Shaken and Stirred

Sep 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

NEED NEW INCENTIVES TO STAY IN SHAPE? How about gunfights, acrobatics, and international espionage? Spy School, a new fitness program from the Los Angeles–based gym Absolution (, offers a custom menu of health and "adrenaline management" courses designed to turn you into the next Mr. or Mrs. Smith.

Spy School skips the traditional dumbbells-and-treadmills approach in favor of physically demanding training in activities like hand-to-hand combat, trapeze, and climbing (useful on cliffs and buildings). Clients also learn how to navigate in the dark and disguise themselves in order to slip through crowds unnoticed. Aspiring femme fatales can even get Alias-level intel on pole dancing. "It's just another way to make exercise really, really fun," says Absolution CEO Sascha Ferguson. "Besides, you have to be able to seduce your enemy."

Among the program's 30-plus trainers are a special-forces weapons instructor, self-defense specialists, and Hollywood makeup artists. But the training is just the beginning. Absolution can also organize unique, Bond-worthy trips designed to test students' new skills in any setting they desire. Among the possibilities: a recon trip to Paris (for bouldering and foreign intrigue), surf lessons in Maui, or mountaineering on Denali. After prospective agents have survived the recruitment process (i.e., the two-month waiting list), Absolution's counselors will evaluate their goals and personalities and create a program around their fantasies.

Custom "missions" run from six to ten weeks and start at $1,500. Should you choose to sign on, expect the occasional phone call telling you to be in front of your building at a certain time to meet your driver. Don't ask questions. Just remember the code word—and your gym bag.

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