By Amy Higgs
Luke Powell is always pushing himself to be a better athlete. He’s constantly striving to get stronger, to run faster — to stretch himself further than ever before. So he follows a holistic approach to training that requires focus, discipline and consistency.
A crucial element of that approach is the Trager Family JCC.
An accomplished triathlete and Ironman competitor, Powell’s quest for new challenges led him in 2018 to the Spartan, a race that combines distance running and obstacle courses that’s been known to put even the strongest men and women to the test. (Organizers describe the final race, aptly nicknamed “the Beast,” as “a soul crushing half marathon with 30 obstacles” in which “your legs will burn with brutal ascents and descents.”)
This past November, Powell competed against athletes from around the world at the 2022 Spartan Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece. In three intense races over a single weekend, he finished 44th overall in his age group (men 40-44) and was the fifth-place American finisher, with a combined time of 6 hours, 15 minutes and 33 seconds.
To get in top condition for a race like the Spartan, Powell trains six days a week, alternating between running outdoors and strength-training days at the JCC, where he has been a member since 2017. If you’re at the facility when it opens at 5:30 a.m., you’re likely to see him in the indoor turf area pulling a sled, climbing ropes, or in the personal training area crossing the monkey bars in a weighted vest.
Powell emphasizes that “the J” has that other gyms don’t is “variety and flexibility” when it comes to equipment options — like those monkey bars. “That’s a real functional piece of equipment that translates directly to what I do in the races,” he says.
“With the typical ellipticals, treadmills and weight machines you see at other gyms, you can do only a single exercise that’s isolated to a certain muscle group,” he adds. “I like to do workouts where I’m incorporating as many muscle groups as possible. That’s why the J is the ideal place for me to prepare for these kinds of races. There are so many unique options that you can’t find at other gyms.”
It’s also an ideal place for family fun. Powell and his wife have four children, ages 6 to 13, who love to spend time at the both the indoor and outdoor pools as often as they can. (Speaking of that, there’s a point of pride for Powell as a mechanical engineer and co-owner of Air Equipment Co.: His company designed the sophisticated air filtration system at the new building, including a specialty unit that’s designed to dehumidify the indoor pool area.)
When asked if there any (figurative) mountains left for him to climb after the Spartan, Powell laughs.
“I’ve been asked that question a few times, like, ‘OK, you raced at a world-championship level, where do you go from there?’ I can always improve on my times and where I finish in my division or overall in these races. I still have that desire, that urge to get better at this sport.”
He took a break from training between Thanksgiving and the New Year, but he plans to compete in regional Spartans during 2023, along with some gravel and mountain bike races.
Powell has written several training manuals and a book, and you can follow his journey on his blog and social media. But he’s quick to point out that despite his accomplishments, he’s just a guy who has goals and works hard to achieve them. “A lot of people might assume that I’m some super athlete, and I really don’t feel like that’s the case,” he says, adding that anyone can do what he does with the right attitude and tools.
Tools like, say, a membership at the Trager Family JCC.
“You might be really surprised what you’re capable of,” Powell says, “if you set goals and put your mind to it.”
To follow Powell’s journey, visit his blog