People get obsessed with all sorts of reality competition shows. Right now, I’m fascinated by “Naked And Afraid,” although I could never see myself participating. Last weekend I wimped out on a hot pool deck and ran for sandals after 30 seconds.
Josh Shriber, front man for Josh and the Jamtones, found himself (and his family) enamored with “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW), now entering its 10th season on NBC (Monday nights at 8 PM ET). He was recently invited to the show’s Philadelphia qualifying event – completing the course but falling just a little short of gaining a spot in the televised finals.
“My wife Patience is also into health and fitness, so it was fun for us to watch ANW and imagine how we’d do,” Josh explained. “The turning point from casual viewer to possible contestant was when we saw ‘Mighty’ Kacy Catanzaro from season five.”
Josh has always been active, including college-level soccer and tennis. “I competed in triathlons and read about and explored health and fitness, since I was a kid really,” he said. Josh loved sports and played soccer, tennis, and basketball throughout his childhood and teens. “Nevertheless, I was a chubby little dude with little upper body strength,” he added. “In my mid-to-late 20s, I got into pull-ups and body weight work. I trained with the P90x Extreme Home Fitness Workout and the resulting insanity, which increases your pulling and pushing strength through body/weight work, was my entry point.”
Shortly thereafter, Josh entered a ninja gym and, eventually, a rock climbing gym. “I discovered that a bunch of pull-ups and push-ups mean nothing when you’re trying to hang and fly to and from obstacles,” Josh confessed. But the first time out, he caught the bug and slowly made progress until this past year, when he decided to put in a submission to ANW. “Before then, when people would ask ‘Are you going on ANW?!’ I would laugh and say ‘No! I’m just having fun training with awesome athletes,'” Josh said.
Like any competitive event, the vetting process for American Ninja Warrior started well in advance. “Step 1 was a massive questionnaire along with a submission video, three minutes max, telling your story and showing your ninja skills. There are no formal auditions,” Josh explained. “I entered my submission in December and trained as if I was definitely getting the call.”
The strategy worked in Josh’s favor. “There are people who train year round, fly across the country to many gyms, and never get the call,” he said. “You need to combine a good story with at least decent athletic competence.” From the time submissions were due in December until the end of April when people received invitations, Josh trained like he was already accepted. “If I hadn’t trained my butt off, I would have only had a few weeks to prepare when I got the call,” he said. “Instead we just assumed we were a go and went all out.”
Josh was invited to Philadelphia to compete on ANW on May 11. “My whole fam came – mom, dad, my sister and bro with their families as well – and of course my wife and kids,” Josh said. “They were my sideline team, so they came inside the gate and paced me as I ran the course.” While having his family nearby was special, it also added a dimension of uneasiness. “They definitely looked horrified that I would fall,” Josh added. “And my three-year-old was worried there were sharks in the water.”
Josh ran the course and placed in the top 50% of contestants. “It was freaking awesome,” he recalled. “I sorta blacked out on my run but I remember bits and pieces. I gained a huge amount of confidence being on the biggest course the sport has to offer and outperforming my expectations.”
The ANW set has a “no spoilers” policy. “No phones are allowed on the course and everyone is sworn to secrecy,” Josh explained. “But try sending your kids off to pre-school, kindergarten, and second grade…with all their friends and teachers knowing they were just at a live taping of the show and trust them to not say anything? Good luck!”
The suspense was finally broken when last month’s season premiere finally aired. “We had a viewing party and everything but I received no love when it came to air time,” Josh sighed. “It would have been cool to see my run. But air time or not, it doesn’t change my experience in Philly.”
While enduring a grueling training regime, Josh and the Jamtones also released their latest CD, We Are O-N-E. “Jamtones music has always been about positivity and getting kids and families moving their bodies,” he said. “The American Ninja Warrior Nation is also super inclusive. In fact, the show thrives on just that…stories of overcoming great obstacles, not just on the course but in life.”
According to Josh, when ninjas train and compete, there is an overwhelming feeling of support and community that he hasn’t found in other competitive sports. “In our music, the Jamtones encourage kids to be their best, to love their friends and family, to be kind, active and strong,” Josh said. “This experience has given me something like a megaphone to accelerate that message. I look forward to releasing some new music this year with exactly that premise.”
Josh emphasized that the intensive training showed him what he could accomplish. “Our bodies and minds are capable of more than we box ourselves into,” he said. “Two years ago, I would never commit to running across narrow bridges or jumping gaps, flying from one obstacle to the next. But now, when I see a new obstacle, I know it’s within my ability and just go for it.”
While season 10 of American Ninja Warrior is wrapping up, Josh can’t wait to keep training, get stronger, and compete again. “I am more fired up than ever to enter again next year and attempt to hit that buzzer,” he said.