Issac Caldiero became the first person to take home the grand prize on American Ninja Warrior this past September in the show’s seventh season.

Issac Caldiero On ‘American Ninja Warrior’

“It’s a dream come true, literally, for me,” Caldiero, a professional rock climber, told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “I dedicated a lot of my life to trying to achieve this accomplishment and to have it actually become a reality is just — I couldn’t ask for any more amazing things to happen in my life. I’m here loving every second of the way.”

In the past, Caldiero has admitted that his rock climbing experience made him uniquely well-suited for the American Ninja Warrior challenge. His winning training strategy included keeping up with his rock climbing, in addition making mock ninja obstacles and working on his mental strength.

“I’ve built ninja obstacles, I would go to other people’s gyms and try out their obstacles and try to get my hands on as many ninja obstacles as possible,” Caldiero said. “And in the meantime, keep up with my own rock climbing and just kind of create my own little style, as well as mental training, which is equally if not more important, I feel like, than the physical aspects of the American Ninja Warrior.”

Now that he’s won American Ninja Warrior, life has changed a bit for Caldiero. He gets stopped on the street by newfound fans with messages of congratulations, he’s $1 million richer and he’s landed his first acting gig.

Where the money is concerned, Caldiero doesn’t have any intention of blowing through it. He’d rather continue to live modestly with his girlfriend, grow the money and eventually use it to start a business, and maybe one day, pay of his parents’ home.

“Me and my girlfriend, Laura, we travel out of our RV and live out of a tent and out of our car at all times wherever we’re traveling,” Caldiero told uInterview. “So now we have this giant pot of gold to sit on that we could do really cool things. We wanna lean more toward some like entrepreneurial type stuff – investing, real estate – and kind of make it grow into something more substantial to where we could help our family and our friends.”

As for his foray into acting, Caldiero was approached to play a character on The Mysteries of Laura, who, like him, tirelessly prepares for an American Ninja Warrior competition.

“I got this call from NBC Mysteries of Laura, and they’re like, ‘We have this role already cut out, where this guy, his name is Connor McKenna, and he’s the owner of a bicycle shop and he’s training to be on American Ninja Warrior, and he has all these obstacles set up in the back of his shop and he’s training on them,’” Caldiero said. “And so they asked me if I wanted to do the part and I was like, ‘Sure.’ I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and then next thing I knew they had me read a couple lines and I had a script, I was acting.”

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Q: How did it feel to be the first American Ninja Warrior winner? -

It’s a dream come true, literally, for me. I dedicated a lot of my life to trying to achieve this accomplishment and to have it actually become a reality is just — I couldn’t ask for anymore amazing things to happen in my life. I’m here loving every second of the way.

Q: How did you train to become a Ninja Warrior? -

Apart from my rock climbing training, I did a lot of specific ninja training. I’ve built ninja obstacles, I would go to other people’s gyms and try out their obstacles and try to get my hands on as many ninja obstacles as possible. And in the meantime, keep up with my own rock climbing and just kind of create my own little style, as well as mental training, which is equally if not more important, I feel like, than the physical aspects of the American Ninja Warrior.

A lot of the mental training I’ve developed over the years at rock climbing. I do a lot of the free solo rock climbing, where I’m climbing without ropes – sometimes 50 to 100 feet off the ground and my life is like literally in my own hands. So for me to be in that position all the time and know the consequence, you really have to have a strong mental focus at all times and I directly correlate that same focus and mental strengths onto the ninja course. It’s kinda like that, I mean you’re not gonna die if you fall, but I kinda treat it like ‘one shot one kill’ – this is your only chance and that’s it. You don’t get a practice you get one shot and you’re done. I use that same kind of mental strength on the ninja course itself as well as a lot of breathing and meditation practice. I’ve done it from a really young age and I’ve learned to use it in my day to day life. I feel like it kept on being in my mind and my body, and with a lot of my success on American Ninja Warrior.

