It’s a new year and there are many fitness resolutions. There are dozens of fitness options for every personal goal. From fad diets to expensive gym memberships, everyone seems to have a ready-made solution to all your fitness woes.
When it comes to hunting, the fitness options are really no different than those aimed at anyone else. The reality is that backcountry hunting is different from most other outdoor activities. Not only do you have to have the stamina to climb the mountain and come back down, but if you do it right, you must have the strength to fulfill your generosity. It’s a different level of fitness that has specific requirements.
This is the niche MTNTOUGH Fitness Lab has advertised for filling.
From creation to operation, this digital gym is surprising in many aspects.
Let’s find out what the MTNTOUGH Fitness Lab actually is, where it started, and most importantly, does it really work.
MTNTOUGH Fitness Lab Origins
I had the chance to sit down with founder Dustin Diefenderfer in September to talk about where the inspiration for Fitness Lab came from and where he plans to take it.
To say he blew expectations out of the water is an understatement. I’m really biased when it comes to people who define themselves by their physical fitness.
But Diefenderfer defies common stereotypes of fitness bros. He is soft and personable and exudes kindness from the start. But there is no doubt about his dedication to fitness. And it’s much more than that to him.
When I asked his motivation for starting the fitness lab, he responded with unexpected sincerity: “Honestly, I just want to help people.”
An amazing start
From working in corporate America and spending endless hours on the phone, Diefenderfer felt lost in his career and was looking for more. He found what he was looking for in Uganda.
Diefenderfer and his girlfriend (now wife) quit their jobs, packed up and headed to Africa, where they ran an orphanage that was home to 240 children who had been displaced by the Joseph Kony massacre. The couple worked to help children learn entrepreneurial skills that would help them escape homelessness and move toward a more positive future.
As they grew through this experience and decided to start a family of their own, they decided to return to the United States. It was there that Diefenderfer began to look for his new calling to help people.
After personal experiences that made Diefenderfer realize that so many of his peers around him were isolated due to their lack of physical fitness, he realized he had the tools he needed to help people get back into the mountains and be fit and mentally healthy. That passion grew, especially for those who served their country.
In 2016 MTNTOUGH was born.
What exactly is MTNTOUGH Fitness Lab?
The Fitness Lab is a real place and is located in Bozeman, Mont. This is not your typical gym, but rather a headquarters and laboratory in the truest sense of the word. This is where workouts are mapped, tested and prepared for launch. Of course, the lab is staffed by dedicated people, but it serves primarily as a film studio, office, and testing facility.
The laboratory operates in a new 8,700 square meter facility, located with crazy views of Mount Bridger. If you’re planning to visit to get a tough workout in, conveniently, their neighbor just happens to be the Stone Glacier headquarters.
The real gym comes mostly in digital form.
The MTNTOUGH app
What was once a simple website where you could purchase individual programs, MTNTOUGH has evolved into a fully functional standalone application that gives you access to all of them.
At the price of $30/month or $240/year, the cost is relatively affordable compared to a regular gym membership or many other fitness programs. The MTNTOUGH app is clean, simple and user-friendly – a far cry from its humble beginnings.
with constantly updated content, the MTNTOUGH app has something for almost everyone. The On-Ramp Series was launched recently as a way to make training easier for those who may not be in ‘hard on the mountain’ condition. Programs are tailored to where you are in your health and fitness journey, whether you’re new to fitness or an extreme outdoor athlete.
I’ve gotten into almost every program offered and even the basic programs will make you sweat.
One of the aspects that MTNTOUGH focuses on is what it calls “mental toughness.” It’s the idea that physical capabilities mean nothing without corresponding mental strength. This holistic approach to mind/body fitness is the cornerstone of the MTNTOUGH approach and is refreshing to see. While I’ve never taken a deep dive into their mental toughness programming, I can really see the benefit of support for those who need it.
So does the program really deliver?
As much as I tend to roll my eyes at fitness regimens (especially at-home programs), I have to admit that I think Diefenderfer and his team do it right. I’ve played with several of MTNTOUGH’s programs over the past few years and can say first hand that they are on fire.
They hurt where they need to and seem to build the right muscles, the right stamina and the right endurance for exactly what we’re trying to do in the wild.
It’s not about getting big. It’s not about looking the part. It is focused around performance. Training is designed to fine-tune your body to reach impossible places and pack impossible pull-ups. It has nothing to do with looks, but everything to do with capabilities. For this reason alone: It’s worth all the hype.
However, any program is only worth the effort you put into it. If you’re serious about getting in shape for a long ride in the mountains, there’s an MTNTOUGH program to guide you in that direction.
No fitness program is perfect. This flaw comes less as a taper to the program and more to the platform. When you select a specific fitness program, it opens a video stream with the workouts listed, similar to a YouTube playlist. Something about it feels less involved than other fitness apps I’ve tried.
Previously, upon logging into the MTNTOUGH website, there was an aspect of engagement with points and social comments that made it feel interactive. The app has removed those parts of the program, which now feels more like you’re buying workout playlists instead of being actively engaged in a program. This is a small drawback, but no less a minus.
The concentration on holistic mind/body fitness with an emphasis on physical and mental ability to complete tasks is paramount to why I think MTNTOUGH has been successful. The company is not trying to create cover models; its purpose is to structure workouts to help you build a body that is capable. It’s not a cliché, but as a hunter, the farther you can go and the more you can carry, the better your success in the field. It’s not rocket science.
The biggest advantage, as far as I’m concerned, is the ability to do most of the programming from absolutely anywhere. I’ve trained at camp, in my hotel room on the road, and pretty regularly at home. They have both minimal workouts and no equipment workouts that are much harder than they look or sound. With a low barrier to entry and easy access, the only way you can really fail is to not stick with it.
Is it worth it? I think so. For a relatively inexpensive program aimed at helping your lazy bones climb mountains, I don’t know if it gets any better.