By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
By day, Rachael Goldstein is an occupational therapist at the Kingsway Learning Center at the Moorestown, NJ campus. But when she’s not working with students, who have disabilities, she’s famous for being on American Ninja Warrior.
She juggles preparing for the show at nights and on the weekends.
“I have a pretty good schedule,” she said. “I work for a school, so I get out at 3 pm and I either go to a regular gym or I wait a little while and do some other things. Then, I go to the Ninja gym later at night. There is one in Cherry Hill, but there’s a lot around us actually. There’s one in Hainesport called Management Lab and the one in Cherry Hill is Pinnacle Parkour Academy. I kind of go to both and on the weekends, I may go a little bit further, as I have a little bit more time on my hands. I would go to Icore Fitness in West Chester, Pa. and VertiQuest Gym in North Jersey (Bridgewater Twp., N.J.). They all have different stuff.”
When she was younger, she dabbled in gymnastics. She also did swimming and diving at Ithaca College. She wasn’t happy with what the regular gyms had to offer before she fell in love with the Ninja gyms almost immediately.
“I had lots of other hobbies, but they weren’t really fitness-related,” Goldstein said. “And when I would go to the gym, I would get bored quicker and didn’t have a lot of motivation with the home DVD thing. But when I found Ninja, it was so much fun and you get to meet so many people through it. Now, I go to the gym with no problem, as the goal is to get better at certain obstacles. I have a lot more fun with fitness now than before.
“To me, there’s not an end goal [at regular gyms.] You lift weights then you go home. And lifting more weights is not the goal of mine. I want to be able to do so much more.”
She first attended Pinnacle Parkour. She said it brought her back to her roots.
“I got to swing around and climb on things that I previously got to do in gymnastics,” she said. “To a lot of people, that’s not a lot of fun, because it’s really intimidating. But to me, it’s the most fun that I can have and I feel different when I do that than I do anything else. I like the way it makes me feel. I took to it very quickly and then I started to go a lot more. The way it worked out, I had just moved to New Jersey and my therapy license took a long time to come to me from the State of New Jersey, and I was waiting on my license so I could work and had a lot of extra time. I ended up going a lot because I had the time for it and dedicated a lot of time at night to it. Even though it was frustrating, because I couldn’t work, it worked out in other ways. I was able to find Ninja, and that makes me happy.”
Goldstein previously lived in Pennsylvania and New York. She came to New Jersey after her now husband took a residency at Deborah Heart and Lung in Browns Mills, NJ.
She was one of 75,000 applications to put their names in the mix for the American Ninja Warrior Season 8. She made her Ninja debut in Philadelphia, Pa. – and despite failing at Rolling Thunder, things worked out for her, as she finished No. 29th in the Top 30 field.
“You normally get placed in the one that’s in your region,” she said. “If you live out West, you would get assigned to Los Angeles. It just happened to be 30 minutes from my house in my first-year, which worked out really well. We were in St. Lucia for the week leading up to that event and I got called five days before the Philly event was being taped. I already had my plane tickets to St. Lucia and I ended up changing them so that I could come home early. It worked out so that I could just go to the course instead of coming home then having to find a way to Cleveland, Ohio for example. I got really lucky with that and there was really good weather. Cleveland this year was so much colder.”
She made history in Season 8, as she was one of four women to advance to the city finals. There, she failed at the Wall Drop, but then was selected to the national finals in Las Vegas as a wild card.
During the national finals, she failed on the Propeller Bar.
“It was definitely very surreal, because it was my rookie year and I almost didn’t apply for the show, because I was just doing it for fun and wasn’t doing it to be on the show. I was just doing it because I liked it. And it gets you in shape and I enjoyed it. People pushed me to apply and I got called, then I made it to the finals. Then, all of a sudden, I’m in Las Vegas. Everything was super-sized with the obstacles, so it was definitely surreal being in that group of people, having only trained for less than a year. It was a lot of fun and definitely a great learning experience for future seasons hopefully.”
Besides Season 8, she has also appeared on Season 9 in Cleveland, Ohio and Team Ninja Warrior. In Season 9, she failed at the Ring Jump. She was a part of the Superhero Squad on Team Ninja Warrior, where she was partnered with Jamie Rahn and Sean Darling Hammond.
