The first female American Ninja Warrior dishes on her love life, workout secrets, go-to smoothie recipe, and goals for the upcoming season
In 2014, Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to complete the qualifying course and conquer the "Warped Wall" in the hit TV show American Ninja Warrior (ANW), where athletes race through a seemingly impossible obstacle course to win the championship title—and ultimate bragging rights. Her competitors (and the rest of America) were blown away by the sheer power packed inside her small frame. But despite not making it through the finals last year (which was actually her second time on the show), Catanzaro is back to compete in the seventh season of the show and this time, she's going for the win. Days after the show's premiere, Kacy talked to Shape about why she's back and how she's been preparing for the season. Read on, then watch her spider monkey her way past the competition Monday nights on NBC.
Shape: How did ANW become a goal for you?
Kacy Catanzaro (KC): I used to watch American Ninja Warrior back when it was in Japan with my father, and I would kind of joke that I really wanted to do it one day, it's so awesome and I think I could be really good at it. My family is super supportive so they were like, "Yeah sure, one day!" I was really serious about gymnastics though, and I went to college and did Division I gymnastics. Once I graduated, I felt kind of lost. I had done gymnastics for 18 years and didn't know how to work out after that or what I should even be striving for. I saw ANW again on TV and thought, you know what, I really do want to do that.
Shape: This is your third time on the show—why are you back again?
KC: People think I should just go out on top, but it's the same thing as in life—every time you reach goal, there is always that next goal, and I love that! No one should ever just get somewhere and be content. You should be excited and happy about those accomplishments, but you should never feel like you're done. You should always be pushing your body and striving for that next thing.
Shape: What's your goal going into this season?
KC: I accomplished so many of my dreams last season, so I want to do that same thing again. I want to prove it wasn't just an accident.
Shape: The challenges on ANW are so outside the normal realm of everyday movement. Do you create crazy obstacles in your backyard or something to practice?
KC: Absolutely. We love training on obstacles. It keeps you super healthy and fit, but it's also fun, You're not dreading your workout, because it's so exciting! (Catanzaro's trainer, boyfriend and fellow ANW competitor Brent Steffensen, explained to Shape that the couple works with a company that Brent co-owns, Alpha Warrior, to design and build any obstacle they can dream up.) We also use body weight training circuit training, because it keeps your heart rate up while you strengthen and keeps you lean.
Shape: Nutrition is obviously a big part of building and maintaining lean muscle mass, too. I've heard you're a big fan of smoothies! Can you tell us your go-to recipe?
KC: When Brent and I make smoothies, we just throw in whatever we have that's healthy! We don't do protein very often. Our go-to smoothie is one ripe frozen banana, one tablespoon of coconut chips and one of cacao nibs, four tablespoons of chia seeds, two thin slices of raw beet, and we use POM Wonderful pomegranate juice as the base. We usually drink this after our morning workout as a pick-me-up re-energizer!
Shape: Have you discovered any different types of workouts that you were surprised help you train for competition?
KC: I've started running a little bit. I've never been a long distance runner, but I've started to do a few miles to add to my cardio and endurance training because in ANW we are doing the obstacles one after another, so it helps to have that endurance, being tired but still able to perform.
Shape: What do you think is the single best move for women to build upper-body strength?
KC: Definitely pull-ups. They really help me with obstacles where I need to lift my own body weight. (Steffensen notes that even just hanging from the bar is a good way to build up strength before you can do a pull-up). (These 8 Easier Alternative to Pull-Ups will help you too!)
Shape: We have to know—what's the best and worst thing about dating your trainer?
KC: The best part is that we get to do all of these things together! If you're just by yourself, it's a lot easier to slack off. There's really nothing bad about working out together! Every now and then, when one of us is tired or not doing that well and we're trying to encourage each other you might just be like, "OK! I'm trying!" But when you take the emotion out of it, you realize they're right and you do need to be pushing it!