Many people watch the competitors on the hit show American Ninja Warrior with amazement. From climbing up ropes to ascending the warped wall, the athletes demonstrate the pinnacle of human movement.
Professional Ninja Warrior Abel Gonzalez has worked extremely hard to accomplish what many of us take for granted. At the age of 10, he moved from Chicago to Edinburg, Texas to live with his grandmother and brother after his parents separated. In Chicago, Gonzalez and his siblings were at times homeless, neglected and malnourished.
By age 20, he had custody of his two youngest brothers and aspired to be a professional football player. However, in addition to growing family duties, Gonzalez was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when he was just 23 and was told he would most likely be disabled by the condition by 30.
"I just knew that if (the doctors) couldn't help me, than I was going to do it myself," says Gonzalez. "I wasn't going to accept that because this was my life - I wasn't going to let an illness take it away from me."
He found himself transfixed with the Ninja Warrior sport after seeing a YouTube video of the original Japanese show.
Gonzalez dove head first into the sport. "If they're doing it, then I can do it, so let me find out what they're doing to make that happen. So then I started training and I made the commitment to tryout for the show in a year."
He changed his workout regimen to include more primal movement practices as well as his mindset and nutrition.
In 2014, Gonzalez was a rookie walk-on and waited in line for 5 days to get a chance in the Dallas, Texas qualifiers. He advanced and was the only rookie walk-on to beat Stage One in the Las Vegas, Nevada round. Today, he trains year-round in preparation for each new qualifying season of American Ninja Warrior.
"It's the challenge," notes Gonzalez. "When it came down to it's like I can be the best athlete possible, and I know a lot of the athletes on the show are stronger than me, they're more experienced. But I knew that one advantage I would have is my composure."
In the off-season, Gonzalez travels to share his story and help combat the obesity-related diseases that plague the Rio Grande Valley and many other parts of the country. He also is South Texas Fitness Ambassador for Project Fit America and owns the XIOS Warrior Academy in Texas, where he offers classes for kids.
Gonzalez says his passion is helping children stay active. "My movement is to go back to the way I was when I was a kid because that's when it was fun, that's when it was healthy and I was happier. It really helped with my relationships, with my outlook on life to be having fun with movement."
Abel Gonzalez will be at SkyZone in Waukesha tonight from 6-8 pm to meet with kids and families, conduct Warrior course demos, provide coaching tips and share his message of inspiration and motivation.