April 26, 2022

American Ninja Warrior Jessie Graff Shares How You Can Face Your Fears And Become Your Own Superhero

American Ninja Warrior Jessie Graff Shares How You Can Face Your Fears And Become Your Own Superhero

Our guest is American Ninja Warrior star, Jessie Graff.


They've broken all kinds of records. They are champions in every way. They push to perform to their full potential, and some can even claim to be the finest in the world at what they do. Elite athletes devote their entire lives to achieving the highest levels of success.

Then there's the rest of us.

But, how can we apply the same passion and dedication to achieve similar levels of success in our own lives?

In this episode, we try to answer those questions with help from a superhero. Jessie Graff is a "modern-day Wonder Woman." Graff is the first woman to complete stages 1 and 2 of American Ninja Warrior's Las Vegas finals.

She is also an accomplished stuntwoman in Hollywood. She's worked on films such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Wonder Woman, and Alita: Battle Angel (to name a few). She’s also worn a famous red cape while performing some heroic stunts on the TV series Supergirl.

Listen to find out why you don't have to have superpowers to be the hero of your own story.

What We Discuss with Jessie:

  • Jessie's best piece of advice for reaching seemingly impossible goals.
  • How she stays motivated, even when injured.
  • The key to overcoming whatever hurdle you come across.
  • How she discovered the stuntwomen's profession and became encouraged to pursue it.
  • How she uses a mindset shift to avoid disappointment.
  • How she prepares mentally and physically for each challenge.
  • Various levels of dedication are required for training in order to gain strength and experience while being safe.
  • Lessons she learned from her mother, which she applies to Ninja training.

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[00:00:00] Jeremy: What can the habits of world-class athletes teach you about getting and staying motivated to reach your goals? Plenty week after week, you see them push their bodies to the limits, to break records, win titles, and become the best in there.

[00:00:13] Zach: None of them got there overnight or without overcoming incredible odds. Our guests today is no exception. We're joined by Hollywood stunt woman and American ninja warrior superstar. Jessie Graff. She'll share how you can learn to see obstacles as opportunities to grow in ways you may have never imagined. 

[00:00:29] This is the fit mess conversations with world-class experts in the fields of mental, physical, and emotional health. And this episode 

[00:00:38] Jessie Graff: anytime something negative happens, I always try to see it as. , what new opportunity do I have because of this that I wouldn't have had if this didn't happen. And sometimes I don't see it at first. Sometimes I don't see it for a year, but because I've seen it happen in so many of my past experiences, I'm willing to have that faith that if I look hard enough and I make stuff happen, I will have new opportunities because of this, , thing that seems like a catastrophe.

[00:01:06] Now, here are your hosts, Zach and Jeremy. 

[00:01:08] Zach: TRO

[00:01:09] Jeremy: Welcome to the fitness brought to you by athletic greens. Thanks for listening while you're doing whatever it is you're doing right. I'm Jeremy, he's Zach and together we've been through all kinds of struggles and ended up stronger because of them.

[00:01:19] And we want to help you do the same. So if you're sick of your own shit and ready to make a change, you're in the right place. This might seem like an odd place to start the shows act. But when you were a kid, , what superhero did you want to be? 

[00:01:29] Zach: Wolverine, 

[00:01:31] Jeremy: never, you never hear Wolverine. Nobody ever says Wolverine, 

[00:01:35] Zach: He, I mean, he doesn't age, he heals from anything and he's got knives that come out of his hand. I mean, I know they're bone claws, but still knives that come out of your, your hands. I mean that, that's just, 

[00:01:46] bad-ass. 

[00:01:47] Jeremy: get much better than that. I never thought of Wolverine for me. It's the obvious. I always went with Superman, right? I mean, what couldn't the guy do? Any, probably like whatever a movie villain threw at him, he always had some new power that maybe you hadn't even seen before. I remember when I first saw the heat vision and the, and the cold breath, I was like, come on, this guy can do anything.

[00:02:06] Zach: Yup. But Wolverine is more relatable because he is technically still human. 

[00:02:11] Jeremy: Technically technically well, and that's it. It's funny you say that because, , even as an adult now, I sort of, in my head, I hold myself up to Superman standards for better or worse, right? Like I want to perform at that level. I want to be the hero for everybody, including myself. And perhaps that's why I'm so disappointed when I let myself down is because the bar is so ridiculously high, that, that maybe I'm aiming a little too high.

[00:02:36] Zach: Yeah. See, I do the opposite. I hold my standards at the Clark Kent level. That way I always exceed them

[00:02:43]  I do remember being a kid and watching, X-Men and like, actually looking at Wolverine or any of the superheroes and just being like, I want to be that. And I never, ever once contemplated the amount of work. That goes into being that, whether it's like the responsibility of that superpower or, , developing it or just becoming stronger mentally and physically to get there, it was always just, I want that.

[00:03:07] And I never thought about what that looked like to get there. And now as an adult I think about being healthy mentally and physically are really super powers , in their own right. But it takes a huge amount of effort. It takes a huge amount of motivation. As a kid, I wanted to be Wolverine today.

[00:03:27] I want to be a healthy dad who can be there for his daughter and, , be mentally okay with, everything that's going on and actually be resilient enough to deal with the world. So like, that's my superpower today. Like I just want to be a really good dad, a really good.

[00:03:41] person. For the community for the world and just be as healthy as I possibly can.

[00:03:47] But damn, there's a lot of work that goes into getting there. 

[00:03:50] Jeremy: See, that's why I always wanted to be like Superman. He was just born with it. He didn't have to do anything. Like I was lifting cars when he was in.

[00:03:56] Zach: Exactly. Right. There's No, effort.

[00:03:59] Jeremy: No, and that's why I always related to them. I wanted to put in no effort and have all of the results and it turns out that's, that's not the way life works.

