It was a rainy Saturday which made it a perfect excuse to crawl and roll in the muddy obstacle course of the Gorilla Boot Camp. Being an athlete, a fitness enthusiast and an adrenaline junkie, the place is a haven for me. I excitedly went over, under and through the obstacles to conquer the challenge they hold. I know each one would be difficult but I also know it'll all be worth the effort when I'm at the finish line.
In the end, I'm not just conquering obstacles, I'm conquering my weaknesses – the part of me that says I can't, so I take risks to keep proving it wrong.
Obstacle courses require quick decision making and remaining calm under pressure. I didn't just have fun at the boot camp, I actually learned good techniques to be more efficient in getting through each obstacle and consequently conquering the entire challenge. I'll walk you through the whole course along with the techniques I've learned for each station.
How things go at the boot camp..
True to its nature as an outdoor obstacle camp, the place was raw, muddy and bumpy – and just getting there was already a challenge. The camp is located at Barangay Labogon, Mandaue City but it is situated far from the main road and in a secluded area with the means of transportation being motorcycles for hire, private cars or cabs. If you opt to walk, it would already be enough for your warm-up. 😉 You will find a handful of signage strategically placed along the road that will point you to where the camp is.
The training starts with warm-up exercises. The coach then runs through the course with the group, discussing and demonstrating techniques and body mechanics for each set-up and you're free to ask questions and clarifications along the way. The training ends by going through all of the obstacles from start to finish.
The workout intensity or pace depends on the majority of participants for that session's group. Saturday sessions are mostly composed of beginners so training takes a slower pace and it usually focuses more on techniques while Sunday sessions are mostly participated by fitness buffs and marathoners, thus the workouts are more intense. The level of training increases as the sessions go on and each session costs Php 300. You pay when you get there. For slot reservations and inquiries, click here. Their point person is very responsive.
Get ready to get dirty..
With the rain and endless traffic, we arrived late and missed the warm-up exercises but seeing the camp's set up had me hyped for the session. More excited than I, was my 9-year-old nephew who is a Parkour enthusiast and well, a very active child with an aptitude for climbing 😄. I wanted to de-stress and he wanted to play which makes this place a perfect hangout for both of us to bond. We joined Saturday's afternoon session which was gloomy and muddy, and after a quick introduction with the coach and the group, I immediately set to work to make up for the time.
Over-Under-Through (OUT). From the name itself, you get the idea of what those three lined barricades asks of you. Each one consists of different actions. The first one requires you to go over it by jumping, the second one requires you to go under it by crawling or rolling and the third one requires you to go through the frame.
..and yep, that's me in pink trying to go over the first barricade. Credits to my nephew, Ziggy, who took the shot under the tent as it was still drizzling.
Barbed wire crawl. It is quite common to include crawling under barbed wires to get through the course. During races, this is a must in order to proceed to the next challenge. The goal is to cross to the other side with barbed wires above you and the challenge is to not get grazed by the wires so you need to stay as low as possible. One technique is to crawl using your elbow or using your palms. I personally find it more efficient to use the elbows but it does leave you with scratches. No pain, no gain, right?
Rolling in the mud. This is another way to get through the barbed wires. Rolling sideways is a very efficient technique to get through this challenge, however its huge pullback is the dizziness that comes after. It needs getting used to so it requires training, or else you'd waste time gathering your balance and senses, and it might cost you the race. A work around though is to combine crawling and rolling. You can crawl midway and roll when you're near the end. This way, you don't get too dizzy and still save time.
Monkey bars. The ever famous challenge of the monkey bar could be seen in almost all obstacle course race. The goal is to cross by hanging and swinging through the bars while the challenge is to be consistent with your technique and to persevere until the end. This requires upper body strength and mental toughness. This is child's play for others but for some, this skill and the childhood fun that comes with it has been forgotten – that just seeing the length of the climbing frame already gives mental fatigue.
He climbed using the side bars to reach the top bar and is aiming to reach the end of the climbing frame with his great upper body strength. I opted to blur out his face for child protection purposes.
There are different techniques to traverse the monkey bar. Perfecting these techniques require rigorous training like pull ups, push ups, core and grip strengthening.
- Swinging technique lets you use the momentum by swinging one arm after another. You just have to keep going. This is not advisable for wet bars though, as in our case where it got wet from the rain.
