Jennifer L’Hommedieu Stankus, MD, JD, is always looking for a challenge. “When I saw [NBC’s] American Ninja Warrior [ANW], it looked like so much fun that I had to try out,” she said.
The avid sports enthusiast, who works at Tacoma Emergency Care Physicians and Madigan Army Medical Center, both in Tacoma, Washington, is no stranger to testing her limits. “I participate in tons of sports and outdoor activities, including cave diving, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, surfing, and running, among other things,” the 45-year-old athlete said. She’s even competed in national Xterra off-road triathlons. “But nothing can really prepare you for ANW other than being a well-rounded athlete,” Dr. Stankus said.
Dr. Stankus, who served as an officer in the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps and as a medic in the US Navy Reserve after high school, was selected from 50,000 applicants vying for fewer than 700 spots on ANW. She competed in a special military edition in San Pedro, California, in June this year. Contestants on the show compete in one of six cities, with 15 finalists from each city going on to the national finals in Las Vegas. The winner, if there is one, is awarded $1 million.
The competition runs from dusk until dawn. The first night is the city qualifiers, where a pool of 110 is pared down to 30. The city finals are held the second night on a longer and more difficult course, cutting the field down to 15. The course consists of a series of obstacles that test strength, speed, balance, and agility.
“Very few people finish the course, but anyone who finishes, regardless of time, moves on to the finals,” Dr. Stankus explained. Those who go the farthest fastest fill the remaining slots.
Finding Balance Between Work and Play
So how does Dr. Stankus balance her training regimen with her professional responsibilities? “I work hard and play hard,” she said. “When I’m done at work, I’m done, and that’s when the play starts.”
Staying fit is a lifestyle, said Dr. Stankus, just like getting a good night’s sleep. She does daily cardio exercises, such as running, swimming, biking, or hiking. For strength training, she focuses on pull-ups, push-ups, dips, planks, jumps, and other body-weight and core exercises, plus works out on an obstacle course that she created at home. “Your body gets conditioned to the same exercises pretty fast, so you have to keep mixing it up,” she said. She can achieve desired results by working out between 20 and 45 minutes four to five times per week.