How does it feel to sprint with a medicine ball, vault over a trio of boxes, scurry through a tunnel, pull yourself over two pommel horses, climb a cargo net, hoist a sandbag while ascending a flight of stairs, run up an eight-foot wall and then flip a tractor tire 10 times? You could ask the crew gathered at Urban Evolution, a year-old gym in Alexandria — if they weren’t all flopped on mats, drenched in sweat and struggling to catch their breath.
This is Competition Training. It’s the brainchild of owner Salil Maniktahla, who didn’t want anything to stand between his students and the obstacle course races that have starting popping up across the region over the past five years. Most, such as Warrior Dash and RunAmuck, are mud runs that require participants to rappel down ravines, cross streams or face other hardships to get to the finish line. Coming up Saturday is Metro Dash, a 30-obstacle course at National Harbor that won’t leave you dirty as much as dog-tired.
Writes for the MisFits column.
( Katherine Frey / THE WASHINGTON POST ) - At Urban Evolution, Darek Hendrych, 29, of Los Angeles prepares to jump down from a 10-foot obstacle he just climbed during a timed trial.
The idea of the weekly class (Sundays 4-5:30 p.m.) is to rearrange the gym to mimic whatever challenges they’ll be up against next, and then some. “We’re wearing weighted vests. We’ve added obstacles they don’t have. The tires and medicine balls are way bigger. Metro Dash obstacles are going to be a joke to us,” vows instructor Sean Hannah. Beyond just drilling the moves, he provides pointers on how to climb walls, tackle cargo nets and lift tires.
For 29-year-old Sean Coyne, these lessons are a way to make sure he achieves his goals at Metro Dash. “I want to finish it and not puke everywhere,” he jokes. But despite some nerves, Coyne’s psyched to get the chance to try an event that plays to his strengths — namely, strength — and lets him relive his childhood, when he used to watch the obstacle-based game shows “Double Dare” and “Guts” on Nickelodeon.
These days, he should probably be flipping the channel to G4 to study “Ninja Warrior,” Japan’s considerably more grown-up version of what an obstacle course can be, or “American Ninja Warrior,” the spinoff that invites folks in the United States to compete for an opportunity to go to Japan.
They’re both must-see-TV around Urban Evolution, which is so obsessed with the shows that it has held four “Ninja Warrior” nights for members to test their skills on routes inspired by the program. The gym has even built its own versions of two of the obstacles: the salmon ladder (grip a bar and jerk it up two ascending rows of hooks with a series of flying pull-ups) and the cliffhanger (get along a groove by gripping with just your fingertips).
If both of those sound ridiculously difficult, it’s because they are. And that’s precisely what’s fueling the programs’ popularity, says “American Ninja Warrior” co-host Matt Iseman. In sporting events, we’re used to seeing a winner. That’s often not the case with “Ninja Warrior,” which is overwhelmingly populated with losers. Of the 2,600 folks who’ve attempted the course in Japan since 1997, just three have made it to the end. “Odds are you’re going to fail and fail hard,” Iseman says.