[00:04:06] Zach: Well, but if you're, if you think about it though, how much effort do you think he had to put into being Clark Kent? 

[00:04:13] Jeremy: That's a good point. That was a, uh, a bit more of a, of a stretch for his character, I guess.

[00:04:18] Zach: Yeah, I mean, he had to, I mean, shaking somebody's hand, he had to make sure he didn't break the person's hand. 

[00:04:24] Jeremy: That's 

[00:04:24] Zach: Right. I mean, he had to have a lot of effort and a lot of practice, I bet into figuring out how much pressure to, you know, use when shaking someone's hand or going to be clumsy and trip and pretend not to see things.

[00:04:35] I mean, That's a lot of effort 

[00:04:36] Jeremy: Just look at the bar fight that he got and how much he had to hold back on those guys.

[00:04:40] Zach: I know exactly, 

[00:04:42] Jeremy: you're right though. All this stuff, whatever, whatever goal you're chasing, whether it's weight, loss, better job promotion, whatever the thing is, it always takes work. It always takes effort to get to where you want to go. Particularly if you're talking about taking care of your body, you have to make sure you're giving it all the things.

[00:04:56] It needs. All the right nutrients. That's why I started taking athletic.

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[00:05:57] You'll also find that link on our website, the fitness.com. 

[00:06:00] Zach: So, speaking of all the effort and motivation that it requires to be a superhero or even knowing what superhero you wanted to be when you were a kid, , we had the chance to talk with Hollywood stunt woman and American ninja warrior superstar, Jesse graft.

[00:06:15] And we really just started off by asking her if she always wanted to fly. 

[00:06:19] Jessie Graff: yes. So, , I was climbing the kitchen counters before I could walk. My mom says the first word she taught me was edge so that I wouldn't fall off the edge of things. , when I was four years old, I saw the. And, , w I was just like, my parents described me as a painfully shy child. I would hide behind my mom's skirt.

[00:06:40] I got rejected from a preschool because I was like hiding under the table the whole time. Like, I just wouldn't even speak. And I saw this circus and the people were flying and I told my parents, I have to do that. Like, let's go ask the ringmaster if I can do it. And, , obviously they're going to say no.

[00:06:56] So my parents like. They didn't want to say no either. Cause I would probably throw a tantrum, , cause they could see how important this was to me. So they were like, okay, you know, if you want to do it, you're going to have to ask thinking that was a safe bet. That there's no way I would go speak to him.

[00:07:11] But it's just like, even that early I could feel it was that important. And I was like, okay, I'm going to do it, whatever it takes. So I toddled down the bleachers to see the ring master. And I asked them if I could do it, he said, no, I cried. And that's when my parents knew, okay, we have to get this kid into circus classes apparently.

[00:07:29] , and so that's kind of like how I blossomed as a human and became willing to speak to adults to ask questions because I just wanted that bad. To grow and to learn in climbing things and swinging and flying through the air. , and that eventually got me into gymnastics and, , I think physical activity and testing my limits and the feeling of soaring is what has guided me towards overcoming any challenge that I have wanted to take on.

[00:08:00] Zach: As you were growing up or even today, who's your favorite superhero still?

[00:08:05] Jessie Graff: , I think the one I would want to be most is probably Spider-Man or Supergirl. Flying is my first choice. So let's go with super girl.

[00:08:12] Jeremy: You kind of get to be super girl though. So that's kinda cool.

[00:08:15] Jessie Graff: You're not wrong. Yeah, no. Getting to work on Supergirl as a stuntwoman was one of the most exciting and like iconic moments. Shauna Duggins was the main Supergirl double.

[00:08:26] , she's been one of my role models since I was, , let me see in high school, I guess I was watching alias and she was the stunt double for Jennifer Garner. So even though, I didn't know, there was a stunt double. I was watching alias being like, I want to be like that girl when I grow up. , and so getting to meet Shauna and work with her and be kind of like her backup, double, , and then getting to fight Supergirl.

[00:08:48] Cause I was usually doubling one of the bad guys. So me and Shauna would be fighting, , in a lot of different episodes. So that was really exciting. 

[00:08:56] Jeremy: That's cool. most people I think would probably recognize you from the American ninja warrior, , show, eh, And I understand your discovery of that was part of a recovery from a pretty bad injury early in your career.

[00:09:08] Jessie Graff: Yeah, I'd been doing stunts for six years and it was my whole life. Like I said, I've always been in love with that feeling of flying and pushing my limits. And so my whole life revolved around doing stunts and training for stuff. And, , a lot of martial arts and free running and flipping and, , and a lot of high impact things.

[00:09:27] And so when I tore my ACL in a TaeKwonDo class, I knew that I needed some kind of physical goal that would keep me inspired and motivated to keep pushing myself so that I could feel good. Also to keep me from going back to martial arts too soon, because it's very common to, you know, your ACL after a surgery, six months later, it feels pretty good.

[00:09:52] But it's not stable for a year to a year and a half almost. So I was like, okay, I need some new goal. That's going to keep me distracted. So I don't go back to that too soon. , and so I had, I had done into warrior kind of on a whim, but hadn't trained for it at all. And I was like, you know, that was kind of fun.

[00:10:09] And it's, it's almost all upper body. Maybe that'll distract me, just like. To get healthy so I can get back to stunts. And I, I was just hoping that it would be enough of a distraction, you know, maybe, maybe I could learn to care about this. Don't get too invested. Cause it's, it's pretty volatile, but you know, just enough to keep you motivated.

[00:10:28] And over the course of that year, I fell in love with it. I got way more invested than I planned to. And so even when I got healthy and got back to stunts, full-time , It was just such a big part of my life, the training, the community, , just the feeling of being strong. Cause even early on in stunts, I gave into a lot of the pressure of like, you know, you want to match the size and shape of the actresses you're doubling.

