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New Superhero training center 'sort of a live video game'

Consider the new Superhero Training Academy in Amherst as a testing ground for overall fitness – so don’t try to pigeonhole it.

The 7,000-square-foot space, with a 20-foot-high ceiling, was designed to appeal to those who enjoy Ninja Warrior, Tough Mudder, gymnastics and parkour training, and get a full-body workout in the process.

“A lot of kids, like I used to be, aren’t really that focused on one sport. I kind of wanted to do a lot more without having to commit to one thing,” Sean Haney said. “I just liked the fun of it, and that's kind of what we're going for here.”

Children ages 6 and older, as well as adults, have taken “action adventure” classes since the academy opened two weeks ago at 1590 Hopkins Road, Suite 100, near Dodge Road, said Haney, the certified personal trainer who leads them.

Haney once helped his father, Tom, run the fitness side of the former Village Glen Tennis and Fitness Center. The two co-own Superhero Training with Gregg Walls, former senior vice president with Localedge, a digital marketing company. They lease space in the former home of an Anytime Fitness franchise.

The new fitness center includes poles, ropes and parallel bars, steps, ladders and boxes, a short tightrope (about two feet off the ground), several trampolines and a 900-square-foot gymnastics floor.

Ninja Warrior enthusiasts will enjoy a nearly 15-foot Warp Wall, and less-demanding versions of the Rope Ladder, Spider Wall and overhead Devil Steps.

Gregg Walls, left, 57 and a two-time cancer survivor, and Sean Haney, right, co-own Superhero Training Academy with Haney's father, Tom. The Haneys designed the obstacles and layout at the new fitness center in Amherst. Walls says he hopes to conquer all them by the first anniversary of the business. (Scott Scanlon/Buffalo News)

A crooked wall (angled at about 50 degrees), various-shaped boxes and other features give a nod to parkour – movement designed to mimic military obstacle training.

The layout allows users to focus on one feature at a time or tackle several of them together, building ability and speed over time, Walls said. The owners plan to add timers so that those using the center can compete with others as they work toward personal best times.

A 2-inch-thick foam floor and strategically placed trampolines are designed to add safety to an experience Sean Haney described as “sort of a live video game.”

“You're the Tomb Raider,” he said. “You're the one running through the cars. Can you do it? Can you go across the wall? ... This happens to all of us when you're a kid, right? You can do anything in your head, and you'll try a lot of stuff.

“When you get older, you start making this list of things you can't do anymore. What we're seeing here is that adults can come in here and surprise themselves.”

Adults tend to take early morning classes while kids are more common during afternoons and evenings, Haney said. Weekends are for families. The academy also can handle birthday parties and corporate or sports team-building sessions for up to 40 people.

Classes cost $20 each, with discounts that include once-a-week use for $68 a month. Unlimited use costs $150 a month. For more information, visit superherotrainingacademy.net or call 688-0008.

Over time, Superhero Training Academy should improve strength, flexibility, balance and coordination – regardless of age. It will make it easier to perform daily tasks, Haney said, as well as visit a park and jump from rock to rock across a stream or climb dozens of stairs without getting winded.

Challenges – which along with fun are paramount at the new fitness center – can be modified depending on ability.

“We say muscles and weight loss are total side-effects here,” Haney said. “We don't focus on them. We’re not isolating muscles. Our bodies are meant to be free-flowing and do everything well, so you're getting a full-body workout.”

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