Inside OCR Gyms is a Mud Run Guide series designed to give racers an insight into gyms in their area, and the folks that keep the facility alive. Rather than acting as an advertisement, it is intended to give readers the opportunity to read what the gym is all about and what sets it apart from other facilities in the area.
The second part of our series features gym owner (and Tough Mudder Pro Team member) Allison Tai who runs Van City OCR out of Vancouver, B.C.
Tell us about Van City OCR.
In 2015, my husband John and (I spent) a good part of the summer racing out east. We noticed a huge change in the tightness of the community there from the west coast where we're from. People on the west coast would just show up to the race, run, and then go home. We really wanted to build a thriving community based around the sport… since it's one of our favorite things about OCR. At the same time, our now good friend, Amin was moving from Toronto to Vancouver. Together we helped grow the community to what it is today.
What motivated you to open your own facility?
Dee, my business partner, approached me about co-opening a gym some time ago. He is a phenomenal athlete and really great at the short course Ninja Warrior style obstacles. I'm clearly much more inclined to long and slow grinds… so we made the perfect pair. Vancouver has beautiful weather year-round compared to the rest of Canada but people need a break from training in the rain. We wanted to build an indoor space to bring our athletes.
What is your gym's specialty?
We cater to all forms of obstacle racing: short to long, kids to adults. We wanted a place that was inclusive of all race brands and race types… as well as one that welcomed all levels. It was an extension of the community and who Vancity OCR had become. Since John and I are parents and want to be around our kids 24/7, family friendly was a must. Another big defining factor is that the obstacles and courses constantly change so there are almost always new challenges. That and we have a timed “time trial” rig and a “side by side” partner race rig which are just fun and add a motivating dose of competition to training.
What other classes do you offer?
We offer everything from training for Tough Mudder and TMX, to Spartan Race, to Ninja training for kids and adults. We also have parkour and tumbling, running and other specialty classes that align with our values. Kids classes start at 1 year and we even have a few retired folks out so we really run the scale of both age, ability, and specialization.
Are you affiliated with any race groups?
John Bouwman was insanely helpful when we were first starting out and mentored us right off the get. I will forever be grateful for his guidance. We're friendly with the Hurtin' Albertans, Beasts OCR, Weeple Army, etc. This sport is filled with great people and we were lucky to have their support.
What has opening a fitness facility taught you?
That first year was insane. I was thankful to have my coach Yancy Culp to program workouts that were super efficient so I could still train at a high level, get the gym going and, most importantly, be a mom to my two girls. Half the time I'd be on the incline trainer at 2am answering emails between intervals but I got it done. Of course, that's not sustainable. I'm a big believer in consciously choosing where to put your energy in life. For me, that's always been about creating balance and prioritizing. If I (learned) anything, I learned a ton about prioritizing and efficiency in that stage of my life – and gained an appreciation for balance. Thankfully, we have the best staff imaginable right now and I can go back to focusing on being an athlete with the benefit of training at a world class OCR facility.
For those who are looking to visit you, what kind of membership options do you have? Do you do drop-in rates?
We do a ton of drop-ins and there are different rates if you want to drop into a class or just do open gym (and for how long). New clients get 50% off their first class. We also have competitive all-access membership rates… as well as very inexpensive all-access family memberships.
What advice would you have for someone looking at getting into the sport?
Just enjoy where you're at. When I first started back after my second child I couldn't even do the monkey bars. It takes time to develop grip strength and endurance. People are often shocked at how hard obstacles are since their last memories of hand traversing probably involved breezing across the monkey bars as children. It takes time and work but it's so worth it. There is no feeling in the world like being able to complete an obstacle you felt like you couldn't do. It really does change who you are and what you know you're capable of if you work at it. That's what it's about for me.
A huge thank-you to Allison for this insight into Van City OCR.