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American Ninja Warrior Contestant Kacy Catanzaro Has Guts—And Is Going for Glory

Written on July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm , by

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.


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Fit Links: Summer Survival Guide and Olympic Inspiration

Written on July 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm , by

Don't sweat it! (Photo by Laura Doss)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

FITNESS Celeb Fan: Bewitched and Tropic Thunder Actress Valerie Azlynn

Written on June 28, 2012 at 8:40 am , by

(Photo by Marc Cartwright)

Actress Valerie Azlynn, who appears in the new TBS comedy Sullivan & Son premiering July 18, doesn’t rely on trainers to stay fit. With her “weird hours” on set (you may have also seen in the movies Bewitched and Tropic Thunder) it can be tough to schedule a training session, so she is constantly on the hunt for gym inspiration to stay motivated. In fact, Azlynn considers FITNESS to be the perfect tool to keep her workouts fun and fresh.

“I tear out pages from magazines so I can do the workouts in the gym. Right now, I have a hot pink binder full of FITNESS magazine stuff,” Azlynn told us when she visited our office recently. “I flip it open for new ideas to constantly change up my workout. It makes such a difference to mix it up!”

Azlynn admits that she occasionally gets odd looks from strangers, but to her, it’s worth it. “If they’re talking about me, maybe they’re just jealous of my fun moves!”

Azlynn adds new workouts from every issue—including this one from June. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Azlynn)

Need some new ideas to mix up your routine? Print out, bookmark or Pin a few of our current favorites!

Health is particularly important to Azlynn, as she had open heart surgery as a kid to repair a defect that she was born with. She uses this to fuel her healthy choices (which include a daily green smoothie with kale, lettuce, banana, raspberry, pear and peanut butter), yet she still keeps things light around the topic.

“I bought a butcher knife pendant for my necklace,” the funny actress says. “If you can’t laugh about it, what’s the point?”

Now tell us: How do you keep your workout routine from getting stale?

Inspire a Future Generation of Female Athletes With Nike

Written on June 23, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Here at FITNESS, we aim to encourage women of all ages to reach for their goals, which is why we’re happy to share with you the exhilarating video below. For the 40th anniversary of Title IX , Nike has released “Voices,” a new film with the personal stories of four amazing athletes who’ve broken barriers to become the best at their sport: Joan Benoit Samuelson, Lisa Leslie, Marlen Esparza and Diana Taurasi. In the film, these female pros talk about the challenges they faced and what it takes to succeed. It shows young girls voicing these athletes’ stories, hoping to inspire a new generation of go-getters and medal winners.

Watch the video below to see a preview of the film and see the full feature on the Nike Women Facebook page on June 23, on ABC Family on June 23 and on ESPN on June 26.

Get in the Olympic Spirit With the Film “Warrior Champions”

Written on June 19, 2012 at 9:48 am , by

It’s safe to say by now that we have full-fledged Olympic fever. With just over one month until the lighting of the torch, teams are being fielded and the final training push begins! To hold us over until the official competitions begin, we have been speaking with competitors and checking out their covetable uniforms. We also recently watched a super-inspiring film, Warrior Champions, about wounded Iraq veterans chasing their dreams of competing the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Melissa Stockwell, one of the film’s amazing stars, tells a fellow injured vet, “I’ve done more in life than with one leg than I would have done with two.” Talk about motivation to get off the couch and track down your own fitness goals!

Check out the trailer below and click here to find out when the full movie airs on Documentary Channel in your area.

Now tell us: Which athletes or events motivate you to get moving?

Run the World (Girls)! 3 Ways to Celebrate the Anniversary of Title IX

Written on May 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm , by

Just 40 years ago, girls were often sitting on the sidelines while boys had fun on the athletic playing fields. Before the landmark Title IX legislation was passed in 1972, 30,000 women (or one in 27) participated in high school sports. Today, that number is more like 3,000,000 (or one in 2.5)! Another fun fact: The 2012 Olympic Games will be the first in which male and female events will be held in equal numbers.

