NEW YORK - Tired of treadmills? Bored with bicep curls? It may be time to scale a wall, climb a rope and drag a tire. Fitness experts say obstacle course gyms offer a fun, goal-oriented workout that cultivates endurance, strength and agility.
Christine King, 31, an insurance adjuster, regularly drives 40 minutes to climb ropes and drag tires at MYLO Obstacle Fitness, an outdoor obstacle course gym located on 75 acres in Austin, Texas.
"It's personal training without the stresses of an indoor gym," said King, who added that she was "never very athletic," but delights in the outdoors, the laid-back vibe and the detailed instruction she gets at the course.
"I was always kind of intimidated by the gym," she said. "Here there's always someone telling me how do things correctly."
Mylo Villanueva, the US Marine Corps veteran who owns and operates MYLO Obstacle Fitness, said mastering the course takes more skill than brawn.
"Once they learn technique, they learn it doesn't require too much strength," said Villanueva.
Most of his clients are women aged 22 to 50, who relish the accomplishment of scaling an 8-foot (2.4-meter) wall as much as they appreciate the ease their training brings to everyday chores.
"I hear things like, 'Before, I couldn't load the truck with dirt,' and 'Now I'm able to lift buckets,' said Villanueva.
The indoor obstacle course at Warrior Fitness Boot Camp in New York City attracts a mixed bag of enthusiasts, from fitness freaks to runners to "moms and pops" just trying to get back in shape, according to instructor Ruben Belliard.
The course includes hurdles, walls and monkey bars. Everyone has a partner and all the instructors are former Marines.
"We tell them what to do, how to do it," said Belliard. "You pace yourself, you do what you can."
Most people, he said, are stronger than they think.
"We designed the course so everybody can do it. Most people climb over the six-foot (1.8-meter) wall on the first try," he said.
Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist at Miramar College in San Diego, California, said the obstacle course on her campus attracts students, staff and faculty of all fitness levels.
The course changes all the time as new obstacles are added or rearranged, said Matthews, who recommends varying obstacle course work with flexibility exercises.
"You need the foundation of fitness to make it through whatever is thrown your way," she said.
Villanueva says he likes to put an extra, unexpected obstacle at the end of a workout, on the top of a hill.
"I relate a lot of things to life. Life will beat you down. In order to get up you have to push yourself," he said. "So rain or shine, we're out there. And I know if I'm going to fall off a 12-foot (3.6-meter) wall, there's a guy there to catch me."