There is nothing like having a home built around strength. The best feeling in the world is having your husband or wife be your training partner, meal prep helper, massage therapist or mental consoler. Its full of ups and downs, sharing of new personal records and the failures. On top of being the training partner aspect of the relationship you also have the wonderful responsibility of being the coach.
Like many spouse-coach couples, I embarked on this journey in much the same way. In December of 2011, after losing over 80 pounds using a low carbohydrate diet, I experienced significant muscle atrophy. Since I was already curious about exploring my ability as a strength athlete and I started dating again, what better way to jump-start both adventures with an online dating profile expressing my future goals. After having so many potential life partners completely over look my profile requirements that clearly stated I wanted to get stronger and powerlift, a red-headed knight emerges from the mix. Of course at the time I knew very little of powerlifting so I couldn’t tell if he was genuinely knowledgeable or just trying to impress me like the other self-proclaimed “gym-rats”. Kyle soon complimented me on knowing the difference between a powerlifter and bodybuilder and seemed to understand my goals.
Lifting, Cardio, and What did I get myself into?
The first several months, at best, I would have considered Kyle and I to be “work-out” partners. I was pretty stubborn and wanted to powerlift, tone, and be all the newbie terms I didn’t understand yet. All I knew is that I found myself being weak, tired, and around a lot of serious people who refused to call it a workout, but rather “training”. I really thought I was giving Kyle a good impression of my enthusiasm when I showed him my gym gloves. Kyle loved my gloves so much, he threw them out the window of the car and assured me I would never need them again. (True story) At this point I wasn’t sure he really knew what he was talking about. I was certain I saw those gloves on the really strong-looking people in all the advertisements and commercials. Kyle would have me do a few really heavy lifts before I would relinquish myself to the cardio section. I always felt I was getting in the way although he assured me I was not. And although I wasn’t sure about his knowledge, I continued to listen to him because I was in love and he put a lot of those really big heavy plates on the bar when he would lift.
The first time I felt like I might have half a shot of sticking with this sport was the first time I tried to do a max effort deadlift at the Dirty South Barbell (the very first garage gym we lifted in). When I pulled what I thought was my historic 300+ pound deadlift, Kyle and the guys at DSBB informed me the best pull for a woman in the area was around 450 pounds. Although my heart sank when I heard that number, Kyle had every faith that I could do that one day. The only thing we had left to do at this point was teach me how to squat and bench press. This is the point in which I finally understood why we always referred to our workouts as “training”. At this point, considering I had about 150 pounds to put on my deadlift, I was still not convinced Kyle knew what he was doing.
Traveling and Training
Once we started traveling, we immediately started to meet new people who were as passionate about the sport as we were. This was also about the time I started to realize I was completely clueless about powerlifting. When we met Thomas and Melissa Neal, they immediately recognized our squat shoes and lifting gear. I was completely lost when all four of us were in the gym, but they were always so eager to help. The Neal’s were the first people outside of our friends who finally persuaded me to listen to Kyle. Our next stop in Nebraska where we barely found time to sleep during our 80 work week kept us from training most of the time. But at T’s Gym, I picked up the ugliest 405-pound deadlift known to the sport complete with hitching. Kyle made a video of it and was worried about me sharing it because he knew how mean-spirited people could be, but I didn’t care. I was not competing; I was a girl who never believed in a million years I could pick up 405 pounds. Since I happened to be in a serious relationship with this guy who knew a thing or two about powerlifting, I decided to pick a meet and go for it.
Training, peaking, and near death experiences (I wanted to END HIM)
As dramatic as I tend to make my experiences, there is absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the hell the person I invested my love and trust in was about to put me through. The very first training cycle I endured with my husband started 12 weeks out from my first meet. At first, I wanted to break an 800-pound total, Kyle originally projected over 950 – that is until we started to enter the peaking phase. I don’t know if the expectation differences between Kyle and I is relative to our gender or perspective as a coach and athlete, but my planned numbers have always been and continue to be far more conservative. Our preparation of the SPF Georgia State Championships determined my future in this sport and how much my coach could put up with me. The first meet prep was absolutely horrible.
