Becoming an American Ninja Warrior (sort of) for the day at age 45

I’ll let you in on a little secret....I’ve always wanted to be an American Ninja Warrior.

I can’t get enough of the show and the stories of regular folks pushing their bodies to unbelievable limits. Those guys & gals are my heroes, even when they splash in the water.

A few times I’ve sat there and told myself that I could do that...even at age 45.

But who am I kidding? I’ve got a full time business plus 5 kids, 2 dogs & a cat. So my time allocation for intense “warrior training” is way down on the priority list. Like below weeding the garden.

Along Comes...Zip’N Fun?

Given my fascination with climbing salmon ladders & jumping into hanging rope nets, you can understand how excited I was to hear about Zip’N Fun.

At first I thought it was just a zipline. But after taking a closer look, I discovered that it’s an American Ninja Warrior style course - except up in the trees!  Hanging bridges, Tarzan Nets, Swinging Logs...a lot of the cool stuff we see on TV.

Except it’s all 30 feet off of the ground :/  So instead of a pool to fall into, you get a safety demonstration.

The good news? There are 2 foolproof clips on my industrial strength safety harness.

The bad news?  I’m afraid of heights.

Not terrified, mind you. But I definitely don’t need to look over the side when we visit the Empire State Building if you know what I mean.

Safety First...Whew

My desire to be something like an American Ninja Warrior for the day overcame my fear of heights, and I took the short ride to the park in Gulfport.

As I pulled up, I saw the familiar colorful slides of Gulf Islands Waterpark. The sight of the water park eased my tension just a bit as I’ve had so many good times at the park it felt a bit like visiting an old friend.

Once I checked in, the first order of business was getting fitted for my harness and a safety briefing.

Your harness includes 2 safety clips so you can clip your way from obstacle to obstacle.

Zip’N Fun Safety Gear

Without a doubt, the #1 thing which got me the most excited is that you cannot physically get unclipped from both thingys at the same time. So no matter what, you’re staying in the trees!

During the safety presentation I tried several times to fool the clips and get unhooked, and I just couldn’t. I can’t tell you how much confidence this gave me to take on the course!

The Unexpected Junior Course

Before I was done with my safety training, my 3 year old son was already up in a little tree and starting the junior course!

We had hoped he would be able to try it out, and he was just tall enough to get on the course.

The grin on his face was priceless as he navigated the cargo net, hanging logs and first couple of obstacles I could see before I had to leave.

Junior course at Zip’N Fun Adventure Park

My wife followed him the whole time and said the smile never left his face. She had so much fun just watching him do the course that she didn’t even want to go up on the main course herself. Who knew that would happen? 

My Day In the Trees

After getting comfortable with the equipment & waving farewell to my family, it was off to the course. The first obstacle seems pretty simple...climb a tree and go across some boards to the next station.

As I got to the top of the tree, I stopped to look down (which they said not to do), and wondered if I was really going to do this or not.

But my guide Miles was right there with the encouragement and tips I needed to get through that first obstacle.  And Miles was there every step, jump & climb along the way with a smile, a funny story, a hand when necessary, and more than a few “you’ve got this” words of encouragement.

Without Miles, I don’t think I would have made it!

 Zip’N Fun Adventure Park Guide - Miles

The course itself was a mixture of terror and fun.

Each time I got to a new obstacle I wondered how I was going to get through it and if I really could pull it off.

I navigated rope bridges, walked over suspended steps, stretched through hanging logs, breezed across the hanging swing, and of course, zipped down the ziplines.

Aerial obstacle at Zip’N Fun Adventure Park

Each time I started on a new obstacle, I found a bit of courage and calm I didn’t know I had.

And when I did reach the ziplines, I was able to coast and have some fun watching the squirrels in the trees.

I’ll admit, I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast my whole life, and I’ve never seen Gulfport like this before!

Would I Do It Again?

Last night when I watched American Ninja Warrior I had a little extra smile creep across my face because while I may never compete on that show, I did push myself farther than I’ve ever gone before. I conquered my fears, got on a great sweat, and felt really, really good about it.

Now that I’ve done the course once, I’m dying to go back and try it again. Except this time a little faster and maybe enjoy it a little more knowing I can do it.

And definitely next time I’m bringing my wife, or some friends or family. The other groups doing the course together were having a lot of laughs and fun. So while it was fun doing it myself, it would be even more fun making memories with people I care about.

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