Part 1: Before the test
(I wrote this in the morning…so at this point I have no idea the outcome of what will happen during the test)
Okay so let me lay it out for you. I’ve been going to a ninja obstacle gym since October 2018. This week, I actually committed and signed a 12 month contract. I. Love. This. Place. I mostly do boot camp style workouts there. There is nothing in these workouts that require you to be a ninja. You’re just required to show up and do your best. There’s an amazing mix of people from all backgrounds every time I go. The owners of the gym are also the people leading these boot camps and they have hearts of gold and are the biggest cheerleaders while you’re sweating your butt off. And not like yelly marine sergeants. Like encouraging friends. It’s a workout style I gravitate towards. I hate being yelled at. It doesn’t motivate me. It makes me shrink back.
All this is to say I really like what I get to do there. But yes, it is a ninja obstacle gym, so half the fun of my workouts is that those are sprinkled in for you to try at whatever skill level you’re at. The things I thought were impossible in October are steadily becoming more in my reach.
Box jumps were terrifying. Now I can do 24 inches without pause (30 inches is a different story, though). Hanging on the monkey bars was super humbling in the beginning. Now I glide across and skip bars.
And then there’s the warped wall. It seems I’ve gotten better over time, but hitting that 12 foot height is my Achilles heel (and maybe literally? Like maybe my heels won’t allow me to jump that high? I digress). I have good days and I have bad days but all days have never let me actually reach the 12 foot height. But I’ve come really close.
Well…that’s not entirely true. This week I bought some new super grippy minimalist shoes that ninja folks swear by. I don’t know if it was the shoes or the confidence in those shoes (placebo effect?) but it was the first time EVER that I was able to get my fingers into the 12 foot hold. Like, I was so taken aback that I didn’t even think to hold on to the hold because it was such a foreign thing that my fingers actually would go in. So I basically touched it for a split second and then slid back down the wall. That was on Wednesday. I tried a couple more times after that and didn’t come close so I threw in the towel. You use weird fast twitch muscles during that and I can see how one would totally overdo it and pull a hamstring or for men – a groin muscle.
So then at today’s workout, I tried again. I had the confidence, but the boot camp workout I was doing was incredibly tiring. Usually I can catch my breath and pause, but this was not the case. I mostly fell short of the 12 foot. It was a bad day.
Now here’s the crux of the situation. Today just so happens to be a ninja level testing day. Not this morning (thank goodness), but tonight.
I am petrified.
Since I started at that gym my goal has been to work through the various levels, starting with ninja level 1. When we first toured, I had the audacity to tell Jake the first level looked easy. I didn’t yet know how hard it would be for me to scale the warped wall. And that is the last part of the challenge. And you only get two tries. After that, you can go through the entire test again to do the warped wall again, but it’s not like you can just keep doing the warped wall…or any part of the challenge on repeat until you get it. Much like the show, if you fail at any part, your chance is done. But unlike the show, you have as many chances to start over at the beginning as you can handle.
The last ninja levels test was in November. I failed it. Twice. I failed in front of really buff, fit ninjas who were doing their own thing and then decided to stop and watch me try the warped wall. I know they were hoping for the best but I let them down and felt like such an idiot and that was after trying TWICE! My adrenaline got me further up the wall then I’d ever been, but it still wasn’t far enough. The only reason I didn’t do the test a third time was because I could barely keep myself from crying after that second try and I knew if I missed it again I’d just be sobbing and running out of the gym and totally embarrassed. I mean, don’t worry guys, I totally cried in the locker room and still ran out with blurry eyes.
So, you can see why tonight’s ninja level testing…the first time since last November is very scary to me. But also, such a good lesson. After the test in November, I was mortified. And so mad at myself for not making it. I let the anger and the self doubt flood into me that night. Who was I to think I could do these things? Clearly I was nowhere near the skill level of the people who were there that night. They all seemed like they were ready for the real deal. They could go live on tv that night! Definitely not the crowd I’m used to seeing in the morning. And they were way past level 1. I couldn’t even get past that! Those were the thoughts that continually harassed me that night.
