Instead of going in full-throttle, Taylor suggested I start with the 12-foot wall. I knew it was doable, but throwing your body into a wall is a bit frightening—especially when you only have about 10 feet to gain speed. It took me a few tries to fully commit, but I eventually made my way up the wall by deliberately planning out my steps and getting comfortable with my escape route (sliding down on my butt). In the end, it was actually pretty easy, and I was excited to have tackled the first obstacle thrown my way.
When I attempted the devil steps, pegboard and salmon ladder, my confidence was quickly deflated. Pulling myself up on each obstacle was easy, but things got difficult when a great deal of grip strength and unfamiliar movements were required. This was especially true with the pegboard, where I tried to move pegs around while relying on one arm to support my body weight. My pull-up routine had betrayed me, but I cut my losses and set my sights on the spider jump. I was transported back to my gymnastics days as I ran and bounced off a mini trampoline, extending my limbs to land between two vertical walls. Once I nailed the jump, I moved my hands and feet along the wall to get through the obstacle. Even though it was fairly simple, I definitely experienced an adrenaline rush.
Taylor presented me with several other obstacles throughout the evening, but my grand finale was on the monkey bars. Because of cross-training classes I’m really comfortable on them, so we quickly moved on to lacheying, which is similar to a release move on the uneven bars. Taylor made it look incredibly easy with powerful swings and graceful transfers from bar to bar. Since I’ve been out of the gymnastics world for a solid 20 years, gaining enough momentum to fly through the air was a struggle. On my final attempt, my hands brushed the bar, but failed to latch on. This is where my callus ripped off, and my stint as a ninja concluded.
Being a ninja for a night was the most fun workout I’d had in a while. Risk-taking was encouraged, my adrenaline was pumping, and I got to attempt physical feats that most people only see on TV.
Similar to rock climbing, my forearms were sore from all of the upper body exertion, and my flapping hand skin had a heartbeat of its own. My upper back and shoulder blades were more stoved up than normal, and my delts were feeling the effects, too.
Even though I really disliked failing obstacles, I came to realize that it’s the challenge that keeps determined ninjas coming back for more. Although these contestants might look like our next-door neighbors, they’re incredibly powerful athletes, and it takes a lot of work to get on their level. For the time being, I’ll stick to my pull-ups… once my hands heal.