Anyone who's ever met Samantha Coleman knows how absolutely amazing she is. There really aren't words, but I'll try. I'll be honest, when I first came across Samantha on Instagram I thought about how intimidated I would be if I ever met her. Well, I had the opportunity to meet her and let me tell you, intimidation was not what I felt. She is quite possibly the most down to earth, soft spoken, loving person I have come across at a powerlifting meet. I watched her interact with other lifters and her smile literally brightens up the room. I'm so honored to be able to share with all of you a little more about Samantha Coleman. Hope you enjoy.
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community
Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself to the GWPL community! My name is Samantha Coleman, I’m 36 years old and I’m a competitive powerlifter and recently became a competitive strongwoman. I am a former law enforcement officer but currently, work as a Collection Specialist (my company is awesome and super supportive of my competitions and training). I have a B.S. Degree in Criminal Justice Administration. My family consists of my 2 cats, one dog, and my husband! I enjoy uplifting and encouraging other women young and mature to start lifting!
Best meet total to date?
My best meet total to date is 1559lbs/707kg total. 661lbs squat with wraps, 391lbs raw bench press, and a 507lbs beltless deadlift – I did this at UPA Relentless MS back in July 2016.
When did you get into lifting and why?
My desire to be strong started when I was in highschool (way back before the internet in the mid-1990’s). I was lucky to have a lot of encouraging coaches, but no one to really emulate. The first time I ever saw a strong female was in track and field books my father would send me. But I always had a natural strength that also made me a target for childhood taunting (along with of course my size). Moving forward to my first marriage, my spouse at that time was not supportive of me gaining strength. In fact, he felt very threatened by it.
The taunting I experienced in my youth coupled with the discouragement from my ex-spouse only reinforced my need to hide my strength from the world, but I never lost the desire to be strong; I just learned to hide it better. It wasn’t until after years of reckless behavior, drug addiction, and wanting to end my life did I surface from the fog to realize the time to do this was now! When I started dating again, I found my husband who offered to coach me and of course asked me on a date. I remember the first thing I told my husband then was that I was pretty strong for a girl. Little did I know how much work it would take to prove that statement right!
Your relationship with your husband is so amazing. How does he inspire you to keep lifting?
I feel we are very lucky to have found each other and share the same passions. I think what attracted me to him was how great he treats other people and how giving he is. When I started closing in on a 1300 total I remember feeling very conflicted about my progress. My husband had far more experience than me, but both his profession (highly physically demanding at the time) and his physical ailments (a large range of problems) kept him from really progressing as fast as he wanted to; Therefore, my husband started focusing more on my training.
He always assured me that he gets far more joy out of seeing my progress than he did seeing his own, but I also knew it was in his nature to put my happiness before his, so I wasn’t entirely convinced. I started noticing his reaction to me hitting the goals we set out for me, he consistently bragged about me, shared my videos, learned how to run our page (even got an Instagram account which was major for him hahaha!) and I finally accepted the fact that he truly does enjoy watching me make progress.
Now that I help him with our athletes and I have become just as emotionally invested in their progress as I am in my own, I understand how he feels. Yes, I want to reach my goals, but to watch someone you have helped through the process reach their goals is so much more rewarding! I would be okay if I never lifted again, as long as I can use my knowledge and experience to help other people excel in this sport. Even now, when my husband reaches a milestone, I get more excited about it than I do my own achievements. He inspires me as much as I’m sure I inspire him.
Which of the big 3 is your favorite and why?
It usually changes depending on progress but consistently I enjoy benching more although the squat is by far my strongest lift. I think I love to be asked by guys “how much do you bench?” and have my answer shock them with the amount! Additionally, I feel more knowledgeable in the bench than the other lifts as well as I feel like I make more consistent progress in the bench press.
What get's you through the tough training sessions
What gets me through tough training sessions really depends on the level of motivation I need. When I’m about 4 weeks out from a meet, it takes a lot more emotional grit to push through all my workouts. Everything hurts and I’m sore, so diet, rest and recovery become just as important as the training itself; however, I still have people to help train, a house to clean, food to prep, and a job (on that note, parents who powerlift and do all this are super heroes in my opinion!).
