Not many of Soledad O’Brien’s PowHERful Summit speakers personified the word powerful quite like Jennifer Tavernier.
Wearing a sleeveless top, Instagram’s @minneninja had the guns out last weekend at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, where O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group, held a daylong event featuring speakers to advise young women interested in completing college. At one point Tavernier, a personal trainer at Conquer Ninja Warrior in Eden Prairie, got the young women out of their chairs for a little exercise.
Tavernier is a “Team Ninja Warrior” champion. “Team Ninja Warrior,” which airs on the Esquire channel, is a spinoff of NBC’s exhausting obstacle course competition “American Ninja Warrior.” Tavernier didn’t survive the “America Ninja Warrior” course, “but I made it to the fourth obstacle.” Meaning: “I had a pretty good run on ‘America Ninja Warrior.’ ”
Saturday the mother of two daughters, 6 and 8, will speak at Women RISE at Healthsource in Lakeville.
Q: How did you get from fitness person to “American Ninja Warrior”?
A: I saw a video of Kacy Catanzaro completing a finals course. She was the first woman to ever do that. The first woman to scale the warped wall and then she completed the whole thing. I had never seen the show before and I thought, “I would love, love to do that. That looks so exciting!” I started looking into it and found a gym here to start training. I train at ninja gyms. There are several that have opened in the last couple of years. They have all different kinds of obstacles because they are always changing the obstacles on the show.
Q: What is the secret to getting up that curved wall?
A: Not running crazy fast and being intense. You have to lean back a little bit and then have very powerful legs. If you run straight at the wall, you won’t go up it. You have to lean back and let your steps carry you.
Q: What is something they don’t warn you about before you go on the TV show?
A: [Laugh] A lot of people don’t realize the show is filmed overnight. A lot of people have to wait until 2 or 3 in the morning to have their run. It’s just lots and lots of waiting, and if it rains it can get delayed.
Q: Are you at your freshest at 2:30 a.m.?
A: [Laugh] I am far from my freshest. It just makes everything more challenging.
Q: What is the temperature of that water you fall into on “American Ninja Warrior”?
A: [Laugh]. It’s chilly, but I have never thought about it once when I’ve hit the water. All I’m thinking about is, “Darn it, I screwed it up.” You’ve got so much adrenaline going that I’m not paying any attention to it. I notice once I get out.
Q: Is there anybody you dislike enough to step into a ring with and whup mixed martial arts (MMA) style?
A: [Extended laugh] I have never been asked that question. Let me think about it. I’m not sure if there is anyone I want to hurt.
Q: France has banned MMA. Does this make the French more civilized than Americans? Did you know about the ban?
A: No. I’m a fan of MMA. As a woman I personally wouldn’t enjoy parts of it, like having my face bashed in, but I can understand the excitement and the rush of letting out that kind of aggression.
Q: But you don’t want a piece of Ronda Rousey?
A: I would be terrified to go into a ring with Ronda Rousey. [Laugh]
Q: How many “cheat days” do you have in a week?
A: [Laugh] I’m careful with what I eat, on the whole. I don’t have a whole cheat day. I have cheat times throughout the day. If I’m out to eat, I’ll have a cheeseburger; maybe I’ll skip the bun.
Q: What’s a food you wish didn’t have any calories?
A: Hmmm. Pizza.
Q: Punch Pizzas, I don’t think have many calories.
A: Maybe not. It’s still not particularly healthy.
Q: Really? I’ve told myself they are.
A: [Laugh] Still got all that cheese and the crust. It’s not very nutritionally dense.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show” and “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.