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Mel: our Australian Ninja Warrior
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Mel: our Australian Ninja Warrior

Mel: our Australian Ninja Warrior

Written by Rohan Armstrong | 9th July 2019

As an example of practising what we preach, our fearless coach, Melissa, recently competed in Australian Ninja Warrior for the second time. The show is currently airing on Channel 9, and if you tune in on Sunday the 14th at 7:30pm, you’ll catch Mel’s actual heat.

We fired some questions at Mel to help give you an insight to how she prepared for the competition this year;

So why compete in this event?

My girlfriend, Naida, more of less bullied me into trying out last season (along with another 300 or so friends) on social media when she started a petition to encourage me to give it a go. At the time (August 2017) I was over-worked and highly stressed in my former business “Up Athletic” and needed a way to decompress. I knew that having a goal would help, so even though it felt a bit childish, I figured I had nothing to lose. It also seemed to speak to my strengths as being an all-rounder with good agility and a gymnastics background.

Training stepped up to 5-6 times a week around July and included a big mix of body weight drills, plyometrics and general strength and conditioning (like our classes).

How did you prepare for the competition?

I only had around 2 months to prepare for last season, which turned out to be not quite enough time to build the strength and stamina I needed, so I focused mainly on getting my weight down to improve my power to weight ratio. That part worked, but in hindsight I think I actually lost a bit of muscle mass by going a bit too hard with my dietary changes, too quickly. A big lesson was learned for future training and for my clients.

I had a small break from full-on training this year after competing in December 2017, to indulge in way too much Chardonnay and cheese platter action on the grassy knoll at Elwood primary school while I got to know my new group of school mum friends. Thankfully this was balanced out by my new found love of bouldering that my fellow ninja friend Ricky had got me into, so even though I was “out to pasture”, I was developing my grip strength and upper body power with my twice weekly bouldering addiction. Training stepped up to 5-6 times a week around July and included a big mix of body weight drills, plyometrics and general strength and conditioning (like our classes). Bouldering as often as possible and for up to 4 hours at a time, because I totally lose myself in it and to develop my strength insurance.

News versus melissa Mel in action on Australian Ninja Warrior

What else did you do to maximise your potential?

The last year as hugely stressful for me on a personal level, so I turned to meditation and starting reading as much as I could about mindset and human optimisation and longevity. I have what can only be described as an addictive personality, so I don’t really do things by halves. This meant that my regime included;

  • Having my DNA sequenced and reported on, giving me a personalised health plan to change my nutrition and lifestyle to help down regulate some of the crappier genes I have and to optimise my blood levels of key vitamins and minerals. I was chronically B12, Iron & vitamin D deficient, which meant that I was far from feeling good. This was adding to my uncontrolled anxiety and overall mood, as well as being far from ideal for athletic performance.
  • I stepped up my intermittent fasting rescheme and refined my approach to suit my personality a little better. I tend to be a bit extreme, so a 16/8 approach worked better than the 2 x 24 hour fasts weekly, I had employed for my first season in Ninja.
  • Hot and Cold therapy became firmly set in my daily life. I was going to the sauna at Prahran pool around 3 times a week and spending the last minute or two of each (morning) shower in purely cold water. I did this for the myriad of health benefits (for me, mainly mood related) but it was also the perfect setting to strengthen my mindset. It also felt so good. Enlivening.
I plan on running the New York Marathon in November 2020. 

So what next?

After my first season of ninja warrior, I would have been happy to leave it to the kids, but after this past season’s performance, I’m now totally hooked. It’s just such a unique experience. You can’t pay to participate in such a thing. The course, the setting, the pressure, the media work.. it’s all so unique and utterly exhilarating. Especially the competition. I just loving testing myself like that.

I usually compete in late November, early December which happens to work perfectly for Spartan Race in Bright mid November this year, so I’m now in training for that. The only real difference with my training is some heavy lifting/ carrying and a fair whack of running, as it’s a long course obstacle race, set over 14km of very, VERY hilly terrain.

We have “Team Versus” taking part and currently around 20 or so eager (or at least easily coerced) individuals ready to start their formal training on Saturday the 20th July. If you are interested in joining us, flick me an email - melissa@versus-stkilda.com.au

And beyond that, I plan on running the New York Marathon in November 2020.

Any advice to someone wanting to make the change to a more athletic life?

Figure out what you are wanting to achieve and get really clear about it, set your goal then make your plan of attack. If you need help with putting that together, employ a professional to help you - like me! If you have injuries or niggles that are either stopping you or at least giving you a good excuse to not take action, get some treatment done to move past them. You only get one body and one life. And the feeling of crossing that finish line - any finish line - is always worth it.