March 23, 2012 at 8:16 AM ET
They use archery, swiftness and brute strength to compete against each other but, luckily, the participants in these games -- which take place at a gym in New York -- will still be alive at the end of the day.
The new Hunger Games workout, Train Like a Tribute, has gotten plenty of attention, even though the "killer" class won't officially start until next week.
"I just finished the first book and thought we could tie a fun workout to it," says Eric Salvador, the 39-year-old master trainer and former marine who designed the class for New York Sports Club. Salvador will lead his Hunger Games workout at the 86th and Lexington gym in New York; classes will also be offered in Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.
"In the book, there are four skills necessary for survival -- archery, tree climbing, speed work and strength," says Salvador. "We picked out exercises to simulate [those things]. Although if you haven't read the book, you'll still get a good workout."
In the dystopian young adult novel (which hits the big screen this Friday), "tributes" vie against each other in a life-and-death competition where only the fittest (and fleetest) will survive.
Salvador, who was turned on to "The Hunger Games" by his 16-year-old son, came up with a 45-minute regimen that includes Katniss kickbacks and Peeta presses (named for two of the main characters), along with archery work, simulated tree climbing (using TRX bands) and even a "Sprint to the Cornucopia."
"In the book, the characters have to sprint at the beginning to grab all the materials they need for survival," says Salvador. "In our class, the participants sprint to the center of the room to grab their dumb bells, water, mat, towel and a bow. But they can only grab one item at a time, so they're going back and forth and back and forth."
Lara Feoktistoff, a 43-year-old apparel manufacturer and "Hunger Games" fan from Manhattan, has taken a preliminary class twice and says she loves it.
"It was a lot harder than I expected it to be," says Feoktistoff, who runs, bikes, swims, lifts weights, does kettlebells and is currently training for a triathlon. "But it was fun to do the different exercises, putting them together with the characters. I don't know if I thought of myself as a tribute, but you could definitely [identify], like when you're pulling the bow. I felt very powerful, like Katniss."
Pitting participants against each other -- as opposed to themselves -- adds another plot twist.
"In the beginning of the class, just as in the beginning of the book, I have them run around, like in the arena, strutting their stuff," says Salvador. "And they totally start sizing each other up. No one wants to be last. It does get a little competitive."
Tim Haft, a 51-year-old certified personal trainer and track and field coach who founded the Punk Rope and Beastanetics workouts, says that much like dystopian young adult novels, interval exercise is definitely "in" right now.
"There's tons of research that shows it to be highly effective," he says. "But the student has to be able to perform the movement smoothly, accurately and at a high intensity to get the most out of the workout. My feeling about 'shake 'em up' workouts is they're fine if your students know what they're doing."
While Salvador says he hasn't heard of any other gyms doing a "Hunger Games"-based workout, booksellers seem to approve of the idea -- at least in theory.
"I'm a bit leery of a workout that's based on a game where the goal is to kill the other players, but I love that books are seeping into every aspect of our culture -- even working out," says Stesha Brandon, manager of public relations and events at University Book Store in Seattle.
As for other book-based workouts, Brandon says she could easily envision a "Bourne Identity" regime where you "train like an assassin" or a "Lord of the Rings" workout that involves hiking and sword fighting.
Other potential fitness fiction mash-ups? A "Dragon Tattoo" workout that involves escalator climbs, archive sprints, and high speed computer searches all while wearing 40 pounds of leather or a "Twilight Triathlon" where participants compete against each other in brooding, staring and generally being misunderstood.