MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A popular TV show is transforming the way many people exercise.
Shows like American Ninja Warrior have inspired a trend in obstacle course fitness.
Now, specialized gyms are giving athletes an opportunity to train in ways they never could before.
Jen Tavernier, 33, is among a growing group of athletes embracing ninja warrior training.
“I think what’s cool about this is that you can take it as far as you want to,” Tavernier said.
She found this form of fitness about a year ago while watching the show in which athletes race through a difficult obstacle course.
“I watched it and said, ‘Oh, that looks amazing! That looks like a blast!’ And so then I started looking into it more and that was it,” Tavernier said.
As a personal trainer, Tavernier already had the fitness foundation needed to successfully complete the course.
Obstacles are a mix of strength, agility and balance, which makes training different than a typical sport.
Yet, treadmill miles and bench press reps won’t carry an athlete through challenges like the “salmon ladder,” in which competitors scale a vertical wall using their momentum and arm strength. Instead, the only way to prepare is to practice on similar obstacles.
“There’s a lot of accomplishment that comes from beating an obstacle,” Tavernier said.
Training isn’t easy when the workout isn’t mainstream.
“I found this gym and the rest is history,” Tavernier said.
Kevin Hogan opened Ninja’s United in Buffalo, Minnesota, just over a year ago. His gym is filled with dozens of different obstacles and many exact replicas of what’s seen on the show.
“It’s who can push who and getting to know the Minnesota athletes, who were previously spread out, working in their own house, and combining everyone and creating that powerful force,” Hogan said.
In his gym, Hogan spent six months training in preparation for a spot on American Ninja Warrior. He accomplished his goal last spring.
“I made it to regional finals and missed it by three spots,” Hogan said.
He quickly realized he wasn’t the only one wanting to participate in this new kind of competition. He believes that while ninja warrior training may be difficult, anyone can earn that moment of glory.
“This American Ninja Warrior takes people from all different skill levels and athletic levels, puts them on a course where you are only competing against the course, and some people you never think will make it absolutely surprise us,” Hogan said.
Few know that sudden success better than Tavernier.
“It was such an amazing feeling. I think I didn’t go in expecting to win,” she said.
During her recent appearance on Team Ninja Warrior, she accomplished an unprecedented feat by scaling a 16-foot wall.
“I was able to be the first mom to conquer the warped wall in competition, which is super exciting for me,” Tavernier said.
As the mother of two young daughters, her victory will now be a reminder that balance is possible for busy a parent.
“I think it’s easy as a mom to devote 100 percent of your time to your kids, not that there’s anything wrong with that. For me, it’s important to have something apart from being a mom,” Tavernier said. “I think that helps me be happier around my kids.”
That motivation has carried her into upcoming competitions. Tavernier’s applying to be on the next season of American Ninja Warrior.
“I’ve worked so hard and dedicated this past year to my training,” she said. “It would mean the world to me.”
This sport is not defined by just physical ability but the willingness to push past any obstacle.
“Motivation, how much you want it, plays a big role,” Tavernier said.
If you’d like to give the ninja warrior gym a try click here. A new location will also be opening up in May.
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