A DEKA competitor from John Haley's Unbreakable Fitness. | Photo by Eric Rejman

The Olympic decathlon event might or might not take place in Japan at the end of July, but a DEKA Arena will definitely be happening right here in Forest Park on June 6.

The owner and trainer at John Hayley’s Unbreakable Fitness, 511 Madison St., expects in the neighborhood of 75 competitors from Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Indiana to gather at the Fitness Factory on Desplaines Avenue (across the road from McAdam Landscaping) to participate in the challenging test of physical and mental fitness.

John Haley of Haley’s Unbreakable Fitness. | Photo by Eric Rejman

Like the decathlon, a DEKA Arena has 10 events, but it does not include high jumping, discus throwing or racing. Instead the 10 zones, as they are referred to, include “rudimentary movements” like riding a fan bike until you burn off 25 calories pushing and pulling a magnetic resistance “tank” 100 meters or jumping or stepping from the floor up on a 24-inch-high box and back down 20 times.

“No doubt DEKA is challenging,” Hayley acknowledged, “but someone just getting started on their fitness journey will be able to complete DEKA. It’s just a matter of how long it will take them.”

The DEKA Arena will be held at the Fitness Factory which has much more space than Hayley’s gym to allow for more social distancing. Starting times will be staggered to provide even more precaution.

Angie Glover is a 50-year-old who has been participating in DEKA classes at Unbreakable Fitness for three years and has participated in two previous DEKA Arenas.

“The best thing about John’s gym is that there is really no judgment. If you want to be pushed, you can get that motivation. If you want to modify something, absolutely no one cares.”

The event on June 6 will definitely be competitive, in part because the participants will be competing against themselves. Progress is determined by how long it takes for participants to complete the 10-zone circuit. The time, called a DEKA Mark, is posted on a global leader board on which the times of the 10,000 people who have participated in the event are listed.

Although the competition is primarily “you against you,” Hayley said, it is fun to see how you stack up against the thousands of others who have done a DEKA Arena. It also gives each person involved a baseline for themselves by which they can measure their progress.

A DEKA competitor from Haley’s Unbreakable Fitness | Photo by Eric Rejman

Jim Clancy is a 58-year-old who is competing in his first DEKA Arena. “A stronger body,” he testified, “is definitely a by-product of training for a DEKA. Above that, one’s mental toughness is pushed to the limit. Shutting out the voice in your head telling you it’s OK to quit is as challenging as the DEKA Zones!”

“Conquering the DEKA,” he said, “is achieved through the strength of a like-minded community that encourages and pushes you to be better.”

Helen Torchia, a 62-year-old who has completed two DEKA events put it this way: “Training for DEKA encourages a symbiotic “body over mind” AND “mind over body” relationship. When your mind doubts – your body takes over and when your body slows- your mind pushes.”

Glover said that DEKA also has “functional” benefits. “Working out,” she said, “makes it easier to lift my kids’ bikes into the car or chase them around.”

Hayley, who brought his business to Madison Street in 2017, has been a fitness coach for 20 years. He got interested in DEKA as a way to bring something new to his members, improve their experience, and keep them motivated.

Especially during the pandemic, he added, it has been a huge “shot in the arm” for both his business and his members.

Sara Fayard appreciated doing DEKA outdoors and via Zoom during the pandemic. “I don’t  feel as though I’ve missed a beat during the pandemic when it comes to physical fitness. John has continued outdoor and zoom workouts which has been a great addition for a mom of three small kids, there is always a class to fit my schedule.”

Torchia summed up her experience at Hayley’s gym by saying, “DEKA tests your fortitude to ignore fatigue, trust in your body’s strength and have faith that God and Hayley have made you ‘unbreakable.’”

For more information, go to the Unbreakable Fitness website or call 773-620-9015.

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