Zhanique Lovett packs more into one day than most people can fit into a week. At 31, she is a wife, mother of three children, part-time personal trainer, and frequent church volunteer.

And this summer, she added the title of television star to her growing list of talents.

After a year’s worth of grueling athletic training, Zhanique appeared on NBC’s hit show “American Ninja Warrior” in June. Her nimble performance made Visalians proud as she became the first woman to conquer a majority of the brightly-illuminated obstacle course and reach the warped wall—all with her trademark beautiful smile.

Now, when the 5-foot, 6-inch, 135-pound athlete is shopping for groceries or running errands around town, she stops to take photos with her fans, signing autographs in the aisles of Costco.

“I want to make the point to make each person feel special,” Zhanique said during an interview at the dining room table of her Visalia home. “I want to take the time to talk to them, because every person is important. I care about people and their ideas. I want to stay humble, and I don’t want the show to ever change me.”

Despite falling short on the warped wall, which stood 14 feet, 6-inches tall, and missing a chance to push the final buzzer, Zhanique is taking her newfound celebrity in stride—and using her platform to encourage others toward healthy lifestyles.

A Lifetime of Athleticism

As a teenager, Zhanique played basketball, ran track, and lifted weights. But her childhood was tumultuous—she had a drug-addicted mother and friends who influenced negative choices. At 17, she became pregnant with daughter Dayzhanay.

After her daughter’s arrival, healthful eating and regular physical activity remained at the forefront. A vegetarian since age nine, Zhanique signed up for physical education classes each semester she was enrolled at College of the Sequoias. (She earned her Associates of Arts degree in Liberal Arts, with a concentration in Physical Education, in 2016).

“I figured I might as well make my time worthwhile by getting a workout in while I was on campus,” she said. In one class, she ended up lifting weights with members of the football team—and beat some of them.

“That gave me the confidence I needed that I could compete with the guys,” she said. “I know a woman can do anything a man can do. And sometimes even better.” Watching season after season of “American Ninja Warrior,” Zhanique began to think, “I can do that!”

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Her Biggest Supporters

In an English class in 2007, Zhanique locked eyes with a fellow student named Joseph Lovett. Leary of men after past hurts—and knowing she had a young daughter to consider—Zhanique and Joseph spent a year being friends, getting to know each other, and attending church. Slowly, they incorporated Dayzhanay into their time together and it soon became apparent that marriage was the next step.

“He’s perfect for me, he completes me,” Zhanique said sweetly. “We had similar childhoods. God couldn’t have given me a better man.” The couple has since added two more children to their family—Joseph, six and Malakai, five.

Being physically fit has been a constant in the family. As soon as Zhanique was cleared by her physicians to resume workouts after childbirth, she would play Pilates or Gillian Michaels workout DVDs at home and exercise while her babies watched from their swing or playpen.
“They’ve watched me work out since they were babies,” she said. “It’s something fun you can do with the entire family.”

Naturally, all the children are physically active and regularly hold fitness contests in the living room. Zhanique is proud to say all can hold a plank position for at least a minute, and their spacious, shady backyard is full of play equipment, not to mention two favorite “Ninja” training tools: a warped wall and a salmon ladder.

During filming in Las Vegas, little Malakai wowed audiences with his backflips and enthusiastic sideline support. To find the boys spider-climbing down the hallway to their bedrooms is nothing new, Zhanique says with a smile.

Rigorous Training & Diet

While many adults aim to squeeze three hours of physical activity into their schedules each week, Zhanique manages about 15 with a combination of ninja-type training at gyms in Fresno and Clovis, rock climbing, and strength and agility training. To do this, husband Joseph takes over responsibility for their children at least two evenings a week.

She also adheres to a strict meal plan, as she recently switched to a vegan diet. (The rest of the family has chosen a pescatarian diet, which incorporates fish into a vegetarian diet). Avoiding all animal products was in part prompted by a desire to protect herself and her family from chronic illnesses plaguing American society, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. She watched the documentary “What the Health” earlier this year and decided to follow a plant-based diet. She has traded in her former breakfast, of three egg white one egg yolk-scrambles, for oatmeal and her protein is consumed in the form of nuts, seeds, peas, and organic tofu.

She admits a fair portion of her time is spent prepping and cooking from-scratch meals for her family. For example, on the evening of this interview, her family was to enjoy eggplant and hummus wraps.

Zhanique shares her lifestyle choices with her clients at Five-O-Fitness in Visalia. But living in Tulare County, where milk production is the top agricultural commodity and cows outnumber humans, Zhanique doesn’t try to sway people’s choices. Instead, she teaches her clients that even if they choose to eat meat or animal products, portion control is the most important detail. She is even considering opening a business in the future to help clients achieve their fitness and diet goals.

Local, National Competitions

Although Zhanique hit a high point in her fitness career this year, she isn’t slowing down. She continues to travel to Ninja competitions around the state, which help her stay in shape for her next audition of American Ninja Warrior. Through it all, she intends to encourage others on their own fitness journey.

“I feel like God chose me to be on the show, not the producers,” she said. “He’s putting me on a platform to encourage. n