'Ninja Warriors' open The Warrior Factory in Henrietta

Carl Fantauzzo heads in an all-out sprint, propelling himself up a 15-foot warped wall before leaping into the air, grabbing the top edge of the structure with his finger tips and then pulling himself up and over.

The 43-year-old Greece resident and American Ninja Warrior competitor has zipped through the obstacle multiple times on the NBC show, but now runs through it in a converted space in Henrietta vacated years ago by a big box home improvement store.

Fantauzzo has teamed up with Bernard Birnbaum, a 33-year-old president of a Pittsford-based commercial real estate management firm, to open The Warrior Factory at 3150 West Henrietta Road. The training available at the facility falls in line with a nationwide fitness industry trend where people are moving away from traditional weight lifting and other exercise options.

The roughly 7,000-square-foot space is filled with welded aluminum, wooden steps and pegs, ropes, multiple warped walls, cargo nets — about 15 replicas of TV show's obstacles — offering exercise that’s far different than lifting weights, running in circles and spinning wheels.

"We wanted obstacles where there are elements of Parkour, there are elements of obstacle races like the Tough Mudders with ropes and stuff, and elements of CrossFit with rings," Fantauzzo said. "We want to take those elements, hone them into one facility and say we got the best elements. We want to bring a different way of training; a different way of looking at fitness to Rochester."

Weekend warriors

More athletes are looking to add lean body mass, core and functional strength with agility and endurance through more extreme activities.

Mud pits, ice-cold water obstacles and even elements that shock participants have moved into the mainstream with weekend warriors spending $500 million on obstacle racing in 2015, according to Running USA.

Tough Mudder racing, Warrior Dashes and Spartan Races have begun to chip away at some of the traditional road racing.

Running USA said in March the number of finishers in road races declined for a third straight year, with roughly 2.1 million fewer finishers between 2013 and 2016.

Those completing a marathon dropped by roughly 10 percent to 509,500, from 2014 to 2015. Finishers in all large races dropped 9 percent.

Obstacle course races grew by 2,300 events over that same year, according to Running USA.

Gyms, fitness centers and small studios, and their memberships have also grown, according to a trade association tracking the fitness industry. Some gyms try to offer everything while others specialize in just a few exercises.

IHRSA said U.S. memberships jumped by 800,000 with nearly 2,000 news fitness centers opening in 2015.

"There are so many more options available to people now,” said Todd Levine, general manager of Gold’s Gym in Webster and Fairport, who has been in the business nearly 30 years. "We used to be just weights, and then cardio got introduced, and then group exercise classes got introduced, and now the functional space, which for us is Edge Team training."

In Rochester, several CrossFit centers offering high-intensity multiple-sport exercises, a Parkour gym, studios offering spin and other specialized training have opened in recent years.

LA Fitness has entered the area. The YMCA opened a center in Penfield and is working on a new facility in Pittsford. Breathe Yoga, M/Body, Bounce Aerobics, Rochester Parkour and many others are offering more targeted workouts.

All promise proper technique and instruction to prevent injuries and increase wellness.

Meanwhile, interest in NBC's American Ninja Warrior has also surged with roughly 1,000 applications when it began in 2009 to more than 70,000 in its eighth season. The ninth season of the show premieres June 12.

Birnbaum said the allure of "ninja" training — that is, moving like a ninja instead of fighting like one — is the community it builds.

"It's not about you competing against other people,” said the Pittsford resident. "It is about beating the obstacles. There's not a lot of chest-beating. There is a lot of camaraderie and cheering each other on."

That's what, he says, makes The Warrior Factor inviting for all ages.

In fact, Northern Hemisphere Gymnastics in Webster found interest from kids and teens after opening a smaller ninja warrior obstacle course last summer. The Barrett Drive facility currently advertises classes for those as young as 6 years old.

Warrior gym

The Warrior Factory, which holds a grand opening on Sunday, has been several months in the making.

The partnership between its co-owners took more than a year to form after Birnbaum called Fantauzzo following his first appearance on the show about three years ago.

Fantauzzo decided not to pursue the initial invitation, focused instead on his liquor store and craft brew businesses and making it further on the show.

But a year later, perhaps by fate, they bumped into each at a Ninja Warrior competition in Buffalo, and started to get serious about opening their own gym.

They brought in a consultant from the TV show to help design their gym with obstacles to mimic some from the show, and traveled to other gyms and ninja competitions around the country to learn what would work at their facility.

Fantauzzo called the main obstacle course at The Warrior Factory an erector set, something that can be pulled apart in different sections to offer different elements.

They also decided to build-in spaces for traditional weight training, suspension bands and other fitness activities.

The center also has areas for yoga, Pilates, group training, birthday parties and corporate team-building activities.

Fantauzzo’s son, Chris, a Greece Athena graduate working on a bachelor’s at the State University College at Cortland, currently interns at the center.

The two are expecting to appear on the TV show in July, after competing in a regional competition in Cleveland earlier this year.

"We want to compete against each other as much as we want to compete with each other," said Chris, 21, a former college wrestler.

Danny "The Chef" Adair, another American Ninja Warrior contestant and certified trainer from Florida, also joined the team at The Warrior Factory. Roughly 15 others are expected to be employed at the gym.

"People are realizing what their bodies are capable of," Adair said. "They're realizing that this is a really good way to train, not necessary thinking about movements."

Ropes and ledges require hand and forearm strength.

The 25-foot salmon ladder adds shoulder and upper body strength.

Memberships at The Warrior Factory start at about $60 a month. Drop-in rates and other memberships offering courses will also be offered.

Competitions through national and other organizations are also in the works.

The co-owners hope their vision provides as much fun as it does sweat and fitness.

"We are just looking to bring this different type of movement to Rochester, not just going to lay on a bench and throw up weights, and pick things up and put things down," Fantauzzo said.

The Warrior Factory

A grand opening will be held Sunday, May 21, for The Warrior Factory, 3150 West Henrietta Road, Henrietta. Various age groups are invited to visit at the following times:

Ages 4-8: 10 a.m to noon

Ages 9-13: 1 to 3 p.m.

Ages 13 and older: 4 to 6 p.m.

For more, call 737-3983, or find The Warrior Factory on Facebook.

Source: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2017/05/19/american-ninja-warrior-carl-fantauzzo-gets-help-opening-henrietta-training-center/101771148/

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