Valerie Smith is a fitness powerhouse. Name a sport and she’s probably dabbled in it. She’s played volleyball overseas, competed in bobsledding and is now focusing on Olympic weightlifting. When she’s not competing, she’s teaching exercise science courses at Central Michigan University. Learn more about Valerie and what makes her awesome.
Were you active as a child?
Yes, I was very active as a child. I am the oldest of seven girls and growing up, there were five kids next door, so we were always outside getting into something.
How did you get involved in fitness?
My best friend Monica started playing basketball in the third grade while I was in first grade. I had to do everything Monica did, so I signed up to play as soon as I got to third grade.
How many sports and which ones did you play growing up?
Basketball, volleyball and track. I also did two years of cheerleading, but I was pretty terrible.
You played volleyball overseas. What was that like?
It was one of my greatest experiences. Not only was I able to travel all over Scotland, I also met some pretty awesome people from all over the world. Being able to represent your country at any level is such an honor. I never wanted to take my jersey off.
You also have a bachelor's and master's degree in exercise science and exercise physiology, respectively. How have these degrees come in handy in your professional life and in your personal life?
Currently I am teaching exercise science classes at Central Michigan University. I am able to teach students everyday about how awesome health fitness is and how to make a difference in other people’s lives. It is a total blessing to reach my students like my professors and coaches have reached me.
Tell us how did you get involved in bobsledding?
When I was in grad school I met a bobsledder and thought I would give it a shot.
What was that experience like?
Bobsledding and the people I have met while bobsledding will be a part of my life forever. All of my teammates are some of the world’s best athletes and just saying I was able to train with some of these people is such an honor. Bobsled is one of the hardest sports – both mentally and physically – that I have ever done. Bobsled also brought me closer to Jesus through some of my teammates and pastor. I was on a path of brokenness until I found bobsled.
How does bobsledding challenge you in ways other sports have not?
Bobsled is a very physical and mental sport. Bobsled is a sport of both speed and power. It requires you to be able to sprint amongst Olympians and be as powerful and strong as Olympic weightlifters. You have to move a 400-pound sled down an icy track as fast as you can. That’s tough.
Your current sport is Olympic weightlifting. How did you get into that?
A friend of mine opened up an Olympic weightlifting gym and when I came home from bobsled I joined. I will be competing in my first meet at the end of July.
What traits do you have that helped get you to the place you are today?
There are two traits that have helped me the most. One is having a relationship with God and putting Him first so He can guide me. Two is hard work. I have learned that NOTHING in this world comes easy, but with hard work and faith everything, anything is possible.
Which athletes do you look up to?
My bobsled teammates. They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my whole life. They work harder and are humbler then any athletes I know and I love them all.
Why is a fit lifestyle important to you?
People in my family have a lot of health problems and I hope to never have to endure some of their complications. Working out and living a healthy lifestyle is the first way to prevent serious health problems from occurring.
What are some of your fitness goals?
I would ideally love to make it to the Olympic games in something. But I would also like to use my fitness background and passion to help others and show them they can be fit too.