So what do Jessica Campbell, Aunika Kleinfeldt and Tiffany Brando have in common? As a team, they are champions — winners of the 2017 Rimrock Ruckus Fitness Challenge held in Billings last month.
“We competed last year in the top division,” said Campbell, owner of Freedom Fitness (formerly The Gym) in Powell. “We finished second last year, so we decided to take the same team up this year, and we won the division.”
Over 80 teams of three members each descended on Billings to compete in the event, designed to test competitors’ strength and endurance in a series of challenges.
“It was a massive competition,” Campbell said. “It pulled from all over Wyoming and Montana.”
Representing Powell, the “Country Strong” team of Campbell, Kleinfeldt and Brando finished first in the all-women’s division, outlasting 11 other teams to bring home the title.
Each team competed in four different events, including a final event between the top three teams in each division. Events included several rounds of chest-above pull-ups, handstand push-ups, heavy thrusters up to 135 pounds and a weighted sled-push for the team. One of the more brutal exercises involved the use of a 75 pound D-Ball — essentially a non-bounce medicine ball with a surface designed for maximum grip. The event culminates with each team member performing 25 ground to over-the-shoulder throws with the D-ball.
“They brought in a strongman component to the competition with the D-Balls,” Campbell said.
Campbell, Kleinfeldt and Brando have been training together for years, competing in various fitness events together. Campbell said the three have formed a close bond, and she is proud of the energy and focus her teammates continue to display, especially when workouts become a grind.
“We all work out together every day, including Saturdays,” Campbell said. “Minimum training time is an hour; we get a lot of work done in that time.”
About six weeks out from a competition, the team will up their workouts to two a day. After last year’s runner-up showing in the Rimrock Ruckus, the crew vowed to be ready this time around.
“We were ready. We wanted to compete again,” Campbell said. “What’s fun about doing it in back-to-back years is you get to see how far you’ve come, where your weaknesses are. It’s really like any other sporting event, you just see where you’re at.”
For Brando, the training was the grueling part; the competition itself was a lot of fun. She especially enjoyed the final workout, which consisted of three rounds of 50 GHD sit-ups, 12 bar muscle-ups, and 30 wall balls with a 30-pound ball.
“It was probably more fun because only the top four teams in each division got to do the workout, and we didn’t know what to expect,” Brando said. “It definitely got the adrenaline pumping.”
Asked what the most gratifying part of the competition was for her, the answer came quick for Kleinfeldt, a mother of two,
“Taking first place,” she said, laughing. “We take second a lot in these competitions. But we have a lot of fun and enjoy doing them as a team.”
As for the most difficult aspect of competition, all agreed that finding the time to train with the necessary intensity is a challenge; real life at times has its own agenda.
“It’s always a sacrifice, finding the time to do it,” Campbell said. “That’s what’s fun about team competition, you feel bad; you don’t want to let your teammates down. If you have a weakness, it will be exploited.”
Brando used her performance in last year’s Rimrock Ruckus as motivation to attack her weakest areas.
“We were really, really close last year,” she explained. “And there were a few movements in there I wasn’t able to complete, so we worked on that a lot. I went into this training knowing what I had to work on.”
The team always seems to find the time to train, generally starting while most people are still asleep.
“We’re here at 4:45 a.m. just about every day,” Kleinfeldt said. “And usually done by the time I get the kids out of bed. It’s a commitment.”
“If we’re not completed by noon, it’s probably not going to happen,” Campbell said. “Just because life takes precedence.”
The team has yet to decide if it will return to Billings next year to defend its title, though there are several competitions between now and then that will keep them busy. Regardless of what they decide, the early morning workouts will continue unabated, as will the friendship they share.
“Honestly, I’m impressed with these two,” Campbell said of Kleinfeldt and Brando. “They’ve come so far, even in the last year when you talk about commitment. It’s why we won Rimrock. To know in these events we didn’t have a weak link, that’s new for us. Weights weren’t an issue, movement patterns weren’t an issue ... there was no weak link.”
“My teammates are great at pushing me and each other, and are a ton of fun to hang around,” she said. “It really is like an extended family. They really keep me motivated.”