Now that my video has been submitted hoping to earn a guaranteed spot, I’m turning my full attention to actual training. It’s easy to just play the waiting game, not committing myself to the training until/unless I get that sought-after invite, but I have no idea when I’d hear from G4 if I am destined to hear from them at all. What I’m fearful will happen is I just drum my fingers waiting for an invite, and then in a couple of months I actually DO get an invite, but find myself with only a few weeks to prepare before the competition. To keep my sanity, and to give myself the best chance on the course if I do get invited, I’ve decided to adopt the mind-set that I WILL compete and just start training as if that were already a certainty. Sort of like using the Jedi Mind trick on yourself…you will compete, you will compete. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
So what is my training plan then, you ask? It’s pretty simple…since I don’t have a Ninja Warrior course replica in my backyard, or anywhere here in New Mexico, I’ve decided to focus on a few key concepts:
GRIP STRENGTH & ENDURANCE – There is no substitute for a kung fu iron grip. Jumping and grabbing stuff, swinging and grabbing stuff, grabbing stuff and climbing…there is a lot of grabbing stuff and supporting your entire body weight. This is why my buddy Ron and I got into rock-climbing a couple of years ago when we began our Ninja Warrior quest. There is no substitute for a kung fu iron grip. My grip strength is pretty strong from climbing, but it can always get stronger, particularly related to stamina. I go to the climbing gym twice a week now with Ron, and instead of focusing on completing climbing routes, we are focusing on increasing grip strength and endurance. We do a lot of traverses (long horizontal routes) instead of short vertical ones. We get back on the wall faster when we fall off, not resting up for our next attempt but trying to shock the muscles with insane new tests of endurance. We also use a lot of the “training” features at the climbing gym, doing hands-only ladder climbs, working on the training board, whatever we can find. Building up the kung fu iron grip is a major theme of our training.
GENERAL STRENGTH – In our grip strength and endurance training, we get a lot of general strength training in our arms, shoulders and back. But beyond that we finish our climbing sessions with pull-ups, and I do various types of pushups at home on “off” days. I’m not really lifting weights, just trying to focus on body weight exercises. Not that I don’t think lifting weights would help…I just have limited time for training, and have to prioritize.
“BURST” CARDIO – As various competitors in Ninja Warrior have pointed out, it is not that any singular obstacle on the course is insurmountable, it is just that doing them one after another against the clock presents the major challenge. Working on grip endurance helps a lot with this, but having strong “burst” cardio is essential. I describe “burst” cardio as going full-out for 90 to 120 seconds, still able to find strength, coordination and focus when your heart rate is at max levels. To do this, I do high-intensity-interval-training on the Precor machine (upper & lower body) and jumping rope. I don’t need to run a marathon, just go flat-out for 2 minutes.
FLEXIBILITY – As you get older, you lose a little bit of the “bounce” in your step and ability to just intuitively hop, jump, skip, and run over obstacles. When I was younger I had insane bounce…a 40 inch vertical and the ability to dunk in whatever creative way I could imagine. I could jump like a pogo stick, and sprint like an NFL wide receiver. Sadly, no longer. The cardio work is helping me find some of the bounce again, and being rigorous with stretching is peeling back a few years of middle-age that have crept up recently. The stretching also helps me with my periodically cranky back. Being limber, fluid and bouncy will help me with the few obstacles that require running and jumping.
WEIGHT LOSS – As I’ve mentioned before, many of the course obstacles require you to support and shift your body weight with just your upper body. While I’m confident that in terms of absolute strength of the key upper body muscles, I rank pretty favorably with the other competitors. In terms of relative strength (strength over body weight) I’m a bit concerned. At 227 lbs as weighed at the start of this quest a few weeks ago, I could well be the heaviest serious aspirant. Dropping 10% of my body weight, losing goo and not muscle, is a key plan to getting a bit more competitive on the relative strength scale. This would take me down to 204, the trimmest I’ve been in many years. Hauling 204 lbs around the course instead of 227 lbs could be a key difference. I’m wary though of any weight loss plan that might deprive my muscles of what they need to recover and strengthen, so my weight loss plan is simple: (1) reduce portion size, (2) avoid high-sugar high-fat foods, and (3) don’t eat so much in the evenings after dinner. On the first point, I’m just trying to stop eating when I feel full, and not plowing on to “clean my plate” as we’ve all been taught as kids. On the second point, I’m just trying to be more conscious of the quality of food I put in my mouth…no more sugary drinks (like that caramel iced frappe I used to drink every afternoon), fatty fast food meals, nachos, milkshakes, etc. On the last point, which sounds simple but is impactful, I’m trying not to really eat anything after 7 pm anymore except a fruit smoothie with fat-free sorbet and some whey protein. Supposedly junk you put in your mouth right before you got to bed gives your metabolism fits. That three-point program I hope will guide me to losing 23 lbs in the 4 months before the competition.
Now the planning is done, I just have to execute! Wish me luck 😉