Ninja gym turns fitness into play

A new training gym in Port Coquitlam will help bring out your inner Ninja.

It will also prepare you for competition in obstacle racing events like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.

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Vancity OCR is patterned after the gruelling physical challenges faced by competitors in the popular TV show, American Ninja Warrior. Instead of racks of weights and barbells along a wall of mirrors, the warehouse space on Broadway is dominated by enormous steel rigs from which is suspended a series of interchangeable challenges like pull-up bars, a pipe slider, floating doors and rope cargo nets filled with blocks of yellow foam.

Co-founder Allison Tai, who’s a veteran of numerous obstacle course races and won the Spartan UltraBeast World Championship in 2016, said the facility is really like a giant jungle gym for adults, although there are also a couple of smaller rigs for children and even toddlers to channel their inner Ninjago.

“It’s a playground, inside,” Tai said.

The growing popularity of obstacle course events like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, in which competitors run a cross-country race punctuated by physical tests like hoisting themselves up and over a slicked wall or crawling through a mud pit just below a web of barbed wire has created a demand for specific training regimes to survive those challenges. It’s no longer enough to just be able to run fast or be strong.

“A lot of people are just muscling through, but they don’t have the technique,” Tai said.

Obstacle racing appeals to primal human instincts like running, climbing and going through things, said Tai. Adding a competitive element ramps up the fun factor.

“You can go to any gym or park and hang from a pull-up bar, but that’s not much fun,” Tai said.

Visitors to Vanity OCR can test themselves against the clock on the rig or on independent challenges like the salmon wall or balance beam. Times are recorded and measured against other athletes in their age and gender category who’ve completed those challenges, much like the listings of finishers at the top of the Grouse Grind climb in North Vancouver.

They can also race side by side.

It’s all about turning fitness into play, Tai said.

“It’s the right way to go with fitness,” she said. “It’s because we’re playing around and we’re having fun.”

Vanity OCR is located at #125-1776 Broadway in Port Coquitlam. For more information go to

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