How Spartan Race Prepares you for American Ninja Warrior

By: Tony Matesi

The world of obstacle racing has grown exponentially in the past few years, but there is one event, while not a race, that has paved the way for some of the most elaborate and challenging obstacles of all time for over 15 years running called Ninja Warrior (aka Sasuke in Japan). Now in its seventh season on American shores (and televisions), American Ninja Warrior is a unique way to challenge your strength, endurance, and agility and it turns out Spartans are showing up more and more to see how they fair in a ninja world.

This year Spartan Pros, Tiffanie and Matt Novakovich, Rose Wetzel, and Cassidy Watton, along with Coach Casey Eischen and myself all had a shot at taking on the mammoth that is the American Ninja Warrior course. As a result, we have all had a unique perspective on what overcoming these obstacles entails and we all agree that in one way or another, Spartan Race, helped prepare us for that challenge.

In everyone’s own words, here’s how:

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Matt Novakovich

“Training to be a Spartan Racer prepares us for any and every sport and Ninja Warrior is no different. I felt that my balance and grip strength was more than ready for the Ninja obstacles after being ready for the crazy volume we do in a Spartan Race. I would love to race some of the Ninja’s best over a course that has two to three minutes of running to go along with the obstacles.”

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Rose Wetzel

“Spartan racing definitely helped prepare me for American Ninja Warrior both physically and mentally. Coming to Spartan from a track and traditional gym strength training background, switching to Spartan training the last couple of years got me to ‘play train.’ My training is playing on monkey bars, climbing up ropes, rock climbing, balancing on logs, bear crawling, and enjoying various body weight movement-based activities in the great outdoors.”

“These movements increased my upper body strength in a very functional manner, and they also increased my hand-eye coordination and proprioception (my body’s knowledge of where its limbs are in space), making it easier to know exactly when, say, my hands were close enough to a dangling rope to grab it as I flew through the air on ANW. Mentally, Spartan racing, especially the televised races, prepared me to remain comfortable and focused under pressure, even when it meant having hundreds of eyeballs and a handful of cameras zoomed in on my every move.”

Tiffanie Novakovich

“As a Spartan racer, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and be prepared to attack it! My physical training, coupled with this mental training, prepared me for the surprises I faced while competing on American Ninja Warrior. I had never seen or practiced the obstacles I was presented with that day, but as a Spartan, I felt ready and excited to attack them.”

Cassidy Watton

“Experience is huge — it often trumps skill and preparedness. In the case of ANW, the simple fact that I had stood at the start line of dozens of races not knowing what was ahead of me before gave me a great mental advantage. For many, this was their only competition all year long. Since this was one of many competitions this year for me, it took the pressure off of that one night. I could just have fun because I know I have a lot of other things going for me in life.”

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Casey Eischen

“I look at obstacle training as character building. Overcoming physical and mental feats are what strengthen you inside and out. Spartan Race Training not only led me to develop functional strength and grip strength, but it taught me how to SPARTAN UP and prepare mentally to compete in American Ninja Warrior.”

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Tony Matesi

“Spartan Race expects you to embrace the unexpected; to go after the things that make you afraid, that challenge you, and ultimately, make you feel alive. This mindset made it easier to go after my goal of saying ‘I could do that’ when watching the show on TV, to saying, ‘I did that!’ after climbing the warped wall and ringing the buzzer at the Houston City Qualifier. Spartan Race gave me the confidence I needed in myself to pursue my dreams. Since that first time I set foot into the Spartan realm, at the third Hurricane Heat ever in Chicago 2011, my world has progressed rapidly; being a Spartan has elevated my confidence and now I take action taken in and put in more effort to make my dreams my realities.”