JOLO: Do you (Wil) and Eddie Chan, your business partner and co-founder of Pursuit OCR, have any OCR experience and if so what is your OCR resume?
WIL: I’ve been a big fan of the races since about 2012. I’ve run as many as I could every season since then and I think most people would agree that they are addictive. The comradery, the challenge and just getting back to movement that feels natural and makes sense. I don’t go out to run competitively, although measurable improvement is always good. Mostly I enjoy the obstacles and will often hang back to help people and make friends. The Tough Mudder “Epic Sunday” back in May of 2013 is a great example of all those things coming together. The weather was an unexpected flurry of snow and hail and cold and people really helped each other out both in moral and physically. I couldn’t have finished had other people not pushed me on.
JOLO: How did you get into the sport?
WIL: I got bored of the same arbitrary routines. I’ve always been pretty active but at some point it just stopped being fun and getting motivated was increasingly difficult. I felt it and I think my clients felt it. I needed fresh inspiration. A friend of mine and I teamed up to try a Spartan out and we were hooked. Suddenly I had something to train for and it was something that took me back to my childhood. That was all the push I needed.
JOLO: Can you explain to me what kind of classes will be available at Pursuit OCR?
WIL: We’re really focusing not just on giving our guests a great sweat but education. We want out guests to know WHY they are moving like they are and what their bodies are doing so they can transfer those skills sets back to the course or other activities. We’ll be offering dynamic strength training, balancing classes, flexibility and strength together….. all facets of movement that I think can get lost quickly in loud movement and franchised classes. Often with bigger chains there’s a focus on moving people in out of the class to get the next group in, so there’s no time to stop and explain what it is they’re doing. That mystery leads to injury or just plain confusion.
JOLO: When hiring your instructors was it important for them to have OCR experience or was it based solely on their PT experience?
WIL: Luckily obstacle course racing is becoming so ubiquitous that it’s becoming hard to find athletes who haven’t tried one yet. But it isn’t a prerequisite. We’ve instead looked for experts in their field with proven track records at what they’ll be teaching and the experience that they have to offer. Running an OCR well is about combining skills and an all in one teacher can only give you so much of that. We’ll have “lifeguards” on the course itself to aid with the obstacles and give some tips there, but the classes will be led by the pros who really know the ins and outs of their respective disciplines.
JOLO:It’s great that your classes will be open to all fitness levels, how will they be scalable to suit each need?
WIL: Because we’re offering classes with limited spaces we can really focus on the teacher/student relationship. Like any good classroom we want to create an atmosphere where students can ask teachers questions and teachers can be attentive to what the students need. A good instructor can onsite a student and see where they need adjustments to their routine and where to make it more or less challenging but lowering or upping the difficulty. But a great teacher is inventive and adaptive, there should never be a student working at any level that isn’t right for them and great teachers know how to make that happen.
JOLO: What made you decide to open up here on Dufferin and Queen?
WIL: This is a vibrant neighborhood and one I’ve been proud to call home for sometime. I have a network here of support. BOLT is here, FLOAT is here. Great fitness spaces like Academy of Lions is here. It’s a neighborhood of active people who like to try new things. I couldn’t think of a better area in Toronto to start this up. It’s a dream space in the perfect neighborhood for it.
JOLO: There are a few OCR facilities and gyms opening up throughout Canada, with one of them right here in Toronto. Alpha Obstacle Training has established themselves for over a year now as the only OCR gym in the city and have become a staple in the OCR community, would you consider Alpha Obstacle Training your primary competitor?
WIL: ALPHA OT is amazing at what they do. It’s a great space with top notch instructors and they deserve the recognition. I don’t think what we’re doing is competitive though. Rather I feel like we compliment what they do. I hope that Pursuit will be a space they view as auxiliary to theirs and I hope we can send our clientele to them. This is a huge community and really from a straight numbers point of view, no one place could ever service that market. It works better for us all if we can give that community a variety of quality spaces to explore their wants and needs. Because let’s face it, needs vary with your energy, mood and time. To think that we could be everything to everyone in the OCR community would be an ego I wouldn’t want to be saddled with. I’d rather be part of the bigger picture and let people have their options varied and awesome.
