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In March 2015, the Active Sports Clubs’ leadership team appeared on the cover of Club Solutions Magazine, before the company’s transition to Active Wellness.
Since the cover story, much has changed at the company in addition to the name change, such as a partnership with St. Joseph Health and the launch of a number of exciting new initiatives and projects.
Here, Jacob Fulton, the fitness director at Synergy Health Club (managed by Active Wellness) in Petaluma, California, discusses the club’s one-of-a-kind outdoor obstacle training course. The course is a unique offering constructed in response to the success of the Spartan and Tough Mudder races.
CS: What are the main features of the obstacle course?
JF: The obstacle course features a 40-yard by 40-yard sport turf field surrounded by a variety of challenging obstacles. You start on a zig zagging 40-foot balance beam, then move on to ascending/descending monkey bars. We have a tire course, 4-foot, 6-foot and 8-foot climbing walls, over/under/through crawling tubes, four 20-foot climbing ropes, and you finish on the 30-foot cargo net. The turf area is also highly utilized for warm ups, sled pushes, tire flips and any other crazy obstacle course style drills we can come up with.
CS: Why did you want to offer an obstacle course? What is this in response to?
JF: We set out to build the obstacle course because no one else in our area has anything like it. It’s the first outdoor obstacle course in Sonoma County, and our members and community are big into Spartan and Tough Mudder events and travel to races as groups/teams regularly. As we seek to continually improve our programs to better engage, we knew that taking our training outside the walls would be well-received.
CS: Will the course have multiple purposes?
JF: This is the best part. This field and course have endless purposes and opportunities to enhance training and group experiences. All of our personal trainers use the field and obstacles for one-on-one sessions and for our ZONE small group training classes. We use the area for all of our corporate, kids and other specialty programming classes. Our day camps also use the field for games, crafts and events — they even broke out the slip and slide on a hot day. On top of that we also offer to rent the course out for team-building events to local companies, birthday parties for kids and adults — you name it.
CS: What type of programming do you offer for the course?
JF: We include classes on the course as part of our ZONE small group training program. We also hold classes and events for all of our six-week specialty programs like the Corporate Fit Challenge, Kids Fit,and Tough Mudder Training and Sports Specific training programs. We are even working on hero training courses for our local police, fire, military, teachers, etc.
CS: What feedback on the course have you gotten so far?
JF: We have been using the area since July, and the feedback has been amazing. First off, what it has brought to program enhancement and member experience has led to an increase in memberships, small group and personal training revenue. The field is open for member use when no classes are in session, and this has been a huge hit. Parents will be out playing catch with their kids on the field or you’ll see the kids showing the parents how to use the monkey bars or climbing ropes. It is a great experience for kids and adults alike. It really is a big fitness playground for all ages.
CS: What can other club operators learn from this concept?
JF: I would say the biggest takeaway is the camaraderie or community this space create. It takes a lot of teamwork to complete the course, and the group dynamic doesn’t stop just on the obstacle course. Our members are a tribe. They take all of our classes together from cycle, yoga, swimming, etc. — and they bring energy and passion to all areas of our club. This creates a community and atmosphere that people want to come back to every day. Our motto is “we are family and we are stronger together than we are alone.”
CS: What is your vision for this concept?
JF: I had dreamed about having this field and obstacle course at our club for almost three years and have always loved the saying “if you build it they will come,” but that’s just the beginning. Now that we have this amazing space and new opportunities for programming and generating revenue, we have to fine tune our processes, enhance our marketing and continually improve programming. We want to be the go-to facility for all things obstacle course and team training in the area and region. Through continued program enhancement, a booming social media campaign and growing our family of passionate, loving fitness pros and members, we are going to not only impact our club and local community, we want to duplicate our success here in Petaluma to our other clubs and beyond.