Ever wonder if you have what it takes to compete on American Ninja Warrior? Joe Moravsky, a 12-time competitor and legend of the show, knows all the dos and don’ts of preparing for competition. Better known as the “Weatherman,” he made history last year for completing the most Mega Walls, and he’s back for season 15 to see if this is the year he can achieve total victory — a feat only two ninjas have earned in the history of the show.
One part of the training regime often overlooked is how to change your sleep schedule in order to compete during the late hours of the night. But if you’re a night owl like Moravsky, then you may have a slight advantage.
Sleepopolis sat down with Moravsky to talk about all things sleep, from how it helped him become the Last Ninja Standing in seasons six and nine, the impact having kids has had on his sleep, and a look into what competition days look like.
Sleepopolis: Let’s rewind the clocks to your rookie season. Season five was the first time American Ninja Warriors would be competing at night. How did you prepare for this and what did that year look like for you?
Joe Moravsky: I mean, you’re so wired from everything that’s happening that it was not that hard to stay up late. But I do have to say there were moments where you’re preparing for hours and hours and not so much physically, but mentally running the course in your head and trying to just stay focused and not try to have the adrenaline kick up at the wrong time.
In terms of sleep, though, I changed my sleep schedule. I was already a night owl and still am a night owl. Like last night, for example, I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. And I’m up at 8:00 a.m., so it’s not a lot of sleep some nights, but that’s a choice. I just prefer to stay up late. Kids are in bed and I want instead of going to bed also and wake up immediately the next day and be parenting.I’d rather stay up a couple of extra hours and have some alone time or with my wife. So that helped switching over or keeping my late schedule.
But it’s not those first competition nights that are the hard part, it’s the Vegas finals, because the Vegas finals, not only are we up all night, it’s a three hour time difference. So that’s even harder and it doesn’t help at all.
But I’d say as the years progressed, it gets a little harder because you’re a little more used to the pressure, you’re a little more used to the timing. Like, when should I start getting excited about my run that’s about to come up? Your first few seasons, you’re excited for days and days beforehand. Now when I go out for the show, I’m not even excited until I see the course, and then it’s like, all right, well, I’ll get excited when it’s time. Then the time comes where I’m about to go and I’m like, okay, now, here we go. So it’s changed over the years, but I’d say the long answer to all that is being a night owl is helpful.
Are you drinking any coffee or energy drinks or anything like that to stay up? Especially in Vegas with the time difference?
Moravsky: Not really. Coffee is a diuretic, so my veins really need to be able to expand as much as they can to let the maximum amount of blood flow through. So to drink coffee is something I usually take out of my diet. Right now, I’m drinking half gas, like half decaf, half caffeine, just because I still like caffeine but it doesn’t really do anything for me. I’m one of those people that when I drink caffeine, I get no effect. I just drink it for the taste.
Going onto season eight, this was your first time competing after having a kid. You’ve previously stated that in Vegas this year you could feel the lack of sleep. Could you walk through what that experience was like after having a new responsibility in your life?
Moravsky: Oh, yeah, that was the hardest transition of my life, no doubt. I would say, even though, like last night, for example, I only got six hours of sleep, but it was six hours of pure, uninterrupted beautiful sleep. And I didn’t want to go up this morning, but it was great. I sleep very well. So to have a child, it threw off that whole rhythm. She was getting up every two to four hours, and it was bad.
But that’s just how it is for the first few months when you have a newborn. I didn’t know what I was really getting into. She was born in December and I filmed the qualifiers in March or April. At four months in, that’s not a lot of time. Not to mention the lack of training that I was now doing, or lack thereof. So that all plays into it. And then on top of that, just the fact that my brain was mush because of the lack of sleep for the last few months, my focus was off. I was just shocked to get through those courses, some of them.
But then season nine, you came back with a vengeance, and it was arguably your best season to date. How did that preparation look?
