We recently interviewed Brian Kretsch, trainer and manager at Traverse Fitness, a Ninja Warrior gym in Richmond, California. You’ll find the same daunting (and iconic) obstacles inside Traverse that you’d find on the American Ninja Warrior TV show, from the Warped Wall to the Salmon Ladder. Brian knows them all very well. He is one of only two ninjas to compete in every season of American Ninja Warrior, and he has trained individuals for several years.  

We talked with Brian about the benefits of Ninja training, how the sport has evolved, the challenges of running a Ninja Warrior gym and Traverse’s plans for the future. 


The Interview: 

Q: What is your background and how did you get involved in Traverse? 

A: I’ve competed on every season of American Ninja Warrior. I helped build the first backyard ninja course 12 years ago in Santa Cruz, California, and I’ve been teaching people and building obstacles ever since. 

Traverse was actually started by a couple of other ninjas, Troy Helming and Sean Bryan. They originally just wanted help building some epic obstacles, like the Mega Wall and Super Salmon Ladder. Before long, it transformed into this business. 


Q: Ninja Warrior Training is more than just running obstacle courses, right?  

A: Ninja Warrior training has evolved into its own specialized form of training, which draws on a lot of disciplines. If you have a background in gymnastics, calisthenics or rock climbing, you’re going to do well in the sport of Ninja. But you still need the specialized training. The obstacles are harder and more technical now than when I started 13 years ago. You really can’t perform well on the show without practicing on real obstacles. 


Q: So, Ninja has grown as a competitive sport? 

A: There are a ton of gyms all across the country with a number of leagues popping up. We actually just started a Bay Area Ninja League for kids with a couple of other gyms. Our goal is to expand that to include more gyms and make it for adults as well as kids. We really want to turn Ninja into a major sport in the Bay Area. 


Q: What are the benefits of Ninja training? 

A: There are the functional fitness benefits, of course, but overcoming these obstacles can benefit you emotionally and mentally as well. There are a lot of obstacles here that are super difficult, and it may take you a month to get through them. But with persistence—slowly building up strength and perfecting the technique—you overcome them. That can be translated into many different aspects in life. 


Q: What’s your favorite part of teaching? 

A: When someone says, “Oh, I’ll never be able to do that,” and I just say, “Well, not with that attitude,” and then help them to progress. And they do! Every time I’ve heard someone say that they can’t do something, they always end up being able to do it. That opens up a world of new obstacles and new possibilities for them. 


Q: What’s your favorite obstacle to teach? 

A: I really like teaching the Warped Wall because it’s one that you can get people to conquer in their first lesson. It’s great when they walk into the gym unable to do it and end up crushing that obstacle in a single day. Again, that’s really what this sport is about: Overcoming obstacles. 


Q: What are some of the obstacles of running a Ninja Warrior gym? 

A: When we first started the business, we were using a different software for processing transactions. It was very clunky in that you had to click around a bunch of different places to do different things. I looked around for another that was more user-friendly for both my staff and customers, and I landed on Vagaro. It has been a great experience. I’m able to handle everything without any other programs or software. 


Q: What are the most useful tools on the Vagaro platform for you?  

A: Vagaro encompasses everything that we need—especially forms. We use the forms feature for our waivers, which ensure that the business is covered in case of any liability. They’re also great to use for potential incident reports, which we can fill out and attach to a customer’s account for future reference. 


Q: Now that you’ve got everything you need, what’s next for Traverse?  

A: Our goal is to expand Traverse Fitness by opening more gyms across the West Coast and the country. I think Vagaro will really help us in that regard, because we can just use the same classes, the same templates in those other facilities as they open.