Fitness with pumpkins? 'A really good job of keeping things fresh'

MILWAUKIE, Ore. -- On the bottom floor of a small, brown office building that sits just a few hundred feet from the Willamette River, about a dozen people Wednesday were lifting, pulling, pushing and running as part of their regular workout routine.

It might not sound different than other workouts, but the people at Warrior Room, a local kettlebell gym, were in the holiday spirit. Because it was Halloween, the sweat that poured off the heads of the dedicated fitness enthusiasts came from a different means than the normal kettlebells -- pumpkins.

For about an hour, the group worked feverishly with their substitute weights, running, competing in games, lifting and working on their endurance -- all with the crop made famous by the annual October holiday.

Simply put, it was just another day at the Warrior Room.

"Creativity and uniqueness is what this place is all about," said Erik Barber, 40, who was part of a noon class Wednesday that is dedicated to hosting local business people who can work out on their lunch hour. "They do a really good job of keeping things fresh."

The Warrior Room, which officially opened up its Milwaukie spot in September, is the brainchild of sister-brother tandem Ashley Jensen and Luke Jensen, who are NESTA certified, SAQ specialist, HKC certified and ACE certified personal trainers. Wednesday's workout with pumpkins was entertaining -- there even was an exercise where participants had to use a marker to draw a design on their pumpkin during an endurance exercise. All the pumpkins were then put in the front of the class and Ashley picked a winner. The prize was to not have to run a short sprint. It was simply the latest way to break up the monotony of what could be a boring workout in other situations.

"We just always want to be different and have people excited," Ashley, 29, said. "Warrior Roomers are just strange. We're just weird."

Ashley Jensen grew up being athletic before she played volleyball at Eastern Washington University. Later, she worked as an athletic trainer for college teams and also worked at a nearby fitness club. Then recently, she switched up her career for a bit and began working as a full-time caregiver for the elderly. Soon, she began to help people work out again, but she didn't have a gym so she began instructing workouts in her 500-square foot garage. Slowly, but surely, the word spread. Soon, there were nearly 50 people trying to lose weight and chisel their body.

The cramped garage simply was not big enough for everyone who wanted to work out, though. Ashley began to look for a spot to open her own gym and consulted her Lucas, who was living in San Diego and owned a gym. Lucas made the trip up to Oregon to scout places. The duo spotted what turned out to be their current facility on Southeast Washington Street in Milwaukie and the doors opened to the public this past September.

Aimee Rooney, 40, was one of those people who began working out in Ashley's garage months ago. Rooney, though, just might be the most fit person in the class due to her strenuous job as a firefighter for Portland Fire & Rescue.

"Nothing has prepared me for the job like this has," Rooney said.

That's comment carries some weight because Rooney is revered among her peers. In fact, she was named Portland Fire & Rescue's Firefighter of the Year in March. She's the lone woman in the department's history to earn the honor.

"This type of workout prepares me for that type of work," she said.

Rooney, who lives in Beavercreek, also runs, lifts weights and competes in triathlons, but said since she's been working out with kettlebells at the Warrior Room, her fitness levels have spiked.

"I've never done the same workout twice here," she said. "It's always something new and different and your body reacts to that. They keep it fun and always mix it up ... Plus, they're so knowledgeable. They care about you and your performance and they'll fit the workout to your skill level and desires."

But while the Warrior Room does have its share of people who are in shape, others are working their way there. Craig Mullett, 38, works at a physically demanding job as a contractor, but said as he's gotten older, he'd put on weight and burning off the excess pounds at work throughout the day wasn't working anymore. He's lost a total of 30 pounds since he began to work out with the group nine months ago in Ashely's garage. He said he liked Wednesday's routine with the pumpkins because it was simply different.

"This is different than just going to a gym and figuring it out yourself," said Mullet, who lives in Southeast Portland.

While this fledgling gym can't compete with the sheer size of some of its larger competitors, it does seem to have something other gyms don't -- the lack a corporate feeling. That feeling translates into not only smaller classes, but a feeling among members that they belong to a special group. It's readily apparent when regular class members don't show up to work out. People start wondering and phone calls are made.

"This has more of a family feel," said Molly Taylor, 29, who was exercising in her fifth class Wednesday. "You don't feel out of place and uncomfortable."

While Wednesday's pumpkin-themed workout provided class members with a fun alternative to their usual intense workout, Ashley and Lucas have more themed events up their sleeves. They're also planning Thanksgiving- and Christmas-related workouts with the hope of not only creating a fun atmosphere, but to ultimately attract people to the gym.

"It's like that saying goes, 'evolve or die,'" Luke said. "When people come in, it's always changing and we just want to have fun."

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