Then the next day I woke up and thought…use this. Use this to train for the next test. I was still a little embarrassed when I told my fellow boot camp buddies I had failed, but it didn’t sting as much as the night of the test.
Since then I’ve upped my training and continued to step up to the warped wall.
As for tonight…will I make it? I don’t know. But I really hope so. All I can do is try my best. And understand that there’s a reason I was nicknamed turtle. I don’t do anything fast. Why would this be any different? If i don’t make it tonight, well I know I will soon. I will get better at the warped wall. I will continue to get stronger.
But make no mistake, there is a large part of me screaming to skip the test. A sneaky voice inside me that says “don’t test until you’re 100% sure you can make it up the warped wall! Why risk more embarrassment?”
And the hard answer is because I believe we all need to do things before we’re ready. And make no mistake, I don’t feel 100% ready. If the warped wall weren’t included, then yes, I’d be 100% ready. But that big uncertainty drops me down to like 50% ready. I’ve only hit 12 feet once. Is tonight the night I do it again?
Maybe it is! And maybe I’ll follow this up with an amazing part 2 story. But if it’s not? I will once again prove that I have the power to fall down AND get back up again. And honestly, that is harder than succeeding. If you can fall down and get back up, you are way stronger than the person who glides through unhindered. Either way, I am determined to be strong. Physically or emotionally. And maybe both.
Here we go.
Part 2: After the test
The verdict is in. The result? Still didn’t make it. Again after two tries.
okay that bitmoji is a wee bit dramatic.
But this time I definitely felt different. At first, the same nerves were there. But then I had the pleasure of watching someone else test for a ninja level 3. I’d seen him pacing around the small gym looking at the various obstacles he needed to conquer. He was a big dude, like way more muscular than the ninjas you see on tv (but all muscle, just a mountain of a man). I’ve seen enough shows where I know that can be a hinderance but I’ve also seen him train before and I just had to believe he would do amazing. His first challenge was killer…sliding along a small wooden ledge with only his fingers and then grabbing pegs and placing them in the holes to make it all they way back on that same ledge. He didn’t make it. He fell. My heart sank for him. It was the first obstacle of his test and he couldn’t do it. He was mad. He went outside to let off some steam.
But that right there made me feel so much better. No, I didn’t want him to fail. I really wanted to see how far he could go. But the frustration on his face? It was clear this was his version of the warped wall. And like me, he didn’t pass.
And then it was my turn. There’s not a lot to report. Just like last time I breezed through all the other obstacles and got stuck on the warped wall. This time, though, I DID get my fingers in the hold. But then I forgot to hold on.
And then I slid right back down. Honestly, I wasn’t even that mad. I thought, “PROGRESS! Teeny tiny progress!” And the second try was pretty bad.
So then I took a break before my next go. It seemed ninja level 3 guy was also ready to give it another try. His form looked better. He seemed like he would make it. But once again, he fell before even completing the first challenge.
He was more visibly angry and I even heard him degrade himself. It seems he is also very aware of the fact that he’s not as slight as most “ninjas.” He called it a night and left the gym in a hurry. Again…been there!
Once again, it was my turn. And once again, everything went fine. Actually even better than fine. It was like my first run was a warmup and this one was even smoother. But again, the same didn’t hold try for the warped wall. Again, I fell short. And even before the second (of my second run) up the warped wall my ankle was not feeling right. So I knew this would be it. This would be last chance. I gave it my best shot, but it wasn’t enough. So I left after that. And no tears or terrorizing shame. Just…today was not it.
But I got closer.
And the next time could definitely be it.
So in the end, I was dreading this all day. I was anxious. I really wanted to skip it. But I did it.
I didn’t win. But I didn’t die. And the sting of “falling down” has lessened and for that I’m grateful. And now, I just need to get back up.
You too can get back up.