I had the honor and pleasure of sitting down to talk to recently crowned Pro-Strongwoman Samantha Coleman for an exclusive interview about her life as an inspiring female strength athlete. Samantha was candid and open and I think you'll even hear some previously unreleased information! It was amazing to get to know her! I especially loved what she had to say to her critics. She has a definite class and southern belle quality about her. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed it!
Please check out the interview:
The transcript and questions with Samantha’s responses are below.
R: So tell me how did you get started in powerlifting and how long have you been doing it?
S: I am trying to remember, I was 31 when I met my husband. I started lifting (not really seriously) when I was 32. And, prior to that I had lost a lot of weight and I had a lot of muscle atrophy and had a lot of back pain and hip pain for some reason. That was the main reason my doctor told me to start doing it. I lost it by dieting, I didn’t exercise or anything. Just by lowering my carbs, I do not recommend doing that. I’m paying for that now. It was very difficult getting the muscle mass back on. I put on fat too. It was reckless. A balanced diet is always best. I always wanted to do it since I was little, my dad was a personal trainer. He also coached football, so I was always around the guys lifting weights. I was always exposed. I think it was the doctor telling me to do it, and then meeting my husband. I was like, ok, it’s time.
R: So was your husband involved in powerlifting when you met him?
S:Oh yes, he has been lifting since he was like, 12. So he has been lifting for a long time. He is very knowledgeable.
R: So meeting him helped you get into it then?
S: Oh yeah, it did. It took me about two years to be convinced that he knew what he was doing. (laughs)
R: Yes, that’s pretty typical right?
S: You know, you always think guys are exaggerating. LOL He was, he knew what he was doing, so.
R: That’s good! So did he coach you? Does he? Or did he back then?
S: He did. I don’t think he thought I was serious about it. Which, I kind of wasn’t at first. I was more or less trying to figure things out. I was also in school full time. I kind of had other things going on. But, I think it was back in August 2012, the first time I deadlifted something heavy and it was like 315 lbs and he was like, oh that’s actually really good. That is what kind of took off and we thought “Hey we might actually compete” and do something like that.
R: So, that was 2012. So, how old are you now? You said you started around the age of 31/32?
S: I was 32 then. I am about to be 37 in April.
R: Okay, so about 5 or 6 years?
S: Yeah, that’s about right. (Laughs) It *has* been a long time. LOL
R: Very cool. Well, I have several questions. Some of them are in categories. I’m going through some of them to get us rolling. You’ve already answered some of them. I’m very intrigued to hear you’ve been around weightlifting and strength training your entire life, that’s pretty cool. I lost a lot of weight too, so I can kind of relate to that. I lost it, kind of the wrong way also. And so, you look back like “God damn it” I would have been so much stronger if I hadn’t done that to my body. You know?
Your Sport & Training:
R: So I know you’re getting into strongman a little bit. Would you say powerlifting is still your strength sport of choice or do you feel yourself being pulled more towards strongman lately?
S: Well, um, I think strongman is more fun. It seems to be less stressful, I recover from it better. But, I know that powerlifting gives me that strength foundation, so I think they really go well together. I don’t think even if I quit competing in powerlifting, I would still do it and train that way. I still have a lot of goals in powerlifting and it’s going to be hard to back away from that until I reach those goals.
R: Where do you train?
S: We train at a gym called the Grit House. A lot of people think it’s our gym, but it belongs to Dawniel and Nathan King. Dawniel is actually IFBB Pro. And, she is probably the sweetest person you could meet. Nathan has competed in some shows. They own the Grit House but we are pretty much welcome there anytime. It’s our home.
R: What training programs have you tried, especially when you were starting out?
S: The very first program I ever followed when I was getting more serious was 5-3-1 because it was pretty easy to follow. My husband and I traveled a lot for the first few years we were together. It was really easy to keep up with. It was easy for me to follow, which is good. But, now, I would say after my first competition, after he kind of saw what I did, he (my husband) started playing around with block periodization. He doesn’t have a specific program, he has phases and bases it off skill, speed, work capacity. I don’t even know he could build a template for it, he says he could but I don’t know. LOL
R: Do you to this day still use that?
S: Yes. We incorporate the RPE scale a lot. That helps me. Something might look like a 5, but for me it’s a 8. I think of that as a seven (laughs).
R: So, my next question is kind of weird. What is the strangest or most unique thing about your training that you can’t live without?
S: That is weird. (laughs) Well, different. (laughs) Believe it or not, I don’t like lucky charms because I don’t want to rely on it. I mean, honestly I know this sounds silly. I have a hard time training without my husband being there or at least being accessible. I feel incompetent. But, I think a lot of people feel that way. As far as having something. I need a banana. And, 9 times out of 10 I won’t even eat the banana. LOL But just having it there, I feel better.
