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Train like a Spartan: Week 1

Documenting my training with Relentless Fitness for the upcoming Spartan Race at Citizens Bank Park.

This! Is! Spartaaa!

OK, not exactly, but kinda.

This is Relentless Fitness, a unique establishment that prides themselves on being called the "anti-gym." Here, results are the only thing that matter and the 12 trainers (seven focused on adults and five for kids' gymnastics) put in their due diligence to ensure failure is not an option. They cater to the needs of each member, devising a strategic plan to maximize fitness, nutritional and mental gains.

Relentless is the brainchild of Roger Dickerman, a former bond investor with a passion for exercise. Four and a half years ago, he and his girlfriend/business partner Marissa, decided to collaborate and open the fitness studio.

"Everyone here is pretty darn passionate about what they do," Roger said.

Currently, they're in the midst of training for the Philadelphia Spartan Race, which takes place Sept. 20, in Citizens Bank Park. They've traded 300 for about 20 team members – and I'm one of them.

I'll be training with the team and documenting our journey for the ensuing 12 weeks leading up to the event.

Sunday marked the start of our training. On my way to the studio, I really didn't know what to expect. I consider myself a pretty fit guy and after a little research on the Spartan Race, I was convinced the training would be like any other day at the gym for me.

Boy, was I wrong.

I walked in to trainer Ross MacKinnon doing woodchoppers. His t-shirt looked like he put it on straight from the washer, skipping the dryer. I knew then that I had my work cut out for me.

At 9 a.m., class was in session. Ross led the pack of eight on a short jog over to Washington Square. We started on the outside of the square with some light stretching and bodyweight exercises, like squats, before the sun forced us into the shade – but only temporarily.

I was pretty excited to workout in fresh air. Usually, I'm stuck in my gym doing the same mundane routine with guys who smell like they invented the first hockey-bag cologne and then decided to douse themselves in it.

Our first order of business was the warm-up. The warm-up was harder than most workouts. I quickly learned that Spartan training focuses on bodyweight exercises, calisthenics, plyometrics and my personal favorite (sarcasm), cardio. We started with 30 seconds each of squats, walking lunges, lateral walks in a plank position, tuck thrusts, frog jumps, pushups, then a sprint to the fountain at the middle of the square and back. Ross encouraged us the entire time and pointed out when we weren't giving it our all.

I grabbed my water bottle and towel, and thought, "this isn't too bad." Then he made us do it again.

I felt pretty good at that point. Energized and enjoying the challenge. The heat was a formidable opponent, but I personally prefer working out in those conditions.

Now, Washington Square has four entrances, so Ross drew up the workout so that at each entrance – or spoke as they called them – was a unique workout we would complete before we moved on. Thankfully, that warm-up counted as one spoke.

Starting at the center of the square, we did a timed session of two to three exercises – many that I hadn't seen before – before running to whichever entrance we were facing and back. You'd get a short break if you made it back before the others, but as soon as the last person finished, we moved on to our challenge. With the clock still ticking, we had to complete 15 burpees for one challenge, 30 box jumps (the fountain's ledge took the place of a traditional box) at another, and 50 dips at the final one.

We finished with some core work, including crunch-like V-ups on the fountain's edge. I won't lie; I was not going to be upset if I fell into the fountain. We jogged back to Relentless and did some light stretching before wrapping it up for good.

I'd say the first week was a success. I loved the test the workout presented and Ross was great. The atmosphere at Relentless definitely is a homely one. You can tell whether it's Ross, Roger or any of the other 10 trainers; they care about what they are doing and more importantly – you.

I'm anxious for what next week will bring and already put a big red circle around our date in September.

Relentless Fitness

249 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 351-6260