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Indy Ninja Couple Thanks the YMCA for Their Inspiration

June 15, 2018
Indy couple at American Ninja Warrior game show

Life has never been easy for me, it has been a series of obstacles. Maybe that is why I love obstacle course racing, climbing, gymnastics, and non-traditional sports. These sports have a few things in common, you fall, fail, and mentally push yourself through things that one would never think possible. Again, the story of my life. Jessie Graff, American Ninja Warrior superstar, says constantly “be your own superhero.” I would agree and then add,

“Be your own superhero, then help someone else to be theirs.”

Anxiety disorder, financial struggles, PTSD

To be a success, I feel like there has to be a major obstacle to overcome. For me, that includes debilitating anxiety disorder, financial struggles because of said anxiety disorder, and small life nuisances that seem to make life that much harder when it is already hard. For my husband, an Iraqi veteran, PTSD is a daily struggle and everything else that comes with that disorder.

Healing began with rock climbing

Luckily, we have a few things in common that help us to overcome these daily struggles; faith, family, and exercise. When my husband and I met, circa 2007, as rock climbing instructors at a YMCA in Minot, ND a lot of these life obstacles had not yet surfaced. I was a full time dietitian, rock climbing instructor and he an active military member and rock climbing coach. In 2009 our first son, Liam, was born. In 2011, we were married. In 2014, our second son was born.

Panic attacks cause Amy to spiral, send Eric into depression

In 2014, life became really hard. I started having panic attacks 6-7 times daily.  I had to quit my place of employment because my anxiety was so bad that the job I was being asked to do, was becoming too hard. My husband started taking me too and from work because of my fear of having panic attacks while driving. Eventually, I became afraid of leaving the house and taking care of our two boys was a challenge. I didn’t start receiving therapy until 2015 because of my fear of people judging me. Our financial situation was bad because my husband was forced to be the sole provider and limited in his ability to work because of my anxiety disorder. We stopped everything which I later found out led to him becoming depressed.

YMCA helps get them back on track

Through multiple medicine changes, therapy, and unconditional love from my family and friends, my life started changing for the good in 2017. Our family, rejoined the YMCA and became active in taekwondo. We also started rock climbing again and becoming involved with ninja warrior. My husband and I are now on a pro ninja team through the Train Yard 317, are intermediate ranked belts in taekwondo. We also coach rock climbing to a young girl, Joy, whom we met when employed at Hendricks Regional Health YMCA in 2009.

Ninja Warrior

Joy and thankfulness

This young lady, now, at 16 years old is nationally ranked in the country. Eric and I also had the privilege to compete on American Ninja Warrior, season 10, premiering on June 18th 2018. We are one of the first husband/wife couples to compete on the show and to qualify for UNNA and NNL Ninja Worlds.

None of this would have been possible without the encouragement from a few people at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA.

  • Lisa Gill, wellness advisor, you are a success story and inspire us daily through your smile and contagious spirit. Thank you for all that you do. You are a beautiful person and a real asset to the wellness program.
  • Rachel Burge, associate wellness director, thank you for allowing me and my husband to come in and do the crazy workouts that we do. We love it that you trust us and allow us to do our workouts without be hassled.
  • Also, to Cassie Zeider, sports director (circa 2009), thank you for trusting Eric and I to start the rock climbing program at Hendricks Regional Health Y. You are a great leader and through your compassion, Eric and I have been able to help so many kids learn about rock climbing.
  • Last but not least, my physical therapist through Motion 360, Jessica, thank you for rehabbing me weekly. You are a great physical therapist and have helped me physically to reach several of my goals.

Sliding –scale membership

As a final note, I would like to thank the YMCA association for providing sliding scale scholarship to those of us who need it. With the right people (including leadership), servant mindset, God and love of community, all things are possible.

I’m glad to report that my hardest obstacle in life is being overcome. I gladly dedicate my run on American Ninja Warrior to those people with anxiety or life struggles they are trying to overcome even if they feel it is impossible.

Big Goals Ahead

Through God, all things are possible. My goal for 2018 is to regain employment as a dietitian, to establish myself in the ninja community by ranking in the top 20 at Worlds, coach ninja through our local ninja gym, and continue to serve those who struggle or need help so maybe they can become their own hero.

Thank you for your time, care and love,

Amy and Eric Sheppard


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