[00:10:52] And so I was a little bit afraid of putting on too much muscle because I would lose work. I've always liked muscle, but. I love flying more and you get so many opportunities to fly as a stunt woman. So I was like, okay, I'm willing to be a little weaker. And that's why I tore my ACL. If you're doing that much high-impact stuff and exposing yourself to that much risk, you need the muscle to support your joints.

[00:11:14] And so during that year where I wasn't able to do stunts, I was like, you know what? Let's just get as strong as I can and see what happens. And the cool thing was, I. Like I respect big muscles, but I didn't really get much bigger. I just got more toned and so much more capable. And that feeling of like, you know, I could, I could always do a couple pull-ups, but that feeling of like being like explosive and dynamically, moving upward and being able to just keep going into, hang on a bar for forever, just like.

[00:11:46] It was so empowering and felt so good that I was like, I'm never going back to being weak. Like I want to be this strong all the time. And so when I competed on ninja at the end of that year, it's it really took off. I placed in the top six. At the regional finals. And, um, and that, that season at national finals, I was hoping to beat this record and be the first woman to finish stage one.

[00:12:09] And I failed the warped wall, , coming back from a knee injury, my lower body wasn't quite as strong as I had hoped. Failed the warped wall. And I was so devastated cause I was like, I just dedicated a whole year to training upper body.

[00:12:23] Like I quadruple my upper body strength and like how on earth am I going to be able to maintain this much strength for another whole year? So I can try this again. And it just seemed so unrealistic. Like you have a chance to do something that no woman has ever done to break a record , and to show how strong women can be.

[00:12:43] And so I was like, all right, I know I'm not going to have time. Like, I'm back to stents full time. How am I going to fit all this training in? But I wanted it really badly. So I, I did, I stuck it out. I actually got stronger. So going into season seven, after the knee surgery, I'd gotten up to like, 23 pull-ups maybe in a set without coming down.

[00:13:03] So going into season eight, I think I was around 28 pull-ups , and that was the year that it went crazy. So I, in regional finals, I got second place. , second to a guy who was like nationally ranked in speed climbing his name's Josh Levin. He's amazing. , And then went to national finals and , was the first woman to finish that stage one that I'd failed on the year before.

[00:13:25] , and I did it in the fifth fastest time of all of. Um, so that was crazy. And then I got to compete on stage two and I got picked to be on, , like the international competition and no woman had been on that team before and none of the other teams had women. So it was like, I was competing with the best guys in the world.

[00:13:43] And so it was just like such a mind blowing year of, , like that. Little girls dressed up as me for Halloween and women were messaging me about like, you know, they were always told that they couldn't be strong and, and so they didn't try. And now that they were seeing me and the other strong women on ninja warrior, they were like, maybe I can do this and training and getting stronger and feeling empowered.

[00:14:05] And so it's. It's I've always loved pushing myself to try to achieve things, but it hadn't occurred to me that I could inspire others to do the same thing on such a big scale. And so it just transformed my life. And then it's so funny how that one year I was like, how would I ever maintain this much strength?

[00:14:23] Like be able to do 20 pull-ups all the time. Eventually I got up to 43, um, and now like my normal, as long as I'm relatively healthy, my normal is like 35 to. They're 38. I haven't gotten back up to 40 cents. , my shoulder surgeries, but I think it's coming.

[00:14:42] Zach: Nice. So with all of these things that you're doing, that, , women have never done before, or, , the physical setbacks that you've had over the years, , you tell the story and it's like, oh, I did this. And then I did the next thing. And I did the next thing and I did the next thing. But, , there's, there were setbacks along the way, and I'm sure there was struggle and fear and worry and things like that. , how did you get through. , doing all of this stuff, but like from a mindset , perspective, , how'd you set that and just move on and to just demolish all these goals.

[00:15:12] Jessie Graff: Uh, well, there's a lot to that. I think part of it goes back to just how I was raised with my mom, like our way of hanging out and chilling and just like neutral downtime is like, , building stuff or making a garden or going like we would rollerblade to school and bike to school all the time. , or just.

[00:15:32] Run through the forest. So like my natural state is very active. , I saw my mom as a kid overcome so many impossible situations just from like being snowed in with no electricity in the middle of the woods. And she'd have to like cross country ski to get groceries and like row the boat across the lake to bring back the two ton floating docks that were like on the other side.

[00:15:56] Cause the ice pushed him across to like just seeing her overcome impossible things. There was never. A question of like, can we do this? It was always like, well, this needs to get done. , how are we going to do it? And then just pushing through, you know, if this were possible, what's the first step we would take and let's just do that and then see what happens next.

[00:16:16] , but the second is like, anytime something negative happens, I always try to see it as. , what new opportunity do I have because of this that I wouldn't have had if this didn't happen. And sometimes I don't see it at first. Sometimes I don't see it for a year, but because I've seen it happen in so many of my past experiences, I'm willing to have that faith that if I look hard enough and I make stuff happen, I will have new opportunities because of this, , thing that seems like a catastrophe.

[00:16:46] , and so looking back at that knee surgery, That tore down, everything that I cared about at that time, like my whole life revolved around high impact physical activity in my lower body. And I couldn't do any of it. So disaster, well, look at what happened from that. I discovered a new sport and broke records and inspired women, , and kids.

[00:17:08] And so, , it became the biggest positive change in my life that I got beyond what I could have imagined. So I'm like, okay, well, if that happened from the worst thing that happened in your life, could happen from this next catastrophe. So even though, you know, if I get hurt or something happens, that brings me down, like I'll cry over it for a little bit.

