There aren’t a lot of 40-plus ninjas out there,” says JQ, composer, actor, and cofounder of the Q Brothers Collective, the theater troupe whose hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare and Dickens have taken him across the globe. While still developing productions, he has segued from verbal gymnastics to another kind of agility: conquering the course on American Ninja Warrior. He’s competing to be on the new season of the show.

When he was younger and needed to fuel up for eight shows a week, he’d “chug a Guinness and eat a Snickers,” he says. Now 42, JQ (full name: Jeffrey Qaiyum) credits a trio of venues — Ultimate Ninjas, First Ascent, and Bloom Yoga Studio — with helping him attain a healthier lifestyle. His wife’s exercise routine inspired him initially: “I saw how it affected her, not just physically but mood-wise. I wanted to be in a better mind state so I could be present for my kids.”

A yoga mat and a glass of water
Photography: (yoga mat, water) Getty Images

How do you start your day?

“I chug a glass of water and get my kids to school. Oh, and I do five minutes of sun salutations. I used to struggle with back pain. Literally five minutes in the morning and five at night, and all that chronic stuff went away.”

What made you want to tackle American Ninja Warrior?

“I just went on Google Maps and hit ‘gym near me,’ and the closest gym was this ninja warrior gym. It’s like a game. By the time I’m done, I’ve had a blast and worked out.”

What are your main exercises?

“In order to increase my grip strength, I started climbing. And I do yoga, which made ninja training safer on my shoulders. Doing arm balances and inversions really built up my muscles. This year I was super strong on the course, swinging with abandon. Yoga was the difference.”