Justin Conway is a ringmaster. His circus? The wild realm of reality TV.
For three seasons, Conway was a contender on the NBC sports competition “American Ninja Warrior,” in which challengers face a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty, such as swinging from arm rings.
Now, the Babylon resident is traveling across the country re-creating his experiences by building courses in workout facilities for other “ninja warrior” wannabes looking for new ways to challenge themselves.
Conway, 32, recently designed a training course with obstacles from the hit series — like a 9-foot warped wall and a 14-foot salmon ladder (climbed using a single movable rung) at Five Star Sports and Entertainment Academy in East Rockaway.
MAKING A COURSE
Conway, whose goal it was to find local facilities in which to train, never won the overall competition, but he did beat the qualifying course.
Conway partnered with Five Star’s owner, Leon Williams Jr., to design programs for children and adults. Williams was looking to expand his facility’s offerings, which already included gymnastics and parkour training, when he met Conway in 2012. Three years later, at the height of the TV show’s success, Williams tapped Conway to bring the show’s secrets to Five Star. At the time, New Jersey gymnast Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to qualify for the finals of the competition.
“The reason why it took off so well is because it’s another creative way to train,” says Williams, 50, of East Rockaway. “Nowadays, you have CrossFit, you have all these other knockoffs of CrossFit programs, you have the Insanity workout . . . that mentality evolved into what you see now.”
Knockoff this ninja warrior program is not.
Williams and his team of instructors host 90-minute adult training sessions five times a week. Most ninjas attend one class a week, Williams says.
The course combines gymnastics, rock climbing and creative conditioning. As Long Island’s resident “ninja consultant,” Conway helps gyms to make obstacles out of existing equipment.
“One of the most difficult parts of it is your digit strength has to be increased and improved tremendously because there’s a lot of hanging from your fingers, not just your hands,” Williams says. Exercises put students on balance beams and uneven bars, and ring holds can last for 5 seconds at a time.
Hand-eye coordination is also crucial — and there’s a “tread-wall” for that. “It’s a rock wall and a treadmill,” Williams says. Picture a vertical treadmill with built-in hand- and footholds. Climbing builds strength, flexibility and endurance, Williams says — and the whole thing rotates for steeper challenges.
TAKING A CLASS
Joshua Cisneros, a fitness instructor at Five Stars, says he feels accomplished since joining the program earlier this year.
“It’s a lot of strength training,” Cisneros says.
The 21-year-old Baldwin resident finds comfort in knowing that the course was designed by an alum of the show, as he plans to audition for it this year.
“It makes me feel good because he has a sense of what it requires,” Cisneros says. “He can give us a good relativity of what to expect.”
Ninja Warrior classes
WHEN | WHERE 9:15-10:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10-11:30 p.m. Friday at 21 Ryder Place, East Rockaway
INFO 516-887-6600, 5starsportsacademy.com
COST $20 per class ($15 Fridays)