[00:17:28] And then I'll be like, okay, let's think about it. , what's the new opportunity? What could happen now? , I do consider myself kind of an expert in recovery. Cause I have had a lot of injuries. I mean, it's, I'm a, stuntwoman I'm exposed to.

[00:17:42] Jeremy: part of the job, right.

[00:17:43] Jessie Graff: It happens. , so I'm good at working around stuff, but I've been getting much better at learning how to rehab properly.

[00:17:51] That's something I have always paid a lot of attention to. , this last set of injuries was definitely the most dramatic I've ever had. It was three major things all at once. , and so dealing with both shoulders and a knee, it was like, okay, Your upper body's injured. Normally I would focus on lower body, but I can't do that right now either.

[00:18:11] So what are we going to do? I was like, you know what? I've spent so much of my life focused on the physical. You're kind of missing some other components of life. Like, what do you want to explore now that you have the time? So I got certified in nutrition and corrective exercise specialization, and started taking courses with my physical therapist for dynamic neuromuscular stabilization, , learning how to breathe properly.

[00:18:34] So all of my training has improved my posture and my overall health has gotten a lot better because of those injuries. , and. What else? Oh yeah. I also started hang-gliding and free diving, , and started a master's degree in kinesiology and I've grown so much as a person. I think my mom's even noticed she's visiting right now.

[00:18:58] And so it's like, we spend time together just like being together in the morning and she's like, I'm not used to you like this. We just, we usually just like bolt out the door and go do all the things I'm like, I do love doing that still. And we have a lot of days that are like that, but I'm a lot more okay.

[00:19:12] With. The stillness or if I'm having a day where I wake up and I am exhausted, you know, I might try to do like five minutes of cardio. And if I'm still tired, like normally getting moving, getting a little sweat, I'll, I'll wake up and be like, okay, now I feel better. Now I can do stuff. But if at five minutes of cardio and you're sweating a little, if I still feel like I need to go back to sleep, that's kind of a cue to me of like, oh, you have a history of over-training. Maybe you should use today for something else. Maybe you could not break yourself. , and so I'm, able to think through, okay, what's the healthiest thing you could do for yourself today? Is it stretching foam, rolling acupuncture or. Do you need to reorganize your house right now? Or do you want to study something, , , about your trading that you've, Hey, let's learn more about power training versus, , muscle endurance training and, and what's the most effective way to train for each of those.

[00:20:06] So, , just feeling like a much more balanced person because of the last catastrophe. So, , if you're determined to see a new opportunity, you'll find that.

[00:20:16] Jeremy: I'm curious about two things in there. , one, you mentioned that it takes a year to see the opportunity

[00:20:23] Jessie Graff: Yeah.

[00:20:23] Jeremy: and it seems like patience has been a big part of this for you. I'm just imagining people. I mean, you've lived an extraordinary life and do extraordinary things every day. And, and for most people, I think that are listening to this, we're living pretty ordinary lives.

[00:20:38] We're, we're working all day and coming home and feeding the kids and getting them to bed. And so the idea of, uh, going to the gym or just, just going to the gym, right. Just getting in a workout is like, oh my God, how am I going to even do that? It just seems like too much. So I guess , how does patients and, and sort of forgiveness and, and allowing yourself to sort of be flawed? How much does that play into becoming a super performer like you, or even just doing better than you did yesterday?

[00:21:09] Jessie Graff: Well, I have terrible patients. So I think I've just learned to understand that about myself and kind of play to it, understanding my own psychology and how to, , I dunno how to use it to my advantage has been really helpful. So let's see, there were a lot of parts to that question.

[00:21:29] Jeremy: I know I kind of fumbled my way there.

[00:21:31] Jessie Graff: Um, well, one thing is I am used to letting my day revolve around my training.

[00:21:39] So if I'm not onset working, doing stunts, I'll take the day at home and be like, all right, I'm going to spend three hours doing this workout and then I'll have. Healthy lunch, and then I'll ride my bike to this workout. I understand that that's a luxury. Like most people don't have the time to do that.

[00:21:56] And when I'm working 19 hours a day on a set, sometimes I'm active all day and sometimes I'm standing around in a firefighter uniform, just like trying to hold my posture. Um, respect to firefighters that like just wearing the gear is super intense. , But basically I wrote up a. A list of exercises that I can do on set when I'm at work that are, you know, I'm not gonna work up a crazy sweat.

[00:22:25] I'm not gonna get dirty. Cause they don't like it when you get the wardrobe dirty. , but it's basic physical therapy and strength training that I can do to maintain my fitness while I'm working crazy long hours. , and then another gift of this recovery period has been that I took on some of my first clients as.

[00:22:42] Jeremy: Mm.

[00:22:43] Jessie Graff: , and my, my first client, Zach he's training for ninja warrior and he. Edits. He's a video editor, he's at a desk 13 hours a day typically. And so I had to create a ninja warrior workout for him that would fit into his time limitations, which is he can take three to five minute breaks a couple of times throughout the day.

[00:23:04] And he has a maximum of 30 minutes to train in the evening five days a week. So, you know, for me, How do you train for ninja warrior without training five to eight hours a day? I don't know. And so having to be really efficient and break it down for him. Actually helped me when in January, my just my schedule just exploded with stunts to where I'm just onset all day, almost every day I'll wrap and then have to drive across town to get a COVID test for the show that I'm going to work the next day.

[00:23:34] And it's just so packed that I'm getting home with that feeling too. And like, , you can hurt a lot after a day of stunts. Like my energy is not always there, but. If I don't train, if I don't maintain that strength, like I have higher consequences than most people do. Like if you get out of shape, like that kind of sucks, you feel a little worse for me.

[00:23:54] If I get out of shape and I jumped off a building, I'm going to break. So,

[00:23:58] Zach: Yeah.

