There’s a new gym on the Southside where customers can build strength and endurance by climbing walls, lifting sandbags and hanging from rings.
“You really wake up your inner kid,” Conquest Obstacle Gym head trainer Lara Baker said. “I think that’s part of what’s really driving this sport; it’s very primitive at times, and it’s hugely social in nature.”
Last week, Lara and her husband, Marc Baker, had a soft opening for the gym, which is inspired by the couple’s background.
Marc said he spent five years in the Army’s special operations force, the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I did a lot of obstacle courses, [jumped] out of airplanes, [jumped] out of helicopters,” he said. “While I was doing that, my wife got into obstacle course racing.”
Obstacle course racing has been made popular by social media, mud runs and the show “American Warrior Ninja,” the duo said.
After his time in the Army, Marc studied business at Columbus State University, which is near Fort Benning, where the couple currently lives. (They are in the process of moving to Chattanooga.)
He knew he wanted to start his own business, so in December, he decided an obstacle course gym was the way to go and that Chattanooga was the ideal location for this venture.
“I really love the Chattanooga area because of the outdoor lifestyle,” he said. “I love your community of [cyclists]. The Riverwalk is awesome.”
Marc funded the venture with the help of a loan from the Small Business Administration, and—although the Washington Street location had a higher rent than he planned on—the Southside location and its proximity to downtown were too good to pass up, he said.
Membership prices depend on the length of commitment, and the Bakers are currently offering a discount price of $50 for a month.
The gym’s equipment includes a motorless treadmill and rowing machines. And there’s a bouldering wall that’s connected to software that can recreate climbs from all over the world by using lights to let users know where to place their hands and feet.
There will also be classes for both beginners who have never tried an obstacle course and for those who are experienced.
Lara can guide newbies through learning each piece of the obstacle course. Once members master that, they can start going through the entire sequence and work on doing it at a faster pace.
Marc said they are still settling on what kinds of classes to offer, partly because they want to hear what customers want.
The duo has plans to host events outside of the gym, such as ruck marches.
Marc said he’s gotten good feedback about the concept so far. He knows he’s getting into a unique niche, but it has the potential to be attractive to a wide range of people, he said.
During his market research, he found that there are 7,000 people in the Chattanooga area interested in obstacle course training. If he could get 1 percent of that business, he’d be happy.
And Lara said that people who aren’t into obstacle courses can still enjoy the gym because it makes exercise fun.
“They don’t have to be an obstacle course racer,” she said. “These are all just tools for working out … and hopefully people don’t feel like they are working out all the time. It can be more of a playground.”