Q: What are some of your mental training methods? -

I would recommend starting with small amounts. Like sit down, find a nice peaceful quiet place and just meditate.10 minutes a day. And kinda get used to that routine of just being able to focus and relax and take your mind off of the stressful things of life, and if you can really learn how to use that in your day-to-day life then when you’re out there on the course it’s as simple as that. It’s so nerve wracking and so stressful to be there in person, seeing the course and knowing that it’s gonna be your turn soon. You try to visualize everything ahead of time and a lot of it is just learning how to use a lot of positive visualization and visualizing all your success and never visualizing any failure. Just focusing on your breathing, that’s what I’ll recommend, to just learn how to stay calm, stay focused and that’s a good base level meditation.

Q: What physical training did you do for the competition? -

I would do a lot of circuit training in the rock climbing gym, where I would pick about ten really difficult boulder problems and I would just do them back to back with zero rest in between. That was probably one of my biggest rock climbing training that I did. I would also do a lot of trail running to kind of help build all my coordination and all these little muscles in my running and my skills, as well as some really good cardio. On top of that, I did a lot of… On my specific ninja obstacles I would tweak them and make them as hard as possible, and just do them again, just back-to-back with zero rest to the point where if I made it as far as I wanted to on stage 2 or stage 3 where it becomes more upper body involved, I was above and beyond prepared to tackle whatever obstacles they gave us. That’s how I felt throughout the entire competition, I felt so strong and so like prepared both mentally and physically that it was literally like a breeze in the park and I just felt right at home. It was perfect.

Q: What reaction have you received from winning this title? -

Everyone is very excited, they’re very happy for me. Even the other competitors you know. Sure there’s probably a little jealousy, but in the end everyone is really happy that someone just finished it and finally won the competition. We’ve been waiting for it for so long. So I feel like everyone’s pretty excited and happy. And as far as like day-to-day encounters of people on the streets, everyone is just a huge fan and very inspired by my message of health and determination and focus. It’s very cool.

Q: What lifestyle changes will the million-dollar prize bring for you? -

I had kind of already considered myself to be rich before I had won this million dollars. Me and my girlfriend, Laura, we travel out of our RV and live out of a tent and out of our car at all times wherever we’re traveling. We live a very frugal and simple lifestyle, and we’re gonna continue to do that forever. So now we have this giant pot of gold to sit on that we could do really cool things. We wanna lean more toward some like entrepreneurial type stuff, you know, investing, real estate and kind of make it grow into something more substantial to where we could help our family and our friends, especially our parents, who have worked so hard their entire lives. It would be really cool to be like, ‘Hey mom and dad, I just paid off your house,’ like boom! I just feel like that would be like really great for them and I would just feel really honored to do that. Little things like that is probably what’s gonna change the most. In general, you’re not gonna see me driving around in a new ferrari or anything like that.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring rock climbers? -

I would first recommend finding a group of friends. It’s a very social sport. It can be very individual as well, but in the beginning it’s nice to have that kind of social pressure, that social environment to learn and to get stronger. I would say go into a rock climbing gym, even though it’s indoors it’s going to give you that base knowledge and base skill levels needed to proceed onto the rocks and to get stronger. So I would say yeah, find your local rock climbing gym and get in there and find other climbers who are at your level, maybe even stronger and learn and ask questions and just start building those base levels of rock climbing strength and technique, and you’ll see where it takes you from there. Before you know it you’ll be hooked.

Q: What is your role on The Mysteries of Laura? -

The Mysteries of Laura was a total like last minute kind of very exciting opportunity that I was bestowed upon. I was in New York City, I was literally driving through the Lincoln Tunnel to the airport to leave New York City and I got this call from NBC Mysteries of Laura, and they’re like, ‘Hey we got this role perfect for you, and it just so happens you’re the American Ninja Warrior guy, we have this role already cut out, where this guy, his name is Connor McKenna, and he’s the owner of a bicycle shop and he’s training to be on American Ninja Warrior, and he has all these obstacles set up in the back of his shop and he’s training on them.’ And so they asked me if I wanted to do the part and I was like, ‘Sure.’ I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and then next thing I knew they had me read a couple lines and I had a script, I was acting. I got to do all my own stunts and I was just like, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ Everyone on set was amazing, all the other actors, you know Debra and Josh Lucas as well, a really really nice guy and it was just cool to see it all in action and see behind the scenes, see how it all works and it’ll be really interesting. I haven’t seen the show yet. The actual edited version, so it would be really cool to see how it all pieces together and, yeah, it’s gonna be really cool to watch, a fun surprise for everyone.