R: That makes sense. It’s good to know that even someone like you feels better with your husband, or coach there. My next question relates to calories and macros. Do you count them? Have you in the past?
S: Well, I did up until about 5 or 6 months ago I was probably on a 70-100g fat and my calories were anywhere from 2800-3200. Carbs were around 200, and protein as much as I could get up to 200 grams. And, I was having stomach issues. Come to find out, I went to a GI specialist. I am not digesting fats very well. They suspect that probably started taking place when I was doing low carbs. That’s why I tell people not to do these things. It may not have done damage at the time, but I’m paying for it now. The good thing is, it was an easy fix to just cut out fat. But, the bad thing is I am kind of misguided. And, oddly enough I literally just hired Amit Sapir, you’ve probably heard of him? I have discussed with him some of the issues I’ve been having. He seemed to really understand what is going on with my body. I’m still trying to figure out what responds best. He seems to be really knowledgeable with my issues. So, we decided to give him a try. He is really excited. He has helped out a lot of people and is successful himself. He also used to be a body builder. So, we are about to get started. I have no idea what my macros are going to be. I’m kind of excited.
R: So, I just watched the Eddie Hall Documentary. Have you watched that? That man eats 10,000 calories a day!
S: Most people don’t eat enough! I never could. That’s why it’s so funny. I would not eat enough. I don’t know how people eat enough. It’s exhausting.
R: Okay, you said you were around powerlifting and strength training as a child. Were you athletic as a child?
S: Yes, I would say as a preteen and younger I was involved in softball and stuff. I had very severe asthma. I’ve always been big. That kind of helped, and I started on regular asthma treatments and it started to improve. In high school I did more sports. I did softball, basketball, and ran track. I grew up in a time where women didn’t do a lot of weight training. Not in my town, they didn’t. It wasn’t a part of my training. I got exposed to that through my father. He coached football. I still had the exposure.
R: Do you have siblings?
S: Yes, I am a middle child - of 7.
R: Oh my gosh. Okay. I was curious if you had brothers and if he had them playing (football).
S: My three oldest siblings have one father. Then there’s my father, the football coach. My two younger siblings have a father. That’s kind of how we’re divided. My brother who shares the same father as me, he also participated in track and football. We both still have the discuss records. (Laughs) So, we kind of share that athleticism. My father was an all-american football player.
R: So, is your family super proud of you now? Do they like watching?
S: Oh yes, they are. I know my father is actually a minister and he is trying to grow his own organic garden. (Laughs) They’ve always been pretty encouraging.
R: What has been the toughest moment for you as an athlete? (Injury, rivalry, etc.)
S: Um, well. I get overwhelmed when I shoot too far forward with my goals. I think I have enough experience to know that progress will come. I just have to trust the process. The hardest part for me is getting overwhelmed and not getting results now. Since last year, I understand the process more. I know the steps, what they will lead to. I would say, now it’s kind of balancing how much of myself to put out there? I really don’t like to share my goals. I know that seems silly. I like to keep them to myself. My husband gets proud of me. He posted a video the other day, and I had to remind him. I like to keep that to myself. My goals are mine. I don’t want them to be for anyone else but me. I think that’s the hardest. Am I oversharing? Do I need to back off a little bit? Beyond that, even people who don’t really like me -- I try to be nice to everybody. I don’t know what they are going through. I just try to be nice. I’m not very confrontational. There is enough for everyone to accomplish. :-)
R: What federations have you competed in?
S: I’ve competed in the SPF, APC, and the UPA.
R: You’ve done Relentless?
S: Yes, with UPA.
R: Was Relentless the first time wearing your crown? (Yes) And, I know you’ve done USS (United States Strongman) because I met you at Nationals. Have you done any NAS (North American Strongman)?
S: I’m not opposed to doing any organization. It’s more what’s there. But, I love Relentless. I wouldn’t care who hosted that. It’s more what I’m used to and what I’ve been exposed to. I usually stick to what’s around me. It’s easier. It does get expensive. I don’t mind doing bigger meets, but it’s not something I feel I have to do. I enjoy being involved in bigger meets and cheering people on. I would rather do more things and do them locally.
R: How did you feel doing USS Nationals? I know that was new for you.
S: It was, I felt like I was putting on a show. I am kind of glad strongman is setup in a way that multiple people are doing things. I didn’t feel like it was all just me. I don’t have stage fright. Like I said, I could probably do all my lifts behind a curtain. As long as judges are there and it counts, I don’t care. It was definitely different. I’ve never been “in the audience.” I enjoyed it. It was fun. I tend to do better under pressure. I don’t like it, but I do.
R: I find powerlifting to be more stressful. You’re the only one on the stage, and it’s so much technicality where with strongman, any way goes. That’s why I love strongman.
