ELMHURST – Tom Rhomberg started Windy City Ninjas, an obstacle course gym, in Chicago with a goal of helping children engage in fitness.
His latest adventure is opening a location at 684 W. Lake St. in Elmhurst. The opening will kick off with family fun night from 6 to 8 p.m. July 27, and classes start Aug. 6.
"This is an awesome medium for kids, especially the non-traditional athletes who aren't playing baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and this generation specifically of kids who are probably on their devices too much," Rhomberg said.
He said the ninja warrior obstacles "hit on" both of those challenges.
"Kids come in here and are willing to put down their device to do something fun and cool like this," Rhomberg said. "They're more having fun than realizing what a great level of fitness they're getting during class."
He said as a father of three, he sees a difference between how he grew up playing baseball in the backyard, for example, and childhood today, where children embrace technology.
Through the children's classes, staff hope to build children's self-confidence, core, body awareness, balance and strength, and the various obstacles – such as running up walls, swinging and balancing – require different skill sets and muscles to succeed, Rhomberg said.
The gym offers a variety of programs with age breakouts, and it has a competitive children's group.
In the classes, children engage in warm-ups and then multiple circuits of a few 12- to 15-minute sessions at stations.
"A station is typically an obstacle, but it might not be," Rhomberg said. "It's all about running an integrated circuit so that the kids are hitting different areas of the body as they're going through the different stations."
Some examples of stations are bear crawls, box jumps and plank walks, and all stations are used to help children's self-confidence and athleticism, he said.
The gym also offers programs for adults and birthday parties.
For the parties, the children can enjoy 80 minutes in the gym running through structured obstacle circuits with an instructor and then have cake and pizza for 30 minutes in the party room, he said. Windy City Ninjas' Elmhurst location also plans to have family fun nights where parents and children can have fun on the obstacles together.
Rhomberg played football at Northern Illinois University and track and field and football in high school. He worked in corporate business technology until October 2017.
"I just see the benefit to kids through this as a medium to fun and fitness, and what I absolutely love seeing is those kids that are so committed to achieving what they didn't think was possible the first, second, third time they came into class. But they just kept working toward it," he said.
Rhomberg said it's also exciting to build the competitive team and obstacle course fitness as a sustainable sport long term, which may include having high school club teams.
"With the numbers of kids that are interested in truly competing, we're going to see more local, gym leagues, regionalized competitions, the ability to compete on a frequent basis without having to travel far to do so," he said.
If you go
The Elmhurst location of Windy City Ninjas will have several events marking its opening.
• Family fun night from 6 to 8 p.m. July 27, includes pizza ($12.50 per person)
• Kids' open gyms from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. July 28 ($10 per child)
• Adults only event from 4 to 5:30 p.m. July 29 ($10 per person)
• Ribbon cutting at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 3
• Classes begin Aug. 6
To learn more about Windy City Ninjas, visit windycityninjas.com.