With American Ninja Warrior 8 on the near horizon, I thought to share publicly the pledge I made to myself for this upcoming season. I’ve been studying behavioral science and psychology a lot recently, and one thing that really resonated with me was the power of publicly stating your goals. Studies have shown a measurable difference in achievement rates between just thinking about having a goal and actually writing it down, and an additional difference between writing it down privately versus publicly sharing it with friends and family. People obviously are motivated to be consistent with their stated goals and actions made in front of the people in their social circles, and not seem like a weak-willed lameass for lacking the discipline to climb a mountain they publicly set for themselves. It is the “consistency” and “commitment” principles of behavioral psychology combined, and is a proven potent cocktail for motivating people to drive hard towards their goals.
So here is my pledge for ANW8 – I will be better prepared for this season of American Ninja Warrior than any of my previous six seasons.
At age 44, the window may be closing on my ability to compete at a level that is acceptable to me. For sure, I am past my athletic prime, but I think I make up in “old man determination” what I now lack in youthful spring and recovery. My mental resolve is strong, and in fact physically in many ways I’ve been feeling stronger than ever recently. If I stepped on the course tomorrow I could make a decent argument that I’d come pretty close to meeting my pledge, but not quite. I’m very determined to crush it this season, so I’m driving hard to step on the course in mid-May knowing that by fulfilling my pledge I’ve done my best to set myself up to achieve my ultimate goal – make the National Finals finally after having narrowly missed it twice before.
Here are the dimensions of “preparation” that I am measuring my pledge against (graphic courtesy of Wharton Magazine who did a profile piece of me):
CORE: After tearing an abdominal muscle two years ago prior to American Ninja Warrior 6, I’ve worked hard at making my core stronger than it was even before the injury. The great Drew Drechsel told me once that he thought a powerful dynamic core was the hidden key to obstacle course success, and if Drew feels that way who am I to disagree? I train core more than I ever have before (and it hurts).
GRIP: After busting my thumb up pretty good before last season – I competed in American Ninja Warrior 7 with a ligament tear and two fractures in it – I have been arduously working my way back. I’ve returned to actively rock-climbing, got a climbing training board for the house, and have been rocking the kung fu rice bucket grip exercises Brandon Mears turned me onto a couple of seasons ago. And I just placed an order for a couple more nunchuk grips from Three Ball Climbing to get stronger on hanging vertical grips which is a real weakness of mine. As I’ve said many times, there is simply no replacement for having a kung fu iron grip on the American Ninja Warrior course.
WEIGHT: My weight is down to the lowest it has ever been for competition. At 207 lbs at the moment, I am as light as I was for ANW6 when I had my best performance and cleared a tough Dallas Qualifying course, and with another two more months of runway before the competition I have a chance to be as low as 200 lbs for this season. I don’t think I’ve seen 200 lbs since the 20th century.
BALANCE: I need to get much better here. I competed in my first private obstacle course gym competition a couple of months ago at Power Park Fitness, and I totally sucked on the balance obstacles. I’ve been working on the slack line and rolling PVC pipes, but have a ways to go. Fortunately there are not too many slow balance obstacles in ANW, and most of the balance obstacles are of the “skeedaddle over that spinning thing quickly” variety which is a lot easier for me than the slow balance challenges. But I need to be prepared for anything they throw at me.
OBSTACLE PRACTICE: I am at a massive disadvantage here to many competitors that train regularly at a gym with actual obstacles, and there is no substitution for practice. I’ve been getting down to Power Park Fitness recently and am benefiting from some technique tips from good friends and awesome ninjas Thomas Stillings and David Yarter, and am making some important strides here on some obstacles that have given me problems. More reps on real obstacles to come!
So that is my pledge, to be better prepared for this season than any season before. Regardless of my performance this year, feel free to ask me whether I fulfilled this pledge!
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
– Dylan Thomas