To the left of the room, an adult sprints up a warped wall, grabbing a handle hanging from the ceiling. To the right, a child grabs two ropes hanging from a bar and swings his arms to move his body across the drop-off below. This isn’t a regular gym — it’s an American Ninja Warrior gym.
Last January, Austin Ninjas opened for children and adults to practice a unique type of training based off the show “American Ninja Warrior,” in which athletes compete by tackling ever-changing obstacle courses. The gym is located at 6001 W. Parmer Lane.
Today, the gym continues training and dispatching prospective ninja warriors to compete on the show.
The gym and show are separate entities, but Austin Ninjas still trains prospective ninjas by inviting past or present ones. The gym also reflects the show’s obstacle courses, including the warped wall and the jumping spider. Rick Hinnant, a current ninja, said training at the gym helped him know what to expect.
“(Doing) any obstacle here similar to what the show has, I will feel totally comfortable and confident,” Hinnant said. “That’s a huge advantage.”
Aside from training prospective ninjas, the gym is also open to others interested in training. Jennifer Halla, the owner of Austin Ninjas, said the gyms provide a different approach to exercise.
“It’s great to give kids an opportunity for something different that they might love,” Halla said. “If we can teach kids how to love to exercise because it’s fun, maybe they’ll stay exercising as adults.”
Halla said ninja gyms differ from regular gyms because the obstacles in ninja gyms change often.
“What you see when you come one week might be completely different than what you see in four weeks,” Halla said. “A regular gym, you go in and it’s the same weights.”
With ninja gyms, the staff makes different combinations with obstacles, making training more challenging. Halla said people build up their core strength and muscles as obstacles require using both sides of your body.
At Austin Ninjas, they house 40 obstacles, offer weekly classes and youth summer camps, host birthday parties and train for competitions.
Lexi Vasquez, 11, has been attending since the gym opened. Although she said she enjoys attending and the community the gym provides, she also wishes the gym had more adult obstacles.
“I get to figure out different ways to do stuff but people would be able to do more if there were ... harder stuff here,” Vasquez said.
Although the gym is child-centered, the gym is also open to adults during open gym and Friday’s adult and teen nights. Halla said they aim to provide more opportunities for adult training.
“It’s always in our out-term,” Halla said. “Just trying to figure out how to implement that has been tricky.”
Halla said overall, the small successes make the gym worthwhile.
“Maybe it’s something a kid had never done before and the first time they do it, you’ll see a kid dancing at the top of the warped wall,” Halla said. “The smiles that you see is really fun.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect how Lexi Vasquez feels about the gym.