The Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race — these are just a few of the races for people to choose from who are looking for a bit of adventure. Catching wind of the rising popularity of mud running and other adventure races such as these, Gainesville Health & Fitness (GHF) capitalized on the trend by creating an Adventure Race Training (ART) program, taught by adventure-race enthusiast and GHF personal trainer Andy Farina.
Hosted at GHF’s flagship facility, the program curriculum was designed under the direction of Farina. “I had obstacles built that emulate the obstacles people will face in races, and made them harder,” explained Farina. “I designed the program so that participants would be fully prepared for an adventure race.”
Farina’s curriculum is so successful, that when his members tackle the real deal, they finish in the top 9 percent of races, and some in the top 3 percent. And, according to Farina, the members who participate in ART don’t start out as elite athletes — they start out as average, everyday members, and transform into adventure-race conquers. “Our team does so well because where we lack in elite ability we make up for in team camaraderie and mental preparation,” explained Farina.
Their success has brought notoriety to GHF and the local Gainesville community. “The program has been getting more recognition than expected,” said Farina. “There’s nothing like the ART program that I’ve been able to find in Florida in a non-military instillation. It has raised the bar and now teams are training to beat us.”
Farina fell in love with adventure racing a few years ago. As he sees it, adventure races model life in a lot of aspects, which he finds an endearing quality. “What I like about adventure racing is, they promote a lot of camaraderie,” explained Farina. “There are some obstacles some people cannot do by themselves, and you have to humble yourself and ask for help. That’s so true in life. The program teaches the main principles of both adventure racing, and life — we’re going to face our fears, overcome and have fun doing it.”
For that fact, the program is great for members looking to boost their confidence, or those who are looking for a change to their routine. “I think that the person who is tired of just ‘functioning’ in life would love this,” said Farina. “When people get over the obstacles the first time you would not believe the joy they exude.”
The enthusiasm of Farina’s members, and their success, is inspirational to others within the club, and outside of it. “We’re showing that people who have been cast aside due to being overweight or an injury — they see these same people and they’re tackling obstacles like it’s nothing. They say, ‘if they did it, I can do it.’”
According to John Carmean, the training marketing director for GHF, Gainesville’s investment into the program and obstacle course was well worth the time and money spent. “The investment in building the obstacle course has been worthwhile from a business perspective,” he said. “To appropriate a Disney term, it is an ‘e-ticket attraction’ that we placed with specific intent for high visibility from passing traffic. People see the area in action during drive times and they want to be a part of what is going on. The size and scalability of the installation gives us room to accommodate larger class sizes for our group training. That naturally translates into greater revenue.”
Farina hopes the program will continue to grow. “I don’t think people realize just how special this thing is yet,” he said.
By Rachel Zabonick