Friday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. are a blast for 13 boys enrolled in Y Ninja Fit for Teens at the Madison Area YMCA. The Gymnastics Center is abuzz with the boys running, climbing and jumping over and under obstacles. (Where are you, girls? This is open to you too!)

Teens experience the best of both worlds in this one-hour combination class of obstacle course training and fitness training. The first 30 minutes takes teens through a classic Y Ninja class—climbing towers of mats, scaling the warped wall, dropping down to hit the ground running to race through courses that build coordination and motor control, test physical strength, instill discipline and push agility to new heights. In the second half hour, teens hit the circuits and learn fitness skills that enhance their Ninja skills and start them on the path to life-long healthy living. 

“I like Y Ninja Fit because it's fun and I get to hang out with my friends,” says Dylan Gregory, 13, of Madison. The equipment is really cool—the foam pit is my favorite—and the teachers are really nice.”

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Dylan’s mom Jen is thrilled with the class, valuing the long-term benefits that her son is acquiring. “The best thing about Y Ninja Fit, besides how much fun the kids have, is that they are learning about physical fitness and how to do it safely. I want my kids to appreciate exercise their whole lives, and Y Ninja is giving Dylan a great foundation to do just that.” 

“It’s a safe space for kids to get physical activity, learn about fitness, work as a team, gain self-confidence and have a great time,” says Gus Ibranyi, a Madison Area YMCA gymnastics and Y Ninja instructor who teaches the 10-week class. “Having fun in a non-competitive environment can also be a welcome change of pace for kids.”

“I feel really fortunate that my son and I found this group,” says Juliana Debellis, mom of 11-year old Luca Leotta, a fellow Y Ninja Fit teen. “He’s not a kid that will mix easily with others and doesn’t suit activities with a lot of strict structure. This is a friendly group of kids and the staff is skilled and patient. It’s a great physical outlet for him with a sense of belonging. Just what he needs, probably why he looks forward to it each week.”

“I like that there’s lots of freedom in the gym and the rec room,” says 12-year-old Benjamin Johns. “The class is fun—especially the warped wall. It’s cool to try things that you see on America Ninja Warrior.”

Who can argue with that?