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A Lesson in Perseverance: Brooke Van Paris

August 8, 2019

Imagine this. It’s 2009 and you’re a college kid. You’re trying to figure out what the heck you want to be when you grow up, unsure or whether or not to rush that sorority or join that club, and are super into that guy a few rows over in your accounting class. You’re driving through campus heading to the grocery and BAM. A car hits you head-on and your life is changed forever.


This is the beginning of what could have been a tragic story of Brooke Van Paris. A natural-born athlete, she was completely knocked down when a car accident mangled both of her hands, rendering them useless for over two years. Which meant, no typing on the computer, writing papers, texting friends, even bathing herself… all things that as a college kid are pretty essential to life.

 Needless to say, Brooke dealt with some serious mental and emotional health issues, along with her physical health issues. How could you not? She was down, didn’t recognize her physical or mental self, and was in a bad state. That was until she discovered obstacle course racing in 2015. A group of coworkers convinced her to join them, and she ended up not only competing, but falling in love with this hobby. She and her newfound obstacle course junkie friends would spend weekend after weekend touring neighboring states and competing in obstacle course races. And one of these times, Brooke came to find out that she qualified for a regional competition, something that she wasn’t even aware was a thing. 

 Her competition got fiercer and fiercer, and Brooke climbed the charts as she continued to place at many of the competitions. Then one day, she got a call from a TV show producer. That show was American Grit, a popular reality TV show on FOX.  Rather than try to describe the show myself, I’m going to let them do the explaining: 


“Set in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest (some of America’s harshest weather), 16 of the country’s toughest men and women are divided into four teams and pushed beyond their limits as they face a variety of military-inspired challenges to see if they can prove to the world they have AMERICAN GRIT.


Each week, the teams face a series of near-impossible mental and physical challenges during the Evolution. The team to finish first wins the Evolution and is safe from elimination. The remaining teams must send one contestant (selected by the mentor) to face “The Circus,” a punishing, endurance-based obstacle course designed to break the weakest competitors. During “The Circus,” the first person to give up, will have to “ring out” and go home, thereby eliminating themselves from the competition. 


With up to a million dollars of prize money at stake, this is the ultimate test of strength, courage, determination and, most importantly, teamwork.”


I’m not sure if I’m more jealous of her fitness level and national star-dome, or the fact that she got to spend an extended period of time with John Cena.


Spoiler alert: girlfriend went out in style after putting herself through a competition where they had to perform 10x burpees, then fully submerge themselves in an ice bath (when it was already chilly outside), repeatedly. One thing to notice: she never gave up.



Brooke continued to go on one more reality show on CMT called Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, before she hung up her reality stardom (for now).

 She is now one of the head trainers at arguably the most amazing facility to have graced the midwest, the Lifetime Fitness in Mason. Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s just say that calling them a “gym” would be an insult. They have the most state of the art training facility, every fitness class offering you could dream of, a bajillion pools (indoor AND outdoor), multiple full-sized basketball, tennis, and racquetball courts, a rock-climbing wall, a full medspa, a cafe, a kids camp (aka free babysitting), a BAR…. when can I move in? 


All in all, Brooke’s life experiences make her an extremely well rounded, accommodating personal trainer. She knows first hand how challenging it is to rebound from an injury… and she knows what it takes to take your training to the next level. What else I know for sure is that she could (should?) write a book about perseverance and how to never, ever, give up.


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