After Dan Leach’s first appearance three years ago on the fitness program, American Ninja Warrior, the retired Army officer said he returned to his Fayetteville home and tore off the top of his garage for one reason — to build a gym.

Spanning nearly 600 square feet, the gym contains ropes, gymnastics rings, bars, a weight machine, a balance beam, rock climbing wall, a boxing bag and other fitness equipment needed for ANW, a fitness-oriented TV show. Building the gym took more than a year and a couple thousand hours of manpower, he said.

“I just kept getting ideas. It took a year and a half to get it where I needed it,” said Leach. “It’s just been a labor of love, that’s for sure.”

Leach, who has made two appearances on ANW, earned a slot at its spin-off competition, Alpha Warrior, targeting service members and persons connected to the military. He competed in San Antonio, Nov. 19.

Three days a week, Leach can be found at his home doing warm-ups, stretching and loosening up for a workout that typically lasts well over an hour.

“I just kind of get into it. If I’m loose, I get going,” he said.

At 68, Leach packs 130 pounds of muscle on his 5 foot, 6 inch-frame. Hair bounces on his forehead as he moves peg after peg up a salmon ladder.

Leach, it seems, was born for fitness.

He grew up in Kansas, always exercising and running, taking part in what he calls “pre-Ranger” training.

He said he and a buddy tried to join the Army together, in 1968. Leach made it, but his buddy, who went on to become a railroad conductor, failed the physical.

Leach never looked back.

He served with Rangers in Vietnam, earned three Bronze Stars with valor for his actions, graduated Officer Candidate School and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1989.

“I couldn’t spell responsibility, but I had it,” explained Leach.

A new mission, Alpha Warrior, now appears to consume much of his time.

Leach does fingertip push-ups, walks the balance beam, balances his weight while walking a barrel and works the gymnastics rings. He also swims regularly and speed-walks three days a week.

“It keeps me young and my grandsons can’t keep up with me. It’s just a blessing,” said Leach, who serves as a deacon at Faymont Baptist and owns a construction company.

“God definitely has given me great capabilities and I’ve always believed if you can still do something, why give it up when you are older?”