JOLO: How would Pursuit OCR differ from Alpha OT, OCR Academy in Ottawa and Co-Existe Crossfit in Montreal?
WIL: All of those spaces have qualities that define them in their own way. Just like a bunch of great restaurants can all be on the same strip but provide different atmospheres and their own spin on the same cuisine. We’re focusing on making a space that feels inviting and taking the pressure to perform off the guest. We want our guests to not feel like like there is any sort of fail point or goal they have to meet except to have fun. Fitness should be symptomatic of the fun and the knowledge they’re gaining. If they want to come in and just run the course with a friend and then go for beer and wings that’s cool. If they’re training their ass off at another space and want somewhere to test those new skills and abilities then we’re here for that too.
JOLO: Do you have a target group of fitness enthusiasts you would like to see in your facility?
WIL: We’re not here to tell you what your goals are or should be. This isn’t a “beach body booty shaping tummy toning yogalattes bootcamp”. Fat shaming and machismo is not allowed in here. Those are obsolete attitudes as far as I’m concerned. If you like your shape then stay exactly the way you are. Want to know how to move that body in a new way safely? We can help with that. Want your body to be stronger, more responsive and less fatigued? We can help with that too. But mostly we welcome anyone. The space is non binary. We’re partnering with The Get Real Movement to make sure that our staff is educated and aware to serve the community with sensitivity and positivity. This is a space for absolutely anyone who wants to sweat and smile and meet other people who want the same. I don’t really care what shape that smile sits on top of.
JOLO: It is obvious from our conversation that you are passionate about fitness but with your background you are also very focused on recovery, can you please tell me about that?
WIL: In the time I’ve trained, been trained and coached, I’ve watched so many amazing driven athletes see their gains slide away because they get regularly injured. If they have a coach or a teacher, then that’s on their educator. 20% of your training should be recovery. Proper stretching, rest, hydration, massage and assisted therapies shouldn’t be reactive, they NEED to be proactive. That’s why we’ve brought in Cryo therapy. It’s fun, it’s invigorating, but most of all it works and it’s fast. We’ve made it affordable and there’s no excuse to not take a few minutes in your training cycle to take care of the effort you’re putting in to meet your goals. I think all of know someone that has busted their butt to compete and then see the chance disappear because they over trained and had to skip it. Good coaches know this and they don’t allow their charges to hurt themselves. More fitness spaces need to take that responsibility as well. We can’t push someone to a breaking point and then shrug when they break.
JOLO: Can you tell me a bit about the obstacles, the course and other equipment that will be available for use?
WIL: I’ve designed the course to be familiar in terms of the obstacles. You’ll encounter rings, cargo nets, monkey bars and crawls. But I’ve also taken some of the core skill sets and layered them so the challenge builds as you increase your speed and many of the obstacles have different levels of difficulty too. The ascending monkey bars also have pegs and loose rings as an option. The Climbing wall has holds of different skill levels. We’re also bringing in equipment necessary for really building your skill arsenal. In addition to common items like kettlebells, battling ropes, peg boards and climbing ropes, we’ll have air assault bikes, Skiergs, Jacob’s ladders and a full 14 foot high cove ram to practice your “everest” run up.
JOLO: What is your vision for Pursuit OCR?
WIL: I’d love to grow this out as far as I can. But rather than just make clones of the same I’d love to see each new location offer a new set of challenges that focus on different elements with a unique environment. That way our guests have new surprises at each one. It would be incredible to be able to open one with a high ropes course or another with aquatic elements. Of course I’d love to see a Pursuit in every city but first I want to make this one as bulletproof as possible so people have a reason to visit the next one.
JOLO: You have an Indigogo campaign that is launching on September 2nd, can you please tell me more about that?
WIL: I’m psyched for that. It’s going to be solid, The perks are basically half price everything combined with offerings from Toronto’s favorite businesses. So you can get a couple of passes and a night at an brilliant restaurant like Nuit Social or even spend a night at the Darling Mansion. There’s even a perk to name an obstacle, which is a great way for a business to get some great exposure to a fun adventurous crowd. Regardless f if OCR is your “thing” right now, I think here’s enough incentives here that anyone can find something and hopeful they’ll get down to Pursuit and bring a friend to see why the OCR community is so addictive.