[00:23:59] Jessie Graff: so there's, there is a lot of drive at the end of a long day to be like, um, yeah. Do you want to get rest or do you want to stay strong or crap? You need rest to stay strong. What are you going to do? You need both. Um, and so, you know, I have to know my priorities.

[00:24:19] What am I willing to compromise to make sure that I'm able to get, you know, if I can take 30 minutes of the workout that I wrote for that. And squeeze that into the end of my day. Hey it, I wrote it out. It's effective to train for ninja warrior better than nothing. Let me squeeze it in. And so having written his workouts, now I have something to do when I have that time crunch.

[00:24:41] And so that's been an , amazing gift. , but then also recognizing when I've had a hard day at work like running 20 or 30 sprints is a great workout. If you're wearing like super clunky. Heavy narrow boots that hurt your feet to stand for a while. And you're doing those sprints spread out in a weird format where it's like, okay, do a sprint 30 seconds recovery, do a sprint 30 seconds recovery, do a sprint two hours of sitting around, not knowing when you're going to go again.

[00:25:09] Oh, we're going right now. Do a sprint minutes of. Oh, we're going again, do a sprint, do a sprint. So it's just like this weird format where, it's a great setup to tear a muscle.

[00:25:22] Jeremy: Yeah.

[00:25:22] Jessie Graff: So, um, you know, being able to warm up really quickly is, is a huge advantage. , But, yeah, it's, it's all about creativity, finding what works for your schedule.

[00:25:34] , knowing, knowing for Zach that he's gonna have these little five minute breaks that he can take throughout the day. I have little circuits for him that take three to five minutes that he can squeeze. , I have a lot of workouts that you can do at a desk where you look like you're not working out, but you're building your glutes.

[00:25:50] Your building needs stability. You're getting better at jumping high, like , little things you can do throughout the day. That don't take that much effort, but cumulatively by doing them over time, you're maintaining and building strength. So, , baby steps, baby steps, knowing which, which activities are healthy to do when you're tired and which ones are not.

[00:26:09] Like I shouldn't go to a gym and do dynamic flipping, twisting park whore at the end of a long stunt day. If I feel terrible, I can do some elliptical to warm up. I can do a bunch of shoulder mobility to do some light dumbbells , do like all my shoulder prehab exercises that are going to keep my shoulders healthy and stable.

[00:26:31] There's so much stuff you can do. That's gentle that will help your health and, and. , and so always like to have two versions of my daily workout, what is the one that I can do when I'm like strong, motivated and have time. And what's the one that's like the bare minimum of like, you've got to do something like you're gonna gradually get out of shape and unhealthy if you don't do something.

[00:26:53] So here's your baseline minimum and having that discipline and that routine of knowing I'm always going to do something. Let me start with the easy one and maybe my energy will pick up, but maybe it won't, but either way I've done something

[00:27:07] Zach: I have to say a couple of months ago. I, , I've never done it before, so I wanted to see what it was like, but I was an extra on a TV show that was being filmed here. And I literally just stood there for 12 hours and walked in circles.

[00:27:20] Jessie Graff: it's exhausting. Right?

[00:27:21] Zach: I was so tired at the end of the day. Like I was going to go to the gym and I was like, no, I'm skipping it.

[00:27:27] I'm going home. That was a lot. And I don't need to do that again. That was, that was really tiring.

[00:27:32] Jessie Graff: a, it's a good experience to have once then to be like, ah, that's what they do. Cool. Um,

[00:27:37] Zach: It was definitely fun.

[00:27:38] Jessie Graff: But yeah, I definitely had a long, day of standing around my legs. Just kind of ache, like, especially in the joints. And so those usually end up being either upper body days or core workouts or something like where I'm on the floor with my legs in the air.

[00:27:53] It's like just standing around your feet and legs kind of get swollen almost. 

[00:27:57] Zach: Yeah.

[00:27:58] Jessie Graff: circulation is good for that though. So a little bit of cardio.

[00:28:02] Zach: absolutely.

[00:28:03] Jessie Graff: yeah, if you can do handstands throughout the day, it sort of like sets that circulation gets the swelling out a little bit.

[00:28:12] Jeremy: for the people that are listening, that maybe can't do a handstand and the idea of going to the gym terrifies them. Uh, you mentioned baby steps. It's all about baby steps that you got to start somewhere. Where, where would you start someone who's like, Ugh, I'll never. Beyond a stunt set for 19 hours a day, but I'd like to, to get in a little more activity and get in a little better shape.

[00:28:32] Where would you start somebody?

[00:28:33] Jessie Graff: Going for walks, doing little air squats. You want to be well-rounded. I mean, always, I think it's always great to get a trainer who can give you a little bit of guidance and structure. , . Especially if you've never done anything. It's really nice to have someone teach you how to do proper. But if that's not something you can afford, there's so many great, like tutorial, videos, and apps and programs that you can follow that will give you some kind of structure because having a structure is really nice.

[00:29:00] But if you've never done anything and you just want to be a little healthier, going for a walk is so good

[00:29:05] going for a swim, just get moving.

[00:29:08] Zach: So I am curious now , you mentioned, , getting a coach and surrounding yourself with some people, but , who do you surround yourself with? You inspire so many people. inspires you? Who do you surround yourself with to keep you going?

[00:29:21] Jessie Graff: Um, gosh, the stunt community is so amazing because everyone comes from different athletic backgrounds. , and they're all bad-ass at something. , and so we all kind of train together. And so I have friends who are. National and world champions in like every different style of martial arts. And I'm fascinated with martial arts.

[00:29:42] And then let's see there's I want to say main queue and Mickey fashioned, Ella are two of my favorite stunt women fighters, , that are just like, I love watching when they perform, , my mom in terms of long-term fitness, she's incredible.

