Why you should care
Because everyone wants to be a ninja.
Video by Tom Gorman
Call it biology — or maybe just testosterone — but there is something in the human DNA that makes us want to swab on war paint and kick some ass. Based on the success of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, though, it would seem these days we’re more likely to get our fix watching heroics on the flat-screen. But now that game show is being re-created in the gym, so you can actually reawaken your inner badass and live the glory you were always meant to.
These gyms, which are popping up by the handful across the country and are often opened by former Ninja Warrior contestants, attract not only the übercompetitive aiming to qualify for the show but also everyday exercisers looking for a dynamic workout and those who just want to have some fun while getting in shape. After all, what other fitness center lets you play on monkey bars? The workouts, built on parkour fundamentals, aren’t organized into one regimented circuit. Picture instead an intricate and riotous obstacle course, outfitted with swinging ropes, foam pools and Olympic-style trampolines. For those who actually are training for their national debut, the gyms model their setup as closely as possible on the real thing. (Open-gym rates run about $15 a session and around $80 a month for one class a week.)
The trend is certainly catching on in the land of stuntmen. Tempest Freerunning Academy has two gyms in Los Angeles and is opening another just outside of San Diego. The founders — members of Team Tempest, a competitive free-running squad composed of real-life stunt actors — decided to forge a hybrid Ninja Warrior gym that has free-running elements (think indoor parkour but more creative). The best part: The decor’s got a video game vibe — nods to Super Mario Bros. abound — because, as Tempest’s gym manager Michelle Monkress says, you’re “doing what ordinary humans cannot do.”
But that may be a tiny exaggeration. While some elements of Ninja Warrior training certainly break a sweat, other aspects, like jumping on the trampoline, are more for the experience than the bod. And it’s not for the risk averse: Injuries do happen, usually when people aren’t being safe, Monkress says.
At the end of the day, though, isn’t the sacrifice worth it if you can call yourself the ultimate Ninja Warrior badass?