Another day, another challenge
Center Grove alumnus Brooke Van Paris competes in her first-ever bodybuilding show.
If the challenge is calling, Center Grove resident Brooke Van Paris will step up to it. This time, that challenge was personal – her first bodybuilding competition. She competed in the Midwest Battle of the Champions in April and won in her Figure class.
Van Paris is a Center Grove High School graduate. On Oct. 29, 2009, her sophomore year at IU, she was leaving class and was involved in a head-on car accident. Her car spun around twice, with the engine coming through the car, trapping her inside. Van Paris wore a cast going from her fingertips to her elbows, on both arms, for two years. She still graduated college in four and a half years.
She ran her first obstacle course race in October of 2014, an easy three-mile course with homemade obstacles. Through the next 12 months, Van Paris ran 48 obstacle course races. She represented the U.S., for her first time, at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in October 2015.
In 2016, Van Paris was chosen out of 6,500 applicants for the Fox TV show, American Grit. Athletes were chosen for this reality competition for their “never give up attitude.” The 10-week season began in April 2016. Van Paris was eliminated in the second episode, due to hypothermia.
That didn’t stop her. She competed again in the OCR World Championships in 2016, and will again this year.
In the meantime, she had been prepping for her first bodybuilding competition. Van Paris spent part of 2016 residing in Texas, but couldn’t stay away from home for too long. She returned to Center Grove at the end of January. She had begin training for her first-ever bodybuilding show after the OCR World Championship in October.
Training for a show takes a lot of time and dedication, Van Paris explained, carefully monitoring what you eat, how you eat, which exercises to do and when, and learning how to pose for once she finally got on stage.
“A lot of people don’t realize what goes into it. It gets tough. You’re the person who keeps yourself accountable. It’s very mental,” she said. “One of the hardest parts for me, as a female, is when you get a certain body fat percentage. I started at 137 pounds, 17 percent body fat. When I hit stage, I was 148 pounds and seven percent body fat. For women, your essential fats, the lowest women should be is 10-13 percent. So when you get under that, things start happening to your body that are under your control. Your hormone levels are out of whack. You get emotional all the time. I started having hot flashes. When I would go to take my dogs out, I would have three sweatshirts, two coats, three pairs of sweatpants. But the most motivating part, every morning, you wake up and see different muscles and things.”
Her hard work paid off, and Van Paris said the day of the show was one of the best days of her life.
“Stage day, I felt like I had already won,” Van Paris said. “Not comparing myself to other people, but for my own personal journey, to know that I made it and didn’t shortcut anything. I had accomplished something for myself. Before I stepped on stage, I was in a great mood. The hard work is over with. It’s time to just show everyone where we got.”
Van Paris competed in both the open and novice class – class B for anyone taller than 5’7.
“My group of girls was awesome,” she said. “Everyone was there to have fun and support each other.”
Between shows, Van Paris went with her family to Scotty’s Brewhouse, where she could finally order anything off the menu that she desired, and recalls the burger on a pretzel bun that she will never forget. After they returned to the Murat Theater where the show was being held.
“Every person in the novice group, you go out by yourself, do your turns and line up on the side,” Van Paris said. “They call the top five back out. They call fifth, fourth, third and I’m standing there like please don’t call my number yet. They call second place and it was overwhelming because they hadn’t called my number. I realized I had won the show for the novice Class B division. I had so many tears. All of my hard work, blood, sweat, tears, early mornings and hardships from the last eight months had all been acknowledged. It was a good feeling.”
Van Paris came in second in the Open Figure Class B.
“My family and I got together after that and hit up IHOP,” Van Paris said. “I got a chicken fajita egg white omelet and a stack of three birthday cake pancakes, mozzarella sticks and a diet coke. That was my meal I had been dreaming of. Now I’m on a reverse diet. In order to prevent massive weight gain, you have to gradually reintroduce foods over the next two months.”
Van Paris will take a year off from bodybuilding, but she’s already looking to compete in 2018.
What’s some advice you wish someone had given you when you were younger?
Stay young and don’t grow up too quickly. Enjoy the journey. Make mistakes but learn from them. Appreciate the little moments. Smile and find something positive to reflect on every single day. Happiness is a choice. Wake up every morning and choose to make that day the best day ever. Try your hardest and do your best at everything you set out to do. Because you cant do any better if its your best! Live with no regrets. Follow your dreams and let no one stop you. Your dreams and passions are Your calling. Never ever give up. If you never give up- you can never be beaten. Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Allow yourself to grow, evolve, transform. You have one chance at this thing called life. Get the most out of it.
In your school-age years, is there a person who had a significant impact on you? Who and why?
My dad. My dad always wanted a boy and well, by the third girl… my parents were pretty much done. So, I did all the sports. Dad coached me in softball and basketball for eight years! I definitely was the tomboy of the sisters! When I was in fourth grade, my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 2B and it was wrapped around his Aorta. At a young age, I learned how quickly you can lose someone you love and I got lucky – my dad was a fighter. Dad owned – and still owns his own business. He is a CPA and even during his chemo treatments he continued to work 16 hour days to provide for our family. And he beat cancer! That fight in him taught me how to fight. My mental fortitude- comes from him.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time from work, bodybuilding, obstacle course racing – I love to hike and take my dogs on walks. I love trail running. I pretty much live at the gym and should probably put in for my change of address soon so my mail goes there! I faithfully am there 7 days a week, sometimes two times a day. I really love biking the Cultural Trail and Monon Trail. I run the Canal Downtown a lot and train by running the stairs at the War Memorial. I really enjoy reading and doing puzzles (yes I’m 27 going on 70). Live music is a huge love of mine- any and all types.
What are some goals you’d like to accomplish in the coming years?
September 2017 I am representing Indiana at the United States OCR Championships. October 2017 I am representing the USA for the 3rd time at the OCR World Championships. After that, in 2018 I would love nothing more to get my Pro Card in Figure Bodybuilding. I try to not plan too far ahead because nothing I plan ever really works out exactly the way I intend. I just kind of “blow with the wind” and let my passions lead me wherever they may.