opportunity to share its knowledge and expertise, build further awareness of its brand and showcase its services along the journey that every Human Race participant takes, from registering for the event right through to the race day itself and beyond.”

“Our participants are interested in their health and wellbeing and are seeking advice relating to their preparation, training, recovery and injury prevention. They use gyms to train in and often require physio services for the inevitable aches and pains that can crop up during training. They require nutritional advice to enable them to perform at their optimum level, and recovery advice for post training/exercise. Nuffield Health was an ideal partner who ticked all the boxes.”

For Nuffield Health, Human Race offers a full 12-month event platform, with over 50 events and a receptive audience of close to 250,000 people who all share a passion to be fit and healthy.

“The relationship is a true partnership, where both teams will be working together to create new events, share knowledge, educate participants and generally help improve the experience each person will have when signing up for an event, whether they be a beginner or an expert,” concludes Case.

Nuffield Health will also be title sponsor of the Eton Super Sprints weekend and the Kingston Run Challenge as part of its involvement.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Over two million people have taken part in Tough Mudder around the world / Photo: Kirsten Holst
Over two million people have taken part in Tough Mudder around the world / Photo: Kirsten Holst
The obstacle races are popular among both men and women / Photo: Kirsten Holst
The obstacle races are popular among both men and women / Photo: Kirsten Holst
24 Hour Fitness partnered with 
Atlas Race events
24 Hour Fitness partnered with Atlas Race events
Human Race owns and delivers over 50 UK events each year
Human Race owns and delivers over 50 UK events each year
Reebok Spartan Race culminates in a world championships event
Reebok Spartan Race culminates in a world championships event
Spartan races feature global rankings to encourage competition
Spartan races feature global rankings to encourage competition
Xercise4Less offers discounted membership for ‘Total Warriors’
Xercise4Less offers discounted membership for ‘Total Warriors’
Open water swimming is one of the Human Race disciplines
Open water swimming is one of the Human Race disciplines
Human Race offers a receptive audience of 250,000 participants
Human Race offers a receptive audience of 250,000 participants
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/783538_577484.jpg
Battling the elements: The explosive growth of extreme events
Tough Mudder, obstable course, Virgin Active, Fitness First, Judgement Day, 24 Hour Fitness, Atlas Race, LA fitness, Pure Gym, Reebok Spartan, Xercise4Less, Total Warrior, Nuffield, Human Race
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features

Extreme training: To the extreme

Extreme fitness challenges such as Tough Mudder are increasingly inspiring the public to push themselves further than they ever imagined possible. We look at how fitness operators are tapping in to this trend

Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 10
Extreme fitness challenges
Extreme fitness challenges
In the UK, obstacle racing enjoyed an 80 per cent growth in entrant numbers between 2011 and 2013, from 40,000 to 205,000

The market for extreme fitness challenges is booming, spawning an abundance of endurance events like triathlons as well as the phenomenally popular obstacle course races (OCR) around the world. Designed to push participants to their limits, both mentally and physically, OCRs are generally set in unforgiving terrain involving varying levels of man-made and natural obstacles, icy cold water and a lot of mud.

In the United Kingdom, obstacle racing saw an 80 per cent growth in entrant numbers between 2011 and 2013 – from 40,000 to 205,000 – according to Muddy Race, a leading obstacle racing website. In January 2014, Muddy Race also reported that the UK obstacle racing industry was worth more than £12m annually.

In the US, four million people took part in an OCR event in 2014 – this according to Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business, a new report by American fitness trainer and research analyst Melissa Rodriguez.

To date, Tough Mudder has hosted 250,000 participants at its UK events and welcomed its two millionth participant globally this August, while Reebok Spartan Race reached its one millionth participant this year.

Rodriguez, who oversees industry research for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), says a rise in participation in related activities – such as running, triathlons, adventure racing and CrossFit – has helped drive the growth of obstacle course races.

Joining forces
So what’s the appeal? Many organisers of OCRs describe their events as life-changing. But they are also accessible, with almost all races popular with men and women and designed to cater for all levels of fitness. Some even host junior races for children, appealing to the whole family.

“Our participants, both veterans and newcomers, love Tough Mudder because our events provide a challenge that’s primal, irreverent and unlike any other athletic experience,” says John Fidoe, Tough Mudder’s vice president of marketing.

Participants become part of a community from the moment they sign up for a race, receiving training tips and nutritional advice to prepare them for the challenge. During the event, they experience teamwork and camaraderie as they negotiate the obstacles – as well as an exhilarating cocktail of excitement, fear and adrenalin.

Health club operators are increasing joining forces with OCR companies to take advantage of this seemingly insatiable appetite for extreme fitness challenges. The partnerships take a variety of formats, from contra-marketing deals and discounts to dedicated classes and training programmes to get people get challenge-fit.

