When a friend of mine invited me to run an obstacle race with her late last year, my first instinct was to run away from her.
In that split second I had horrifying images of me, completely smeared in mud, crawling under barbed wires and hurling myself over walls.
I politely reminded her that I was not a ninja, only a 30-year-old with potentially arthritic knees and a sub-par tolerance for pain.
Obstacle course racing has burgeoned into its own beast the past few years, and it’s become more than a hobby for many. Much like powerlifting and Crossfit, training for events such as the Spartan Race and Ninja Warrior has become a lifestyle unto itself, and more people are getting hooked. I get the appeal but also lack the motivation. Yes I do like high-intensity workouts, but am I mentally ready to pull myself 10 feet up a rope with sweaty palms?
When True Group’s latest fitness space, TFX Millenia Walk, invited me to try its TerraX space, I decided that it was perhaps time to shock my lanky limbs into a new renaissance of fitness and see if I would live to tell the tale.
As the self-appointed fitness ambassador of Lifestyle Asia Singapore, I have been to many gyms throughout my career but few actually support the lifestyle of obstacle course racers like TerraX does, mostly because it actually has an indoor training area that’s dedicated to well, obstacles.
This extensive training playground includes the usual — think Olympic ring cross, peg board climb and tire flips — but it also has the lesser-seen stuff like the Spider Walk, Traverse Wall and Wall Climbs, so you know you’re in really good hands if you’re training to get down and dirty at a race this year. If you thought monkey bars were only reserved for snotty primary schoolers, try the ones here (the bars are much further apart) and tell me you didn’t struggle to get across.
Further out from this obstacle course simulator are other equipment that would be essential to my prep for a finisher’s medal in due time. A 4 x 25m sprint track is lined with climbing walls, medicine balls, and Torque tanks, with alien markings on the floor for agility training.
The stress intensifies at this point but as my instructor, obstacle course veteran, and Head Coach of TerraX Yusuf Kay points out, the facility and its classes are designed to condition people at their own pace, especially if you’re a beginner.
If being near too many sweaty people makes you sweat even more then this gym already scores points. The TerraX section sits on the same site as the True Group’s True Fitness gym, making the entire establishment the largest gym in Singapore. The entire space easily houses variations of cardio equipment, and there are spaces for powerlifting, boxing bags for Muay Thai classes, and a cycling studio with ICG bikes.
The changing room is an immense jungle of lockers and you will have to navigate through a sea of half-naked bodies to get to yours, but the bright side is you’ll never have to worry about not getting a space.
Because obstacle course training forms the basis of TerraX, the classes are also designed with functional training in mind. The TechniX class is a step-by-step foundation class that focuses on the technical elements of each obstacle. This sounded easy until I was made to hang from a pair of Olympic Rings, before learning how to properly sway from side to side using the right muscle groups. Yusuf maintains that all these basics — while seemingly mundane — have helped members conquer obstacles much faster, and encourages an injury-free practice.
Spurred by this pep talk and the belief that I too, may one day become a Ninja Warrior, I tried my hand at the rest of the obstacles. Even if entering a race isn’t your end goal here, these obstacles still make for a damn good workout, and are useful training tools for conditioning the body to take on daily life activities, which can range from picking up groceries to pushing a heavy door.
If adrenaline’s your drug than take this a step further with the BlazeX like I did. Led by Yusuf, the intermediate small-group training class is 60 minutes of pure rush, and is divided into three sectors that incorporate cardio, strength and obstacle efficiency within.
Intensive interval trainings are a tried and tested method of revving up your metabolism and burning fat, especially if they include weights. After a quick warm-up — which was a workout in itself —Yusuf led me on the quest for physical excellence with four two-minute exercises using equipment such SkiErgs and Torque Tanks in sector one. I spent the one-minute break in between each exercise gawking at the list and mentally preparing myself for the next one. Because it’s an interval exercise, the rules are that you go all out when it’s go time. It was an adrenaline rush and I was psyched for the next.
In sector two, the intervals move down a notch with 90 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest, only this time there were two sets. Here, I did stuff like TRX back rows, and clean to lunge with Powerbags, and kettlebell pass-through lunges. Yusuf curated this workout with as much compound movements as possible, so you’re really getting a full body workout at any point in time.
Sector three is when a simulation of a race started falling in place, as I — old in age and new to this obstacle-filled world — started falling apart. Still, Yusuf has a wealth of patience as well as knowledge in this field, and constantly pushed me to maintaining the right form throughout. Here, the 12 minutes of six exercises revolve around the 100m track, to be done as many times as possible. Exercises here include the plate pinch, powerbag run, heavy medicine ball run, pull ups, rope climb and wall climb, so don’t expect this to be a walk in the park. Because it’s a small class, you’ll be inclined to get competitive, which also fosters a steely mentality for when you actually take part in a race.
Obstacle course training sounds terrifying if your only concept of it comes from watching contestants plunge shamefully into the waters of defeat on TV, but it’s actually plenty fun and useful. TerraX has managed to fulfil this massive hole in the market by not only catering to a group of people who enjoy jumping over things in mud, but also for those looking for an interesting space to train functionally.
Even if you’re a beginner, the instructors here are keen to teach you the right techniques, so you’re never alone in your quest. I’m already itching to go back — there’s something quite addictive about pushing your limits at the BlazeX class. Maybe it’s knowing that my lanky limbs can now climb a 10-foot rope should I ever encounter a need to.