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David Campbell returned for his 11th season healthier than he’s been in years

He took the time this year to really understand what has been affecting his health.

The premiere of American Ninja Warrior’s 11th season brought with it the introduction of the Power Tower. The new element pitched the two fastest finishers of the night against one another in a head-to-head race for the Speed Pass, which guarantees the winner a place in the National Finals.

Ultimately, the prize went to Hunter Guerard. But it was not a simple win. He made it to the buzzer only a split second ahead of David Campbell.

David, known as the Ninja Godfather, is an 11-time veteran of the show. That’s right, he’s taken part in every single season that’s been created. While his age is frequently mentioned on the show (41, at the Los Angeles Qualifiers), David isn’t slowing down, as evidenced by his run time of just 1:35.99 and his impressive showing on the Power Tower. In fact, things might only be getting better for him now that he’s identified an ongoing health issue.

Before his season began, David spoke with us about what keeps him motivated after all this time and, surprisingly, how an autoimmune condition may have held him back previously.

“I love doing it. I love competing in American Ninja Warrior. The first time that I saw Ninja Warrior on TV, I knew it was something that I’d want to do. The enjoyment hasn’t decreased one bit over the years. It gives me a reason to push myself, to train hard and stay healthy. I’m sure I’m in a lot better shape, and a lot healthier in general than I would be if I didn’t have to be.”

“What it means to my life, a reason to push myself to stay healthy, stay athletic, but more than that, it’s become what my life is about for the last 11 years. It’s almost redefined my whole persona. In addition to that, it’s also a chance at winning $1 million and being able to buy a house and have a better life with my girlfriend.

This year in particular, I hope that I can inspire some people who are dealing with similar health issues that I’ve had to deal with. Which is an autoimmune condition. I think one thing that helped me figure out how to deal with my condition and finding the dietary triggers for it is because I push my body to a high level. When the slightest thing is off a little bit, it’s completely debilitating to the incredible, unrealistic demands that I put on my body. It made it a high priority and really apparent when I eat pizza and the same day, my hand would hurt. Or I’d have a sandwich and my hand is hurting again. Coffee is something it took me a couple years to figure out it was causing me a problem too.

I’ve been dealing with it since about season six. About five years now, I’ve been competing at a reduced capacity. It’s been really frustrating. I was starting to actually wonder if the age was the issue, but I don’t think it is now. I feel better than I have in quite a few years. Even though I’m now 41.”

“Dealing with failure is probably the hardest part of American Ninja Warrior. The nerves are probably the second hardest part, dealing with what comes before your run. Staying out of your own head. But that goes away after you run the course. What stays with you, and eats at you, and haunts your nightmares for years is, the thing you could have done just a tiny bit different.

You just have to realize that the past is the past and you can’t change it, so you’ve just got to let it go.”

“I think I have a very good chance of getting total victory this year. That’s what I’m aiming for. I’m probably going to be shooting for the fastest times in most of the rounds too. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of being able to win a free pass through the second night (City Finals), that will allow me to go fast again without any consequences. Starting all the way from the Qualifiers, I could create a wave, if I do well, that I can ride all the way to Stage Three.”

David may not have the Speed Pass in hand, but we still think he’s started a wave of success for season 11. He’ll return for the City Finals in a few weeks with his eyes on the Power Tower once again!