The Superhero Squad won the Relay showdown on the Wildcard round in Episode No. 1. Then, they were defeated by the NorCal Ninjas during the Relay showdown on the Wildcard round in Episode No. 2.
“I think they’re both fun in different ways,” Goldstein said. “The team one is fun, because you’re working with your team and you get to run the course a couple of times instead of just getting one shot at it if you run by yourself. If you are racing the other teams of three, you usually get to do the course at least a couple of times. That way, you learn from what you did wrong the first-time and speed it up to make yourself better for the second-time, which is definitely nice.”
In American Ninja Warrior, all the competitors are on an equal playing field.
“I think that’s what makes Ninja unique. I think more and more females are proving that they can keep up with everyone else, especially the males on the course,” she said.
She is presently training for Season 10. She hopes to make it three-years in a row.
“I hope so,” Goldstein said. “I have been training for it. You don’t know exactly when, but usually, you apply and these applications are due around the holidays, the New Year. Then, they start calling somewhere around March, but they’ll usually call in order of the show being filmed. So, if they are doing Los Angeles first, they would call that group of people first. They will start filming with that group of people, then when they are done with that group, they will call the next group. The timing varies every year. Last year, we were second-to-last in Season 9, but we’re towards the tail end. Last year, I believe they went to Denver, Colo. after us. They were doing their loop around the country.”
The Kingsway Learning Center is also supportive of her being on the show.
“They’re all very supportive,” she said. “They’ll have push up practice with me, so we’ll have fun with it. On Friday’s, we would have plank offs and a push up competition. They have fun with it. They are also rooting for me and it’s motivating to some of them to do some of those things also. They also do this with me to get strong themselves. It’s great to see.”
By being on the nationally-televised show, it has changed her life. And during the summer, she’s invited to be at different camps.
“Sometimes, I get invited to be a part of campus in the summer time, as one of the judges,” she said. “It’s been neat to be a part of things like that. I also participated in an Autism Speaks event in Camden, NJ in the spring, where several gyms in the area brought in supplies for the kids to do. It’s been cool to be invited to those types of events. I also get a chance to spread Ninja and a healthier lifestyle, as well. Kids get excited being around those events and getting stronger.”
She also has advice for kids, who want to try Ninja, but may not feel like they can.
“I would say everything is for a shot,” Goldstein said. “Ninja can be for everyone, but you just have to pick what you want to do. Ninja is for both kids and adults. And for the kids, who think they can’t do it, it’s the type of sport that you can be flexible with. You work on what you’re comfortable with. You push yourself, where you feel comfortable in pushing yourself.”
In the summer time, she also appeared on The Today Show to showcase American Ninja Warrior. While it was not a competition, it was a way for her to showcase her experience to others.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was more so a demonstration leading up to the city finals airing on NBC. They invited a few people from the area to come and demonstrate some of the obstacles on the show.”
One thing each American Ninja Warrior competitor doesn’t know when they are running a course is the obstacles on that particular course. They have to prepare for something they may have seen previously, or something they may bring out that’s new.
“That’s one of the challenging parts of this,” she said. “There may be obstacles from previous city finals that you haven’t seen before that they would bring back. You can’t really totally prepare, but you can go to the gym and work on your grip strength. You can also work on your balance and all those types of skills, along with trusting in yourself, you can generalize the types of obstacles you may see. You have to hope your skills and abilities can take you through it successfully.”
While she hasn’t reached the Warped Wall on TV, she said that it would be the toughest challenge she may face.
“I can do it, but once you’re tired and out of breathe, it’s a little bit more difficult,” Goldstein said. “It seems a little bit taller when you’re there at the end with it on TV. I also think there’s definitely pressure in the moment. I actually haven’t made it that far on TV, so I can only speculate. I do practice it and it’s one of those things with power and leg strength, it’s a little more challenging for me to build than others, who it may come naturally with them. I’m more inclined to do the balancing obstacles, but when it comes to running and leg power, it’s harder. I’ve been working on it, but it’s been coming slower. My upper body is quicker to build strength than my lower body.”
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