By MICHAELA RITCHIE
It goes without saying that working out is hard—heck, just gathering up the motivation to go to the gym can stop you dead in your tracks before you even break a sweat. But in recent years, reality TV competition shows like American Ninja Warrior and Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge have raked in viewers by the millions by turning incredibly difficult workouts into entertaining nighttime television.
Instead of just hoisting heavy weights or running at impossible speeds, athletes on these shows climb, vault, grapple and swing their way to victory, using every part of their bodies at every turn. This type of “functional fitness” is proving popular among Calgarians, and an influx of alternative ninja-style gyms have been popping up around the city in the last couple of years to meet rising demand.
If you’re looking to push your body to new athletic heights, or are just looking for a break from the treadmill, check out some of our favourites and see if this new workout trend is right for you!
It may look like a 15,000 sq. ft. playground, but make no mistake—this space was designed specifically for adults looking to be put to work. When Cor.Fit opened its premiere location in Calgary in Jan. 2016, the goal was to create a competition-level space for Tough Mudder and Spartan competitors—of which co-founder Kevin Halliday was one—to train locally year-round.
Cor.Fit now offers more than 150 obstacles and hundreds of obstacle course tracks at each of their three locations across the city—at Taza (near YYC Airport), WinSport (at Canada Olympic Park) and in Ogden. The obstacles available at Cor.Fit focus on developing full-body fitness through functional exercise. You won’t find any barbells here, but get ready to flex those muscles as you roll massive tires, swing from ropes and monkey bars, and launch yourself over platforms and climbing walls. This gym is all about bringing every ninja obstacle you’ve seen on TV to life—they’re even working on producing a Canadian spin-off series of the American Ninja Warrior franchise, which is set to launch in 2018.
Warriors here are guided through the obstacle courses by a trainer in a classroom setting, rather than being able to access obstacles in an open-gym format, so they can learn the proper techniques to use on each obstacle, developing their skills while avoiding injury. Training camps, weekly training and personal training are available at variable rates. And although the course was built with serious athletes in mind, programming for everyone from couch potatoes to little tots is also readily available.
• COR.FIT Industrial, 6481 30 St SE, 403-570-9222
• COR.FIT WinSport, 151 Canada Olympic Dr SW, 403-570-9222
• COR.FIT Taza, 49 Aero Dr NE #14, 403-570-9222
If the climbing walls, rope ladders, monkey bars and floating steps at this gym aren’t enough for you, how about adding a trampoline park into the mix? InjaNation opened its first obstacle course gym in Calgary in October 2016, and boasts 55,000 sq. ft. to its name—which, by the way, is a portmanteau of Inner-Ninja and Imagination.
This facility certainly has plenty of both, with workouts that will challenge your body and your mind in equal measure. Not to be outdone for difficulty, the obstacle tracks at this gym were designed by Olympic alumni, with additional input from Spartan race athletes and even former military personnel. But don’t be intimidated—the wide range of courses available at InjaNation cater to everyone. Be sure to ask about their military-inspired courses, Spartan and Tough Mudder specific training programs, and trampoline training the whole family can enjoy!
• InjaNation, 102 52 Aero Dr NE, 587-353-4652
Flip Factory includes obstacles featured in traditional ninja warrior challenges, including a warped wall, salmon ladder, giant monkey bars and even an air bag station for high falls training.
Flip X-treme, which launched in 2015, is located adjacent to the Flip Factory gymnastics facility, and is more specifically equipped to up the ante of traditional ninja technique by incorporating true stunt training into the mix. Oversized trampolines, trampowalls, aerial silks, trapeze, teeterboards and Chinese poles are available for Flip ninjas to hone their skills here. Along with offering scheduled and drop-in classes for teenagers and adults at this facility, Flip X-treme also hosts a variety of stunt workshops with industry pros, like Steven McMichael, stunt coordinator for the Hobbit movies and stunt double for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
If you want to take your alternative training another route from ninja school, join the circus with Flip Arts—their circus performance and theatre arts initiative!
• Flip Factory, 4500 – 5th Street NE, 403-265-2656
Not quite a ninja school by trade, but still teaching insane acrobatic skills and promoting full-body fitness in its own right, Breathe Parkour teaches the art of agility to its disciples.
Parkour was originally developed by the French military in the late 1980s as a way to train soldiers to get from place to place in the quickest and most efficient way possible. Students of this sport are no strangers to the moves of ninja warriors—sprinting, vaulting, gripping and more. The sport is usually put into practice in outdoor urban landscapes, and focuses on testing flexibility and balance over speed or strength—but make no mistake… hardcore parkour masters have plenty of both!
At Breathe Parkour, all of the training surfaces available are constructed out of metal and wood in order to mimic real-world environments as much as possible and expose students to the challenges they will face beyond their training. Rather than being comprised of defined obstacles, the courses found at Breathe locations look a lot more like structural landscapes, and how you make your way through them each time can completely change given your route and the techniques you choose. Although this sport usually attracts a younger audience because of its novelty, parkour is a sport for all ages, and the programming here reflects as much. Classes, drop-in passes, and even booking for parties is available.
• Breathe Parkour Calgary North, #8 – 401 33 St NE , 403-273-2245
• Breathe Parkour Calgary South, #131 – 10550 42 Street SE, 403-726-3758