[00:30:03] , What other, like, it's just, there are so many stunt people that I admire and look up to and I just get to work with them all the time. , and so it's just, it's really nice to be surrounded by them.

[00:30:15] Jeremy: So we've talked about all the fighting and the flipping and the jumping off of buildings and the swinging from things and soaring through the air. Do you ever get scared? Is that, have you ever done a stunt where like, ah, this just is not a good idea.

[00:30:27] Jessie Graff: Uh, yes. Um, well, the first thing instance in general is if someone offers you a job or asks you to do something that you will not be safe doing. I always recommend someone who I think is more qualified . And like, you want to find very tasteful, tactful ways of offering suggestions as to how you will be safer and, you know, talk to the stunt coordinator subtly about that. You don't. Calling them out in front of the director or their boss or anything.

[00:30:55] , and usually, I mean, your stunt coordinator wants to do things in the safest way possible. So they're going to want to collaborate with you on that. , I've had a couple situations where I was in a situation looking at it and it was kind of either like call out to the whole crew. Like, Hey guys, I'm not comfortable doing this.

[00:31:14] Like everyone's looking at you 30 feet high or something. But, you know, it's not going to be safe. , and in those moments you have to decide is this so unsafe that I'm willing to risk never working for the stunt coordinator again? Cause that doesn't make them look good. And if it's that unsafe, then you need to make that call and say like, I'm so sorry, but like, I'm not going to be able to do this for you.

[00:31:38] And that sucks, like that sucks for everyone, but you are ultimately responsible for your own. And your own safety. And so everyone would rather, you say, no, I can't do that. Then get, , dead or paralyzed. So that is the responsible thing to do. You know, if it's somewhere in the middle and you're like, crap, I think I'm going to sprain an ankle doing this, then that's up to you.

[00:32:02] Are you willing to never work for the stunt coordinator again to avoid spraining an ankle? Can you save it? What are the odds like? So it's always calculating.

[00:32:14] Zach: So. Physical things that you have done, which, I mean, you probably need like a couple of notebooks to list them all. , do you have, like a couple like that are the most challenging physical, , tasks that you've done in your entire life.

[00:32:31] Jessie Graff: it's a lot of different ways to look at that. maybe my, like my physical records that I'm most proud of are like my 43 pull-ups. it did a 55 and a half inch box jump. 

[00:32:43] Zach: Wow. 

[00:32:43] Jessie Graff: but I think the stunts are the more interesting ones. , One, that was really exciting. , on a TV show called leverage. This was one of my first big stunts.

[00:32:53] I got to jump off of a, I think it was a 36 foot bridge onto a moving. So we, me and this other stunt guy, Austin Priester we're on the bridge. And so as the train comes with to jump and time it so that we land in the right place and we had a nice crash pad, like a big mat on top of the train. But if you miss the mat, you're landing on a boxcar.

[00:33:16] And if you miss the box car, you're landing between the box cars. That is not good. , so that was very precise and technical and so exciting. , and we set it up by standing on the railing. And so he was supposed to jump straight down and I'm supposed to jump out so we don't land on each other.

[00:33:33] And so we stood up a few times the sandbags and so he would drop his straight down while I threw. we got the timing that way, and then we went for it and it went great. , so that was super exciting. , one of my other,

[00:33:47] Jeremy: kind of thing I'm thinking when I'm like, whoa, I've got to jump off of a bridge onto a moving train. Like that would, that it just sounds terrifying.

[00:33:56] Jessie Graff: yeah, I mean, the consequences are very high. You don't, you don't do that unless you know, that you can calculate precisely and ex. Like you don't ever want someone up there. Who's shaking being like, I don't know how to do this. Like, I think I'm going to die.

[00:34:10] Jeremy: That's what I would be doing that would,

[00:34:11] Jessie Graff: right. And then the responsible thing for you to do there, it would be like, guys, I can't do this.

[00:34:17] Jeremy: yeah.

[00:34:17] Jessie Graff: here's some people I think can, um, but you probably should have been upfront about that before you got hired for the job, which you just were, you heard the description, you're like, I'm not the person, so well done. You pass stunt test number one, taking responsibility for what your skill level and being responsible.

[00:34:35] , but yeah, I think it's important to know the difference between like anxiousness and. Realistic fear for me to stand up there and look at it and be like, okay, am I feeling anxious? Yeah. I have a, like a little bit of butterflies in my stomach. Where's that coming from? I'm like, okay. Well, part of it is the physiological response to being on an edge 36 feet high.

[00:34:56] , I know how to deal with that. That's fine. I can stay calm through that. , part of it is, what if I fall off to the side. Okay. I'm jumping straight to trains in a straight line. As long as I jumped. No risk of that. Okay, cool. Check that off. So when you feel fear, it's really important to break it down and be like, why am I feeling fear? What can I do to make this safer? , I always say, you know, if you're standing on the edge and you're jumping into a big air bag or a mat or something, And you're like, , I'm anxious.

[00:35:27] Why am I anxious? If you just ignore that and jump, maybe you miss something that you should have fixed. Maybe you should look again and be like, actually I'd feel much safer if you pull the bag two feet in that direction and you look at it and you go, okay. Yeah, that actually looks better. I feel safer.

[00:35:42] You may have just saved your own life. So respecting fear and. Really breaking it down, understanding where it's coming from and whether it's a rational fear or an irrational fear, like the irrational ones, we'll let go of them and focus on the actions you can take to be the safest. And if you're taking those actions, then, well, if you're focusing on those actions, you have a lot less space to focus on the fear.

[00:36:08] Jeremy: Yeah, we have just a couple of minutes left. I know everyone keeps asking you about the upcoming ninja warrior season. Are we going to see you there or did we get to find out today if you're, if you're going to be participant.