The ladies are bringing home the gold! (Photo courtesy of Titlenine.com)

So this summer, leading up to the official 40th anniversary of the law on June 23, here are three ways we’re celebrating the fittest females we know.

  1. Relive all of the greatest women’s sports moments and superstars with espnW‘s Power of IX. They are counting down the Top 40 Female Athletes of the Past 40 Years, revealing a new selection each weekday. Click on over to see a video and details about each winner as they are counted down.
  2. While you’re at espnW, add your photo to the mosaic of female athletes! You’ll join the ranks of pros from Billie Jean King to Serena Williams as well as “everyday” women who love to golf, play frisbee and swim. Simply upload your image and explain why “Title IX is mine.”
  3. To take the Title IX celebrations to the gym, we’re wearing adorable tops by the aptly named company Title Nine. Their Power of 9 line includes eight tees which will be rolled out throughout the summer. As an added bonus, nine percent of sales will benefit Starting Block, a non-profit that helps girls across the U.S. get involved with sports. Our favorite designs so far: Champion Girl (seen above) and Determination.

Now tell us: What does Title IX mean to you and how has the women’s sports landscape changed since you started playing?

7 Ideas to Add to Your Running Bucket List

Written on March 20, 2012 at 10:49 am , by

Dimity, left, and Sarah bond over their mutual love of exercise. (Photo by Nicole Morganthau)

Five years ago, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea immersed themselves in running while training for the Nike Women’s Marathon together. While they had support from one another, they realized that there weren’t many resources to help working moms balance race training with life.

“There is a huge community of women just like us: women who get up before the sun rises, lace up and head out,” McDowell says. “We wanted to write a book that spoke to those women—our tribe—that addressed the various reasons why we run.” And that is how Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving—and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity was born. The pair’s new book, Train Like a Mother, hits stores today and “fills in the gaps.” You’ll find motivation tips, “motherly advice,” funny anecdotes and nine busy-woman-friendly training plans for races from 5Ks to marathons.

We laughed, nodded in agreement and dog-eared countless pages while reading Train Like a Mother, but nothing stood out quite like the running bucket list. It’s like a fitness game full of fun challenges that you can start today! Here are a few bucket list items from the authors to get you started—check out the book for more or brainstorm your own ideas that will inspire you to “run this mother!”

  1. Get a non-running friend to drink the Kool-Aid, then guide her through her first race. (Bonus points for letting her cross the finish line in front of you.)
  2. Plan a vacation around a race.
  3. Register for a race the day before, just because you feel like it.
  4. Wear a shirt with your name on the front in a race so spectators can cheer for you.
  5. Be on a relay team, either for a marathon, triathlon or longer 12-person relay race.
  6. Use the phrase “track workout” casually in conversation.
  7. Write down all the thoughts you have after a great run or race, then refer to them when your mojo goes MIA.

Now tell us: What is on your running or fitness bucket list?

Meet The Trainer: Tae Bo Creator Billy Blanks

Written on January 30, 2012 at 11:47 am , by

When Tao Bo master and creator, Billy Blanks, stopped by the FITNESS offices a few months ago he created quite a stir! Women were popping out of their offices and cubicles to get a sneak peak of the man himself, as Billy and I tried out moves from his hit new workout, PT 24/7 in our conference room. Not only was Billy super-fun to hang with, but we have a shared passion for martial arts, and anybody with a butt-kicking background will always be on the top of my list. (I spent 10 years practicing Shotokan karate growing up!) After our February Express Workout shoot, I sat down with Billy for a little one-on-one.

With Billy Blanks when he stopped by the FITNESS office!

Why did you decide to create the PT 24/7 DVDs?

I wanted a 30-minute workout with strength and cardio combined. People complain they don’t have time for both, so we put them together. The plan includes a rotation calendar for when to do the workouts and an eating plan too. We called it 24/7 because within 24 hours you’ll feel the difference and within seven days, your body starts to change.