I thought my husband had gone off the deep end and I convey that statement with all the love and admiration in my heart for him. I thought I would feel stronger during a meet prep, but the weights humbled me. At this point, I had no concept of how a rep should look compared to how it should feel. Just when I thought I had reached my physical limitations, we added more weight to the bar. Then we I knew I reached my physical limitations, we added more weight to the bar. I had no idea why we kept adding more weight to the bar, but we did and I thought I was going to mentally collapse. I did mentally collapse and I was sure to let Kyle know that every single day. I could only imagine the hell I put him through during this time. See most coaches work with their lifters for a limited amount of time during the day and the better part of the day they’re at home with their family. Poor Kyle was my home and family. What that meant for him was it never stopped. That is both a blessing and a curse. As much as he kept adding weight to the bar and testing me mentally I would whine twice as bad. Then when I thought I couldn’t take anymore a magical thing called Deload happened. I originally thought something like this was mythical at the time and it in some ways likely saved his life.
Meet Day – Our relationship (and Kyle) survived and continues to get stronger
Going back to the very first paragraph, there is nothing like sharing this experience with your spouse. The woes and rewards of coaching your spouse or being coached by your spouse come full circle on meet day. On this day, aside from small reminders, everything that can be done has been done. The tears have been cried, the blood has been shed, and the wraps have been thrown at each other. On this day, we get to realize, that although it may never seem like it, we both have the same goal and that is to succeed.
Our first meet on August 10th 2013, we weighed in, put in my openers, and started to warm up. I could tell Kyle was a nervous wreck; however, I was oblivious to how my numbers would measure up, I was just ready to make them official. From the first squat to my final deadlift attempt, Kyle brought a calm to the storm. I could see the chaos around me, but I was able to stay focused on him. This started our tradition of saying “I love you” during warm-ups when he wraps my knees. This is the day I finally see it all come together and that he is just as invested as I am in making sure I succeed. I didn’t need to know how many training books he could quote from, how many years he studied programming and peaking, on meet day, I knew he planned this day for me to be the best I could be. I don’t think I broke any major records that day and I didn’t care. I really thought I would compete in one meet and just keep lifting in the gym for fun, but I knew after that day, this was only the beginning. On August 10th 2013 I completed in my first meet, but more importantly on this day my coach proposed to me -on this day I knew we would become ColemanStrong.
Here we are, in the exact spot my husband and I met! Many people don't know this, but my husband and I met off of a dating website over 4 years ago. I had just lost a bunch of weight and had a lot of muscle atrophy causing back pain. My doctor told me to start doing strength conditioning. I hated being as weak as I was. Sure I was much smaller, but I was weak, had no muscle, and I wanted to change that. It wasn't too long before I decided to give online dating a go that I wanted someone who would lift with me or who could show me how to powerlift. I wanted to live in the gym, I wanted to see what my body could do and I expressed that desire in my online dating profile. Along came Kyle who of course offered to show me the ropes and we'll take me on a date as well. At the time I wasn't real big on the texting or messaging thing so I insisted on a phone call before our planned date… Little did we know that phone call would change our lives forever – a 5 hour phone call that is. We both knew, we were finished searching. So we decided to meet and wanted to take one car, so we met here on Zebulion Road in Macon GA and parked in the very back of a walmart parking lot. I know it sounds so romantic (hehehe), but the moment I saw him get out of his car with that signature Kyle smile, I could see this man's soul and heart. Yes, I fell in love at first site and it is an indescribable feeling. I was not looking for a husband, I was looking for a friend, someone to grow with me and what I found was a best friend and a life long partner. I found more than a husband, I found the other half of my heart. Last night, even though it was extremely late, Kyle said he was going to "take us to our spot" and I thought he was kidding around until he parked, got out of our truck, grabbed my hand and said "I have loved every minute of this life with you" and kissed my hand. How did I find him? How did I of all people find this happiness? I stopped looking and started living – so did Kyle and we met at the same intersection of life. If all my bad relationships and experiences brought me to Kyle, it was completely worth it! #colemanstrong
Every single meet prep has brought new challenges and tests our ability to overcome obstacles. I still ask him how to do some assistance exercises and he still looks at me like I am a big dummy. After training together for over 3 years, we have come to realize we coach and support each other. Most of the time, he motivates me to train or I will motivate him. We have learned to recognize the days where we are better off going home and the days where we can put in just a little more work. The most important lesson we have learned in this coaching-athlete marriage is that “we” come before powerlifting and “we” cannot reduce our experience down to mere coaching and training. I wish I could describe our training relationship in a way that is separate from our marriage, but the truth is, it does not separate. Kyle is my coach and he is my husband, but that makes us a team both on and off the platform.
Samantha Coleman has the highest sub-master total in raw female powerlifting and recently acquired the highest squat of all time in raw female PL. