Sierra Tarkington owns and operates Threshold Climbing, Fitness and Yoga with her husband, John. She is a lead certified climbing wall instructor (CWI) through the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and the first woman in the state to hold a level 1 route-setting certification from USA Climbing. Threshold is a 20,000-sq.-ft. climbing gym in north Oklahoma City. You can find Threshold on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
AM: What brought you to founding your gym, Threshold Climbing?
SIERRA: When I was younger, I climbed everything: trees, houses, walls, you name it, and I got in trouble all the time. In fact, when I was in the 6th grade, I climbed to the roof of a three-story house and my parents lost it. So, they finally took me to a climbing wall, inside of a science museum, and I crushed it! Somewhere in between growing up, I stopped climbing things and focused on mainstream sports: soccer and track. Neither of which I was overly enthusiastic about. It wasn’t until John took me on a date in 2008 that I rediscovered rock climbing and we both haven’t looked back since.
Fast forward, we began traveling all over the United States and internationally for market research. John was traveling quite a bit for work, which enabled us to check out local climbing gyms. We were able to take notes on what we liked about gyms we were visiting and what we didn’t like.
Most gyms are in industrial parts of cities and often are in repurposed structures. Sometimes they were cool historic buildings, other times, a little sketchy. Though, no matter what, we always encountered one constant: the positive climbing ethos. It was the same at each gym. Climbing has a reputation as being one of the most encouraging, welcoming sports. You must experience it to fully understand.
Therefore, John and I saw an opportunity to build the Oklahoma climbing culture in a unique and meaningful way. So, we set out to design and build a custom, state-of-the-art facility in NW OKC that surpasses some of the nicest gyms in the United States. Put simply, Oklahoma is where we were born and raised. The thought of bringing our community a top-notch, unconventional fitness alternative is one we could not pass up. Rock climbing has the ability to transcend a normal workout routine and offer a new, adventurous challenge (both mentally and physically) to anyone willing to try.
AM: Threshold has a huge community focus as a part of its membership. Talk about some of what members can experience in addition to traditional climbing and fitness.
SIERRA: The first experience anyone has at Threshold is an orientation. This enables our team to personally meet our guests, give them a tour of the facility, showing them everything it has to offer. In doing this, we get a personal interaction which allows us to learn their interests, so we can guide them to the best area of the gym, all while making sure they feel confident and comfortable.
Still need time to warm up to climbing? No problem, we have a community room to hang out in, yoga studio, a slack-line and fully equipped fitness gym. Some of our classes include: HIIT, Sandbag fitness, Core and Alignment and more. In addition to that, we host board game nights in our community room and ping-pong tournaments, which can get pretty heated!
Once you’re open to the idea of climbing, Threshold has extensive bouldering, auto-belays, top-rope and lead climbing areas. If you want to focus on technical aspects of climbing, we offer movement classes, sport climbing series, and a trad series. We even have fun bouldering competitions (Boulder League) and sport climbing competitions (Sport League)!
Chances are you will enjoy something mentioned above. To be honest, there is no excuse not to show up and hang out. We are fostering an amazing climbing community here in OKC and it’s continuing to boom.
AM: As traditional community groups shrink in modern society, we’re seeing the rise of gyms as a community. How does Threshold work with members to help them feel a sense of belonging and social support?
SIERRA: The fitness industry has evolved from “plug your headphones in, get-in-and-get-out” to what we can only describe as group suffering; this builds accountability, camaraderie and community. As our military women and men say, “Embrace the suck!” To the point, every day, we see people in Threshold working out and climbing with their friends and family, helping one another get stronger or giving advice on how to complete the route they just can’t seem to finish. It seems, nowadays, society has started choosing these types of community-driven experiences over stuff.
At Threshold, we recognize that parents want to achieve their fitness goals, but need somewhere for their children to also flourish, develop and grow. In many cases, parents (much like mine did) need an outlet for their kids to fulfill that rebellious nature of climbing anything and everything. I’m just not sure what other sport you can do, as a family like this. To quote research professor, Brené Brown, at Threshold, we choose “courage over comfort.” Encounter those child-like characteristics we tend to lose as we grow older. Whether you are looking for a new fitness alternative, going through a tough time at work, transitioning from your military career back into civilian life or overcoming trauma: Threshold is a place that will support and encourage a sense of belonging. And this isn’t just through inclusive programming but also through daily interactions with staff and fellow gym members.
AM: What advice would you give an aspiring gym owner (or someone who works in marketing for a gym) on how to build a fitness community?
SIERRA: The best advice we can give is simple: remain a purpose-driven brand that makes your customer the hero. It’s the best advice we’ve received and guess what? It works! Create a positive environment where guests can encounter vulnerability and the courage to challenge their fears. The outcome, more often than not, is pure joy. The community aspect follows.
AM: Anything else you want to add?
Sierra: Threshold has everything from day passes, 30-day trials, drop-in fitness/yoga rates and month-to-month memberships available for purchase. No matter your age or skill level, we have climbing, tailored educational programs, fitness and yoga classes for YOU!
We will be celebrating our 2-year anniversary with a huge party all day Saturday, May 11, 2019! Celebrate with us and RSVP here:
*If you or anyone you know is interested in hosting corporate team building, group outings, birthday parties or private instruction, visit: www.thresholdclimbinggym.com for more information. Or, better yet, drop in to say hi and take a tour! For further inquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 405-470-3611.