Phil has been a Blackbird member since December 2018. In that time, he has been consistent and reaped the benefits through strength gains and weight loss. He brings the fun and sarcasm to classes and has always been a big contributor to our Blackbird community.
But it’s in the past few months that Phil really began to stand out as a candidate for Athlete of the Month. In light of the pandemic, mental health wellness has been thrust to the forefront of conversations in the media and in even in the mainstream CrossFit community. But unfortunately, it still holds a stigma of weakness. Especially for men! And especially for first responders and those in the military.
Phil is breaking down barriers. He has been on a journey of healing from childhood trauma, combat-induced PTSD, and processing the heavy stuff that police officers encounter on a daily basis. We wanted to honor his bravery for coming forward with his story and, in turn, creating a safe place for others to do the same within our community. As Phil says, this has been a very freeing and empowering experience. He has taken back control of his life and his mental health. And we are so incredibly proud of him!
Blackbird has been a powerful source of healing for so many over the years. There is healing in taking one hour of your day to leave it all at the door. From taking out stress on a heavy barbell or the great release from pushing yourself to new limits. Being in a supportive, inclusive environment of people who also use exercise to feel better, both mentally and physically, is invaluable. We are here to tell you that the strongest of people are those that push past the fear, get the help they need, and come out the other side stronger than ever. It’s not easy living your truth and being vocal about your struggles, especially amongst your “boys”. We applaud Phil for doing the hard work and being an inspiration and leader in our community. Thank you for your service to our country and for keeping Howard County safer! Check out his story…
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.
I’m Phil Champagne, I’m 42 years old, and I have a 13-year-old son Bryce who is my driving force in all I do and all I am! I grew up in central NJ (right near the Jersey Shore)– I’m not one of them though! I left home immediately after high school and joined the Military in Sept 1997. I did Intel work with the Predator UAV systems for 10 years. I spent 702 day in Iraq and Afghanistan starting 9-13-01. Afterwards, I moved to Wyoming, just south of Jackson Hole to ski and enjoy all Wyoming has to offer. Turns out it had cold, JUST THE COLD, to offer. I was a corrections officer and patrol officer there with the Sheriff’s Office for a couple years. In January 2007, I moved Maryland and joined the Howard County Police Department where I’ve been working for almost 16 years.
The past few months I have been on an important journey of healing and self discovery. When I was serving in the Middle East I developed anxiety and PTSD; which until recently I pretended wasn’t an issue and never sought help for. Unfortunately in the military, regardless of the high rate of suicide, talking about mental health struggles holds a stigma. People are still afraid to talk about it because of being labeled as “broken” and unable to do the job. I am incredibly proud to finally be getting the help I’ve always needed with my experiences there, as well as the trauma of growing up in an abusive home. I am living my truth and it is a very freeing experience. I am healthier and happier now than I’ve ever been!
WHAT MADE YOU START CROSSFIT? WHAT HAS KEPT YOU DOING IT?
I started CrossFit because some people at work were doing it and I was at at point where I needed to have accountability with working out. From day one, walking in that door I have loved it. I started with 3 times a week, but quickly upped it to 6 days a week. Now that I am back in patrol it’s impossible to go as much as I’d like since I work 0630am to 1830pm. So, I am happy Blackbird was able to bring back the 7pm class!
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SINCE JOINING BLACKBIRD CROSSFIT?
I’ve learned that my body and mind are so much more capable than I had ever thought. I’m 42, but don’t feel like I am. Every time I go in those doors I push myself harder than the time before. I learned that with a little positive self talk, coaching, and workout friends, I can do or at least attempt anything written in the workouts.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BLACKBIRD?
I love that Blackbird has all the equipment needed for all of the workouts, I love the variety of workouts and scaling options when I can’t do the RX movements. I do and will love doing CrossFit and will for as long as my body allows.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST CROSSFIT MOMENT?
