I attended a free Total Body Ninja class as part of a media event. All opinions are my own.
I’ve taken several classes at CrossTown Fitness over the years: an excursion run class, a regular run class, a couple of their standard Total Body classes. While the content and structure of the each class differed from others I had taken, one thing remained the same: I always left feeling like I had gotten in a good workout. During the Total Body Run class I took a couple months ago, Kiersten, our instructor, noted how with the addition of Total Body Run, CrossTown had really rounded out its offerings, making it a place where you could work on your cardio, your strength, or both at one of its staple classes. I thought that was a good point, and it didn’t cross my mind that there could be an aspect of fitness or training to which CrossTown’s offerings didn’t cater.
Then, I few weeks later, CrossTown contacted me regarding its newest class: Total Body Ninja. I stood corrected!
I was intrigued by this class from the moment I heard about it. I’ve caught a handful of American Ninja Warrior episodes over the years and always thought the obstacle courses featured on the show looked cool, but not like anything I’d ever have the opportunity to try in any capacity. Turns out, if you attend CrossTown’s newest class, that’s no longer true.
Total Body Ninja classes take place at Junior Ninja Warriors Chicago, an obstacle course-focused gym in Irving Park that primarily caters to kids and teenagers. A couple nights per week, however, the gym partners up with CrossTown, and us grownups get to play instead.
Based on my experience, though, “play” might not be the right word for what you do during Total Body Ninja. “Work” seems more appropriate. My class, led by Amy with assistance from Jarred and Junior Ninja Warriors’ manager of course operations Ethan (who has competed on three seasons of American Ninja Warrior), started with a dynamic warmup that led into an 18-minute AMRAP circuit that combined traditional strength training with the obstacles at the gym. We started on a rocking balance beam and slackline, then moved onto the warp wall, where you tried the lowest level (on the far left) first, then the second level, then the third (if you were braver and stronger than I am, that is.)
After the warp wall it was on to box jumps, followed by walking on gigantic “logs” from point A to point B, and then point B to point C. After the log roll came monkey bars that first ascended, then descended, followed by med ball slams, and then we moved on to bouldering across a low rock wall. I don’t remember the name of the next obstacle, but it involved hanging from a bar and using momentum you build up from swinging your legs to propel yourself to the next bar, and the bar after that. The circuit concluded with farmer carries with kettlebells. We needed to do the strength based exercises (the med ball slams and box jumps) 10 times, and the obstacles one to three times. In 18 minutes, I got through one full round and two additional circuit stops. The workout was no joke!
After our AMRAP ended, we had 30 minutes or so to play around on the other equipment in the gym. To my great surprise, the obstacle I enjoyed the most (and found to be the easiest, somehow?!) was what I believe is called the Jumping Spider on American Ninja Warrior. To do the obstacle, you run and jump on the springboard in the picture below to propel yourself onto the plexiglass walls, where you brace yourself with your arms and legs and scoot forward without falling to the ground.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, this (through :55) should help:
To be honest, I really only wanted to do the Jumping Spider because the springboard reminded me of the springboards gymnasts use to get on the vault, balance beam, etc., and since I wanted to be a gymnast as a kid, the opportunity to use any equipment similar to theirs appealed to me. But then I ended up really enjoying the obstacle, which was a nice surprise!
I was really intimidated by the warp wall, but to my great surprise, I loved that obstacle as well! I was terrified of falling down, but I made it to the top every time I tried. I don’t think I could’ve made it past the green wall, because I was usually reaching to get to the top of that one, but I felt really accomplished making it up to the top three times!
The arm based obstacles, however, were an entirely different story. Since I am apparently entirely lacking in either grip strength or the ability to tolerate pain in my hands, I was NOT good at anything that involved hanging. I couldn’t make it anywhere on the monkey bars, for example, though for me, that just made it all the more impressive to see others get across.
I had such a great time at Total Body Ninja, and while I think it would be a great option for anyone looking to work on functional strength training, I think it would be an ESPECIALLY great class to take if you have an obstacle course race coming up. Granted, there’s no mud in the gym, but where else are you going to find monkey bars, a warp wall, cargo nets, and ropes all in one place?
Right now, the 60-minute class takes place on Sundays at 6:45 p.m., Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., Thursdays at 7:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., and Saturdays at 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. You can (and should) check CrossTown’s schedule, though, to stay up to date on the latest schedule (and sign up for a class!). I really enjoyed it, and think it was a fantastic way to do something fun and different for a workout!