There isn’t any mud, but there are pancakes.
That’s what happens when Spartan, the company that organizes obstacle course races around the world, combines with the Minnesota-based Life Time chain to create a group fitness class called Spartan Strong.
The classes occur in a fitness studio room, so there’s no fire, barbed wire or mud to slog through.
Instead, when I tried the class, I got many of the familiar features of an indoor high-intensity/cardio/strength/muscle endurance fitness club session: mirrored walls, pounding techno music and an instructor shouting at you to give it your all.
There were lots of traditional, body weight-based challenges such as planks, burpees and lunges.
But one new twist involved the Spartan Pancake. Alas, it wasn’t a syrupy treat. The pancake, our one piece of gear, was a flat, circular sandbag. Everyone in the class got one.
Mine was labeled 20 pounds, but sandbags of varying weight are available, depending on your fitness level.
During the hourlong class, we repeatedly lifted the pancakes up, threw them down, tossed them at each another, passed them from side to side while in a crunch position and slid them across the floor while doing a bear crawl.
It has some advantages as a weightlifting tool. The pancake doesn’t bounce or roll away when you throw it down. It probably won’t hurt if you drop it on your foot.
One AMRAP (“as many reps as possible”) drill challenged us to lift the bag above our heads, drop it to the floor, sit on it, and repeat that as many times as possible in one minute. It’s mainly your body that you’re hauling up and down, so that minute can seem kind of long.
There were even some mental challenges. At one point, the class had to shuffle side to side, but the instructor would mix in commands such as “blue” and “red” to substitute for right and left.
The class had a boot-campy vibe. Our instructor had us start the class by shouting “hoo-rah!” Naturally, we were told how lame we were the first time, so we had to shout again, louder. By the end of the class, when we all huddled in a circle for a final “hoo-rah!” we had it down.
In between, there’s a lot of suggestions on what Spartans do and don’t do. Spartans follow rules. Spartans push through. Spartans embrace awkwardness because awkwardness can lead to opportunity.
I’m not sure I left the class — as promised — a better person than when I came in, ready to overcome obstacles in my life. But the next day my butt hurt, a sure sign that I had exercised something.
Who it’s for: People who are obstacle-course curious but not ready to get down in the mud.
Who it’s not for: People who want a quieter, less martial workout experience.
Where: Offered at 20 Life Time locations in the Twin Cities area.
Cost: Included as part of the membership fee.