By Judy Wakefield
---- — A 4-foot-11, 98-pound, stay-at-home mother of two from Andover may seem like an unlikely contestant for the reality TV show “American Ninja Warrior.”
But Becca Tacy has this message for any naysayers — bring it on.
The 39-year-old Tacy is training six days a week, following a workout regimen that includes 400 push-ups a day, hundreds of sit-ups, rock wall climbing and a holistic training program developed from military obstacle course work.
“I am no super human, just a mom who wanted to challenge myself and my body to its physical extremes,” said Tacy, a former web designer whose two sons, Asher, 9 and Ari, 6, attend West Elementary School.
Tacy’s husband, Ryan, lovingly turned their backyard on Juliette Street into a ready-to-compete obstacle course. Many of the features are specifically designed to boost upper-body strength, a key component to succeeding in the “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course.
There’s an unstable bridge that Tacy uses to swing and jump from. There’s a homemade salmon ladder, one of the most feared courses in ninja training that requires her to grasp a ladder bar and, using her upper body, raise it from rung to rung as she climbs. Her training has also included a trip to a ninja warrior gym in Connecticut.
Last February, Tacy submitted the 20-page application and a video to NBC hoping to be on the reality show. After weeks of sleeping with her cellphone, she got a call on March 22 that she was chosen to compete in the northeast regionals set for this Sunday, April 13, in St. Louis, Mo. .
The show follows competitors across the country as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both qualifying and final rounds. Contestants who successfully complete a course in their designated region will move on to the nationals in Las Vegas, where they face a stunning, four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama in Japan.
This season, the show is traveling to five cities in search of the ultimate athlete — Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Denver and St. Louis — before heading to Las Vegas this summer, with men and women from all walks of life vying for the title. Beyond the bragging rights, there’s also a $500,000 grand prize up for grabs.
Tacy, whose luggage bound for St. Louis will include specially made red T-shirts that boast “Girls Make Better Ninjas” and “Team Tacy,” said she is ready. She said she is not intimidated by the fierce-sounding competitors, who include current and former members of the military, amateur sports enthusiasts and even a few Olympic gold medalists, according to the show’s website.
“My friends think I’m crazy, but I am working so hard to do this .. I want this,” said Tacy, who will travel with an entourage of supportive family and friends. “My goal is to be on the show.”
The road to Ninja
Training for “American Ninja Warrior” is by no means easy. Tacy changed her diet and said her body is sore every day. She’s learned to live with and overcome pain using focusing techniques that have her remembering one important message to her sons — that their mother won’t quit.
She’s dropped 15 pounds in 10 months of grueling training as she presses on. Her “American Ninja” submission video includes her bleeding, bruised forehead, which happened when she was doing a two-clap push-up at Planet Fitness in Andover. She clapped in front of her body and behind it near her back, but hit her forehead on a metal bar on the floor as she did the push-up.
“My head was split open. I had to call my husband after that happened. ... I didn’t know if I should drive,” she said.
Tacy said her husband, a manager at Hewlett-Packard, is very supportive of her Ninja dreams. Woodworking is his hobby, so he happily designed and built the obstacle course in the backyard, which also includes an awesome tree house for their children.
While she has competed in two triathlons, surprising herself with a third-place finish in one of them, that’s been the extent of her competitive athletic endeavors — until now.
“I’m competitive, but I’m really just a regular mom. I volunteer at West El, cook dinner, take care of my family ... that’s what’s most important to me,” she said one recent morning as she headed out to walk her dog, Bark Vader, a rescued Labrador mix. The family also has a snake and two cats.
Tacy plans to give her best effort this weekend. She may be small, but she’s convinced that adapting that small frame to the “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course is doable.
“I just want my kids to remember this,” she said. “They can see that anyone can do anything if they really try. That’s what their Mom did.”