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Train like an ‘American Ninja Warrior’ at this Belleville obstacle-course gym

Iron Jungle gym opens in Belleville

The obstacle-course gym has beginner classes, as well as high-intensity interval training and boot camps, among other courses.
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The obstacle-course gym has beginner classes, as well as high-intensity interval training and boot camps, among other courses.

Inside of the Family Sportsplex along Mascoutah Avenue in Belleville is a 4,300-square-foot space with obstacles including a 14-foot tall cargo net, tires from tractors to flip, roll, and push.

The gym has a warped wall, quadruple steps, bouncy steps — things people jump from one to the other — swinging rings, climbing rope and salmon ladder. There’s also some barbells, weights and kettlebells.

The equipment for the basis for the Iron Jungle owned by Jason Relik, 29, of O’Fallon. The obstacle-course gym has beginner classes, as well as high-intensity interval training and boot camps, among other courses.

“It’s a mixture of traditional functional fitness and obstacle course training. We offer the traditional H.I.I.T. and boot camp, and put a twist on everything else,” Relik said. “The obstacle course training that we offer, not only will get you ready for American Ninja Warrior or a Spartan Race or something like that, but they incorporate a lot of the same movements.”

“You may climb a cargo net and do a strength movement, and run the warped wall a few times and flip-lift a tire. It mixes traditional functional fitness with the obstacle course style,” he continued.

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Zia Nizami znizami@bnd.com

Relik is originally from Cleveland. He spent nine years in the Air Force, with his last assignment at Scott Air Force Base. Afterward, he decided to stay in the area.

During Relik’s stint in the Air Force, he worked as a sports director, ran a base gym, made a cross fit style gym, did training and managed a building complex. He left the Air Force as a staff sergeant in 2015.

He then ran Anytime Fitness in Shiloh before opening his own gym.

Relik recently spoke with the Belleville News Democrat about his new business.

Q: Why did you want to leave the Air Force?

A: “It was the idea of running my own gym. Inside the confines of the military, there are only so many people you could help, and only so much I could do with that. I figured I could get out and I would have a wider base of people I could reach as far as fitness goes.”

Q: There’s CrossFit, cycling, weightlifting. So many types of workouts you could do. Why is obstacle course a good thing someone should consider?

A: “The biggest thing with obstacle course training is it’s functional fitness. What that means is it helps you live a better day to day life. Plus it’s fun. You work out parts of your body you normally wouldn’t work out, and then don’t realize you’re working out. You’re having fun. We’re also starting to build that community around it. People will come here, not only for that aspect of getting in shape, but also having ... someone else to push them. Obstacle course training is almost a completely different beast. It could be tailored to anyone, but at the same time there’s some fitness activities, once you hit a certain point there’s no more. Here it could be every single person would be pushed to the limit.”

Q: You may have members who go the limit and master everything. How flexible are you in changing your obstacles?

A: “The obstacles will be constantly changing. As we we’ll add more, we’ll take some away. The thing with the rig that we have is it’s completely customizable. ... (Obstacles) will just come in as people progress. Basically the sky’s the limit. Everything is movable so if an obstacle is easy a certain way we could change it.”

Q: At what point should someone try obstacle course training?

A: “If you’re going to do obstacle course training, you probably need to get away from traditional weightlifting. They just don’t match each other well. You could get strong with traditional weightlifting, but it’s just not functionally. It’s two different things. When you do a bench press or something like that, you’re working one muscle or one muscle group, and it’s not very functional. There’s not many moments in your life where you’ll have something sitting on your chest and you have to push it off multiple times ... There maybe moments you have to jump out of the way and throw your hips a certain way and do certain things to keep yourself from falling. Most of the time when people focus on the weightlifting side of things they’re not very functionable. Their strength is in different areas. Just because you could bench 250 pounds, doesn’t mean you could hold your body weight up, or do a pull up. That’s a more functional, more compound movement. There’s a lot more muscles moving. At any point you could transition. It’s just understanding you’re going to go from a more traditional weightlifting to a more functional-style exercise.”

Q: How did you come up with the name of the business?

A: “Obviously I threw a bunch of things around, but the one was jungle gym, and I was just tossing around ideas. Then I thought what are the biggest things with fitness, at least intense fitness is iron? You could be pumping iron. It’s going to be a jungle gym, mixed with more traditional weights. So the Iron Jungle, plus I really like tigers.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

The Iron Jungle

  • Owner: Jason Relik, 29, of O’Fallon
  • Where: 2346 Mascoutah Ave. in Belleville, inside the Family Sportsplex
  • Website: www.ironjunglefitness.com
  • Phone: 707-386-0045
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