Climbing. Jumping. Running. Swinging from bar to bar or rope to rope, clambering over every inch of obstacle to reach the top and take pride in the view from above. When we’re kids, these are the things we do at the playground every day without forethought or expectation of how many calories we’ve burned, how many muscles we’ve engaged, how many steps we’ve taken. We’re playing, and physical exertion is a natural extension of that, motivated only by our desire to have fun, burn off some energy, and spend time with our friends. Unfortunately, as we get older, we lose that simple sense of play and replace our time with more “respectable” and responsible things. We’re being grown ups, and unless we actually go out of our way to pencil in some time to work out, we never get the level of exercise that will keep us as fit, agile, and vivacious as we were in our youth.
But where’s the fun in that? Really, the goal of making workouts more fun, motivating, and social is what’s given rise to corporate fitness trends. We crave company as we sweat it out, as camaraderie begets the desire to show up and even has the added benefit of bringing in a healthy dose of competitive spirit—and testing our own limits is becoming a big trend in and of itself. We want to be fitter, faster, and stronger than we look; but that’s not going to happen unless we get up and get moving. The challenge then becomes how to fit it all into our workouts: the strength training, the cardio, the active use of muscles in ways other than just hitting up stations of free weights and machines. It’s not easy in today’s busy schedule, but it’s far from the impossible…especially if you think back to those childhood days on the playground.
Just picture it: obstacle courses scaled for grown-ups, complete with bars, rings, climbing ladders and walls…You name it, it’s there, ready and waiting to be explored. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It can be, but it can also be challenging which is the very goal that Joe Shakeenab, Karl Stephen, and Storm Sims had in mind when they partnered to open Total Obstacle Fitness Center in 2018. And with shows like American Ninja Warrior and methods like Parkour and obstacle course training used as their basic business model in creating coach-led sessions, they had strong reasons to feel confident that they would see success in building a gym that changed tactics by doing the unexpected. “Due to the nature of three disciplines we use, our clients rarely have the opportunity to plateau,” says Shakeenab, who, as a veteran, has a deep understanding of the need for physical training. “Classes are purposefully structured to be different on a daily basis, and we focus on fun and fitness with strength, form, conditioning, and critical thinking as core components of everything we do.”
...with shows like American Ninja Warrior and methods like Parkour... they had a strong reason to feel confident that they’d see success in... doing the unexpected.
Offering group classes as well as individual training sessions, the team at TOFC works with clients of all ages and abilities as well as children with different learning abilities, at-risk youth to adaptive athletes, and individuals struggling with physical composition. Based on the individual, the trainers create a workout that best suits their needs and their goals. “Whether they’re in the beginning stage or in a more advanced stage of their fitness level, we help facilitate development and growth in their lives,” says Stephen, a veteran whose love of fitness has thrived in his new venture.
Boosting their ranks with seven coaches, each member of the TOFC team comes from a different fitness background, though they all maintain the core of TOFC’s method, using bodyweight exercises; strength and conditioning drills; and running through obstacle challenges. “In all that we do, it’s truly a team effort among the staff, coaches, and owners to provide members with the best and most unique fitness experience possible,” Sims says. Like Stephen and Shakeenab, Sims is also a military vet, so his ability to take unique and varied physical and mental challenges and meeting them head-on is well suited to the gym’s methods.
Not that they don’t also have the standard equipment you’d find at traditional gyms. Quite the contrary as the goal is to make your time in the gym as productive as possible. To that end, their spacious facility is also equipped with free weights, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and treadmills as well as those components which complement the drills completed on the obstacle course. And as a unique way of tracking performance, TOFC uses wristbands that, much like the colored belts traditionally used in karate, range in ranking from white to black. “Having the wristbands instills confidence and self-discipline to everyone, particularly in our youth. We’ve found that it influences their mindset and behavior patterns, giving them something to strive for, and that’s crucial in keeping them motivated,” explains Shakeenab. There’s strength in motivation, and this group is all about being strong.
Total Obstacle Fitness Center is located at 1030A Progress Drive, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. For more information, call (931) 933-7957 or visit