This thing ambushed me. Ninja. I had no idea that playing on obstacles in the gym could, and would, change the trajectory of my entire life in such a wonderful way.
I’ve always wanted a way to have fun, encourage people, and be creative. Somehow as a 26-year-old, I found all of those ideals, and more, and it uprooted my life in the best way possible.
When I first started going to the ninja gym, I was a full time American Sign Language Interpreter. I was going to a regular gym, but even one pull-up was still in the “Goals” column.
Now I am a two-time contestant on American Ninja Warrior, the host of The Ninjababes Podcast, and am crushing my pull-up game.
When a friend invited me to try ninja, I agreed with no expectations. It just sounded fun. I remember that first time felt like I was a kid on the playground again.
But something deeper was happening. After a few months of climbing ropes, swinging from hanging objects suspended from the ceiling, and running up warped walls, I realized I was changing.
My back muscles were bursting out of my now too-tight sports bra, my hands had an iron grip strength, and my feet were quicker than ever.
I was transforming into a ninja.
Suddenly every scalable object looked like a ninja obstacle. Anything from the indented walls outside Target to the bars on lamp-posts and street signs all became candidates for a daring run towards a buzzer that was simply the thrill of success. Ninja had given me a new sense of confidence, adventure, and bravery.
Not only was my body beginning to feel superhuman, my mind was thinking differently. I had a “why-not” mentality that opened me up to traveling to new places, taking new risks, and redefining myself.
How did this newfound life of adventure happen?
It had to do with the very nature of ninja. Every week in ninja there was something new to accomplish.
New intimidating spinning obstacles, new peg walls to climb, new ninja grips to hang from. With every new challenge there was opportunity to grow. To be brave.
There was no room for my old comfort zone in the rarefied air of the gym.
In the beginning, I greatly underestimated how much of ninja is mental.
There would be days at the gym that I would struggle to grasp a new skill. At times I would repeatedly fail an obstacle that seemed feasible, but would have no explanation of why I couldn’t get it.
I had to learn to believe in myself more than an obstacle intimidated me.
Oftentimes, I was clearly strong enough to defeat an obstacle, but somehow I was still falling.
The truth became obvious: I needed to outsmart the obstacle, and approach it with a fiery expectation that I could succeed.
Strategically planning moves on the course became my priority. I learned how to mentally visualize my movements before I even set foot on the course and suddenly, I realized that this new logical way of thinking was spilling over into the rest of my life.
If I could succeed on these crazy ninja obstacles, what else could I accomplish?
The deeper into the ninja world I got, the more I realized what it had to offer to the people everywhere. This was a community of people who were friendly, encouraging and inspiring.
I wondered if somehow, I could play a part in bringing that message of empowerment to the world.
That is when Ninja stopped being a hobby and became something much bigger...It became my mission.
Through ninja, I created a womens’ empowerment group, or girl gang if you will, called Ninjababes.
The name came from a group of four of us who trained together and lovingly referred to each other as ‘ninjababe’ as we cheered each other on.
What started as a passion project quickly turned into a recognizable brand and name within the ninja warrior community.
Now, I have found a way to meld all of the gems that I had found in ninja into a force for good.
I am dedicated to sharing what Ninja has taught me:
- That female athletes all over the world deserve to own an identity of strength and positive self-love.
- That we are strong when we are supporting one another and pushing each other on to greatness, whatever greatness looks like for you. We’re on the same team.
Ninja has changed me.
It has taught me to believe in myself and look for adventure in every part of life.
It has allowed me to let go of negative thoughts that limit me, and it has showed me how to have more fun.
What can a new opportunity do for you? How can letting go of fears and expectations transform your life?
Maybe you’re like me. I could never have predicted that the difference between struggling to achieve one pull-up and running an international women’s empowerment group was one simple “Yes” to a fun day at the ninja gym.
Maybe you just need to take the leap.
To let go.
To give yourself the chance to transform your life.
You never know where the journey will take you.
About the Author
Cara Poalillo - Founder of NinjaBabes & American Ninja Warrior Competitor
- Find out more about Ninjababes at www.theninjababes.com or IG: @theninjababes
- Check out Cara’s inspiring mindset content at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUGiU-wx_qFJ1OOTaBWlZ7g?view_as=subscriber
- Follow all that Cara is up to as she prepares for the upcoming season 12 of American Ninja Warrior - Instagram: @mynameiscara