“People who are already at the gym have an interest in fitness and health, even if they’re just starting out. Linking with an event such as ourselves opens the doors to something that can motivate people to continue to go to the gym, to train and reach their goals,” says Coleen McManus, general manager of Spartan UK.

The partnerships also provide useful ways for both parties to leverage their brand. Indeed, some OCR organisers like Reebok Spartan Race have plans to strike out even further. The company intends to host more than 20 free workouts next year, with the help of the likes of parkour, bootcamp and CrossFit operators. There will also be bespoke Spartan training classes in national fitness chains. The future for OCR looks bright indeed.

Virgin Active joins forces with Tough Mudder
Virgin Active partnered with Tough Mudder, which runs team-orientated 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses, at the start of 2015.

The three-year agreement sees Virgin Active providing in-club training to help prepare participants for the challenge. Working with Tough Mudder, Virgin Active developed Mudder Maker, the official training class for Tough Mudder. “Virgin Active has a great understanding of everything that Tough Mudder entails, from the variety of obstacles and terrain, to the importance of completing these challenges as a team,” says Tough Mudder’s Fidoe.

During the 45-minute class, participants work in groups of three or four at their chosen intensity level. They take on nine obstacles before facing The Eliminator, which consists of the Centurion – where they have to do as many reps of a designated body weight exercise as possible – and the Gauntlet, where they push a tackle shield-wearing instructor across the studio.

“There’s a great fit between the two brands, and Virgin Active’s expertise and facilities greatly enhance the training experience for Mudders preparing to tackle our events,” says Fidoe.

Class participants have a reward card, which is stamped after each session; they receive an additional stamp for any personal bests achieved during The Eliminator. These can be redeemed for rewards such as Tough Mudder T-shirts. 

Approximately 23,000 members have attended the classes since they launched in UK clubs in May.

Fitness First and Judgement Day
Judgement Day races offer a combination of natural and man-made obstacles, with no two races the same. The company doesn’t post course maps or a list of obstacles and it varies distances and terrains, so participants never know what to expect.

Launched in March, Fitness First’s partnership with Judgement Day aims to drive awareness of OCRs and prepare members for races. In addition to discounted entry to races, Fitness First members can access training and advice to prepare for the event, says a spokesperson for the health club chain:

“Our personal trainers offer training programmes where you’ll be tasked with movements and exercises that replicate a lot of the challenges you’re likely to encounter during an OCR like Judgement Day. With our Freestyle group training sessions, members also develop strength, power, agility and speed, which are all essential to succeeding in an event like this.”

The chain is working with Jon Albon, current OCR World Champion and Spartan World Champion, who works with personal trainers to advise how to tackle the hardest of obstacle courses and give tips for preparing and recovering from an event.

Fitness First also offers outdoor group training classes to prepare members for the types of environment they might experience during OCRs. And its OCR training programmes on the Fitness First website have proved to be one of the company’s most popular workout regimes, with more than 2,000 downloads to date.

24 Hour Fitness and Atlas Race
US group 24 Hour Fitness partnered with Atlas Race early this year. “We chose Atlas Race because it has a young, entrepreneurial team, and its races were a little less intimidating than many of the larger obstacle race formats. We felt its races reflected our membership well. Many people would be doing this obstacle race for the first time and Atlas Race events are accessible, with attainable finishes,” says Richard Boyd, the group’s senior VP of fitness & strategic initiatives.

The partnership, which has now ended, saw 24 Hour Fitness promote Atlas obstacle events to members, with discounts for those who registered for races.

Boyd continues: “Obstacle racing, as with many other sporting events, gives us an opportunity to engage with our membership base. It adds value for our members and connects them with fun outdoor activities that provide more purpose to the time they spend in our clubs. We offer a group training programme, Ignite, which is a terrific introduction to group fitness and also helps prepare people for all of our experiential races.” 

“We’re constantly introducing new fitness event opportunities for our members. We have a number of special events coming up that are both challenging and help our members continue their fitness activities outside of our clubs. Some of our exciting new programmes include a series of fun runs, Fitness On the Rocks and our own outdoor obstacle event series, which will be held locally at school athletic fields.”

LA Fitness / Pure Gym and Reebok Spartan Race
Reebok Spartan Race offers 5km, 13km and 20km courses, culminating in the annual Reebok Spartan World Championships. The races feature global rankings to encourage competition, and participants who complete all three distances in one year earn a place in the Spartan Trifecta club.

“Spartan isn’t just a race – it’s a lifestyle where we encourage a positive change in attitudes towards workouts, nutrition and everyday challenges,” says Spartan UK’s McManus.

“Partnering with LA fitness and Pure Gym has allowed us to reach a broad group of people. Gym partners can offer Spartans access to membership and training for race day, and it’s a great fit as both parties want to inspire everyone up off the sofa, to get exercising and to challenge themselves to do something new,” she adds.

The company’s relationship with Pure Gym includes cross-promotional opportunities, with Pure Gym members receiving discounted entry to Spartan races.