Moravsky: I mean, you get used to it. That was, now we’re talking a year and something later for this next season. I’m adjusted, but also I was mad that I had my worst season ever. I’m ready to come back. I had the fire. I had that rookie fire again and it showed. It definitely did.
Did anything change after you had your second kid? I think that was season ten.
Moravsky: Yeah, it was my new early fall. Every year I had a child I fell earlier and earlier. It’s crazy.
So would you recommend not having a kid for anyone who wants to go all the way on American Ninja Warrior? Joking, of course…
Moravsky: Yeah, I think that’s the craziest part about my whole career is that I’m able to keep up with a lot of these stars. I’m the only one that has kids. Like, I’m the only dad out there. Everyone else is like, at least I’m talking like the top five or top ten every season.There’s no dads doing this. And if there are, there’s one other, you know, so to be able just to be competing with these guys, with all the responsibilitiesI have, I’m very happy with my performances.
I only wish I tried this hard when I first started the hobby at first and then it became a way of life, and I don’t know, the show didn’t get much harder, and I didn’t have to try to really get much stronger. I wish I had a different mentality back then because I was already one of the best.
Just coming into the game, I was already one of the best. So to be at the top, I didn’t really work as hard as I do now because I was at the top, but now I’m not at the top and I gotta work hard to keep up with the people like Jay Lacheand, Kaden Losack, and Vance Walker and all these other amazing teenagers that just are naturally amazing. And they’re so strong and fearless, so they push me to work harder now, but now the courses are harder too. It’s kind of fun, I like the challenge. I think it just takes a lot to do what I do.
What was the latest time that you’ve ever competed until?
Moravsky: I think my latest ever runs at, like, 5:20 in the morning. And I actually had an option one year where the sun was coming up and they were like, “Joe, you’re like, in three more people, you want to just run tomorrow night?” I was like, yeah, I’ll do that.
There could have been one that was even later. I don’t think I ever ran when the sun was up. I think in Vegas, once we finished, like, a special episode that we filmed as the sun was coming up. But I don’t think I ever ran while the sun was up,except for when we filmed during the day those few times.
There was another competitor who said that in the warm up tents there’s people who have air mattresses and are sleeping in between. Is that something you can confirm and have you done that?
Moravsky: I have a hammock that I hang from the poles that are in the tent, which is not to code, not supposed to do that, but yeah, people definitely have air mattresses. I had one this year that was gifted to me. After somebody got knocked out of the competition, they’re like, “Well, I’m not taking this on the plane. Here you go, Joe, you can have it.” Should I venmo you this? He was like, no, it’s like $30. All right.
Did you like the air mattress better than the hammock?
Moravsky: The air mattress is nicer. The problem with the air mattress is there’s not a lot of room.The tent is big, but there’s a lot of people, so not a lot of room. If nobody’s on it, people will step all over it and then it gets all dirty and then you’re laying in the dirt. It’s completely annoying.
But I don’t like sleeping. I don’t sleep when I’m at the competitions. I might stare up the ceiling and just be still, but I’m not going to sleep.
Because my very first season on the show, I remember listening to a motivational speaker. He was, like, talking about how you got to want success.You have to want success more than you want to sleep. And I just always had that kind of on repeat in my head. I have to want more than I want sleep. If I want to sleep more than I want success, then how am I going to want it more than anybody else, and how am I going to be better than anybody else? So that’s kind of my going into competition night.
You’re currently competing on season 15, has anything changed going into this season of how you’re preparing or is it kind of similar to what you’ve been doing?
Moravsky: A lot more rope climbing.I trained with Jay Lewis and he took the season off the school year off, so he was really prepared for the season. And so having good training partners like that, I mean, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, so I’m feeling good.
Moravsky’s qualifying episode airs on July 10th on NBC. Tune in to see if the “Weatherman” can defeat the Mega Wall again and if this is the year he achieves Total Victory.
Moravsky, Joe. Personal Interview. 202