Training like a ninja warrior at InjaNation

-Meghan Jessiman

Obstacle coaches Andrew de Jesus (L) and Ben Skuter scramble up an A-frame inside InjaNation Fun and Fitness in Calgary, Alta., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Photographed for Herald Weekend Life. Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network 

If you’ve ever spent the night parked in front of a television watching the competitors on American Ninja Warrior pull off seemingly impossible physical feats and thought to yourself, “I could do that!” Now is your chance to prove it.

InjaNation, a 55,000 square-foot fun and fitness facility filled with ninja-inspired obstacles and activities suitable for all ages, recently opened its doors in Calgary’s northeast.

Inspired by the aforementioned NBC series American Ninja, the fitness industry shift to more fun-focused activities and the growing trampoline industry, Tim Ritchie and Mike West believed this was a recipe for success for a lighthearted and community-based business in Calgary.

With a little something to suit everyone, from adults who take their obstacle race training seriously, to families looking for a fun birthday party idea, and all the teens and curious amateur races in between, they may be right about that.

The facility’s Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course designed for adults, is just like the one on you see on television. Seeing is believing when trying to appreciate just how challenging those gravity-defying, strength-annihilating challenges can be.

“The ‘warped wall’ looks a lot easier watching from your couch,” Ritchie says.

“Standing face to face with it, the fourteen-foot height is pretty intimidating.”

Same goes for the 28-foot “behemoth” on the military course. As the obstacle’s name implies, it is a beast. This series of swinging hanging holds, 28-feet in length and 13-feet above ground at its peak, is designed to test an individual’s grip, strength and muscular endurance simultaneously. Successfully crossing it is nothing to scoff at.

“These obstacles will challenge even the most seasoned Spartan racers, but at the same time will bring everyone back to their childhood memories — it’s like adult recess!” West says.

Beyond the adult ninja course, Inja boasts a similar setup for children and teens to test their might, extensive indoor climbing walls, an extremely challenging military obstacle course (that will allow all those mud run enthusiasts to train indoors during Calgary’s often harsh winters) and a 15,000 square-foot trampoline park.

“We even have a ‘Micro Ninja’ play area for children under two,” says West. “We wanted to create a space where kids aged one to a hundred and one could come and play and/or work on their athletic skills, mixing lighthearted fun with physical fitness.”

Recognizing that not everyone will automatically know how to navigate their way through these types of physical challenges, InjaNation will also be offering formal training programs and camps focusing on improving physical, cognitive and emotional literacy.

“These camps are being designed for children as well as athletic teams looking to improve their dryland training programs,” says Ritchie.

Past and future Olympians are the ones designing Inja’s camp curriculum and they will also be working in the facility on a regular basis. “Our team is trained to help all of our guests try new obstacles and push their fitness boundaries in a fun and safe way. Who better equipped to explain how to tackle physical challenges like these than world class athletes?” asks Ritchie.

So where exactly does one find a 14-foot warped wall, you ask? Turns out they aren’t as easy to source as you may think. Ritchie and West designed Inja’s layout and some of the obstacles themselves, while others were sourced in the United States where this trend has already taken hold.

“We tried to get as many of the parts and material as possible done locally, but this is a new type of training facility in Canada, so that wasn’t always possible.” says Ritchie. “About fifty per cent of the square footage was locally built and the other fifty per cent from manufacturers who specialize in this type of equipment in the U.S.A.”

Each of the individual training arenas InjaNation offers (obstacles, trampoline, climbing) are experiencing significant growth in popularity across North America and Europe and you can only find all three disciplines under one roof in a handful of facilities in the world.

Co-founder Tim Ritchie, left, and obstacle coach Ben Skuter go through an obstacle at InjaNation Fun and Fitness. PHOTO: LYLE ASPINALL /POSTMEDIA NETWORK

“People are gravitating to functional athletic activities that are more focused on movement, core-conditioning and balance co-ordination,” West says of the growing popularity of obstacle racing and training. “People are also looking for activities that are enjoyable, motivating and provide a chance to be part of a community within the sport, and obstacle and mud racing certainly offers that,” he says.

From a physical fitness perspective, these types of training activities help develop core stability, balance and co-ordination, and increased strength based around moving one’s body weight through space. There’s no denying that running a ninja or military course, climbing walls or putting in work on a trampoline is a rigorous workout. You are going to sweat!

But you’re also going to have the time of your life doing so. Grab your running shoes, grab your kids or your usual workout buddy and put your ninja obstacle attack skills to the test — Wonder Woman cape optional.
InjaNation: Unit 102, 52 Aero Dr. N.E. 587-353-4652,

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