Six years ago when Brian and Tanya Miller competed in their first Obstacle Course Race (OCR), the two fell in love with a new species of sport. A sort of thrill-seeking endurance-race hybrid, both were drawn to the physicality required to navigate the course as well as the camaraderie that ensued while traversing each element. They were hooked.
Brian, who has always maintained a level of physical fitness - first as a hard rocking metal head and later as adventure sport enthusiast - envisioned the relatively new sport as a unique personal and professional adventure. He had spent years as a machine shop manager, overseeing daily operations to ensure production cycles were met, from design to fabrication. However, after climbing, jumping, crawling, swinging, and balancing over elements of the OCR - with 40-some teammates - he developed a new passion for not only overcoming personal challenges, but helping others overcome their own.
“That’s how this whole idea started to blossom,” says Brian. “I couldn’t get the concept of opening this type of gym out of my head.”
Employing his knowledge and experience, he began developing visual concepts using computer-aided design technology. Through the software program he drafted construction concepts through photorealistic rendering and then simulated the performance of each conceived obstacle element. During the process of exploring design ideas, he was [happily] laid off from the machine shop.
“Knowing him for as long as I have, he has always done stuff like this,” laughs Tanya. “When we were kids, his bedroom was filled with LEGO, Tinker Toys and Erector Sets - Brian has always been building.”
“Plus I’m twisted and like to have fun,” says Brian, sticking his tongue out at his wife.
The two grew up just one house away from one another in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield, MA. Tanya explains “we’ve never not known each other.” While they went their separate ways after high school, they reconnected later in life and now have three kids between the two of them. Brian, who is much like a kid himself, says [snickering] their lifelong friendship is “the cutest part.”
With Tanya’s support Brian pursued the new venture, touring droves of potential sites together for what would become Movement Terrain. However, when they happened upon the former Collins Paper Co. in Wilbraham, they knew they found their home.
Situated along the Chicopee River, just before the high arches of the Cottage Avenue Bridge, the historic mill serves as a facade for their functional fitness obstacle-course gym. Sprawling 13,000 square feet in Building 2, the space is an interplay of old and new, with wide doors opening to a “gym” experience unlike any other. Imagine an agility course meets playground. Inside are monkey bars, cargo nets, pyramids, climbing walls, pegboards, suspended elements, hanging ropes and rings, quintuple steps - and so much more. Members crawl, scale walls, carry sandbags, climb ropes, swing, jump, and most importantly, encourage one another to improve their fitness goals.
“It’s a sneaky, fun workout and the next thing you know, you’re realizing results,” says Brian. “Counting reps just doesn’t have the same level of excitement.”
There’s an overwhelming sense of camaraderie here, one surely perpetuated by the authentic, light-spirited nature of the owners. Seemingly always smiling - or on the verge of a joke - their positive attitudes are infectious. Movement Terrain is truly a place for everyone, not just those training for an obstacle course race, but also individuals and families wanting to build strength - even those who are the most timid.
His goal was to create a place where people greeted physical activity with excitement, versus begrudged obligation. Instead of singular body movements, the experience is focused on utilizing a variety of muscle groups. He gestures to a father-son pair traversing “the wall” across the gym.
“Look, he’s getting a workout while his son’s running around having fun. His son challenges him to different obstacle course races and that’s where his real workout comes from,” explains Brian.
At Movement Terrain, activity-based exercise comes in many different forms. For those looking for a little cardio the “Bubble Ball Arena” helps contribute to the aerobic energy-generating process. The giant, soft ball is equipped with shoulder harnesses and handles inside; the inflatable system turns adults and kids alike into human bumper cars. Surrounded in a cloud of protection, Bubble Balls are a hilariously entertaining game that becomes a sneaky workout. Similarly, monthly (BYO) Nerf Wars offer structure, exercise, teamwork and agility - more devious exercise - since these group events are outrageously fun. They’ve also found themselves hosting birthday parties (for all ages), home school groups, field trips and family days; the parent/kid aspect has become a pleasant, unforeseen part of their business.
“I really like seeing parents and kids working out together as a family - I didn’t really expect that aspect,” says Brian. “I think the most satisfying part of all of this, seeing people naturally high five and support one another. It’s an element that I truly enjoy about this business - plus I can play my own music.”
For those looking for something more serious, Movement Terrain’s OCR Training is a full body obstacle course simulation incorporating the inside and outside of their expansive facility. The all-weather workout has participants run, carry, flip tires, joust spears and drag cinder blocks. If Obstacle Course Racing is your sport, this fitness experience builds endurance, burns fat, and increases strength. Best of all, all members are surrounded by passion, positive energy and unequivocal support.
“It’s a cool thing you see here, that camaraderie and community. The workout groups are always high-fiving and congratulating each other; people feel supported in their endeavors,” says Brian. “This the kind of environment I was hoping for and it’s turning out to be just that way.”
An OCR workout is completely unique to each individual. Depending on height or body type, participants negotiate each obstacle to best meet their ability, whatever that may be. With safety a top priority, Movement Terrain will soon be adding beginner obstacle course training to the gamut of circuit training classes for adults, kids (6+) and families; every instructor offers modifications and beginner variations for each element. The facility is also equipped with plenty of weights, kettlebells and equipment, if you want to do something more traditional.
In an effort to keep “the adventure alive” Brian plans to perpetually design new obstacles and components that will add or replace existing elements. “That’s how we like it, always changing, always evolving, never a chore, always a choice. Let’s keep it fun, mix it up and try new things. Explore your fitness thing.”