Have you every watched the show "American Ninja Warrior?" Or, better yet: the original Ninja Warrior show from earlier this century (...still feels weird to type that...) from Japan, which was frequently played on the now-defunct G4 channel? They make this crazy, crazy obstacle course, that takes near-superhuman strength and stamina to complete, and run a whole bunch of people through it. After four stages (the last of which is a direct vertical rope climb), any "survivors" who complete the courses are crowned the American Ninja Warrior and win a jillion dollars or something. The Wife and I used to watch the show whenever it was on, and I rediscovered it this spring. The Boy, in particular, was entirely captivated.
This was a BIG DEAL, by the by. The Boy has not, historically, been a particularly attentive athlete. Little Bear is an athlete and hyper-competitive: find a group of people with a ball of some sort, and he'll be right in the middle. Doesn't matter how old or young the group is, he's there. The Baby is still little, but he trends towards the social: he likes being around people, and he will do what he needs to do to find friends and play with them.
The Boy has not been motivated to be particularly active, particularly since he discovered books and discovered that his doting parents will allow him to read any thing at any time, just about. When we would go to the playground, he would bring a book with him and sit on a bench or sit on the merry go-round or sit on a swing and read patiently until it was time to go home.
That changed immediately upon discovering American Ninja Warrior. This show captured his imagination like nothing athletic has before. He began to pester us to build an American Ninja Warrior obstacle or two in our backyard (which is nowhere near big enough for something like that, not to mention that nothing in my history would indicate that I could safely build that). He trained himself on the playground: from barely being able to hold himself up on the monkey bars, he was able to make it forwards and backwards across the monkey bars. It was astonishing: I've never really seen Motivated The Boy like this!
We signed him up for a gymnastic class at the end of the summer, something he has been enthusiastic about. He loves his "Gemini Tough Guy" shirt and wears it frequently; the name of the studio is Gemini Gymnastics and Dance. He began to hear a pattern from the American Ninja Warrior guys on the television: they all did gymnastics in high school and/or college. I've been able to get out there for a parent observation once, and I watched him do a pretty decent straight-arm cartwheel and walk a few steps on his hands, two things that I have never done.
On Monday, we went to the Flight Trampoline Park in Bridgeville, PA, because they have an American Ninja Warrior course, in addition to the other cool trampoline stuff (trampolines, obviously; dodge ball on trampolines; a laser-dodging course; and a cool little tiny kid area). They had four "courses" of three obstacles each, which includes Ninja Warrior "favorites" like the swinging steps, and the narrow finger grip ledges, and the trapezes, and such. We found a Groupon of reasonable price, and Daddy got to be a hero for a day. The humbling thing for all of us was how difficult those obstacles were - and they were small versions of the television show. I know that I have terrible grip strength, so I wasn't going to be good at them. I still tried, and I have the strained abs and sore legs of someone who doesn't quite know when to quit. The boys did somewhat better (they weigh a third as much) but still struggled.