Ryan Sutter‘s children were “super stoked” when they found out their dad was going to compete on American Ninja Warrior.
When presented with the opportunity to participate on the NBC series, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country, Sutter, 42, didn’t hesitate.
“It’s always been sort of a life philosophy to take on challenges and to try new things and sort of maximize your life — try and do as much as you can when you can and when opportunities present themselves to take advantage of them. So that’s kind of what happened with this,” he tells PEOPLE about making his debut in the competition in the Denver city qualifying round, airing Monday. “It was coming to Denver and we obviously live nearby there and it just seemed like a worthwhile effort to give it a shot. They let me have a chance, so I was fortunate in that regard. I guess I just figured, ‘Why not? Let’s see what this is all about.’ ”
Though the course includes a variation of challenging obstacles, he was, overall, physically prepared to take on the competition.
“I always try to keep myself in good enough physical condition that when opportunities like this come along, I don’t need a year to prepare,” he says. “However, the one thing I did sort of lack is that I don’t do a ton of upper body strength stuff. I’m not a climber, so there were concerns there for me. I tried to kind of cram, I guess if you will, some upper body strength stuff.”
To help prepare him for the competition, he built a grip gym in his garage, as well as visited a ninja gym numerous times with his family.
“We’re Ninja Warrior fans, especially my son, Max. For about a month while I was really focusing on trying to do as best I could on the course, Max and I would drive down — actually Trista and came a few times too — we would drive down to Denver to this little ninja gym that they have down there — obstacles and balance things,” he shares about traveling with wife, Trista Sutter, whom he met on season 1 of The Bachelorette, and their two children: son Maxwell “Max” Alston, 9, and daughter Blakesley Grace, 8.
“He had as much fun, if not more fun, than I did just with the challenges and swinging on ropes and running up walls and all that kind of stuff was what we were practicing. The element of excitement to just have their dad be going on Ninja Warrior, but then also there was this enthusiasm for the fact that they could participate in it to some degree as well, so that was actually fun,” Sutter, a lieutenant firefighter with the Vail Fire Dept., shares.
Sutter adds, “It kind of brought us together as a family and gave us a really fun thing to do together. It’s actually kind of stuck. We still kind of continue to do a lot of that kind of stuff. … It just has become something that we do and it’s really fun.”
Though the course “definitely wasn’t easier” than he initially thought, he was pleasantly surprised that his fellow competitors were nothing but supportive.
“From day one of acceptance onto the program and beginning to train at the gyms, every single person that I came into contact with and was involved with Ninja Warrior, whether it was production side or especially the athlete side, were about as nice as you could possibly be,” he says. “I feel like that’s what makes it so cool is that everyone really seems to be pulling for each other and supporting each other. It’s this undeniable community that you feel like you’ve become a part of.”
American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.