Testing a competitor’s physical and mental strength has always been a winning formula for reality television creators. From the athletic challenges of It’s a Knockout in the 80s, to Vulcan’s cheesy one liners on the 90s show Gladiator, there is something about a reality show with a purpose that appeals. We have always been drawn to watching contestants push themselves to near failure, to only surpass challenges and come out triumphant.
The success of Australian Ninja Warrior earlier this year has reignited this national passion, with channel Nine’s ratings for the obstacle course program leaving all competitors in the dust. And it has intrigued me to find out exactly what is needed to take on this kind of challenge.
With the end of Australian Ninja Warrior and Jonathan LaPaglia’s second season of Australian Survivor now on Channel Ten, we can see another rating winner.
Kristie Bennett, the 24-year-old winner of last year’s Australian Survivor told Sydney Morning Herald, “The way I did it, is I wanted it. I have never wanted something more in my entire life and the mental and physical pain of that last challenge would never outweigh the pain of walking away not winning.”
So how do you prepare your body and mind for such an experience?
I spoke with Tess Earl, Head Trainer at F45 Training in Double Bay, who believes one of the best ways to physically prepare yourself for such a challenge, is to participate in as many programs as possible to increase maximum heart rate. “At our studio, you would be closely tracked on how many classes you join and how physically challenging those classes are,” says Tess. And for her, this is a sure fire way to increase fitness, while also exposing you to a group training environment which can help mimic the kind of competitive environment you’d find yourself in on Nijna Warrior with an audience watching you.
It may not have gone unnoticed that many competitors in these shows seem to have a hidden agenda, primarily aiming for quick fame and glory like a Bachelor hopeful or someone who fancies themselves a culinary MasterChef. However, on a physically challenging reality television show, the audition process is detailed and producers are more keen on finding someone who has a genuine thirst for championing the challenge than someone who just wants to build followers on their Instagram accounts. “That’s the world we live in. Social media is massive now, but in the fitness industry, it’s definitely more about face value and who you are in real life, so I don’t think not having an Instagram account would hinder your chances,” says Tess.
It’s important to realise it really is mental as much as it is physical. Your body can be in peak condition but if the idea of a hundred cameras, spotlights and a national audience makes you break out in a sweat, it will affect your physical performance.
There are different techniques a competitor can use to overcome nerves, whether it’s a traditional method of positive self-talk, concentrating on the course stage by stage or even thinking about the finish line or golden buzzer at the end, it depends on the person.
Another smart idea for successfully gaining a spot on one of these shows would be to participate in as many obstacle style fun runs and endurance challenges as you can. Applications have just closed for the second season of Australian Ninja Warrior, so you have plenty of time to start training for the next series.
Courses like Spartan, Tough Mudder and even Miss Muddy have various events throughout the year so choices aren’t limited.
There are also obstacle specific gyms, who train you for these events. Run Jump Crawl is a popular one in Alexandria, 10 minutes from Sydney’s CBD, who have a course specifically suited to Ninja hopefuls.
We have seen grandparents, those with disabilities, even people who at first glance don’t look like they have any physical prowess, achieve greatness in these shows.
So don’t shy away from your ability to reach a Ninja-like physic, there’s plenty of programs out there that can get you the reality rig. And underneath your six-pack you’ll be improving your health, and if rope climbing and warped walls are your idea of fun, you’ll be having a blast too.