So trying to balance my normal life with the training, pain, and still being a productive person takes a lot more discipline than I usually have. I get through training because I know through experience how important every step is. Last year, for example, we really neglected volume and diet and I paid for it. I know that if I still want to have reasonable function with the day-to-day things I have to do, I cannot cut corners and call off a training day.
Emotionally, so many things go through my mind when I’m having a hard time pushing through training. I start to think about all the negativity I deal with on a daily basis. I think about all the people who told me I should not do this or I could not do this. I think about all the people who have dedicated their time toward harassing me with degrading comments in regard to my size, my gender, my sexual orientation, and even my technique. I think about all the hatred I have thrown at me on a daily basis.
One could say I lift from anger, but it’s more with a sense of purpose and out of an act of defiance. I am defying what I’ve always been told I cannot do. I am defying the notion that larger women deserve to be on the platform and be seen or even celebrated. I am defying my own demons by continuing to do something I shouldn’t be alive to do. More importantly, I push through all this with a greater sense of purpose – that is there could be a 16 year old girl, much like myself when I was that age, who needs someone to fight for her – someone to show her that wearing the same thing our smaller iron sisters wear to lift in is ok, that being strong is ok, and that standing up against bullying and hatred is their right. I want other women and young girls to know that no one can determine their worth or value as a person or as a female powerlifter.
What advice do you have for women who may be having issues with negative talk about muscles or looking masculine?
Coming from a person who has been on both ends of the spectrum of a feminine looking girl to a more masculine looking girl, when you become happy or when you excel at something, someone somewhere will ALWAYS find something wrong with you. I remember I had a someone close to me who constantly pointed out I never finished my degree (I returned back to school in my early 30’s and completed my degree). They always made it a point to use this as a way to belittle me or tear me down. Then, when my graduation day neared and I closed in on finishing my degree program, this same person started to accuse me of being self-centered and a “know it all” for completing my degree.
When I was smaller (after losing 80 pounds from a low carb – totally destructive diet) I was extremely insecure. I was still taunted by others who would find other things wrong with me anytime I excelled at something. I even had people who discouraged my weight loss because I started weighing less than them. It was during this time that I finally realized, I cannot please everyone or make everyone happy. But I can make ME happy. Once I focused on what made me happy, the negative talk did not dictate my life or decisions as much. In fact, I find it to be a compliment when someone points out my masculine features.
The key thing to remember is that most people who make these comments have to go out of their way to do so. If the same people continue to taunt, harass or as the kids these days call it “troll” then you must be really special for them to take the time to do that. You must pose a significant threat to them in some way for them to feel so strongly as to take the time to do this. Yes, it will hurt, but once you accept the root of the negativity you can learn to harness it for those tough training days!
Talk to me about the tiara you wear at your meets.
The tiara you may see me wear from time to time was bestowed upon me at the Relentless Powerlifting meet to demonstrate that there is beauty in strength; however, the idea behind the tiara started as a way to raise money for Relentless under the title “Traps and Tiaras”. The “Traps and Tiaras” idea was so much fun, even the guys were wearing the Tiaras. Of course the message behind “Traps and Tiaras” is just as positive as the cause. The fundraising (shirts were sold) was very successful and will continue to be a fundraiser for Relentless!
Do you have any specific goals in powerlifting? (i.e. totals, PRs, specific records you want to break)
So far, I am accomplishing my primary goal which is to inspire others, especially other girls and women. More specifically, I hope to break the 400-pound raw bench barrier, improve my deadlift, and of course reach a 700 pound raw with wraps squat. My long term goals are more personal to me because I don’t want to give the impression to other competitors that my goals are to meet or beat their numbers. Although I have compared myself to other competitors, when I first started lifting, their numbers seemed so far out of reach, that I focused on the process of improvement. I felt like I was running a race with my head down, watching my feet take one stride at a time. Eventually, I looked up and realized just how far I had come. I would like to continue to train and compete with that mindset in refusing to set limits on myself while focusing on one stride at a time. I know, one day, my stride will slow down and eventually come to a stop. At that point, I hope that I can continue to be involved in coaching and encouraging other girls and women to break the records I along with other amazing ladies have set. I know my performances on the platform will be surpassed by many other ladies, I just hope I get the chance to inspire them to believe they can do it!
Keep up with Samantha on Instagram, Facebook, and her Blog