I am just an average Joe. I can run 3 miles on a good day. I don’t lift weights, use the machines at the gym or otherwise train seriously. But I love a challenge and fell in love with OCR immediately. My philosophy is: I may not be the best runner, but I WILL do all the obstacles.

I just got home from Unleashed Obstacle Fitness & Functional Training Center in Warwick, RI. I am sweaty, dirty and even bloody. My EVERYTHING hurts; in a good way. The plan was to drive two hours from central Connecticut to Unleashed in Rhode Island and spend a couple hours improving my obstacle skills. The reality is that I am now an Unleashed fanatic after spending nearly 8 hours there today.

This place is amazing! It is full of obstacles for you to learn and practice your obstacle skills. The first obstacle you see is the 6’ wall, then an 8’ wall, a 10’ wall, monkey bars, Tyrolean traverse, tons of ropes to climb, a wall traverse, weighted sleds and an outdoor spear throw. I may have even missed some of the obstacles because there were so many.

The classes I attended were led by one of the owners, Kevin Roy, a personal trainer and Spartan Group X Coach. This guy was great. His enthusiasm and passion is infectious and he is a wealth of knowledge and tips about obstacle course racing.

I attended three classes, then stuck around and watched a personal training session and took pictures. My first class was at 8:30, called Obstacle Course Fit. This was a high intensity circuit through the obstacles. We started with a warm up run and a bunch of active exercise, then we had a fast walk-through of all the obstacles and broke into small groups. Then we began the circuit training; two minutes of repeatedly doing/attempting the obstacle, and burpees while you wait your turn. There were 9 stations set up for this class and going through all of the stations took nearly an hour. Kevin ended the class with 30 burpees, while he timed us. This lets you know how long it takes you to do 30 burpees, which is the Spartan Race penalty for failure to complete an obstacle. By this point, I was already exhausted and shaking from muscle fatigue, and had to stop after my 16th burpee.

Then it was time for the 9:30 class, which is Obstacle Skills & Techniques. This was a slower, more focused class. As a group, we got a demonstration and tips on how to do each obstacle, then tried them ourselves. Kevin was right there to walk you through it, giving you hands on practice. If you’re new to OCR or haven’t done a Spartan Race, you should definitely START with this class. It teaches you all the basics of obstacle course racing, except for how to run.

The third class was an hour later at a nearby school, but the break was definitely needed. During Unleashed Off Road Conditioning, you run flat ground, you run trails, you run hills… You RUN. By the time I got to this class I was totally wiped out. I ate a Clif bar and energy chews and sucked it up. This class is designed to encompass all fitness levels, but unfortunately for me, today happened to be 4 female superstar runners (according to Kevin). I was quickly left behind with my slow pace, and it wasn’t long before I was alternating walking and running, then mostly walking. Trail walking is still a workout!

The routes through the woods were designed to double back often, so I was never truly left behind. As the fast runners came back around, I just jumped back into the line and ran for as long as I could hold out. There were natural stopping points to the start and finish of each route, and Kevin had the group doing burpees and other exercises while we reformed. At one point, I was so out of breath and exhausted that I actually asked to stay put while the rest of the group ran the next loop. Kevin continuously cheered me on and made sure I was doing OK, which was great. I managed to get through the entire hour and a half class at my super slow pace, all 3.76 miles (according to my GPS watch).

After this, I wasn’t ready for my long trip home, so I decided to return to the gym and snap some pictures. Kevin invited me to watch his personal training session and introduced me to his client, another runner from Connecticut. During the 2 hour session, Kevin went through every obstacle, similar to the Skills & Techniques class, but one on one. My new friend, Al, (as seen in the pictures) got to focus on his weaknesses and learn new techniques for his strengths. The workout went until Al had trouble gripping the ropes, then we moved outside to the spear throw.

This was my first time seeing the spear throw and I listened intently as Kevin taught Al how to stand, how to balance the spear and how to throw. With no prior training, Al was able to hit the hay bales and stick the spear by following Kevin’s directions. If Al slacked on the steps, he missed; but when he re-focused, the spear stuck right in! These techniques obviously work. After a while of spear throwing, they hit the obstacles again. At the end, the guys did some static stretches and Kevin taught us both how to foam roll. I was really impressed by the attention and experience that Al got during his personal training session.

Now for the most important part of this review: Can an Average Joe do it? YES! In fact, if you’re an Average Joe, you can do nothing better to prep for your next obstacle course race. I struggled my way through all three classes, but everyone was very supportive and helpful and I learned so much. The only other person who did all three classes is working to become a personal trainer, so I don’t feel so bad about my poor performance on class #3. These classes are physically exhausting, and use muscles that you didn’t know you have. I recommend starting off with the Skills & Techniques and the Off Road Conditioning classes for a first visit.

My final note is to prepare for a day at Unleashed like you would a race. Wear your race clothes. Bring your energy bars and gels. Don’t forget your comfy shoes for after the Conditioning class. Your toes will thank you.

I had FUN and an AMAZING workout at Unleashed Obstacle Fitness & Functional Training Center and I can’t wait to go back. I give Unleashed 5 stars.

—–Caryn DeCrisanti—–