“We advertise the races in our clubs and on the internet and have a presence at Spartan events,” says Francine Davis, director of strategic development at Pure Gym. “We don’t offer specific Spartan training, but it’s common for people in the gym to train with each other and put a team together with our personal trainers for a race.”

The company also looks for other ways to reinforce the relationship. “We have a monthly gym challenge across our 106 gyms. Burpees are Reebok Spartan Race’s exercise of choice, so one challenge was to do as many burpees as possible in 60 seconds, with the winner receiving free entry into a Reebok Spartan Race.”

Xercise4Less partners with Total Warrior
Low-cost gym chain Xercise4Less is the official place to train for those who want to take part in a Total Warrior Event. The races cover 10km, 12km or 10 miles of rugged terrain featuring 25 to 30 specially designed obstacles.

Xercise4Less gives ‘warriors’ discounted gym memberships for £9.99 a month (peak is usually £14.99), while its own users receive a 15 per cent discount on entry to Total Warrior events.

The chain has also introduced Warrior classes – one-hour sessions that include running, circuits, Tabata and resistance work to prepare participants for the events. “We run three classes a week in all sites and consistently have 30 to 40 people in each class,” says Lauren Rainforth, PR and events executive at Xercise4Less.

Nuffield Health and Human Race
Human Race owns and delivers more than 50 events around the UK, from triathlon and cycling to running and open water swimming.

The company has a new partnership with Nuffield Health, which launched as HCM went to press.

“The new partnership runs across all Human Race public events,” says Sandy Case, new business director of Human Race Events. “It gives Nuffield Health an opportunity to share its knowledge and expertise, build further awareness of its brand and showcase its services along the journey that every Human Race participant takes, from registering for the event right through to the race day itself and beyond.”

“Our participants are interested in their health and wellbeing and are seeking advice relating to their preparation, training, recovery and injury prevention. They use gyms to train in and often require physio services for the inevitable aches and pains that can crop up during training. They require nutritional advice to enable them to perform at their optimum level, and recovery advice for post training/exercise. Nuffield Health was an ideal partner who ticked all the boxes.”

For Nuffield Health, Human Race offers a full 12-month event platform, with over 50 events and a receptive audience of close to 250,000 people who all share a passion to be fit and healthy.

“The relationship is a true partnership, where both teams will be working together to create new events, share knowledge, educate participants and generally help improve the experience each person will have when signing up for an event, whether they be a beginner or an expert,” concludes Case.

Nuffield Health will also be title sponsor of the Eton Super Sprints weekend and the Kingston Run Challenge as part of its involvement.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Over two million people have taken part in Tough Mudder around the world / Photo: Kirsten Holst
Over two million people have taken part in Tough Mudder around the world / Photo: Kirsten Holst
The obstacle races are popular among both men and women / Photo: Kirsten Holst
The obstacle races are popular among both men and women / Photo: Kirsten Holst
24 Hour Fitness partnered with 
Atlas Race events
24 Hour Fitness partnered with Atlas Race events
Human Race owns and delivers over 50 UK events each year
Human Race owns and delivers over 50 UK events each year
Reebok Spartan Race culminates in a world championships event
Reebok Spartan Race culminates in a world championships event
Spartan races feature global rankings to encourage competition
Spartan races feature global rankings to encourage competition
Xercise4Less offers discounted membership for ‘Total Warriors’
Xercise4Less offers discounted membership for ‘Total Warriors’
Open water swimming is one of the Human Race disciplines
Open water swimming is one of the Human Race disciplines
Human Race offers a receptive audience of 250,000 participants
Human Race offers a receptive audience of 250,000 participants
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/783538_577484.jpg
Battling the elements: The explosive growth of extreme events
Tough Mudder, obstable course, Virgin Active, Fitness First, Judgement Day, 24 Hour Fitness, Atlas Race, LA fitness, Pure Gym, Reebok Spartan, Xercise4Less, Total Warrior, Nuffield, Human Race
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promotion
While much of the fitness industry has reopened its doors across the UK over the past weeks, many members are yet to return.
Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Celebrating the return of group exercise – Les Mills to host free ‘Fastest Way Back’ livestream event for the industry
Last month (May) saw the welcomed return of group exercise classes. Group exercise is the heartbeat for so many clubs, with in-studio and instructor-led live experiences at the pinnacle.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Is broken gym equipment killing your business potential?
You’re pumped and ready for your workout. Then you see it, the dreaded ‘out of order’ signs hanging from treadmills, weight machines or cross-trainers.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active generates £342m in social value
Award-winning leisure operator Everyone Active generated £342million in social value at its sites across the country in 2019/20.
Company profiles
Company profile: Physical Company
Physical Company’s mission statement is ‘First for Fitness Solutions’ – a statement that reflects the ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Matrix provides innovative commercial fitness equipment to facilities in all market sectors including private health ...
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01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
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