[00:36:21] Jessie Graff: Um, you know, I'm kind of leaving it until I show up on the scene. I think. I think that in the past, well, the last time I competed, I competed in a condition where I kind of knew I wasn't strong enough to do my best. And I competed on obstacles that were going to be really high impact when I wasn't prepped for them.

[00:36:39] So I want to be very respectful of, of my strength level and the difficulty level of the obstacles. So I want to be able to look at them before I step onto them. I think. It's also been very difficult, getting to an into gym. I've been trying to get to an inter gym for four months now. And I just keep having jobs that interfere.

[00:37:00] And this is such a technical skill and it's getting more and more technical and everyone seems to have access to these ninja gyms. And so I think it would be, it, it wouldn't be. Rational to think, oh, I can just pop in without having trained on an obstacle. I mean, the last time I was in an edge of gym, I could only do 12 pull-ups, like I wasn't in shape to even be able to do obstacles.

[00:37:21] So it's been a couple of years for me. So I have to feel out, am I strong enough to be safe? Am I in a condition where I can Excel or do I want to train more before I go back into it? , but I love doing it. , so I think I will be back at some point we'll we'll see how soon it is. I just , I'm practicing being really responsible with my decisions, so.

[00:37:46] Jeremy: Well, my daughters and I love watching you run the course, so hopefully we'll see

[00:37:50] Jessie Graff: Thank you.

[00:37:51] Jeremy: than later,

[00:37:52] Jessie Graff: Yes, I hope so.

[00:37:53] Jeremy: for anyone that wants to follow you online, learn more about what you're up to keep up with you. Where can we learn more about you?

[00:37:58] Jessie Graff: , I am pretty consistent on Facebook and Instagram. , , my username there is Jessie Graff power, spelled J E S S I E G R a F F P w R.

[00:38:12] Jeremy: And is there anything important that we did not get to that you want to mention before we let.

[00:38:16] Jessie Graff: , well, if you're wanting to get to a big ninja event and try out full size obstacles, , I'm hopefully going to be traveling with, , the Wolf pack ninja tour, but it all depends if I have a stunt on any of those given weekends. , but they have a huge course side-by-side racing and classes and stuff, and it's really fun.

[00:38:34] And they're going to a bunch of different cities. So if you're wanting to try ninja, this is a really fun way to do it. , and

[00:38:41] Zach: to pretty close to me. So,

[00:38:43] Jessie Graff: oh yeah. Yeah. That's kind of a ninja Mecca. There's a couple of ninja gyms around there.

[00:38:48] Zach: I haven't been to any, I did take my daughter to one recently and she did a little something and I was like, oh, I can do that. And I, I ran it too. And I was like, oh, that's pretty easy. I must be in really good shape. But then the attendant came over and said, excuse me, sir. That's for children. So just deflated my dreams.

[00:39:08] Jessie Graff: man. Yeah.

[00:39:09] Jeremy: Uh, Jesse, thank you so much for your time today. This was a lot of fun. We really appreciate you taking the

[00:39:13] Jessie Graff: Yeah. Thank you. No problem. Thanks for having me. 

[00:39:16] Zach: That was Hollywood stunt woman and American ninja warrior superstar, Jessie graph. You can find links to her and what she's up to in the show notes for this episode@thefitness.com, you know, for everything that she's achieved.

[00:39:30] I love the fact that she talked about recovery and, the one piece that she talked about, , if she's feeling tired, she does five minutes of cardio and. Still doesn't feel good. She knows she needs to rest. I just absolutely love that because so many days. So almost every day where it's time to work out and I'm tired and I don't feel like it.

[00:39:54] And then I just start moving my body two, three minutes in and you're like, oh, okay, I've got this. I was just a little sluggish and you're good to go. And that makes all the difference in the world to just. I'm only committing to five minutes of this. And if I still feel like crap, I'm going to sit down and rest. 

[00:40:12] Jeremy: I love what you just said about the, I'm only committing to five minutes of this, because we've talked about before, like sometimes just putting your shoes on is the hardest part. And once you've done that, then you're in, it is you got to shake off all that fog and all the excuses and all the negotiating you do with yourself.

[00:40:25] When there's the thing you don't want to do, which is something like going to the gym because it's not fun generally. I mean, unless you're a freak like you and you, and you love it. It's generally the hard stuff that you don't want to do, that it takes the most motivation and the most effort to do. And most of that effort is just getting out the door, putting on the shoes, warming up, and then the rest, the rest becomes gravy because you've, you've overcome the mental hurdle, which is usually the biggest one.

[00:40:52] Zach: Yeah.

[00:40:53] And it's not just working out. that's the easy go-to for examples, but you know, if you've got a task to do at work or you want to meditate or, , you want to eat a little bit better. All of it really just it's, you know, you can find the equivalent of putting your shoes on in all of those scenarios and just trying it for a couple of minutes.

[00:41:10] You don't have to commit to a long time.

[00:41:12] Jeremy: I do that all the time , I've got some big, I've got to write a show, I've got to record an interview. I've got to do something, but, oh, there's this email. I got a chin, Diane check the email real quick. And oh, I got to send that to that one response to that one person. Oh, I, I just, um, let me just tidy up my desk really quick.

[00:41:27] I mean, you can find all these little things that don't matter, like they're important, but they don't matter to the goal you're trying to chase. And so once you can make space for. This is what I'm just doing, just committing to that thing and letting all those distractions go. That's when you're going to start to see the real growth and whatever goal you're chasing.

[00:41:47] Zach: And the distractions are. And so often, I mean, I can't even, it just, it amazes me how many things I Can, distract myself with own important, not urgent things that I will start doing when I have to get something done. I don't want to do 

[00:42:10] Jeremy: can can I pull the curtain back on this episode a little bit? 

[00:42:14] Zach: sure. 

