Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern
By now, it’s likely you’ve caught wind of 24-year-old Kacy Catanzaro, the first-ever female to qualify for the finals of NBC and Esquire Network's sports competition show, American Ninja Warrior. After completing a nine-part obstacle course during the Dallas qualifying round (and making it look like a walk in the park), the former gymnast proves she packs a real punch as an athlete and competitor. And after speaking with her, we're convinced that this girl really is a ninja—all 5 feet and 100 pounds of her.
Congrats on your awesome run for “ANW!” How did it feel? It is definitely a lot of pressure stepping out there. There are a lot of lights, cameras, and you know the whole world is going to see it on TV eventually. Before I run, you can see that I’m kind of bouncing around and a little bit anxious. It's funny: Once they count down and they say, “3,2,1, go,” it’s like a wave of relief washes over me. Then I just kind of take it one thing at a time. After I finish one obstacle, I just calmly take a few deep breaths and get ready to attack the next one.
How has your gymnastics career prepared you for ANW? I started gymnastics when I was 5 years old and then I got a scholarship to a Division I school—Townsen University in Maryland—and I competed all four years there. So from the time I was 5 until the time I was 22, it was my whole life. Gymnastics really mentally prepared me for the course: being able to take that kind of pressure and not let it affect me in a bad way, but actually use it as fire to get excited and to get out there. And if things don’t go my way, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I just have to overcome them by making adjustments in order to make it happen.
How do you stay in such amazing shape? I try and strength-train anywhere from four to six times a week, based on where life is taking me or what is coming up. Brent Steffensen—my boyfriend, coach and an ANW veteran—and I train together and do strength-training and bodyweight-circuit training on a regular basis. We do lots of bodyweight exercises in a row—pushups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, lots of abs—to really build strength and endurance. For the obstacle courses, we want to be as light and lean as possible, and doing exercises with your bodyweight is the most efficient way to get there.
What’s your diet like? I just try to eat as clean as possible—greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and things like that. For my protein, I like fish a lot because it is lighter and cleaner. Definitely stay away from anything that is processed and avoid eating too much sugar. So if I can’t read an ingredient listed in an ingredient label, I try to stay away from it. It’s so important to be aware of what you are putting into your body and what good or harm it will do.
What motivates you to stay fit? I’ve always had a competitive nature—I love getting out there and competing—but one thing people don’t realize about fitness is that people don’t just work out out to look good. Obviously it’s very nice to look good and to have that body you dream of, but the most important thing about fitness and living healthy is being able to get the maximum out of your life. If you are as fit as you can be, you can do more and you aren’t held back by your weight. I think that staying fit, not being held back and being able to go out and try to accomplish whatever it is that I want is the best part of it. In case you missed it, check out Kacy's crazy performance below, and be sure to watch the St. Louis finals tonight at 9 on NBC.