It's no secret that it's been a tough few months for all things OCR-related. The closure of many gyms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the cancellation of most 2020 OCR and trail running events, has made it difficult for many fitness-related businesses to stay afloat. There are a few, however, that seem to defy the odds and continue to thrive. One of these, Southern California's own Hardkour Performance, is doing just that. I recently sat down with Hardkour founder Justin Nucum to find out what he's doing right, how he's had to adjust, and what he sees in the future for OCR and Hardkour.
Let's start with the obvious: What is Hardkour Performance, and how did it come about?
Hardkour Performance is a mobile fitness company based here in Orange County, CA, that specializes in OCR training for all levels, from beginner to elite. We believe that training in the outdoor elements is the best way to prepare for race day, and hold most of our classes and training at local parks, beaches, and trails. Aside from OCR-specific outdoor classes, we also offer an online training program, and an online Hardkour apparel shop with clothing, equipment, and popular training and race supplements. We also have a Hardkour Race Team, as well as a Hardkour Pro Elite team for our competitive OCR athletes.
The idea for Hardkour Performance came about as a result of my senior project in college in 2015. I was asked to make a 60-second pitch to my classmates on an idea that I thought I could create into a business. At the time, I was very intrigued with how athletes were training for competitions like Ninja Warrior, especially considering there were no local gyms with those types of obstacles. My initial plan was to create a brick-and-mortar space with Ninja-style obstacles, but my professor and mentor suggested I start mobile, in order to first build my clientele. I took his advice and started hosting outdoor classes, but quickly realized there was more of a demand for training for OCR events like Spartan and Tough Mudder, than Ninja Warrior. Though the focus of our training shifted, the outdoor training aspect stuck, and continues to separate us from other local gyms and race teams.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you approach the business and training, especially considering most 2020 OCR and trail running events have been cancelled?
For Hardkour, there have been two major shifts brought on by the Pandemic: First has been the shift from seeing clients on a daily basis to working with them less frequently or even completely virtually. We've focused more on our online training program, so that clients can train in their home gym, or outdoors with minimal equipment. We also try to keep our clients motivated through virtual challenges and team competitions. I've found this helps people stay motivated, even if they are training at home or by themselves. The second shift has been a greater focus on our online shop, including creating and producing more Hardkour Team merchandise and apparel. Even during the hight of the pandemic, we were able to create a full line of summer apparel, including swim trunks, shorts, sports bras, and hats, along with accessories like face masks, foldable chairs, and coolers. We'll also be releasing a new version of our training sandbags in early fall.
What are your plans for the future of Hardkour, and what do you envision the 2021 OCR season will look like?
Our plan is to continue to grow, and have athletes from all over the country, and in every age group, representing the team. My goal has always been to help build a community of bad-ass athletes who share the mindset to become better versions of themselves, even if they can't train with us here, locally. In addition, we recently launched HKnutrition and HKtrail. HKnutrition is anything and everything nutrition-related for the OCR athlete. We post about and discuss when and how to fuel, recovery, hydration, supplements, healthy home recipes, and have links to other nutrition and supplement companies we work with. HKtrail will be holding our first local trail race on September 5th. It will be an invite-only event for the competitive wave, with a cash prize for the top male and female finisher, followed by open waves, where people can run the course on their own time, then record and post their finish times to see how they stack up against their peers.
Unfortunately, I think the 2021 OCR season will still be on pause for at least the first quarter here in California. Hopefully, I'm wrong, and there certainly may be a higher chance of racing in other states, but I personally believe that COVID will be around for longer than we think. Realistically, though smaller race companies or local gyms might host their own events, my guess is that the real OCR season won't start back up again till the fall or winter of 2021.
Follow Hardkour Performance on Instagram at @hardkourperformance, and at hardkourperformance.com.