For someone who is unfamiliar, how would you describe them and how they are different from other DVDs?
Tae Bo as a whole is a basic workout that will help you recognize your true self, change your body and your attitude. PT 24/7 will teach you how to put together a physical fitness program and make healthy living a lifestyle, not just something you do for 60 or 90 days. It builds you up mentally and physically.

Do you have any tips for readers trying this Express workout?
Pick out basic moves first. I really recommend the gloves that come with the PT 24/7 kit because they help you feel like a fighter and give you confidence. The gloves that come with the system, with bands attached, are easy to pick up. It’s really interactive with the bands. The moves in this workout and the DVDs will test and challenge you, but you’ll quit if you’re not engaged.

What do you do to exercise when you have just 15 minutes?
I take the gloves with bands and do punches. I use them for push-ups (with bands looped behind your back, hands in triangle position), military press, squats and lunges. You can really do everything with them and combine moves together, like a military press with a side lunge. Your core gets involved when you work multiple muscles.

Read more

5 Tricks to Train Better From “Warrior” Movie Pro

Written on January 19, 2012 at 11:49 am , by

Written by Lauren Cardarelli, editorial intern

Two brothers face off during an MMA battle in Warrior. (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Keeping a balance between realistic action scenes with “the Hollywood of it all” was one of the obstacles technical adviser and mixed martial arts (MMA) trainer legend, Greg Jackson, had to overcome in the new movie, Warrior.  The film, which stars Tom Hardy (who you may recognize from Inception), shares an inspiring story about two brothers fighting for their family.

Jackson grew up in a family of wrestlers and has developed 10 world champions. He was responsible for ensuring the authenticity of the MMA aspects in the film, which was released on DVD last month. Besides the jabs and takedowns in the cage, Jackson found it important to convey the culture (specifically the coach-fighter bond) of the MMA world. “We’re real people and we have normal lives. We’re not these extreme and crazy, as we’re sometimes portrayed,” Jackson said.

Here are five tips from Jackson to train like the stars.

  1. Shop around. Go online and find a reputable school in your area that provides kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling classes. Make sure it is an atmosphere that you feel comfortable in before committing.
  2. Exercise smarter. Explosive training and the work-to-rest ratio is the key to success.
  3. Keep an eye on your plate. “One word: diet.” According to Jackson, you can exercise all day long but if you really want to lose weight, it’s all about what you put into your body.
  4. Allow for recovery. Greg refuels with protein like MusclePharm Re-Con. A tall glass of chocolate milk is another great alternative!
  5. Find a “why.” “Inspiration is our most precious commodity,” Jackson says. “Everyone has their own muse.” Find what moves you and don’t give up.

Now tell us: Which movies or characters inspire you to get active?

Celeb Trainer Harley Pasternak Gives Us the Scoop on His New “Revolution”

Written on January 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm , by

Pasternak trains two sisters at the beginning of their journey. (Photo courtesy of ABC/Rick Rowell)

First there was The View, then The Chew and now ABC’s starting The Revolution, the network’s latest talk show which is actually not all talk but more so action. We got the skinny from one of the show’s hosts, celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, when he showed up at the video shoot of his Express Workout routine coming in the March issue of FITNESS.

“Small changes can make a big change in your life,” says Pasternak, who trains big-name beauties like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. That’s the message of The Revolution which premieres this Monday, January 16 at 2 p.m. and each week features another woman’s five-month journey as Pasternak and a dream team of pros give her life a 360-degree upgrade. Think Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington remodeling your kitchen and Project Runway tastemaker Tim Gunn acting as your personal stylist. (They’ll be joined by top health, wellness and money experts to leave no rut unturned.)

“We make over her home, her fashion and her body. And unlike other shows, we do it while they’re still living their day-to-day lives,” says Pasternak, who packed his gym bag to travel around the country making house calls. Each day’s episode represents one month of one lucky gal’s transformation with Friday being the big reveal.

All along the way, viewers at home get DIY how-tos for achieving their own aha moments. “The goal is to inspire others with the lessons we share,” Pasternak says.