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Into the Pit

North Austin's Hot Lava Obstacle Course makes fitness fun
Carly Yansak, 6:00pm, Tue. Jul. 23, 2013
photo by Carly Yansak
The Hot Lava Obstacle Course, where monkey business is encouraged

It doesn’t matter how old we grow, our inner child never truly runs away. Maybe it’ll hide a while, but it’ll always resurface – especially when it hears the words “Hot Lava Obstacle Course.”

When you walk into Hot Lava Obstacle Course, the first thing you notice is the carpet: It’s red. Bright blood red. Scalding hot lava red. Sitting atop all that red carpeting are obstacles. obstacles you can use to steer clear of the simulated lava in what’s quite possibly the most creative exercise and training facility this side of Rocky’s Russian wilderness.

“It’s a playground geared towards adults,” Ben Broussard, founder and owner of Hot Lava Obstacle Course, told me when I stepped into the North Austin building. This new training facility on Burnet Road is a place where anyone can train for any challenge at all. Its diversity stems from Broussard’s mixed athletic background, which includes gymnastics, martial arts, and even breakdancing.

He said that he decided to open the gym after he had a simple realization: he wanted to have fun while he trained. Kate Broussard, his cofounder and wife, had a simple response: “We have a backyard.”

Broussard wanted to do more than that. He wanted to share. After some pleading, he got Kate on board. One year later she was creating the functional flow inside the gym.

The space has a very open lay out. There are no walls or separate areas – just eight different activities in an industrial room. Up front is a section I referred to as the “military motion.” There’s a pipe slide, American Gladiator jousting, slack lines you can extreme tightrope on, over-under-throughs, and quad steps you can use for jumping.

The next area is the ring forest. Rings hanging at various heights are lined to hang on and step through by using all four limbs individually. Beyond that is the carbon net tunnel, where you climb up, down, in between, or across hanging nets. Behind this is the free form area with mats to utilize however you’d like.

That’s the thing about Hot Lava: There may be specific obstacles, but there are no specific ways in which you’re obligated to use them. Setting rules for each would directly go against one of Broussard’s founding principles.

“I could wax philosophical about our facility giving you good endurance and functional strength in your everyday life,’ he said, “but, honestly, I think what it exercises more is the creative spirit. I’m definitely sweating and getting more fit as I go, but it’s that kind of return to childhood – that creative spark within us – that is really exercised.”

While all of the obstacles previously mentioned make for an extreme jungle gym, the part that stands out is the facility’s trademark: the lava pit. A giant, four-foot box filled with molten, foam-square lava blocks. Think of it like a McDonald’s ball pit, one where you can forget all the calories and substitute plastic for plush.

This may make me sound like an 8-year-old, but the lava pit is so cool! You can cannon ball, belly flop, fall into, or just plain jump into it.. It’s like swimming once you’re inside of it, and you can kick around and go climbing and build towers and play catch. However you want to play, just play.

“It’s really interesting who does well on different obstacles,” Broussard notes after I’ve had enough time to play around. “It’s not based on strength or agility. Nothing obvious can tell you who is good at what. I think maybe it has to do with deeper skills that aren’t visible on the surface.”

The Hot Lava Obstacle Course is open every day from 10am to 10pm and offers users daily passes at $10 a pop, which means people can come and go as they please and not have to worry about checking a watch. Monthly passes are also available for $40. 

Enjoy yourself while you’re out there, but don’t forget to watch out for lava.

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