Spartan Race and Boot Camp comes to Phoenixville

Photo by Barry Taglieber Males and females of all ages took part in the Spartan Race training sessions at Phoenixville's Washington Field on March 23. Here, they do some of the exercises required during the workout.
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville health and physical education teacher Joe Youngblood is also one of the leaders of the Spartan Club at the school along with Gretchen Krueger. They took part in the training session at Washington Field on March 23.

PHOENIXVILLE - You may have heard of the rigorous Spartan Race and Boot Camp. Now it came to Phoenixville.

On Sunday, March 23, Phoenixville Area High School’s Washington Field was the site of the workout from 9-11 a.m. More than 500 people, men and women of all ages, took part in the training.

Phoenixville health and physical education teachers Gretchen Krueger and Joe Youngblood kindled the interest in the project. They started a Spartan Club at the school in January that already has 60 students training two times per week at 6 a.m. The group gathers on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Phoenixville Middle School gymnasium for one-hour sessions prior to their regular school days. Many of those Phoenixville students were on hand March 23.

According to Youngblood, the Spartan Race includes a wide range of obstacles besides mud. Also part of the routine are barbed wire, fire, climbing walls, climbing ropes, flipping tires, monkey bars, throwing spears, dragging things, traversing walls and cargo nets, as well as others.

An upcoming Spartan Race is scheduled for July 12 at the Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton, Pa. Youngblood pointed out this particular race has 25 different obstacles. If contestants fail during a segment, they face a 30-burpee punishment. There were also numerous burpees handed out by the instructor for mistakes in the routines at the Sunday session.

“The idea came up this past fall,” said Youngblood. “Both Gretchen and I enjoy doing the races and share with our students the experiences we have had with them. Our students would ask a lot of questions so it made sense to offer a club that would train for a race.”

Joe De Sana is the founder and CEO of the Spartan Race.

“Spartan is not a race,” De Sana said previously. “It is a mindset. It is a way of life. It has survived for generations and will continue to as it embodies everything everyone wants to be deep down inside. Yet we have been moving further and further away from as species.”

De Sana spoke about the fun involved with a difficult challenge like the Spartan Race because of some of the toughness of the individual routines.

“It is fun at its core to push yourself to limits, to find out what you are made of, to test yourself and earn an accomplishment,” he said.

The future hope for Spartan Race enthusiasts is to have it put back in the prestigious Olympic Games. That would embody returning it to the original form like Spartans of early days.

Youngblood and Krueger are excited about bringing such an event to Phoenixville.

“We were selected as a result of having contacted Spartan Race about the logistics of our club and the relationship that Gretchen and Dan Krueger have with the Spartan Race,” said Youngblood. “They were in need of a loction to have the Philly Boot Camp, and we are fortunate enough to have the ability to host a large group workout like the one you will see on Sunday.”

He feels the benefits are many, both physically and mentally. There is also a taxing atmosphere in which everyone is pushing each other to complete the workout.

As far as Youngblood knows, such an endeavor has not been done previously in the Phoenixville area. That factor creates even more interest and excitement because of the novelty involved. The highest goal would be to have the Spartan Race become a regular yearly event in Phoenixville. He said the Phoenixville girls lacrosse team, coached by Aamina Thornton, already uses the Spartan routines as part of morning conditioning workouts prior to regular practice sessions during the afternoon hours. That way they can devote more time on sport skills, rather than conditioning exercises.

Spartan officials did a training session in Brooklyn, N.Y., for 600 people the day prior to venturing to Phoenixville.

During the local session on a cold day, people lined Washington Field in groups of 50 across the field. Exercises included running in place, jumping jacks, high knees, planks, pushups and squats, all done at a fast pace determined by the instructor.

Follow Barry Sankey on Twitter @BarryBSankey1.