After a three-year hiatus that kept fans hoping for a comeback, Geoff Britten—the first person to conquer Mt. Midoriyama, the brutal final stage of NBC’s popular obstacle course competition show, American Ninja Warrior—is back in the game. He finds out early this year if he made the cut for season 11 of the addictive reality series. But you don’t have to wait until the episode airs in May to see Britten in action: The 39-year-old recently moved from Maryland to Denver to help launch Ninja Nation, an obstacle course gym that opened its maiden locations in Lafayette and Centennial over the summer. Want to know how to train like a ninja? Britten dishes.
On Making Fitness Fun
A lot of people struggle to go to the gym and lift weights. But [training as a] ninja is so much fun that you don’t think of it as a workout. A big part of it is embracing your inner child and letting yourself play. It’s getting off the couch and letting yourself enjoy it.
On Eating Right
I really like Mad Greens’ salads; I eat one or two a day. I try to eat a lot of protein to keep my muscles strong and healthy, so I don’t get as sore. I try to keep from snacking late at night. One big thing I did: cut out soda.
On Upper-Body Strength
One of the best exercises anybody can do is hang. Hanging decompresses your spine, opens up your shoulders, and can alleviate a hunchback. Even if you can’t do a pullup, just hanging from a bar increases your grip strength. Once you can hang for a minute, see if you can do a pullup. If you can do pullups already, work on your hanging. I guarantee you’ll see results.
On Training Prerequisites
You can’t find a ninja warrior who doesn’t train by climbing on a regular basis now. That’s probably because the only two people who ever beat the entire thing [Britten and Isaac Caldiero] are both pretty strong climbers, and that influenced a lot of the training from that point on.
On Staying Motivated
It’s just trying to find that time and giving up the “wasted times,” as I call them. I didn’t play any video games. I didn’t watch TV. I didn’t sit on the couch and relax. I just had to move. Once you commit yourself to doing something like that, it doesn’t really go away.
On Maintaining Focus
The great thing about Ninja Warrior is that the obstacles are broken apart. You don’t have to do them back to back to back; you can pause and reflect and rest. The same thing happens in life: Don’t worry about the 100 items ahead of you. Focus on the one item ahead of you. Reset after you’re done with it.
On His Winning Strategy
For season seven, I incorporated a lot of ninja-fusion climbing techniques—things like [transitioning from] a really heavy cardio-based workout into an upper body workout. Sprints into pullups. I would train in the mornings for two hours, four days a week.
On What We Don’t See On TV
The other stuff [besides the obstacles] is very challenging. That’s what people don’t understand: the nerves, the pressure, the being told by producers that you have to start an obstacle right now, at four in the morning, when it’s 28 degrees—and the last thing you want to do is push yourself physically.
On Embracing the Journey
Being a ninja is about trying hard and trying things you’re scared of—and not being so afraid of failure that you don’t let yourself try.