A new trend in team-building is afoot—and it involves endorphin-inducing sweat sessions. Physical activity engages both brain and body, encourages participants to take risks, bonds people together over a common goal, and has positive effects that endure long after the pulse has returned to its normal rate. Minnesota has no shortage of venues that specialize in heart-pounding experiences for all kinds of groups. Forget stuffy networking events or tepid get-to-know-you activities; it’s time to get your next gathering moving.
Kettle bells. Burpees. Warrior I, II, and III. If those terms don’t intimidate you, Alchemy is right up your alley. Set to a motivating soundtrack, this new-ish studio’s strenuous workouts combine high-intensity conditioning, yoga, and strength-training techniques into 50-minute classes.
Founded by a former CorePower teacher and several CrossFit alums, community is a central tenet of the company’s mission. “It is not a place where you’re coming to get the perfect body or to put in your headset while you run on a treadmill,” says Marketing Manager and coach Brock Severson. “One of our core values is making people feel alive.”
Since opening last year, the studio has already hosted a wide range of events, including CEO networking groups, team-building sessions for ad agencies and nonprofits, bachelorette parties, and birthday bashes. Private sessions run $300 to reserve the space for two hours, allowing for postworkout socializing, a happy hour or photo op.
Sometimes participants are hesitant about exercising with professional colleagues, but after the class, Severson sees the walls come down. “When you’ve done 20 thrusters in a row, and you’re sweating and you’re grunting and you’re going for it, there’s just a different level of experience you have with that person next to you,” he says. “It changes that dynamic and it really opens up the lines of communication.”
Alchemy can customize classes for up to 40 people at either of its locations in the North Loop and St. Anthony Main area.
Character Challenge Course Company
If you want to get your team into the great outdoors, the Character Challenge Course Company provides an obstacle course, highand low-ropes courses, and free-falling challenges on its Park Rapids grounds.
Travis Guida and his wife Sarah CoumbeGuida, both former public school teachers, originally opened the course as a special needs camp. They soon realized it was popular enough to appeal to other markets, including families, tour groups, and teambuilding for youth groups, athletic teams, and business professionals.
“We can get into the nitty-gritty and the specifics of working with a group: functional leadership, team dynamics, and communication skills,” Travis says, “but a lot of the time, a corporate group is going to want to come and just experience the course and have fun, and the team-building is an organic part of that process.”
Facilitators take care to develop a partnership with each group and to hone in on a specific theme. Follow-up materials remind participants of how to apply the lessons learned once they’re back in the office, whether that’s problem-solving or curbing negative behaviors. Companies that have braved the highwire excitement include Microsoft and 3M.
Reservations for half- and full-days are accepted April through November. Nonprofit team-building runs between $35 and $50 per person; corporate team-building starts at $50 per person. Off-site options are also available.
Take your group for an unforgettable ride at CycleBar, an indoor cycling franchise that opened its first Minnesota location in Woodbury earlier this year and a second location in Uptown this summer. With its stateof-the-art, tiered CycleTheater, your team can spin its wheels while listening to a customized playlist and following performance stats on IMAX-esque screens.
“We’re more than just a fitness workout. We offer a multisensory experience and it’s invigorating mentally as much as it is a workout physically,” says franchise owner Zach Pettus. “It’s the coolest thing going.”
An industrial HVAC system ensures the air stays fresh and cool throughout the 50-minute workout. Cycle shoes, towels, and water are provided for the ride; fresh fruit is available afterwards. Additional food, drinks or a DJ can be arranged upon request.
“We’re a setting where people can come together in a social atmosphere but get something accomplished outside of their main objective at the same time—mainly, getting a really good, engaging workout,” says Pettus. After achieving their fitness goals, teams can gather in the community space for socializing and refreshments. Four class formats for up to 50 participants are offered. Private parties are $300; nonprofit fundraisers are $200.
Take a break from the corporate ladder and try a different kind of upward mobility at Vertical Endeavors. With its New Heights program, groups can experience on-the-wall climbing at three Minnesota locations for two-hour sessions. Team-building exercises can be tailored to the group’s preference and the $20-$35 per climber fees include harness rental and a dedicated VE instructor. Ten to 150 climbers can be accommodated, and after-hours and party room rental are additional options.
If you’ve never climbed, that’s okay. Most of the groups that book Vertical Endeavors consist of beginners. “For most people, it’s outside of their comfort zone, so they’re learning to trust their teammates—with their lives almost,” says Kristin Willey, group sales and programs coordinator. What is consistent is what groups walk away with—a renewed sense of trust, problem-solving skills, improved communication and a strong bond.
Want an off-the-wall event? For $75 per climber and a group of 10 minimum, Vertical Endeavors Guided Adventures (VEGA) will take your group to Taylors Falls or the North Shore for a truly epic climbing experience.
For those who enjoy mystery, intrigue, and a mental puzzle, Escape MSP has the kind of stimulating team-building that makes you sweat in time-is-of-the-essence scenarios. In Mr. Dupree’s Office, your team becomes a group of CIA agents who have 60 minutes to gather evidence of illegal activity before the businessman returns. In James Bomb, you’re handcuffed captives being held in the basement of World Bank. You must unshackle yourselves and diffuse a bomb in an hour or less. Test your smarts at chemical warfare in Dr. K’s Lethal Injection, where you must find an antidote to a blood-born pathogen virus before the mad doctor infects the whole world.
Not every team manages to solve its scenario, but the value is in the process. “What’s great is it teaches communication,” says Chris Rennie, marketing manager for Escape INC, the parent company of Escape MSP. “One person in the corner might discover a vital clue and another person in another part of the room might find a matching clue, but if they don’t communicate in a timely manner, those two components don’t get together to find the next critical piece.” Groups that do particularly well in these challenges are those with a natural leader.
Anxiety of not finishing in time factors into the experience, but Rennie considers it beneficial: “You all conquer your fear together. You expand your comfort zone.” Costs range between $29.95 and $34.95 per person depending on the mission selected, with an ideal group size of 10 people. As few as four participants and as many as 12 can be accommodated. The more brain power, the higher the likelihood of success.