I think my proudest moment finally hitting 400lbs on my deadlift. Then there was the first CrossFit Open I participated in which felt amazing… except hearing Coach Justin saying “No rep” on a few of my wall balls. There are so many proud moments, so it’s hard to say exactly which is the best. I never in my life would have thought I’d be able to do half of the stuff I can do in that gym at my age, but I am so grateful that I have the opportunity when I’m not working.
WHAT IMPACT HAS CROSSFIT HAD ON YOUR LIFE IN AND OUT OF THE GYM?
CrossFit has made a huge impact on my life. I am in the best shape of my life, strong than I’ve ever been, and actually excel at cardio. This has helped me so much at work! Don’t get me wrong, there are days I walk or run up stairs at work for calls and my body isn’t happy with me.
WHAT CROSSFIT GOALS ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING TOWARDS?
I try not to set too many expectations of myself anymore, but if there’s one “goal’ I have it’s to continue doing CrossFit for as long as I can. It truly does help, not only my physical health but more importantly my mental health.
FAVORITE LIFT, MOVEMENT, OR WOD? LEAST FAVORITE?
I think my favorite movement is strangely box jumps, more specifically box jumps for height. My favorite lift is a tossup between cleans and deadlifts. My least favorite movement is and will always be, doing burpees. My least favorite lift is overhead squats. They just hurt my knees too much.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT CROSSFITTING WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO?
When I’m not CrossFitting I don’t have a ton of free time. I work a lot which I really do enjoy. But my favorite thing to do is spend time with my son, Bryce. Going to Virginia, where he lives the majority of the time with his mother, to his soccer or basketball games for the day, or spending weekends with him there fishing or at the scooter park, is always a good time. Over the past few months, I have also grown fond of running 2-3 miles a day. You can find me running the Blackbird Murph loop most days.
WHAT IS ONE TIP YOU WOULD GIVE SOMEONE CONSIDERING CROSSFIT OR NEW TO CROSSFIT?
WALK IN THE DOOR… what’s the worst that can happen? You hate it or get addicted to it, likely the later.
WHAT IS ONE FUN THING WE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I do woodworking, I have a shop in my back yard. I’ve made rustic flags, cutting boards, Christmas tree boxes, wooden signs, growth charts and numerous other things. I enjoy getting out there, firing up the heaters, putting on loud music and building/burning things.
WHAT IS YOUR DIET LIKE? HAS IT CHANGED SINCE STARTING CROSSFIT?
When I first started, I was embarrassed to tell Coach Steve that I didn’t eat breakfast. I’d eat fast food for lunch with a Coke. Then whatever there was for dinner, I’d wash down with another Coke. That was my diet–fast food and soda. Now I do my best to eat breakfast, usually just a quest bar with my coffee when I get to work, a mid-morning snack, a proportioned lunch, an apple or something in the afternoon, then for dinner there is almost always veggies and something home cooked, usually out of the InstaPot.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WORKOUT FUEL?
My favorite fuel is Reign energy drinks. I can’t believe I’m going to write this but airhead candy is my indulgence. I have a couple a week and they, for some reason always put a smile on my face.
WHAT IS ONE POSITIVE THING YOU TOOK FROM 2020?
The Bird Cage, Blackbird’s pandemic outdoor gym, and spending a lot of time with friends was probably the highlight of 2020 for me. With everything that was going on, it was sometimes hard to find the positive, but looking back it could have been so much worse.
RESULTS? TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESULTS!
I’m stronger mentally and physically than I’ve ever been in my life. The clarity I have now, going forward, knowing I’m limitless is a powerful thing.
I haven’t been to any other CrossFit gyms but I absolutely love Blackbird. I can’t imagine any other gym’s coaches caring as much as Blackbird’s coaches do. From calling to check on me after surgery, to just spending time with me before or after class to talk about life issues, they care. Coaches Chris, Rebekah, Matt, Steve, and Danny… you have all changed and/or impacted my life in ways you don’t even realize. I can honestly speak for everyone when I say, you all are amazing human beings. I appreciate you all so very much. I’d like to say I’ll stop interrupting class someday with jokes, but I think at this point it’s a lost cause and it’ll continue. Thank you again for all you have done, are doing, and will continue to do for me, and everyone else!!