Sandbox Fitness Promises ‘Soft Sand, Hard Bodies’

Sandbox fitness class

Ever get nostalgic for the good old days spent playing in the sandbox? Wanna hang ten on a board without ever hitting the waves? Read on to learn more about a studio in Los Angeles that’s offering a unique kick-butt workout in a giant sandbox.

Sandbox Fitness Inc. in Los Angeles offers a variety of classes, all done barefoot in the sand. The gym, whose motto is “Soft Sand, Hard Bodies,” features a giant sandbox in the middle of a studio surrounded by all kinds of equipment. Surfboards are stacked on one side, mats on the other, and a dozen hooks for attaching TRX apparatuses hang from the ceiling. Many classes involve doing yoga or body conditioning on a surfboard that you place on top of the sand. These workouts seem incredible for improving balance and core strength. Other classes are done directly in the sand, which forces you to constantly adjust your body to stay on balance.

I sampled a popular class at Sandbox Fitness called TRX, which is a unique system of suspension training. Two bands are suspended from the ceiling on a pulley system, which allows you to utilize gravity and your own body weight to strengthen and condition every muscle in your body.

TRX was invented and developed by Randy Hetrick. After graduating USC, he spent 14 years serving as Navy SEAL commander. According to Randy, his operational career culminated as a Squadron Commander of the SEAL’s elite special missions unit, where circumstances inspired him to experiment with what would become TRX.

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My awe-inspiring TRX instructor was Tonni Wells-Ratcliff. Before we started, Tonni explained that she has used this same workout to train many Olympic athletes as well as her brother-in-law, who plays football for the NY Giants. Tonni is an incredible athlete herself. She runs long distances at top speeds and credits TRX for keeping her in extraordinary shape. The straps of the TRX apparatus have handles so you can suspend your weight in different ways. You can hold the handles while working your lower body or slide your legs into the straps to do upper body and abdominal work. Tonni professes to be a believer in science and sweat. She showed us tough love, talking us clearly through each exercise and challenging us to move past our perceived boundaries, but still demonstrating modifications.

I was ready to collapse after the warm-up, but Tonni inspired me to stay with it and fight my way through the whole hour. All of my muscle groups felt activated and exhausted by the end of the workout. I was shaky, and at one point I wasn’t sure that I could even pull myself up to standing. Tonni demonstrated a great stretch to do at home to help us stave off extreme soreness and explained that if we had trouble getting out of bed the next morning, it was totally normal. Designed for the military and for professional athletes, this workout is no joke. I left the Sandbox covered in sweat and sand, feeling proud that I had survived my first TRX training in the sand.

By Jeanne Simpson for Withings