S: Exactly. It’s more laid back.
R: Yes, exactly. And, I loved watching you! I was like OMG did you see that? She just one motioned that stone! That stone that I just failed! OMG I was like fangirling a little bit. You are incredible to watch!
S: Thank you!
R: What is your go-to food the morning or night before a competition?
S: Believe it or not, I’d probably say any type of carbs. I don’t want a whole lot of protein. Really healthy carbs. Rice, chicken or fish. Something light. I love sweet potatoes. Anything I know is going to fuel me. Honestly you can probably mix it in a blender. When I’m at that point I look at food as fuel and I don’t even taste it.
Reflecting & Inspiration:
R: What is your proudest moment in your sport? When (if ever) did you feel that you officially “made it?”
S: I would say, when I did Relentless. I didn’t really tell my Hope Kids a lot about me. I wanted them to know me as a person, not just a lifter. But once they realized, they were kind of like “wow!” Just to see their excitement in their face, not just because of me, but just everything going on. When my Hope Kid had the opportunity to be more involved than she thought she’d be able to - chalking my hands. I can’t really pick out one moment there, but I didn’t feel like I was lifting. I wasn’t sore or hurt. You just don’t really feel anything -- you feel hope but no pain or anything like that. It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s hard to pick out one moment from that day. I would say also, probably when I pulled that 600 lbs in strongman. I would say mostly because I was the only person who didn’t think I was going to do it. I thought my husband was crazy when he told me I was going to attempt that. But they said “you can hitch.” So, I thought well okay! I still didn’t think I could do it. I was surprised how everyday people who don’t know much about any of this thought it was awesome. And, giving my crowd to someone in the crowd was awesome, that was nice.. I didn’t think they’d be receptive to it. But they loved it.
R: Do you feel like you’ve “arrived,” or there is more to come?
S: It never really feels that way. And, it’s not a dissatisfaction. It’s more, I am always focusing on the work to be done. The improvement that I need to do. I take a step back and look at this too, it’s powerlifting and strongman. Not that that’s not important, it’s wonderful. But look at the big picture. How you influence people. The type of person you are. To me, those things are important. I could stop lifting tomorrow, but I would still want to be a part of helping people. I guess this way I get to do both. I don’t know if I”ll ever feel that way.
R: How do you cope with a bad training day? Any tips?
S: I cry. (Laughs) Um, I’m trying to think back - it was my last bench day. We have changed some things on my squat. Lowering the bar. I’m having some mobility issues -- actually I’m really sore. Trying to bench last time, I felt so weak. It was very humbling. But I’m coming off a small break too, so my conditioning isn’t going to be there. The pain wasn’t as bad as the inability to do what I was supposed to do. We modified and got the volume in. But, when I start having a bad training day we usually know. We kind of focus on something that will get in the necessary work but it’s something we know I can do. Believe it or not, Sam Byrd taught me this. It’s not a question of if you can do something. It’s a question of confidence. Some days we do stuff to build strength. But some days it’s to build confidence. The other day we worked on the axle. It was kind of to have fun.
R: So you got it up, and strict pressed it. I was like, oh no she did not. She just strict pressed 210!
S: It was crazy. The pressing part was easy, it was everything else.
R: You’ll get it! I love watching, it’s great. You’re not oversharing. At least to me. Ok, our last reflective question. If given the opportunity to speak to your critics (trolls, real or internet-based) without a rebuttal from them, what would you say to them?
S: Hey ya’ll watch this! (laughs)
R: That’s great! That works.
S: When it got pretty bad, it was an individual lifter. I won’t name who they are. It was a blow. This person was very successful and very strong. It felt unnecessary I guess you could say. I realized that individual was looking at me as their standard to beat, it just, it made me focus more on my training. I felt like, if I’m going to be the standard to beat - then I’m going to raise that standard. It does anger me at first. But then it turns into my training. I am not going to say, I’m just going to act.
R: What activities/hobbies do you have outside your sport?
S: Well, we live in Tennessee. And, we are pretty close to the Ocoee. My husband and I like the outdoors when it’s not freezing or 105 degrees outside. We enjoy hiking. We enjoy going to the mountains, enjoying the scenery. We enjoy the outdoors. We have a beagle. He has been at my feet this whole time.
R: What’s your beagle’s name?
S: Buddy. I always wanted a beagle.
R: Awwww. I have two yorkies I get that.
S: We got him actually after my very first injury. We didn’t know what was wrong for a while. I got really depressed. We got him because it forced me to get out. We take him out a lot. A lot of times we just like to drive and get lost. When we don’t have plans that’s what we do. I like arts and crafts.
R: You mentioned your first injury - what was that?
