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The Group Dynamic

What happens when a personal trainer challenges his clients to take on a Spartan® race?

clients: Ben, Pat, Jacob (trainer), Jeanine, Tania, Jennifer | personal trainer: Jacob Trione, CEO and Founder, Triaffect Fitness | location: Clear Lake City, Texas

Breaking new ground. It all began with a challenge. Jacob Trione, CEO and founder of Triaffect Fitness, and his girlfriend, Tania, were forming a team for a Spartan Sprint: a 3-mile course with 20–23 obstacles. Who better than his clients to complete the six-person roster? It took a little convincing, but Trione felt confident that his four recruits—aged 38–72—could handle the task.

The biggest challenges? “Encouraging them to embrace the unknowns of what we were about to face and making sure they were prepared,” says Trione, who believes in education-based movement and helping clients “highlight their capabilities to build momentum and belief from the inside out. “My clients aren’t your average mid-20- to 30-year-olds who are out running obstacle course races regularly, so I knew the physical challenge was going to be our biggest hurdle.”

Getting up to speed. Trione was already working with the recruits several times a week, and he felt that, functionally, they were fit enough, so he focused more on endurance and running ability. He took the group to a park, where they did distance running and gait training as well as a functional workout.

A typical session included a short walk or run, followed by mobility warm­up exercises like bird dogs, hip bridges, thoracic rotations and more. From there, the team completed circuits consisting of various drills: strength, conditioning, cardio and core.

“Our program evolved mostly by fine-tuning their form and adding distance and intensity to our running and walking. I had [already] been consistently training them in a functional manner, which involves strength, power, agility, balance, coordination, HIIT and skill development. We just needed to ensure they could apply these skills after having trudged through the mud for 4 hours!”

In addition to their scheduled sessions, Trione encouraged his team members to run or walk at least twice a week to get their bodies conditioned for the event.

Race day. After 5 weeks of training, it was time to lace up and take on the course. Trione recalls the moments before they were let loose:

“We were excited and focused. I knew I had a wonderful group of people by my side, and we could conquer anything with teamwork.”

After going through some mobility warmup moves and a motivating pep talk, the team was ready to go. Unfortunately, they had a rocky start. Jeanine, aka “JP,” a 72-year-old retired business manager, fractured her tibial plateau climbing over a wall and was sidelined. It was “very disappointing that I injured myself before the race began,” she says. And yet, she was still a part of the action.

“Jeanine was our anchor and inspiration for the entire run,” says Trione. “‘Do it for JP’ became our theme for the race from that point on.”

Jeanine’s injury didn’t stop the team—or her appreciation of the experience. [Our coach] “made me feel that we could accomplish this giant hurdle,” she says, adding, “I loved the idea of a team working together and look forward to another opportunity to try again.”

Even Trione—who is experienced with obstacle course races—was surprised at how difficult the Spartan was.

“The amount of mud caused us the most problems, as it was like quicksand. We just helped each other through it and stuck to our game plan of one step at a time. . . . [We] kept pushing each other and going back to help each other.”

A victorious accomplishment. As his team crossed the finish line, Trione recalls feelings of exhaustion, elation and pride.

“This was honestly a dream-come-true moment,” he beams. “When I think about what they were able to achieve, it inspires me to work harder to help many more people live full and rewarding lives.” And Jeanine? Her well-being is an ongoing priority for him. “She is truly an inspiration to me; just 3 weeks after her surgery, she started back training with me in the pool.”


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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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