This is a part of our ongoing ‘We Tried it’ series where we test out weird and wonderful things to do or see in Colorado. Go here to see what else we’ve tried. Comment below and let us know what we should do next.
The Mile High City is a hot spot for elite athletes of all kinds to train at altitude. Training in high elevation is associated with all kinds of athletic benefits, including improved endurance and strength. But down on South Broadway there is a place for these athletes to get even higher, and not in the way you might think. Traverse Fitness houses the nation’s only Altitude Training Studio, a one-of-kind space that can bring you up to 20,000 feet of elevation during your workouts. We decided to go check out their classes and put this technology to the test.
Traverse Fitness is the only gym in the United States equipped with an Altitude Training Studio. Utilized for classes and private training, this 1,110-square-foot enclosed studio can take you from sea level up to 20,000 feet of elevation through your workout. For reference, Mt. Everest sits at 29,000 feet of elevation.
Essentially, it’s built to kick your ass.
The studio also specializes in 50-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes, and they pride themselves on using the best of the best in terms of fitness technology and equipment to optimize your workout.
Traverse Fitness classes are not for the faint of heart. But for those who want to put their fitness to the test, they offer a “first class free” special. Their drop-ins are comparable to that of larger chains such as Barry’s, running $30 for HIIT and $40 for Altitude classes. They offer two membership packages: the Traverse ($179/month) and the Expedition ($219/month), each with differing levels of access to classes and open gyms.
It costs a pretty penny. But in my opinion, it’s worth it for both the state-of-the-art training facility and supportive community. While they don’t currently have a full locker room, they’ve got pretty much everything else you would need. The instructors know that recovery is key, and they’ve hooked it up with Normatec Compression Boots, Theraguns and Foam Rollers to use after class. On top of that, they’ve got a coffee bar, massive co-working space and by far the friendliest community of people I’ve met in a gym.
To get the full Traverse experience, I tried both their HIIT and Altitude Room classes spread out across a week.
I’ll start by saying this: I am a huge fan of the pain cave. I firmly believe that the best workouts come from hitting a wall and finding a way to push yourself past it. When you have to push yourself beyond not only your physical limits, but your mental ones too.
Traverse will get you there.
Walking into Traverse at 7:45 on a Monday morning, I immediately noticed the 6:30 a.m. crew who had just finished their workout. Just by glancing over the crowd of members in the lobby, one thing was immediately clear: no one is there to screw around.
I was greeted at the front desk by co-owner Jim Gerber, who took the time to not only walk me through each piece of equipment, but introduce me to every person we saw along the way. Community seems to be above all at Traverse, creating a network to motivate you and hold you accountable through each class. It also happened to be his birthday, but more on that later.
I started my week their 50-minute HIIT class, my personal favorite style of workout. They take pride in their “vibe,” and for good reason. The dark studio was illuminated with neon blue lights and, paired with an impeccable playlist, it was impossible not to feel the hype building around you as you got ready to work.
Lead by trainer Billy LaGreca, he showed absolutely no mercy. Similar to Orange Theory or Barry’s, their classes involve a rotation between the floor and treadmill. The class is fast-paced, with each movement carefully demoed by LaGreca before starting each round. He does an incredible job of watching over the class, somehow noticing the second you seem lost in a movement and coming by your side to guide you through.
The treadmill portions were an exhausting mixture of sled pushes and sprints that set your legs on fire. Paired with the Keiser machine exercises, weighted squats and core crushing ab burners, the workout was easily one of the hardest HIIT classes I had ever taken. I learned the hard way that I made a rookie mistake choosing to come for a birthday class. We finished with “Jim’s 42nd Birthday Surprise” — a partnered rotation of a 42-pound sled push until your partner completes 42 jump squats, going non-stop until the timer hits 365. Despite taking full advantage of the compression boots after class, I was absolutely cooked.
While I was extremely proud — and extremely sore — after completing their HIIT class, the real moment of truth came on Friday when I visited the Altitude Room. 12,000 feet of elevation was proudly displayed on the monitor as I walked into the studio. I could feel the difference almost instantly. Even making conversation before class becomes a task with the shortness in breath.
Lead again by Billy LaGreca along with Traverse co-founder Kris Peters, the altitude class is designed to keep you humble. Following another circuit style format, we were put in groups of three to rotate between the treadmill, the Kaiser machine, dumbbells and med ball exercises.
Similar to the HIIT class, you are moving quickly, each round getting progressively faster as we moved through a ladder-style circuit. As if we weren’t pushing our lungs enough, the treadmill rounds were inclined runs hitting varying levels of vertical feet. After just the first round of climbing 100 vertical feet, the altitude really started to hit me.
The Altitude Studio pushes your body to work in a different way. Not only are you exhausted from the exercises, but your lungs are working overtime. This is where it gets easy to hit a wall and tell yourself that your body has hit its limit and can’t go any further. In reality, that moment is when the real workout begins.
But even if you did try to stop, Peters and LaGreca would never let that happen. They again watched each of us like a hawk, not only noticing when I was struggling with exercises but also when they seemed a little too easy. They were constantly finding ways to push me further than I thought possible, holding me in an ab exercise for a few extra moments, dropping a heavier weight in my hand, pushing me through all-out speeds on the treadmill.
The feeling after completing an Altitude Class is addicting. It is incredibly rare to find a workout that pushes you in the way this class does, testing your mental and physical limits and working your body in an entirely new and challenging way. Once you catch your breath, you are filled with an immense sense of pride in what you have accomplished, and you carry that with you like a badge for the rest of the day.
But what truly sets the classes apart from anything else I’ve done is the atmosphere. While camaraderie is present at every gym, the community at Traverse is more like a family. Every single person who walks through their door is there to reach the pain cave, and get you to come along with them. Between the trainers and the classmates, you are being encouraged from every direction, pushed to whatever you think your limit is, and then far beyond it.
If you are passionate about fitness, Traverse is the place to go. While their membership isn’t the cheapest in town, you are truly getting the best of the best in terms of equipment, trainers, community and workouts. Both the HIIT and Altitude classes are incredible workouts that push you beyond your limits, and you can say you worked out at 12,000 feet before your friends were even awake.
Traverse Fitness is located at 2449 S. Broadway, Denver. Drop-in classes start at $30, with memberships also available starting at $179. Learn more about their “first class free” promotion and scheduling on their website, or follow them on Instagram.