After hours of training at a ninja gym while wearing her skirt and sheitel and everyone looking at her strangely, Liba Yoffe would come home bruised and bloody. But that didn’t deter her from her achieving her goal.
Yoffe recently became an American Ninja Warrior (ANW), after being encouraged by a friend to apply. Yoffe was one of 400 applicants accepted out of thousands to compete in ANW. “Although I am always up for a challenge, the training for American Ninja Warrior (ANW) was humbling,” Yoffe said, “I am used to being the best and strongest.”
ANW is a reality sports competition broadcast where participants compete to complete an obstacle course. The athletes run, jump, climb and swing across four levels of challenging obstacle courses competing against others to complete the course in the shortest amount of time.
The training challenged her in new ways and required her to perform unfamiliar exercises and movements, but Yoffe would not let herself give up. Instead, she stayed at the gym as long as it took to get it right.
The idea of never giving up and exceeding your own expectations is a large part of the Spirit Fit Life program that Yoffe created to inspire women to improve their health and become mentally and physically stronger “from the inside out.”
“Unfortunately, the diet and the health industries have caused more damage than good to strong beautiful women,” Yoffe said, adding that she feels “it is my purpose in this world to fix.”
Losing weight is only half the battle. Yoffe’s goal is to help women address the underlying issues that have prevented them from being successful. Her program enables participants to make a significant and lasting change in their physical, emotional and mental health with the intention of transforming how each participant perceives food, health and exercise.
With the intention of being different from other weight-loss programs, and not being a quick fix, each participant receives a personalized eating plan and exercise regimen based on their personal health, emotional history, lifestyle and goals. Although programs are tailor-made for each participant, all programs include a journaling requirement and individual and group therapy sessions, in addition to courses in confidence-building and leadership.
After 13 years of working in the health industry, Yoffe knew it lacked successful programs for women, but she didn’t realize how great the desire for a program like Spirit Fit Life was.
“I had so many people ready to sign up for the program even before its official launch,” she said. Within the first two years of Spirit Fit Life, the staff has grown to seven, including nutritionists, social workers, psychologists and a medical doctor.
The goal of Spirit Fit Life was the health platform that Yoffe used in her application to ANW.
Once accepted to ANW, Yoffe immediately realized her participation could break barriers that prevent Jewish females from being involved in sports. “I knew that because I could choose what to wear, I would be able to compete in a skirt, and girls and women would see a competitor in a skirt and a sheitel,” Yoffe said.
Yoffe feels women’s health is unnecessarily taboo, and there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about health in the frum world. Not having health included in most Jewish school curricula, whether as a result of sensitivity or fear, lack of knowledge or insufficient funding, has caused more harm than good.
Girls have to be taught, from a young age, that it is inadequate to only be pretty, that they must be strong and confident as well.
“I have a daughter with Alopecia, she is bald. I am raising her to be strong and confident in her beauty so as she grows up she doesn’t know any other reality.”
The competition was filmed on the first day of Chol Hamoed, and Yoffe is incredibly thankful to ANW for allowing her taping schedule to fit in between Pesach and Shabbat.
As a result of coronavirus, Yoffe’s family was unable to be at the course, but they were close by watching her compete, and she was able to see them cheering for her on large screens.
Although she was ready to conquer whatever the course threw at her, Yoffe was struggling on the day of the competition with feelings of fear and not belonging. Yoffe likes to do something once, as a trial run, so the next time she understands what is expected and can “rock it.” But on ANW, “you only get one shot, and I hadn’t been training for long while others have been training for longer than I have,” Yoffe said.
Yoffe’s ANW episode airs on NBC on Sunday, May 31. She said her experience has made her stronger, she is 100% committed to trying again and has already started training.
Yoffe started off our conversation sharing her goal: “I want to inspire a generation of girls to be strong and powerful and know what they want and go after their dreams.” Hearing this, I was awe-inspired by her determination.
Yoffe grew up in Far Rockaway, New York, and now lives in Phoenix with her husband and four children. To find out more about Spirit Fit life, visit their website at Spiritfitmama.com
Danielle grew up in Teaneck, and made aliyah to Jerusalem following her graduation from Rutgers University. Danielle teaches English at colleges in Jerusalem and has been involved in both formal and informal education for a variety of organizations. Danielle believes that important life skills and lessons are often not ones learned in the classroom, but can be learned from team sports.