Functional fitness room opens at Fort Leonard Wood’s Specker Gym

Matt Decker
Fort Leonard Wood
From left: Rick St. Cyr, Directorate of Public Works Project Management Branch project director, Col. Jeff Paine, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, and Megan O’Donoghue, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, clip the ribbon to officially open the new Functional Fitness Room May 24 at Specker Gym. Photo by Matt Decker

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Specker Gym’s new Functional Fitness Room is open, giving patrons a variety of new equipment to improve both cardio and strength while giving Soldiers specific tools to prepare for the Army Combat Fitness Test.

Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 24 for the new 2,400-square-foot workout space, the result of an 18-month long, $1.5 million renovation project.

“At this point, Specker now offers literally any type of (workout) that you have, whether it’s weightlifting, cardiovascular, now the icing on the cake is Functional Fitness — you have everything you need,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation chief of Sports, Fitness and Aquatics.

New equipment includes multiple weightlifting racks, including two multi-use racks that can alternately be used for squats and bench presses. Patrons can also choose to work out using full sets of free weights, kettlebells, heavy ropes, medicine balls, stability balls, and a long turf strip to pull weights on sleds, carts and more.

“We have a full Army Combat Fitness Test preparatory area,” explained Kirstan Carpenter, Specker Gym facility manager. “In fact, the entire room was designed with the intention for ACFT prep.”

Carpenter said the room originally contained three racquetball courts, but it hadn’t been used for that purpose for several years. One of the courts had been renovated several times while the other two sat empty.

“We used the room for group fitness, or a cycling room and for our active older adult classes,” she said.

Designed to offer dynamic training and conditioning using a total-body approach, Functional Fitness had grown into an Army-wide program by the time the decision was made to convert the entire space into a dedicated part of the facility.

Rick St. Cyr, Directorate of Public Works Project Management Branch project manager, said the first step for his office was to research Army standards for both fitness facilities and the Functional Fitness workouts themselves.

“We combined what the customer wanted with what the Army’s trying to do and what the code says it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Katy Carter, Business and Recreation director, said St. Cyr’s work paid off.

“He is the one who made this happen, researching all the types of floors, all the types of turf, all the things we did,” she said. “It incurred a lot of challenges, but I think because of the type of group we had, it became what you see, which is a fantastic, state-of-the-art space.”

The renovation project, which began in 2019, demolished nearly everything that wasn’t a load-bearing part of the interior.

“They tore it down to the studs,” Carpenter said.

One thing that didn’t slow down the project moving forward was the COVID-19 pandemic. Work on the project was ongoing even when services were on hold, Carpenter said.

“The construction crew kept going,” she said. “The staff and I would rotate out weekly, and they kept going the entire time through COVID.”

The results were appreciated by several patrons who got to be the first to use the new equipment. Cedric White, a military retiree who is one of the gym’s regulars, said he liked what he saw.

“I like it,” White said. “They’ve done a lot of upgrades, and it has a lot of space.”

Col. Jeff Paine, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, observed that today’s Functional Fitness is firmly rooted in the past.

“If you’ve ever worked with Soldiers who grew up on a farm or a ranch, they’re probably in really good shape, and it’s not because they come into a place like this. It’s because they’re lifting hay bales, moving things and shoveling and doing all sorts of hard work,” he said. “That being said, living in the society we’re in, we need things like this.”

Paine added that the facility would not only benefit Soldiers preparing for the AFCT but all members of the Fort Leonard Wood community as they work to achieve their fitness goals.

“I’m very grateful to get to provide that for our Fort Leonard Wood community, including our Soldiers, our Sailors, our Airman, our Marines, our family members our retirees and our veterans, to be able to do that — because that’s what Functional Fitness is about. It’s not just about passing a PT test; it’s about being fit to live our everyday lives and do the things that we enjoy,” he said.

Specker Gym is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. holidays.

The facility is located in Bldg. 1714 at 6060 Michigan Ave. For more information, call Specker Gym at 573.596.7377.