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OCR Training at Xtreme Fitness

xtreme fitness logoXtreme Fitness Center is located in Hampton NH, and is owned by fellow Spahten Rob Gagnon.

You may remember him for his Spahten WOD posts. He has multiple credentials, with certifications in Personal Training, Kettlebells, TRX and Olympic Weightlifting. He is also working on his Spartan SGX Certification, and it was at an SGX workshop where I first got to really talk with him.

Right off the bat you can tell he is really passionate and knowledgeable about fitness and training, and particularly Obstacle Course Racing. It’s important to me that he is “one of us” (not a Spahten per se, but an OC racer) and not just an opportunist looking to cash in on the current fitness trend.

As it’s written in the bio on his site, he “can often be found running, jumping, climbing & crawling all over New England competing in Obstacle Course Races.” First-hand experience of life down in the mud can give you the best perspective on what’s really important to focus on when it comes to obstacle race training (ORT).

1495220_298640330343698_4348320835810964222_oSo why did I start with so much on Rob, and have yet to mention all the cool toys and obstacles he has?? Because cool toys only gets you so far – it’s the knowledge and effort that’s put into designing the programs and workouts that is truly worth something. The facility at Xtreme Fitness is very nice, and is perfectly sized for his needs. There are 6, 8, and 10’ walls, rings, tires, and ropes along with more normal functional gym equipment like pull-up bars, TRXs, kettlebells, barbells etc. (and now spin too for those looking for great crosstraining). There is also a small outdoor section that’s used in warmer weather, with miles of trails nearby that they will sometimes incorporate into their workouts. Normal gym routine at Xtreme Fitness revolves around 6-week strength and conditioning programs, including a bootcamp-style class called Xtreme Octane. Xtreme 10700290_298640387010359_3325176145296339030_oFitness also has Open Gym time when you can come in and practice obstacles or get in the WOD. While not OCR specific, Rob does include the use of obstacles in his classes, and focuses on many of the movement patterns needed to build strength for the obstacles (i.e. training grip and pull-up movements in order to succeed at monkey bars). While training on obstacles is fun, unless you are already good at them and are looking to perfect form, it’s the strengthening of movement patterns that will really get you long-term success at those obstacles. In other words, what’s the point of practicing monkey bars if you can’t even get to the second bar? You need to take a step back and build up specific strength first, and this is what Rob’s classes can really offer.

1795685_327021774172220_7521080291978042090_nOne Saturday morning, with a couple Spahten friends, I attended one of his Xtreme Fitness classes. Pre-workout, Rob led us through a thorough warmup and mobility session, which is a nice (and important) touch you don’t always find in bootcamps, too many of which are only designed to make you sweaty and sore. The workout itself consisted of about 8 stations that we rotated through 3 times, and included such exercises as tire flips, bear-to-crab crawls, TRX rows, sledgehammers, and the quad-burning plate pushes. Class then finished off with a core-busting circuit. It was a well-designed class, with all major muscle groups worked and many OCR movement patterns targeted. It was obvious the workout was created with a purpose in mind, which is necessary if long-term effects want to be achieved, and wasn’t just a random bunch of exercises thrown together.

Overall, Xtreme Fitness is an excellent facility with a highly knowledgeable owner, with great offerings for OC racers looking for a better alternative than their normal big-box gym, or those looking to make a field trip in order to get some OCR specific training in. There are plans for more OCR-specific classes and programs coming under the SGX banner, and I’m excited to see what Xtreme Fitness has in store!

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Review: Zoobells

zoobelllogoWe first met the people behind Zoobells at the New England Civilian Military Combine event – they had a tent setup, with a pile of boxes and a couple of mean looking kettlebells on display.

Those kettlebells weren’t just your average bell either – one shaped like a wolf ($109.99) – with a prominent snout, and the other shaped like a lion’s head ($134.99). Also available as a package deal, and keep reading for a team discount! They looked great, felt great in the hands, and after chatting with the owners a little, we wanted to know more.


While chatting to them, we figured out they’re local. Based in Worcester, MA and the bells are forged and cast in Orange, MA – just like our Wreckbag friends, they’re right in the middle of New England Spahten territory. They’re also a new company, and the Lion and Wolf designs are their first and currently only options.

20140703 - 10-48-57The Wolf is a 35lb (1pood, 16kg) bell. The Lion is 54lb (1.5pood, 24kg). Both have really nice textured grip handles that take chalk well, and the quality and workmanship is really high. No visible seams, nicely balanced, with handles big enough that even I can hold the Wolf size comfortably. Priced competitively, lb for lb they run $10 a bell more than the better known Demonbell – but being based right in your back yard you save big time when it comes to shipping costs. Just like Wreckbag – shipping big heavy stuff is expensive, and supporting and shopping at a local business means you save, they stay in business and we’re all winners.

Now, I’m not a kettlebell expert. I’ve swung some around in Crossfit, in the CMC pit and at various gyms – but I happen to know someone who is. Robert Gagnon, the owner of Xtreme Fitness in NH and a level one certified kettlebell teacher under the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation. So, I packed up my two new Zoobells (I picked one of each up for my own use) and took a drive up there, and spent some time with Rob learning and developing some of the basics of kettlebell movement.

20140703 - 10-50-12Now, it’s pretty obvious, I hope, that when it comes to competition and kettlebell standards, shaped bells like these aren’t the norm. In kettlebell these are considered novelty items – in a world of standard colors indicating weights, and standard sizing from the lightest to heaviest bell – a lions head doesn’t really do it – but we played with the Zoobells and gave them a firm thumbs up. For swinging movements, the bells are well balanced. For snatch or clean style movements, when the bell is going to land on your wrist, it’s important to ensure the ‘face’ of your bell is on the outside, as having the Wolf snout smash into your wrist under high reps isn’t going to be much fun at all – but this seems to be a fairly easy thing to solve by turning the Zoobell around.

The cast handles are nicely textured on their own – but a light misting of water (or sweat) and some lifting chalk, and they provided great grip.

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Today, the Zoobell range is limited. A Wolf and a Lion, with weights starting at 16kg / 35lb – many people who are new to kettlebells, or people who are still on the lighter side of the kettlebell range will find themselves out of luck – in talking to Zoobell they do want to put out a lighter version – hopefully that hits the market sooner than later.

Zoobell are offering 10% off any purchase from their store for the NES community – use code NESPAHTENS10 during checkout, and if you see Zoobell at an event, go say hi!