Valerie Champagne – Inspiring CrossFit Athletes In & Out of the Box

Valerie Champagne exemplifies why I love sport. Her own personal history and experiences, views as a coach and motivating attitude are nothing short of inspiring. Interviewing her is like asking for a list of amazing mantras. I really feel like everyone should carry around Valerie in their back pocket!

Valerie is the coach and owner of Top Notch CrossFit located at 81 Plymouth Street in Winnipeg. Having started as a CrossFit athlete herself seven years ago, she began coaching the sport three years ago. For someone that has such a short coaching career, she is extremely knowledgeable and has a true talent for motivating her athletes.

Valerie herself did not grow up in a sports driven household. She was “the kid on the sidelines with the low confidence to even try out”. This personal experience growing up is why she loves working with kids – especially the kids who themselves, are on those sidelines hoping to be brought in. She knows first-hand how intimidating it is to start when you aren’t an “athlete”. She started CrossFit without a sports background, and became an exceptional athlete.

Coaching those like her – having never equated themselves to being athletes – is what she loves. “What excites me most about coaching is watching an adult or child walk into our box feeling a little overwhelmed and a little bit nervous. They are often doubtful of their abilities and hesitant. What transforms weeks and months later is a confidence. They are doing things they never thought possible. They feel better, they move better, and they hesitate a lot less. All they have to do is just start! Just start!! No matter where you are at…..just start. Believe in yourself…you are capable of so many things you never thought possible. Embrace the journey… it will have its highs and lows but it will be all worth it,” says Valerie.

Valerie is quite unique in that she coaches everyone from kids to adults. She is able to tailor training and motivation to each person, regardless of age or fitness ability. “We have people who are happy to come in and get a good sweat going, and hang out with some great people. There are others who want to take it to another level and test themselves in a competition environment. We support them and prepare them to do so,” says Champagne.

She knows that success is measured differently by each individual – whether someone has been able to stop certain medications, finally get into their favorite pair of shorts or a reach a specific fitness goal. She develops personal relationships and friendships with each individual and respects each of their own personal journeys and takes time to celebrate their successes.

Valerie recognizes that sometimes people have bad days and can get down on themselves and may want to give up. “As a coach you do what it takes to keep them there. It may take some adjustments of the workout itself, revaluating goals, or just a reminder of how far they have come,” Valerie says.

CrossFit is a community. As such, she has been fortunate to have many coaching mentors. It is no surprise that the ones that stand out most to her are “the ones that are able to make a personal connection, root you on every step of the way, challenge you and who keep you interested in the sport.” It is no surprise as this is what Valerie does with her own athletes.

Unlike most sports, CrossFit is a unique sport in that there are quite a large number of female coaches. Valerie equates these numbers to the fact that the sport itself respects women as equals. Even at the last CrossFit Games, the prizes for podium winners were the same for men and women – something relatively unheard of in sport. Valerie trains females and males in the exact same movements and progressions and they are all treated as equals.

She is confident in her own coaching and feels that because this has been proven, she has gained the deserved respect. She believes however, that sport in general needs to recognize the expertise that women bring to the table and recognize it and respect it equally.

Valerie’s desire for her athletes goes beyond how many deadlifts, pullups or squats they can do. She wants them to be happy in their own skin and have the best quality of life for a long time… no matter how old or young. This is also her personal view on life and her hope for her two girls. She also stresses that all bodies come in all sizes and shapes but that the most important thing is that it is a healthy and strong body. Our bodies are capable of different things and we must embrace that.

Her biggest successes as a coach are the moments when a member has thanked her for supporting them. “It may have been a little tip I gave them to reach a goal or encouraging word to get them through the process. As a CrossFit kids’ coach the moments that stand out are when they come to me in class and tell me how they did their own workout at home or had family members do one with them. I know I have had an impact,” says Champagne.

