Overcoming Obstacles, One Bruise at a Time

Functional training for the fierce at heart


I’ll never forget the first time I participated in an obstacle course race (OCR). It was the Tough Mudder and it was last May on Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire. A longtime friend had convinced me that scaling ten-foot walls, running up gigantic half pipes, traversing across ropes and beams and hiking endless miles of black diamond trails was something I needed in my life.

He was right.

Having only ever competed in road races, obstacle course racing was something entirely new. It challenged every physical fiber of my body. Once I recovered from the first, I quickly became hooked and entered another one – the Spartan Beast at Killington Mountain in Vermont last September. After a grueling nine and a half hours braving 38 obstacles through an unforgiving terrain with my team, I realized that I not only wanted to continue with these races into this year, but I wanted to get better at them. I needed help. (The kind that doesn’t come from tequila.)

When I learned about Unleashed Indoor Obstacle Fitness and Functional Training Center in Warwick, I was ecstatic to try it out. Unleashed is the largest indoor obstacle fitness and training center in New England. With over 6,000 square feet of expansive functional equipment, the training center offers a wide variety of classes, from OCR training to TRX to boot camp and conditioning classes to Spartan Group X classes, plus more.

Founders Kevin Roy and Janine Calise met many years ago and came together after Janine had been training with Kevin for some time. “I loved the creativity Kevin brought to fitness,” Janine tells me. “He has many years of fitness knowledge behind him and he was one of the first trainers in the world to become certified in Spartan Group X. He and I have not only been running natural trails and obstacles since before the start of the OCR events, but he encouraged me to become certified as a spin instructor, personal trainer and then to join him with Spartan Group X.” Janine, who also runs her own graphic design firm and handles Unleashed’s branding, and Kevin, who manages the trainers and also hosts workshops covering gear, technique and nutritional preparedness, created Unleashed about a year ago, to provide a facility for both trainers to train their clients functionally and for participants to have a place to train for races, too. With similar determination and coaching styles, it was a perfect fit.

I grabbed a multi-class punch card and set off to check out Kevin’s Obstacle Course Fit class. Upon entering, it was like I was a kid who walked into a candy shop – there were all kinds of goodies around me. I spotted various types of walls, hanging ropes, cargo nets, weighted pulleys, a monkey bar cage, a rope traverse, prowlers (which are fitness sleds you add weight to and push across a turf), large tires and more. I silently wished to myself that I had eaten a bit more before I left, but I pushed that thought into the back of my head and geared up for the workout.

We began with some stretching exercises and runs around the perimeter of the building. From there, it was straight into 30 timed burpees. (A burpee is full body exercise that is common among OCR events. Also known as “the thing that will kick your ass.”) After we completed our burpees, we were handed a weighted plate for overhead carries around the perimeter of the gym. Needless to say, we were warmed up.

Kevin assigned ten obstacle stations and each of us staggered our starting points and had exactly two minutes to work with that obstacle. Just as I prayed that I didn’t get the walls first, I heard, “Jen, you’re on the walls.” Staring at the six-foot structure in front of me, I’ll admit that I panicked slightly. I had scaled plenty of walls in the races before, but I either had a teammate or wooden peg giving me a head start. This time, it was just the wall and me.

I ran, threw one foot against that wall and hauled myself to the top. I grabbed the top ledge in the first try, but soon realized that my triceps were not going to get me over. Instead, my legs were. Swinging one leg over the ledge, I hoisted myself to the other side of that wall and back down. I did it. Before I could even revel in this fact, I looked ahead at the eight foot one in front of me and fear set in all over again. There is something about a perpendicularly pitched high wall staring you in the face that makes you think you’ll either break a vital body part as you throw yourself against it or that you’ll break a vital body part as you throw yourself against it. So, I threw myself against it.

Mimicking the same flailing motions that I did on the wall before, I managed to get myself up over this sucker. However, I could only do it once. Every afterward attempt resulted in a failed jump and bruised ego. But that’s what this place is for. To seek out your weaknesses and transform them into strengths.

Continuing on through the remaining nine obstacles, I soon learned that I was great at some while not so great at others. Give me a rope to climb and I can hold my own, but give me that rope against a 12-foot straight wall and I’m looking for my happy place (which might involve tequila).

At the end of the circuit, we finished with another 30 timed burpees and some final stretching. My entire body was fatigued. My triceps were on fire. And I was pretty convinced I could go home and eat every piece of food in my refrigerator. I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Unleashed is an amazing, one-of-a kind training center that o#ers a variety of workouts to kick your fitness level into high gear. It’s not only for racers, but also for anyone who craves an intense, driven and incredibly supportive gym atmosphere and has now become a weekly staple to my fitness routine. Unleashed Indoor Obstacle Fitness and Functional Training Center 5 Soule Street, Warwick 487-6125.