Brooke Van Paris’ trialed testimony is now a guiding light for people in the fitness industry and beyond.
Paris, a Cincinnati native, began this storied journey on October 29, 2009. “I was attending Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I had just finished a midterm and was heading home from class. I passed through an intersection and in a split second, my life changed for the rest of my life. I was hit head on. My SUV did two 360s, all four tires blew, my windshield shattered, my engine broke off its hinges and came into the car on my lap, but that wasn’t all,” Paris says. “Once I got out of my car and got help, my adrenaline calmed down just enough for me to notice that the airbag had completely shattered both of my hands.”
After this accident, she started a long two-year journey of healing. “Over the course of two years, I had surgery to re-break my hands four times. I couldn’t feed myself, bathe myself, do any of life’s simplest tasks alone. I went from a fully independent athletic all-star in high school to a 19-year-old fully dependent college kid. Want to know what it was like? Tie your hands behind your back and proceed to live your life. Tough, right?,” Paris says. “Because I am stubborn-and I needed something constant to focus on, I decided to stay in school as a full-time student. I used Mac Speech and Dictate software to talk to my computer and have it type my papers for me and lots of assistance from my father, as well as my professors. After two years in fingertip to elbow casts, I was finally done…or so I thought. My muscles had atrophied completely away and the person I saw in the mirror looked nothing like the Brooke I knew.”
She was struggling with doing anything by healthy because she couldn’t do regular life tasks without help. Paris was at an all-time low, when it came to her health, being about 175 lbs. and over 50 percent body fat. Paris took about a year to try her best to lose weight.
“They never taught me in school how to workout as an adult, so it was all very intimidating to me. I would go to the gym and I was embarrassed and self-conscious. I wasn’t confident with what I was doing, so to save myself the anguish- I would only do cardio. No one will know if I just do the treadmill every day, right
Even though Paris was doing cardio, she was not happy with her results. “If I lost weight, I would gain it back twice as bad. I was discouraged and unhappy. My confidence was gone. I tried diet pills, fad diets, everything. Nothing worked,” she says.
Her fitness journey changed when she had a coworker at work invite her to do an obstacle course race with her. “It was a local three-mile race called Morgan’s Mud Gauntlet in Brookeville, Indiana and it was amazing. I loved it. I huffed and puffed my way through the entire thing, but it was so rewarding,” Paris says. “I probably failed about 75 percent of the obstacles, but that didn’t matter because people of all shapes and sizes, all at different levels of their own fitness journey-were helping me-and once we reached the finish line, we all had the same medals. How cool. I was hooked.”
After that race, she started to sign up for races and ended up completing 48 obstacle course races, lost a total of 30 lbs. and got to represent the United States at the World Championships. She was even on two TV reality shows, Broken Skull Challenge on CMT and American Grit on FOX. American Grit was “A military-inspired competition reality show. They chose 16 professional athletes and put us through military-inspired training drills to test the human will of never giving up,” Paris explains.
She first heard about the opportunity through a casting company on Facebook. “After the first Obstacle Course Racing World Championship, I saw a quote on Facebook that said, ‘Your testimony could be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison.’ And with that-I decided to share the story of my accident in hopes that I could help someone else stuck in the same dark space I was previously in,” Paris says. “About two days after that, I was reached out to in my Facebook DM’s and the message started with, ‘We are looking for America’s fittest men and women.’”
Paris was completely shocked to see receive this message because of everything she had gone through for two years, so she ignored the message and deleted it, thinking it was a scam. However, one day she decided to take their phone call, “and the rest is history,” she says.
Her run on the show was for only two episodes, but she was proud of her performance because she gave everything she had. “The challenge that forced me to leave was called ‘Ice Cubed.’ It was an event where three women (including myself) had to submerge in an ice bath, get out and do 10 burpees and continue incessantly repeating until one of the three of us gave up. Well-now that you know my background story… never giving up is kind of my mantra and I have absolutely no quit in me, so this showdown was about to get interesting,” Paris says. “After nine rounds-nine submersions and 90 burpees-I collapsed to the ground and my body went into Stage Three Hypothermia. Basically, my body said STOP and shut down all systems that were not vital to survival. I was conscious the whole time, but couldn’t move or speak or anything. I could hear people talking to me and touching me, but I couldn’t respond. That lasted for about an hour and I finally came to the hospital.”
She recovered fully from that and she now works at Lifetime Fitness in Mason, Ohio. She is an Assistant Personal Training Ma
Paris’ success with fitness is defined by the number of people she can help. “I truly believe my purpose in life and the reason for my accident, is being able to help people with my journey and my talents. I find it incredibly rewarding to help be the person to light the fire of hope for someone who has been struggling,” Paris says. “To give out my and tell someone, I can help you, and then watch their journey to success. There is nothing more rewarding than to see the happiness on someone’s face when they win their life back.”
Being healthy to Paris isn’t just about being healthy physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. “Basically, making sure you don’t get too stressed, that you work out daily, but also take days for recovery, make sure you get enough water, enough sleep and enough of the right nutrition to fuel your body-including your vitamins and minerals!”