When Jennifer Tavernier says her two little girls are driving her up a wall, she literally means it. Just watch a couple of her Instagram videos and you’ll see her showing them how to use the moldings over their bedroom doors as their own personal jungle gym.
“When it comes to staying active, I think we’ve lost a bit of our imagination,” says Jennifer, aka the minneninja, a nickname given to her by her fellow Team Ninja Warriors. “Our bodies were built to climb, scramble and jump all over the place in order to survive.”
Whether it’s something as common as climbing a tree with your kids or something as adventurous as traversing a rope line hand-over-hand across a river canyon, Jen feels we all have a little ninja warrior in us just looking for a chance to show us what our bodies can do.
“As a personal trainer, some of my favorite moments are when I help a student rediscover their natural strength. I had one woman who, when she started me with, could barely hang from some monkey bars for a few seconds. Her simple goal was to be able to get all the way across them,” noted Jen. “After putting in some training, she finally made it, and it was amazing to see the joy and confidence this simple achievement created.”
Watching Jen use her almost super-human body strength to ascend everyday objects and obstacles, you could make the mistake of assuming she was just one of the lucky ones. A winner in life’s genetic lottery. And there might be a little truth to that, but Jen is quick to point out that it wasn’t always this way.
“I have a couple hundred thousand followers and the most popular content I post are, hands down, the before and after shots.” says Jen, referring to side-by-side images of what appear to be two completely different people. On the left, a picture of a shy, mousy young girl hiding behind wire rimmed glasses. On the right, a power packet, the minneninja, shredded and confident.
Jennifer notes of this picture: “Traded skinny for strength, being self conscious for confidence, people pleasing for loving myself, timid for passion, and guilt for liberation and joy. It took years, but I’d never ever go back.”
“I train hard, and it’s not about vanity or competition. It’s about claiming your best self. The one locked up inside all of us,” notes Jen. “I was so shy before and it created a lot of challenges for me. And I couldn’t getting over them simply by changing what was going on in my head. I changed it through how I used my body and let my mind follow.”
Using movement and physicality to improve one’s emotional state is proven, says Natural Movement coach and fellow Merrell Ambassador, Julie Angel. “Jen’s story is not uncommon. Look around… yoga, boot camps, hiking, climbing, parkour–moving naturally is a movement on the rise. And it’s because it ignites this little spark in our brain, a reminder that we are meant to do this. Not just some of the time, but the majority of the time. It’s the most powerful therapy there is.”