For Thornhill mom Ravi Bajaj, keeping her two girls active and “away from gadgets” has always been a priority.
When they weren’t playing in their backyard or at the park in the summer, the 10- and almost-6-year-old were climbing ladders and swinging on monkey bars in the small gym their mom had installed in their living room.
“I just wanted my kids to be active,” explains Bajaj, President and founder of Ninjaz Canada Inc., Canada’s first ninja warrior training facility that she opened last year in Woodbridge northwest of Toronto.
“I wanted to create an environment where the whole family could get together, work out, be active, and at the same time have fun,” says Bajaj.
Like many Canadians, her family was fascinated by the popular NBC series American Ninja Warrior, where participants challenged themselves through a demanding circuit of obstacles that required mental and physical toughness to complete the course.
Inspired by these elements, she created her own course where kids could develop fundamental movement skills indoors year-round.
“(My kids) loved to climb, so I had to rely on playgrounds outdoors,” says Bajaj. “Winter time really limited the amount of time the kids could spend at the park, which inspired me to include a large component for kids here at Ninjaz.”
More than half of the 17,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to kids, which features elements like a spider wall, ring slider, pole climb, monkey bars, and four climbing walls equipped with harnesses and auto-belay systems.
The swings, for example, require a combination of balance and attention to detail when stepping from one swing to another.
“It is a great confidence booster, allowing kids to progress one swing at a time, first with adult assistance, and then all by themselves,” she explains.
For Bajaj, the obstacles within Ninjaz Canada provide a fun, challenging, and safe way to exercise for young and old. There is even a small “teaser” area for adults to unleash their inner ninja warrior.
Here are four obstacles and the “ninja skills” they develop:
The goal of the swing set is to step from one swing to the next and arrive at the other side without falling. This obstacle, suitable for almost all ages, challenges an individual’s balance and coordination, as well as helping to develop core and stabilizer muscles.
A series of nets forces participants to strategize how to transfer from net to net without falling. This activity requires selective attention and visual processing to understand the timing and movement necessary to transfer from one cargo-net to the other.
A group of floating walls with holes is another test of balance and coordination. The goal is to wrap around from wall to wall using the holes as a foothold or hand grip, which also helps develop core and upper body strength.
The kid-sized monkey bars help increase upper-body strength. The variation of bars, such as the ‘cliff hangers,’ allows kids to challenge themselves and progress to the next level as they become comfortable with the movements.