[00:42:15] Jeremy: didn't write this show until late last night and I didn't even write it. Then I just like wrote down some notes. Cause I was like, I know I'm not going to have time. So through some notes together, and then this morning, I was like, well, you know, I got to go to the gym, but maybe I won't go to the gym.

[00:42:31] Cause I got to write the show. But then I was like, well, what's the bigger goal here taking care of my body or doing something I know I can, I can make up the time on lately later quickly. So I did, I went to the gym, so I patted myself on the back for that. But then I got back and I had like 40 minutes. I was like, you know, maybe I should take a shower later.

[00:42:48] Maybe I should make coffee later. Maybe I should. But I didn't. I took the shower, I made the coffee, I made my protein smoothie. I answered a couple of emails. I responded to my brother about a message about some travel stuff. And then I'm talking to you like 10 minutes before the. Oh my God, I still got to write this thing.

[00:43:04] That's not Dutch. So I had to, you know, I hammered it up and I, I looking back, I think it worked out just fine.

[00:43:12] Zach: Yeah. It's I I'd be willing to bet that anyone listening wouldn't 

[00:43:16] Jeremy: Has no idea. No idea. So there you go. A little, a peek behind the curtain. 

[00:43:19] Zach: And now that we've opened the curtain for people, we need to close it because we're going to lose 

[00:43:23] Jeremy: seal it back up. 

[00:43:24] But that is, you know, a, another example of, of one of the things that she talked about is making fitness work for you. You know, if you work a job 13, 14 hours a day, no, you don't have time to go to the gym for an hour and then yoga again in the evening and, you know, and then go get a massage and all of the things, sometimes you literally have 30 minutes, or maybe you just physically can only commit to 30 minutes.

[00:43:43] Just commit to that. Like make the time for that. For me, I've found a way to do that every day. And starting my day. It's I love getting it out of the way early so that I'm not all day kicking myself for, you know, I've, I've got to get this in sometime. Maybe I'll do it at lunch. Maybe I'll do it after dinner.

[00:43:58] Maybe I'll do it when the kids are asleep. And then just that, that mental decision-making all day just completely wears me out. So find a time that works for you, even if it's just, like she said, going for a walk, like doing, doing something physical to get your body moving, just making it work for you. It doesn't have to be this big thing.

[00:44:14] You don't have to. Trying to compete in some bodybuilding competition. Like you can just be trying to do something to take a little bit better care of yourself and just making it fit into your day in a way that makes sense for you.

[00:44:25] Zach: I wasn't going to go to the gym today, but now I am after that. 

[00:44:29] Jeremy: Yeah, you better.

[00:44:30] Zach: I did sleep in this morning. I skipped the gym. 

[00:44:33] Jeremy: You did. 

[00:44:34] Zach: I did, I, I just came off of a 12 day Disney and universal studios trip where we walk nearly a hundred miles and I was tired, 

[00:44:44] Jeremy: Yeah, I 

[00:44:44] Zach: but I'm going to go, eh, 

[00:44:46] Jeremy: you can take a rest day. Come on. You can take a rest day. It's all right. 

[00:44:49] Zach: no, I'm still going to the four o'clock. 

[00:44:51] Jeremy: All right. 

[00:44:51] Zach: And if you want to continue this conversation with us or other fitness listeners, you can join us in our Facebook group.

[00:44:56] Where you can find accountability to reach your goals and just a great supportive community. And for the month of may, we're actually going to do a monthly challenge because we haven't done one in a couple of months, even though we say we do monthly challenges. 

[00:45:08] Jeremy: challenge to ourselves is to actually do the monthly challenge this month.

[00:45:12] Zach: All right, check. We got it. But this month, going off of that, conversation with Jesse, like I said, I loved that part where she said, , if you don't feel like working. I just do five minutes of cardio And usually just you keep going, but if after five minutes you truly don't feel good.

[00:45:27] You know, it's a day for rest. I just want to challenge everyone to do that whenever you work out, just pay attention to how you're feeling before you work out, . And then how you feel five minutes in and just take stock of whether or not you truly just didn't want to work. Or your body actually needed to recover.

[00:45:47] Jeremy: And I would be curious to hear from anyone who isn't maybe working out, it's not your thing. But if you can apply this same strategy to another goal, if you're writing a book, I dunno some other, some other big work tasks that you keep putting off. Can you just give yourself five minutes every day to start and see, does this get the ball rolling?

[00:46:07] Does this get me closer to doing it rather than putting it off by checking email or Facebook for the 15th time this morning?

[00:46:13] Zach: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I know, I know. I, I battle this every single day, so I can't wait to actually pay attention to this and be curious about it. Maybe I'll even learn something about myself and be able to change something 

[00:46:26] Jeremy: Imagine that, imagine that, all right, you will find the link to do all of that for our Facebook group and the show notes and everything. It's all on our website, the fitness.com where we will be back next week with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening. 

Jessie GraffProfile Photo

Jessie Graff

Actress, Stuntwoman, Athlete

Stunt girl, Ninja Warrior, and modern-day Wonder Woman, Jessie Graff is known for smashing stereotypes, defying the impossible, and routinely placing among the top men on the strength-based obstacles of Ninja Warrior. She is the first woman to clear a national finals course in America, and the only woman ever to reach the ultra crazy cliffhanger in Japan.

2015 Stuntwoman of the Year and 2020 Taurus World Stunt Award Nominee, her credits include: Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Transformers, Die Hard, The Dark Knight, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Leverage. She was an elite pole vaulter, a level 9 gymnast, holds black belts in tae kwon do and kung fu, and trains in high falls, wipeouts, sky diving, motorcycles, stunt driving, fire, wirework, flying trapeze, free diving, and hang gliding. She is most proud of her ability to push beyond her limits, and transform setbacks into opportunities.