Jennifer Brooks finds fitness and community at VOS JCC

A competitive ice skater until she tore her Achilles tendon at age 12, Jennifer Brooks stayed active in high school. But from age 18 to 30, “I did nothing … I was packing on the pounds,” she says.

She got a wake-up call during a doctor visit in 2000. Her weight gain combined with her parents’ heart issues (her dad had a triple bypass, and her mom had high cholesterol and high blood pressure) persuaded her to take action.

Her first step was to sign up for Weight Watchers. She shed the pounds and has maintained her weight for the past 15 years. Now at age 45, Jennifer works out regularly at the Valley of the Sun JCC and is happy to report “I am on no medications and I have no issues.”

She says she and her husband, David, decided to join the J about 10 years ago when they were looking for a gym. “It offered more than a gym,” Jennifer says. In addition to the classes and fitness equipment, it was a wonderful place to catch up with Jewish friends and find out what’s going on in the Jewish world. It’s become even more convenient since last year when the campus became the new home of Pardes Jewish Day School, where their daughter, Emma, is now in fifth grade.

Emma, 10, joins Jennifer for family yoga and can’t wait until she is old enough to join her mom at Bryan’s Boot Camp classes. Jennifer says she does Bryan’s cross-training class every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 am, during which they do 1,000 reps in 45 minutes along with 15 minutes on a treadmill. She does the same class with another instructor on Mondays and a TRX strength class on Wednesday mornings; she also does weights on her own. While she has done personal training in the past, she says it’s hard to justify the added cost when “Bryan teaches the Tuesday and Thursday classes every bit as hard as he was in personal training.”

In addition, she says, “We eat very clean. Nothing processed. We cook all our own food. My husband is a great cook.”

“I feel great,” says Jennifer. “I never hit an afternoon slump. I can go on vacation and walk 10 hours and not feel awful.”

Jennifer and David plan an overseas trip every year. They’ve been to Australia, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy. In 2017 they plan to go to Israel for Emma’s bat mitzvah at Masada.

Whenever she doesn’t want to get out of bed for an early morning class, she remembers the discrepancy between her own health and that of her sedentary parents. David’s dad also had bypass surgery, so David also works out at the J.

Jennifer also likes the sense of community at the J. About once a month she hikes up Pinnacle Peak with a couple of women from her exercise classes. And she is inspired by the “class grandma, Gail Adelson.” Jennifer says Gail is 75 but always keeps up with the rest of the class. “She is my inspiration; I want to be like that.”

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