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Passion for Fitness

By Kimberly Bac
The Times-Tribune

brookesmallBrooke Griffin, formerly Brooke Johnson, is not only a Corbin native, but also a well-known fitness competitor. On July 19, 2009, while competing against contestants from around the world, the 27-year-old became the 2009 Fitness Universe Champion during a pageant held in Miami, Fla.

The Fitness Universe Pageant was designed to showcase the physical fitness of female competitors, while allowing them to keep their feminine appearance. Contestants were judged on numerous characteristics from showmanship to body shape. Brooke Griffin trained hard in preparation for the contest, which included scoring rounds on bikini and routine. This year, Brooke stole the show with her new “Braveheart” routine choreographed by Cathy Savage.

“I train very hard, simply because I don’t have a choice. My routine kicks my butt!” said Brooke. “I usually work out with weights and do cardio six days a week for about an hour a day. I then work on my routine five days a week for 1-2 hours each day.”

Despite Brooke’s training and focus, she was overwhelmed when she won the Fitness Universe Championships.

“The talent that surrounded me was amazing,” she said. “Any one of us could have won. It is truly a dream come true.”

Brooke’s modesty and gratitude go to show that even though she is an international fitness celebrity, and former captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders, she never forgot her Corbin roots.

Daughter of Steve and Valerie Johnson, Brooke was born and raised in Corbin. She grew up surrounded by her close-knit family, including her two sisters Amanda and Cara Johnson. All of her family still lives in Corbin, and she has many friends that live in, and around, Corbin and London.


One of Brooke’s fondest memories of growing up in Corbin was when she went to the Root Beer Stand with her family.

“I can remember waiting all winter for it to reopen,” Brooke explained, “and then we would go with our mother and father to get root beer floats.”

Brooke Griffin was always an active child, so her interest in fitness began at an early age. She began gymnastics classes at age three, and trained at Damar Gymnastics and Baptist Family Fitness, both in Corbin. Brooke also competed in cheerleading and track and field. She said her West Knox Elementary School gym teacher, Leann Strunk, gave her the drive to succeed.

“She is the best gym teacher in the state… we have stayed in touch since the 6th grade.” Brooke went on to say, “…I really give her credit for where my life has taken me thus far in fitness.”

As a 2000 graduate of South Laurel High School, Brooke went on to attend the University of Kentucky, where she was a member of UK’s National Championship Cheerleading Squad. Brooke was interviewed as a UK Cheerleader for the NBC 20/20 news special called, “University of Kentucky Cheerleading Dynasty.” In 2004, Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UK. Brooke said that going to college was the biggest break in her career.

“I could have never won the cheerleading championships, perform in the NFL, and now be a fitness champion without having attended college.” Brooke continued, “I think that getting an education is the single most important thing anyone can do for themselves and their future careers.”

Brooke has had an extensive fitness and performance career. She was captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders after she made the team in spring 2006. Brooke said that being an NFL cheerleader was an amazing experience that gave her many opportunities.

She said of her cheerleading experience, “I made lifelong friends, and I still get chills thinking about performing in front of 60,000 fans during a Monday Night Football game.”

These days Brooke is working hard to achieve both her fitness and business goals. Even though Brooke is the Fitness Universe Champion, she already has her sights set on earning a Pro Card at the National Physique Committee (NPC) USA Nationals fitness competition in September.

“I will then have professional status and hopefully one day be able to compete at the Arnold and the Olympia with the pros,” Brooke said.

Brooke also has several business projects in the works. She plans to get more women involved in fitness competitions, write fitness and wellness articles, develop an online fitness program, create work-out DVDs, and start a fitness clothing line. Thus far, she has been featured in several magazines and print ads including, GQ Magazine, Oxygen Fitness Magazine, and Under Armour Fitness Apparel catalogs.

One of Brooke’s next projects is to launch a non-profit organization. The organization, which will launch in the fall, is designed to educate and promote childhood obesity awareness.

“I… want to reach out to local elementary, middle, and high schools,” Brooke said of her non-profit goals, “and to educate today’s youth on the importance of eating healthy and living an active lifestyle.”

Educating people about healthy living, and teaching them how to achieve their fitness goals is Brooke’s true passion. According to Brooke, beginning healthier habits is easier than it seems.

“Making one or two positive changes each day will eventually grow into a healthy lifestyle.” Brooke said, “It can’t happen overnight, but in time, you can make great strides.”

To encourage her clients, Brooke shares with them a simple and true quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

She said, “I tell clients that we are only given one chance at life, so ‘Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.’”

Brooke’s values of hard work, taking responsibility for your life, and always showing gratitude, are some of the lessons she learned while growing up in Corbin. These are lessons that she lives by every day, and she wants to teach them to her future children.

Brooke Johnson Griffin currently resides in northern Kentucky with her husband Chris, an attorney and former bodybuilder. She will soon be welcoming her parents to the area. After living in Corbin for 50 years, her parents, Steve and Valerie Johnson, are moving to northern Kentucky to be near Brooke and her sisters. Brooke Griffin is a true example of how a good upbringing can have a long-lasting, positive influence.

For more information about Brooke Johnson Griffin or view her winning routine, visit her website at brookegriffin.com.

Brooke will also be featured in the August edition of Fitness Plus Magazine.


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