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New Woodbury gym is training the next American Ninja Warrior

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Ashleigh Buergi,20, of Green Bay, Wis. prepares to reach across to the next bar while during Conquer Ninja Warrior's grand opening competition on Friday. “I never thought in a million years that I'd be doing this,” she said. (Photo by Youssef Rddad)2 / 5
Thomas Drosky, 17, of Woodbury works his way across an obstacle while his teammate Nick Amerongen, 16, awaits his tag before beginning his part of the course. (Bulletin Photo by Youssef Rddad).3 / 5
The Conquer Ninja Warrior code, aka, the gym's rules. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)4 / 5
Camila Gardner of Prior Lake works through an obstacle as teammate Aaron Rouff of Crystal encourages her. Gardner recently received an invitation to compete on American Ninja Warrior next year, and plans to train at the Conquer Ninja Warrior gym ahead of her debut. “I'm going to train hard,” she said. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)5 / 5

A new gym designed for training ninjas and loaded with obstacle courses opened in Woodbury last month.

Popularized by the TV series and competition American Ninja Warrior -- a grueling test of strength, balance and endurance as contestants pass obstacles -- the new Conquer Ninja Warrior gym offers a scaled-down version of the show’s obstacles. Last Friday, the Woodbury location celebrated its grand opening with a competition of the gym’s courses.

Contestants were asked to balance and hop across narrow bars, climb across suspended bars, carry large weights and eventually scale a tall vertical wall.

Large foam blocks lay below contestants to cushion their falls when they slipped or their strength gave out.  

“It’s like a playground for adults,” said Camila Gardner of Prior Lake, who was among the ninjas competing last Friday.

In the past, Gardner said, finding places to train was difficult, and most had to do with training at local jungle gyms or building obstacle courses at home. But with the Woodbury gym’s opening, as well as an existing Conquer Ninja Warrior location in Eden Prairie, up-and-coming ninjas like Gardner said they finally have a space to train.

Gardner said she plans to train harder in the coming months after she recently received an invitation to compete on American Ninja Warrior.

The gym’s manager and trainer, Mitch Pajcic, added a similar point and said when he was on the show a few years ago, he relied mainly on his background from rock climbing and general athleticism to get past the first round.

"When I was on the show, none of these gyms existed," Pajcic said, adding that with more training gyms popping up around the country, the sport is becoming more competitive.   

Women competing and training are also on the rise, Pajcic said, and the gym’s women classes are among the most popular.

Ashleigh Buergi, 20, made the four-hour trek from Green Bay, Wis., to compete in last Friday’s contest. She said she became interested in ninja warrior after a friend competed on the show and built an obstacle course in his backyard.

“I never thought in a million years I’d be doing this,” she said.

The event also drew brothers Thomas and Matt Drosky, along with friend Nick Amerongen.

Representing team T-Lax -- named after their lacrosse team -- the trio from Woodbury heard about the gym’s opening, and while completely inexperienced, decided to give it a shot after becoming fans of the TV show.

“We’re pretty much winging it,” said Thomas Drosky, 17.

Though the gym markets itself as a training ground for American Ninja Warrior hopefuls, it also offers classes for beginners and focuses on fundamentals, as well as more advanced classes that include high-intensity workouts.

"We have awesome trainers, and they teach safety tips, how to land safely and how to interact with obstacles in a safe manner," Pajcic said.  "It's a great place to start is you have no idea what you're doing."

The gym also hosts private events, such as birthday and corporate parties, for those wanting to hold team-building exercises or just have fun.  

Membership for individuals and up to three people range from $790 to about $1,600 per year.

People can also sign up for open gym times and classes for $16 per hour.

The new Conquer Ninja Warrior is located at 707 Commerce Drive in Woodbury.

More information about the gym is available on its website: conquermn.com.

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