Going to extremes

Several years ago, Steve Noviello was just another guy in his mid-20s, not working out, allowing himself to become overweight and not feeling real good about it.

He could only have imagined that he would one day complete one of the most grueling fitness events, an endless series of tasks testing his endurance, strength and resolve.

Noviello, 30, of Williamsport, traveled in August to rural Illinois to take part in The Suck, which combines farm chores, trail running and survival skills.

“It’s 36 hours non-stop. You are not allowed to sleep. So it’s constant movement,” said Noviello, a local fitness trainer.

The Suck was created by trainer Joe Decker who bills it as “Conan the Barbarian meets “Full Metal Jacket” with a dash of “Deliverance.”

Some of the features of The Suck include hauling around heavy buckets for miles, chopping wood, swimming in swamps, baling hay, digging holes, and of course, plenty of running.

“They give you a bunch of tasks to do,” he said.

It also tests survival skills and participants are not allowed to sleep.

There’s countless pushups and other seemingly non-stop exercises to do.

“You are running. You go up hills. You lift objects. You get outside,” he said.

The hills and rugged terrain and swamps made it all that much more daunting.

Noviello is the first to admit, The Suck is aptly named and not a whole lot of fun.

Pushed to the limits of one’s physical abilities, he saw plenty of anger and tears.

Noviello, himself, was ready to quit.

“At the 32-hour mark, we had to take two 50-pound buckets and carry them to the top of a hill,” he recalled. “At that point, I had enough.”

But somehow, he and other participants who hadn’t dropped out, managed to reach deep within themselves for that added bit of strength and endurance they didn’t think they had.

He’s glad he was one of the 10 or so participants who managed to finish The Suck which admittedly left him pretty much spent afterward.

“For a week and a half I couldn’t do anything,” he said.

Noviello said he now wants to introduce to the area Gut Check Fitness, a much abbreviated and much less extreme version of what he experienced in Illinois.

It’s described as a combination of boot camp training and elite events started by Decker.

“I want to positively affect the fitness level of Williamsport,” he said. “There is a lot of obesity in the area. I know how far you can come. I’ve been down that road.”

He feels the Gut Check will be a welcome alternative for many people who are perhaps tired of going to the gym and looking for a different kind of workout.

Noviello said he usually works out two hours a day.

He also watches what he eats.

“I eat tons of greens, low fat proteins – chicken and fish,” he said. “I don’t exceed 2000 calories a day.”

To train for The Suck, he spent months doing lots of running, calisthenics, and weight lifting.

And, he thinks he’ll probably tackle The Suck again.

“When I do things like this I feel very, very alive,” he said. “There’s no emails, no Facebook. It’s survival. That aspect appeals to me.”