An exercise machine's knack for pacing and precise ability to resist human exertion makes it devastating in the wrestling ring. Opt for a more organic matchup with today's Groupon: for $22, you get a one-month membership including four group classes or one private coaching session at Rugged Fitness in Wethersfield.
Rugged Fitness' decorated coaches eschew workout machines for unique equipment that fuses cardio and strength training and increases teamwork across muscle systems rather than overdeveloping specific muscle clusters. The schedule of 50- to 60-minute classes includes Strength Foundations, which trains students in the use of specialized apparatuses such as TRX suspension bands and kettlebells. Boxing Conditioning sessions combine strength exercises and boxing drills to thwart nefarious punching-bag plots. Members can also self-sculpt during open-gym time. Instead of traditional machines, suspension trainers dangle for airlifted workouts, punching bags take blows standing up, and weighted sleds challenge fit-seekers and flabby huskies with resistance routines.
Rugged Fitness's coaches see the importance of peak physical conditioning for everyone, not just athletes and mathletes catching a train moving at 40 miles per hour that left the station at 9:30 a.m. Group classes are capped at 12 students to ensure personal instruction for each, and online booking allows shape-shifters to reserve spots via the 'net.
After Brian Ayers earned his degree in fitness management and went to work in a corporate fitness setting, he discovered a new kind of training—one that involved challenges such as boxing, mud races, and obstacle courses. "I moved away from using machines and dumbbell exercises to exercises that will get people in shape for more athletic things," he says. In June 2011, he decided to open a studio dedicated to the philosophy of embracing challenge, and Rugged Fitness was born.
Traditional machines do not exist at Rugged Fitness. Instead, there's plenty of space for boot-camp workouts, a pull-up area with TRX bands, and 11 heavy bags for boxing classes, which never exceed 11 pupils. Outside, giant tires patiently wait to be lifted and flipped, and an obstacle course with monkey bars, army-crawl netting, and a climbing wall dares visitors to push themselves to their limit. During the interval-based boot camps, students might heft sledgehammers one minute and drop for pushups the next. Because activities focus on increments of time, rather than specific weights or numbers of reps, everyone can calibrate the exercises to their ability level. And the students do have a range of abilities—some are fitness aficionados, whereas others are complete beginners, and one student dropped more than 100 pounds.
To challenge and encourage students, Brian gathered a staff of experienced coaches, which includes a former professional boxer and an amateur mixed-martial-arts fighter. "Our coaches are all very hands-on," he says, "Everything they they're putting you through, they've done. It's not just someone sitting back with a cheeseburger telling you to do pushups." That spirit of camaraderie extends throughout Rugged Fitness's clientele. "You're all struggling through these crazy workouts we're going to put you through," Brian says. Even outside the gym, members frequently band together to complete mud runs, obstacle courses, and marathon Macarena sessions.
To supplement the classes—which include kickboxing, kettlebell conditioning, and the once-a-week Rugged Boot Camp challenge—the trainers offer one-on-one nutrition counseling. An online nutrition program helps steer guests toward healthier diets, analyzing what they're eating based on the calories, nutritional components, and number of Flintstone vitamins hiding in foods.