Eric Wilson and his sister were thinking about turning the property behind their fitness center on Maize Road into additional parking.
The YMCA's expansion into northwest Wichita made that unnecessary, so the pair used the space to build something that not even the fast-growing Y system has: an outdoor obstacle course.
"We're always looking for new and exciting ways to train people and get them motivated," said Wilson, who owns Fit Physique with his sister, Barb Matous. "Nobody has anything like (the obstacle course). It's pretty intense."
The course looks like a playground on steroids. There are 15 stations in all, ranging from rope swings and wall climbs to barrels that must be dragged through sand, kettlebells and medicine balls that must be thrown and tires that must be flipped.
The average time it took a group of high school athletes to complete the course was 4 minutes and 22 seconds.
"It's tough. If you can get through this course without stopping, you can do anything," Wilson said.
Wilson and Matous started Fit Physique 16 years ago to offer group and individual training. Matous also owns Acrobatic Academy, which teaches gymnastics, dance, martial arts and more at the same location.
The kind of workout possible on an obstacle course is part of a new focus in exercise science called "functional training." Instead of weightlifting, which tends to work one muscle at a time, the trend is to perform exercises that work several body parts simultaneously, with a special emphasis on strengthening the core area. Short, intense workouts are preferred to longer, less difficult ones.
On the obstacle course, participants have penalty time added to their overall time on the course for each station they fail to complete. The workout reaches its peak with a pole climb that follows several other strenuous obstacles.
"You're pulling, pushing and climbing your way through it," Wilson said. "It's great for the core and it's awesome conditioning. It's a full body workout."
The obstacles' design allows them to be used by people of different ages and fitness levels. Wilson said a 74-year-old woman trying out the course "went over one of the highest" obstacles.
In addition to individual and small group training, Fit Physique plans to market the obstacle course workout to school, law enforcement, military and church groups, birthday parties and other events.
Wilson notes that the construction on the course finished "just in time for winter," so a grand opening for it probably won't be held until March, although it will be in use as weather permits until then.