It is obvious that Valerie gets out just as much as she gives from coaching. “I do this to give back what this sport has done for me. The level of confidence I have, the way I feel, the role model I am for my girls. I want to inspire those 9 year old girls sitting on the side lines and those 30 year old ladies that never played a sport in their life and now can call themselves athletes. Everyone has it in them, they just need someone to grab their hand and take them for the ride. It is quite the ride!”

Want to read about more inspiring sport women who are killing it? Click here.

Mommy Shaming

I am a perfect Mom. I have developed the most ideal way to raise children to be brilliant, talented, athletic and well-adjusted. These are two sentences that no Mom will ever speak.  Many Moms think that they are fabulous and actually are quite incredible. However, no Mom in her right mind would ever claim to be perfect, know it all, or have all the answers.

So the question becomes, why do Moms so harshly criticize other Moms? If we are being truthful, we are all guilty of this.  I have found myself thinking that Mom A should be more affectionate or Mom B should have her kids eat more healthy foods or Mom C should have more discipline. But why do I do this? Why do any of us?

I know that I have been the subject of “mom shaming” and it’s ridiculously annoying! A few months after my son was born, a little girl saw my son with a soother in his mouth. She quickly notified her Mom about the soother and pointed it out to her. This girl’s Mom said “oh yes, that is a soother. We don’t believe in those for XX (her son).” Are you kidding me!?  I was so pissed off that I wanted to slug her! Who did she think she was passing judgement on me and my decision to give my son a soother? Just because you don’t give your kids a soother, doesn’t mean that I’m a bad Mom for giving one to mine!

I am sure every mother has been a victim of, and guilty of, Mommy shaming. Perhaps not as openly or vocal as this example, but still shaming, none the less.

As Moms we make decisions each and every day about how to raise our kids. Unless we are doing physical or emotional harm to our children, it is really only our decision as to how to raise them. There are so many things that come into each and every decision regarding how to raise our kids. Some of which include how we were raised ourselves, our social circle, our religious beliefs and our morals.

The great thing about the world though is that there are so many different ways to do things and we are free to make decisions as we see fit. My hope is that we are all doing our best with the hand we’ve been given. That said, here are a few topics that I think we need to be more open-minded about when it comes to our children:

  • To breastfeed or not to breastfeed.  – News flash!! Not every woman is ABLE to breastfeed so don’t be so quick to judge someone that doesn’t. There is a reason why there used to be “wet nurses” – this is not because someone today doesn’t want to do it.
  • “We don’t believe in TV” – This is another gem statement. I’m thrilled for you if you don’t have your children watch TV. But don’t judge me because mine do.
  • Stay at Home vs. Working Moms. – This one’s a doozy! I see the benefits to kids on both sides. But regardless, chances are if moms are working or if they are staying home, it is a choice based on their family’s needs or beliefs and what is best for everyone involved.
  • Disciplining in public – we have all seen that kid that is losing her mind in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store. Chances are you may have thought – what a spoiled brat! Or…why are you taking your kid out if she’s tired and cranky? Or… judging based on what discipline method is used or if none is being done by the parent. However, next time, take a minute to think about it – you have no clue what this situation is. Perhaps the child is throwing a tantrum because her Mom won’t get her a new toy. But what if it is a behavioral condition or problem? What if this is the only time this Mom can go shopping because she works two jobs and has to drag her tired kid with her? No matter what the reason, it sucks. Having a child have a tantrum in public is the WORST! No matter what you do, chances are you’ll look like a brutal mid-evil demon witch lady or you’ll look like a lackadaisical nit wit. Either way, take pity on this poor mother. Because even if she brought this on herself, she’s dying of embarrassment so cut her some slack.

The list of topics to debate is endless. Unfortunately, so is the list of people willing to criticize – from older generations that did things differently to young kids that think they know it all and everyone in between. We only have control over our own individual reality. Hopefully we all make choices and parent or plan to parent based on what we think is best for our children. Let’s all recognize this and stop shaming and celebrate our right to choose to do things our own special way.