- Sideways technique requires you to bend your arms a little and employ strength from your biceps.
- Cycling/bicycle technique propels you forward by kicking naturally and using that momentum.
The 6ft Wall. This wall poses a different challenge than the bars and going over it is easier said than done. You'll need a strong grip, upper body strength and timing. For men, they're not allowed to use the stepper so they'll have to make use of all of those more than women. If you have great lower body strength, you could jump high and get to the top more efficiently. If not, you need to put your feet on a spot in the wall to boost your body as you grip and pull up.
For the ladies, there's a stepper which could act as booster to get up the wall. You'll be able to swing your leg on top of the wall which lets you pull yourself up easily.
I'm sizing up the wall to see where I could land my feet to boost me up. Yeah, I love to challenge myself!!
Rope Climb. In here, we had a short practice on the different climbing techniques like the S-method/J-hook and the wrap around method but we didn't climb all the way to the top since the ropes were wet and we wanted to avoid injuries.
My nephew trying to use the rope as a swing
Tire roll. In this station, the goal is to pull a tire upright, roll it along a specific area and put it back where you got it. It seems easy but if you don't have a good strategy, it'll eat up your time. The tires are of different sizes so you'll have to move quickly to get the lighter/smaller ones. Make sure to stay behind the tire as you roll it to make it easier to steer. Some actually stayed at the side while rolling it. This makes it feel heavier and harder to steer.
Over and Under Hurdles. High hurdles require you to go over it while low hurdles require you to go under it. The challenge is in the height of the hurdles and your weight distribution. You have to learn to shift your weight and maintain balance as you go over the hurdles so you can be able to go through without falling down. For advance, you can do vaults like in Parkour to go over the hurdle efficiently and quickly.
Wavy tires. I'm not entirely sure of the name but the idea is that the tires sway as participants climb it together making it hard to maintain balance. The trick is to climb on the sides since the center sways a lot because it's farther from the frames.
Slippery Wall. It is called so because you'd slip without a good grip and proper body mechanics. Make sure to walk in parallel position as you make your way to the top, synchronizing your pull on the rope with your steps.
Kudos to this little man for braving this wall and conquering challenges bigger than his size.
Be careful not to pull the rope as you go down since it's not anchored or tied on the other end. It only works going to the top but not down. You'll have to make use of the frames at the back of the wall to go down.
The view on top is great but what's more awesome is what I went through to get there.
Tire Field - High stepping. As the names suggests, you high step over the tire field in order to get through to the next station.
Horizontal Wall Traverse. This will need a good grip and coordination to successfully traverse sideways.
The tire drag & pull, tire flip, and water jug carry basically requires proper body mechanics when lifting, that is engaging the core and mostly using leg strength so as not to strain the back. Grip and breathing also plays an important role as you exert effort.
Tire drag & pull. You'll have to pull the tire using rope and drag it back to its original position.
Tire flip. You're required to flip it over and then back. I already lost most of my energy when I did this that I needed to ask for help for the initial lifting. I realized then that I badly need to train should I decide to join the race in a couple of months. The thought of it gives me mixed emotions. 😌
Water Jug Carry. You're supposed to carry a gallon for a certain distance and put it back in place gently.
I wish I could say that this was just a stroll in the park for me but I was drained, drained, drained but I was almost there so I kept pushing!
After going through each station as a group, we were tasked to individually go through the whole course at our own pace. Having no warm-up and with most of my energy spent trying out each obstacle, it was quite tough to sprint from one challenge to the other. I was rather going at a slower pace than usual and the tires seemed heavier but I wasn't trained to give up that easy so I pushed myself and kept going. I know this was just a practice session and not the competition yet, but I take training seriously. My principle is that, how I train is how I would perform or fight in a competition so I give it my all during training. With that, I deem this challenge, conquered!
I know the time will come when I cannot lift even a pen, so for now, I will spend my strength and energy to do as much as I can while I can.
What to look forward to..
There will be an Obstacle Course Race: The big gorilla challenge locally organized by Gorilla Boot Camp and is slated on September 2, 2018 (Sunday). I bet this will pool men and women of tough mind and strong resolve. Almost every weekend, they hold training sessions for interested participants and the coach has mentioned that the obstacle course will progress in each session. For more information about the race, visit here.