S: It was after, not my first meet, but I did a push/pull meet and the next day I actually moved. I moved our house myself because my husband had to go to work. I got two lumbar strains, we think during moving. I was invited to Raw Unity, so I kept training. I didn’t want to believe I was injured. I finally broke down and went to a sports medicine doctor. I thought I was going to die but it was quite easy once we figured out what was going on. That’s when I figured out there is a time for rest. And, are you injured or just sore? Even since, I’ve had shingles. Even in my head, once I figured out it was not an injury, but just pain, I could train through it.
R: Did you get shingles after your weight loss?
S: The first occurrence was during the back strains but it wasn’t diagnosed because I never had the blisters so they wouldn’t diagnose it.
R: I had that actually! They misdiagnose it because they don’t expect it.
S: Yes, and if you think of the strain we put on our Central Nervous System, you know shingles resides in the CNS. It doesn’t surprise me that it happens to people that are active.
R: And you’re right, the value of rest. People don’t talk about that stuff. It’s hard to get someone excited about our sport to rest enough. Especially at our age.
S: Oh yes! I have to have a lot more sleep.
R: What would you like your legacy to be?
S: Um, honestly I would like them to think: Because of Samantha, I did something. Because she was brave enough, I did this. I would hope that whoever comes after me, and I hope this is what happens, I want the next generation to be stronger. I don’t want it to stop at our generation. We need to evolve.
R: It’s awesome. I think, with women especially it’s like it’s just getting started.
S: It’s awesome. I wish I would have gotten started younger but I don’t think I’d be disciplined enough. I think I’d just take it for granted.
R: What would your advice be to women or girls who want to get started in strength sports?
S: Have fun, take your time. You have all the time in the world to get better. Don’t rush it. Have fun. If it makes you happy, keep doing it. Even if people are giving you crap about it. Have fun, if you lose sight of enjoying it, it will feel like work. Yes, you will have goals and that’s good. But realize that what you’re limited to now is temporary. So, don’t rush it. Progress and knowledge will come.
R: Okay, last question. And, it’s from “Inside the Actor’s Studio” What is your favorite swear word? ;-) Do you have one?
S: (Laughs) Can I say it?
R: Yes, please do.
S: Believe it or not, it is Fuck.
R: LOL OKay, I thought that might be it. Do you say that in your training? LOL
S: Yes. I do have to be careful. I try to be respectful. I work in a very customer service type of profession. I have learned to filter myself. I try not to type that word out in public, because I know my audience is broad. But, if I am within an intimate group, I let the f bombs fly! LOL
R: Are there any other things you’d like to share? Things we haven’t talked about?
S: Well, recently as far as the tiaras go, we have decided the tiaras that I make, which I am getting better at making them. We will probably do this all year round. Once we start selling them, those proceeds will go to Hannah’s Care Packages. They do so much for Relentless and the Hope Kids. We feel like that’s a way to support Relentless. We will be rolling that out soon, I think Becky Wilson is a chair person of Hannah’s Care Packages and she is very busy. Many people have asked about purchasing one. We will come up with something soon.
R: Will you have that information on your site?
S: I think she is going to make a Facebook page on how to purchase it. I’m also working with a clothing company now. When it’s final we will unroll that soon. My sister is working on finding a way to make all of our merchandise more accessible. My siblings, my family, they are probably my biggest fans. Those funds, a good bit of those proceeds will probably go towards Relentless or something of that nature.
R: What’s next?
S: Well, right now we are planning on doing the, I qualified for this at the USS Pro Worlds, it’s the XPC 21 Man Deadlift Solute. It will be the Arnold on Sunday. And, even though I qualified through a strongman competition it will be powerlifting rules. So, if I want to deadlift 600, I can’t hitch this time. LOL I want to do it clean anyways. I hope to do more, but we will be satisfied with 6. (laughs)
R: When is that?
S: That is March the 5th. We have time. Originally, we were going to go to the Arnold in Australia. But some things have come up. My husband just got promoted and is having some health issues. Nothing serious. But some things we need to manage. We are going to stay in the States for now. We are not going to go to that, but we are probably going to go overseas for strongman anyways. We decided to wait that out. We will probably be doing the Pro Am. Throw in some USS strongman, and Relentless of course.
R: Do you think you’ll go back to USS Nationals in Detroit this year?
S: Yes, maybe. They may put on a record breakers. They asked what records do I want to break? That is not necessarily an easy task. I say that with complete humility. Those are some hard records but I definitely want to take a shot at them. We may look at competitions like that this year. They mentioned maybe doing that as a separate competition alongside the championship. I may end up doing that.
R: Did you officially earn your Pro-Strongwoman card?
S: Yes, I don’t use that term. It’s neat, it’s awesome. It just doesn’t change that desire.
R: You’re humble. That’s good! Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.I think that’s all I have. You’re amazing. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
S: Good job on that 400 lb deadlift!
R: Thank you!