Season eight of American Ninja Warrior was a triumph for female Ninjas, as the work of contestants like Jessie Graff and Jesse Labreck turned the media’s eye to their accomplishments.
As more and more women take up the challenge of defeating the course, more and more children, male and female, are changing they way they expect their strengths to develop. They’re witnessing perceived barriers being broken every day.
It’s the Ninjas who are pushing themselves day in and day out, either off camera, of maybe off the show entirely, who are helping force this change. Jennifer Tavernier is one of those Ninjas.
When Jennifer Tavernier learned about American Ninja Warrior, her new goal came into laser focus: Compete on the show and make it as far as possible.
The personal trainer and mother knew she loved fitness, but the rising popularity of Ninja Warrior created a new avenue she hadn’t seen before. More importantly, it gave her an avenue to show her young daughters how a woman’s strength is defined only by her drive and ambition.
The first time we got to see Jennifer in action was the first season of Team Ninja Warrior. Jennifer joined Team Party Time along with Jake Murray and Brian Arnold, after Brian recognized her from her strong Instagram following.
Party Time went to the championship relay against Team TNT, which consisted of Travis Rosen, Adam Arnold and Joyce Shahboz. Ultimately, Party Time took home the first Team Ninja Warrior championship. Not bad for your first time in front of the Ninja Warrior audience.
Jennifer’s Instagram following is currently over 100,000. The success of her training videos and motivational posts has led to multiple sponsorship opportunities. She’ll soon be appearing on season two of Team Ninja Warrior as well.
She did compete on season eight of American Ninja Warrior, but her Qualifying run in Philadelphia didn’t make the broadcast and she did not move on to the City Finals.
Undeterred, Jennifer is still living and breathing the Ninja lifestyle and message. She trains out of Conquer Ninja Warrior in Minnesota, giving her the nickname Minne Ninja. Here, she concentrates on coaching young Ninjas and women, seeing it as an important way to raise the mental and physical strength of both groups.
Jennifer is still on the road to total American Ninja Warrior domination, but she’s set herself along a path where she is fully in charge.
We talked with Jennifer to learn more about how she shaped her life to fitness, then Ninja Warrior, and how the outlet is allowing her to inspired her daughters, her students and all those that she trains.
When did you know that fitness was going to be an essential part of your life?
Since I was like eight months old and running already. I grew up playing sports and I never really stopped. I played tennis through college and then I got into group fitness after my girls were born. There were some stroller classes that I did. So I got into the group fitness field and started personal training. It’s been the center of my world since then.
Was there a time you realized this could be a career?
After I started doing the stroller fitness, when my girls were little, I realized how much I loved working with other people and helping them with their fitness goals. So at that point it became a mindset change for me. I got my personal training certification. I ran a fitness business of my own.
Then Ninja Warrior came into my life, and there were a lot more changes with that. With Instagram and being able to make a living off of that. That’s my dream, to be able to pursue this all the time. It’s been an awesome ride.
Why pursue being a personal trainer versus a professional athlete, like tennis?
I wasn’t as passionate about tennis as I am now with Ninja Warrior.
I had different life goals at that point. That was 10 years ago. I thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom. I was looking for a career that I could use to do that. My mindset has changed a lot now. I want to be able to make money doing what I love.
Who is that girl on the left?? I've been thin my whole life but was never comfortable with my body. I started lifting weights about 4 years ago, and it has changed me inside and out. Lifting (and ninjaing ) not only gives me an emotional high, but I love seeing the changes in my physique. Wherever you are, keep pushing forward. Life never gets easy and change takes time Just get to that gym!! #minneninja #12yearsago
How has your life changed since American Ninja Warrior?
It’s completely changed. I was working pretty part time. It became a dream that became a goal to get on the show and do really well. It became something that I could really throw myself into. I started devoting a lot of my time to training and I ate it up. I loved watching what I could do and watching how much better I could get. I loved training.
I’m doing a lot more training than I was before and molding my life around that. Also Instagram, I started that account a year ago and that has totally taken off. It’s completely centered around my training for Ninja Warrior.
I’ve had financial opportunities through Instagram. Part of the reason I even got on Team Ninja Warrior was because of all the videos I was posting and Brian [Arnold] recognized me.
It’s completely changed things for me and given me different things to pursue and practically a different career.
How old are your girls?
They are six and eight.
What do they think about you being on the show?
They love it. They were super excited to be there in Philly and watch me. I think that was a really neat experience for them, being able to watch the show live.
They were watching Team Ninja Warrior and I didn’t tell them the ending, I didn’t tell them what was going to happen. They weren’t quite as shocked as I thought they were going to be. I think it’s become a little bit like, “Well this is just what my mom does.”
But I do hear them telling their friends “My mom was on Team Ninja Warrior. She won Team Ninja Warrior. She’s the champion.”
So I hear them talking to their friends about it. They love it. They love coming to the gym with me and playing around. They’re pretty good so they like showing off for everybody.
Do you think it’s important for them to see you taking on these challenges?
I do. That’s part of what gives me my inspiration. I just want them to grow up knowing that if there’s something they want to do, I want them to feel like they have every freedom to pursue it, no matter what it is.
I don’t want them to feel like they have to follow a cookie cutter lifestyle. Whatever is inside them. Whatever lights them up, and inspires them and makes them feel alive, that’s what I want them to feel like they can chase after.
I want them to do the things that make them feel good inside and make them feel like they’re really living. They’re watching me get to do that. That’s super important for me.
What’s that Ninja community like for the young girls at Conquer Ninja Warrior?
I see lots of little girls going in and just lighting up. They have smiles on their faces when they’re doing something in front of their parents, they’re showing their friends. We’ve got lots of little girls and we’ve started a ladies class that I teach one night a week that’s growing and growing. That’s really exciting for me.
I think a lot of moms, girls, women in general come into the gym and they’re intimidated. They’re thinking, “I can’t do that.” Because the majority of the people at Ninja gyms are men, boys.
I think just having that opportunity to have a female class, a ladies class, gives them a slightly less intimidating way to enter. They love it just as much as the guys do.
It’s been fun to watch more women get into it. I feel like even just a year ago when I started, I was one of the only girls doing it. Now there’s a pretty good sized group of us coming in every week. That’s really exciting for me.
How do you think Ninja training benefits young girls who start it at a young age?
I think that if a young girl was to do Ninja training from a young age, it would develop her into a pretty well rounded athlete. You have to be so diverse in your skills. Upper body and lower body.
It’s going to give her a lot of confidence. Being able to go out on the playground and show off or even watching the show. I think it’s super exciting for kids to be able to say, “I can do that obstacle. I’ve tried it before.”
Like any sport, it develops confidence. If they’re competing in kid’s competitions, that’s going to work on their mental toughness. All things that are important for kids growing up.
All the kids classes at the gym are mixed right now. Boys and girls. There’s seven to 10 kids per class. It’s definitely more heavy on the boys right now.
How do you keep an environment in the gym where little girls aren’t intimidated to go into class? How do you navigate that atmosphere to make sure they stick around?
I can speak for myself and the other female trainer that we’re super encouraging of any girl that comes into class. We’re really excited to see girls come in. Lots of encouragement, lots of telling them how awesome they are. How they’re doing great. Just supporting them and being there. I feel like that’s enough for a girl who wants to be there to begin with.
I think they get a lot of excitement and enjoyment out of beating the boys too. They’re right on par. That’s going to keep them coming back too.
Jennifer will be appearing in the upcoming season two of Team Ninja Warrior. You can follow her on Instagram for her training and work out videos. If you’re in Minnesota, try to stop by one of Conquer Ninja Warrior’s two locations.