When the television show "America Ninja Warrior" debuted in 2009, with athletes speeding through incredibly difficult and complex obstacles, the nation was hooked. It’s not surprising the spirit of the sport trickled down to become a widespread phenomenon attracting people of all ages and abilities. Woodbury has been no exception—Conquer Ninja Warrior, a gym devoted to obstacles from the show, opened in July, and has been the talk of the town and the epicenter of athletics ever since.
The center is a wonderland of obstacles: think playground meets gymnastics gym, with a whole lot of added twists. Just about every age group is represented at the gym. “Our members and visitors are everywhere between ages 6 to 60,” says Woodbury center manager Mitch Pajeic. Accordingly, the obstacles can be modified so that they are challenging for every age and skill level. While many of the obstacles are exact replicas of the challenges seen on the show, there are also smaller versions of some that are more suited for young members.
The first obstacle many trainers start athletes out on is the ring traverse, a line of hanging gymnastics rings that requires athletes to swing from ring to ring to get from the start to the finish. If the ring traverse is the introductory obstacle, without a doubt the ultimate obstacle in the center is also a favorite on the television show—the warped wall. Imagine a 14-foot skateboard half pipe cut in half, then imagine having to run up the curve, grab the ledge, and make it fully over.
If the warped wall sounds too daunting, have no fear. “One of the biggest misconceptions about the sport is that you have to be very athletic to participate,” says the center’s head trainer, Ben Wales. “We have parents that sign their kids up and then become interested in it for themselves, but have anxiety about starting out.” A majority of the trainers have a background in personal fitness training, so the center has a strong working knowledge of how to work with the abilities and goals of athletes, no matter what point they are at in their fitness journey.
Just as every age is represented, just about every walk of life comes through the center. Offering monthly and yearly memberships that involve obstacle-specific training classes, there are also more specialized fitness classes. “These classes are perfect for people who are sick of running or traditional weightlifting,” Wales says. “There's such an element of play involved that it’s easy to forget it’s a workout, but it’s most definitely a workout that develops the body through core strength, grip strength and balance.” The center's inclusivity makes it a perfect activity for the entire family, and there is a special family membership package.
For athletes who are interested in competing in the sport, the center holds competitive events for local athletes five times a year. Not surprisingly, the center has also become the hottest youth birthday party spot in the area, and often plays host to corporate events for team building.