If you read the post all about my weekend in Byron Bay (click here to read), you’d know I always like to do something out of the ordinary for my birthday. Honestly, I think it’s a subconscious yearning for a balance between wanting to hold onto my much-loved spontaneous youth and ensuring the day is special and memorable one.
This year, myself and seven of girls trekked it up from Sydney to Byron Bay – and by trekked, I mean took a one hour plane ride! The weekend was all about spontaneity and three-days of fun. Although I made it clear we weren’t to make any plans/an itinerary prior to our departure, I did mention that there would be one surprise activity lined up for them.
While they spent the weeks trying to guess what I had up my sleeve, it turned out even when we had arrived they still couldn’t hit the nail on the head! After asking them to ensure their plane attire included black tights and joggers, (to go with my secret #ABB24 Squad t-shirts) most were able to assume there would be something fitness related! Handing out the laughable t-shirts at the airport was fun in itself – but we soon learnt the real laughs were when we arrived at the Ninja Academy.
After spending the week prior trying to line up a suitable time and day, it all worked out seamlessly. If you’ve seen TV show, Ninja Warriors, you’d know there’s no messing around when you’re there. Let alone the mind game, those obstacles for starters are something else.
Greeted by the beautiful (and fittest person I’ve ever met) pop-rocket Lisa Parkes, even though she was only 4 foot 11, we knew we were in for one of the biggest rides of our lives. The thing with ninja training is it uses muscles and body parts that you don’t even know existed. You could be a champion runner, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll even make it past the first jump in ninja training. Little things from finger strength to these random muscles near your kidneys – the warmup that just consisted of stretching was already no walk in the park!
The first obstacle simply required us to run up to and jump on a trampoline before tyring to grasp a rope mid-air. We definitely gave it our all and after a few goes were comfortable with the challenge. However, that didn’t mean we were successful! With falls and very painful rope burn from early on, there was no turning back, it was all or nothing.
Leaving the indoor arena, we were then greeted with fresh air and an outdoor challenge course. From rock climbing, balance beams, jumping ledges, rope swings and even the infamous warped wall, it was as if we were actually about to compete on the Ninja Warrior television show.
Lisa was so helpful, giving her dedicated time to each of us and always full of encouragement. All coming from different fitness backgrounds, some of us were better than others, but didn’t stop us cheering each other on. The thing I soon learnt was as much as you need to be incredibly fit to complete the course, it’s a mind game. If you just believe, give it your all, and visualise success, it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Lisa’s story is the epitome of that. A competitive aerobics champion, at 19, she left England to go compete in South Africa. Unfortunately, one day before the meet, she was involved in a horrific car crash that left her in a coma and a paraplegic. Told she would never walk again, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. While many called her crazy, she refused to leave and get treatment back in England, and instead stayed in South Africa where within 12 months had rehabilitated herself.
We booked a two-hour time slot, and even though we were there for over three-hours, on a Friday evening mind-you, NOT ONCE did Lisa try to rush us or skimp on anything. She took the time and energy to ensure we all had the best session and learn as much as we possibly could.
The experience ended with an obstacle course challenge where she individually graded us in a mini competition. I’ve never been so tested in my life - but going last and being the competitive fitness junkie I am, I knew I needed to get the top score.
I’m not even exaggerating when I say the muscles in my forearm felt like I had overdosed on steroids! They were protruding, popping out so hard and were incredibly painful! But it was all worth it, coming equal first with my friends Yasmin and Grace.
I cannot rave more about Lisa and her incredible Ninja Play studio. From the impeccable communication leading up to the day to the session itself, it all went so smoothly. I honestly recommend if you’re in Byron Bay and looking for something fun and different to do, try her out. Whether you’re with one friend or a group of colleagues, it’s a mental game that teaches you strength, resilience, mind over matter and communication. Trust me, no matter your fitness level, I guarantee there’s something in it for everyone and you may just surprise yourself.
Watch the video below to see the full hilarious adventure