NAUGATUCK — When Jeff Brody’s father died of heart disease six years ago, he was faced with a choice.
Brody, then 19, had seen his life stall after graduating from Naugatuck High School. He worked a job servicing swimming pools and spent his free time hanging out with his friends and partying, but he wanted something more.
“Things weren’t going right in my life,” he said.
His father’s death marked a turning point.
“What made me start training for American Ninja Warrior was when my father passed away. It was a matter of train and do something with my life, or stay where I’m at and keep the same thing going,” Brody said. “So I found fitness was the way for me.”
American Ninja Warrior is an extreme obstacle course TV show now airing its eight season on NBC. Competitors need to leap across floating platforms, hang on tiny ledges and complete other challenges without dropping into the ever-present water beneath them. Only one person, Isaac Caldiero last season, has ever won the $1 million prize for completing all stages of the finals course in Las Vegas.
Needless to say, it takes a fitness nut to compete. Brody, who will be on the show next summer, fits that profile.
“Oh, I love working out,” Brody said. “It’s an addiction. I basically turned it into a lifestyle. I’m not going to say it’s all I think about, but it’s definitely up there.”
Brody lives in Naugatuck and works as a personal trainer at Snap Fitness in Avon, which he operates with his roommate. Now 25, Brody stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds with 7 percent body fat. He doesn’t believe in rest days, doing creative body weight workouts every day in the gym and often going outside to challenge himself on buildings and playgrounds.
“For American Ninja Warrior, number one is grip strength,” Brody said. “I do a bunch of body weight things, just kind of challenging myself, holding myself in the most impossible way I can without falling. Anything extreme as far as training for balance and grip strength; those are really the key.”
But it takes more than just being in supreme physical shape to be on the show. After his application for the show this summer failed, NBC Connecticut produced a two-and-a-half minute video on Brody. That guaranteed him a spot in the competition next year and for the foreseeable future after that.
“I auditioned this year, but the only thing was that I didn’t have a good story. I had just my workouts,” Brody said. “It’s a reality show, so they look for good stories. Once NBC did the interview, it opened up a lot of doors for me. That right there is basically my ticket.”
Brody doesn’t plan on letting that ticket go to waste. He’s watched hours of footage of the show, studying which techniques are effective and which are not. He plans to use the prominence he’ll earn from American Ninja Warrior to boost his resume and further his career as a personal trainer.
Of course, winning that $1 million wouldn’t hurt either.
“I don’t want to say I can, and I don’t want to say I can’t,” Brody said. “But I’ll definitely be giving it a shot.”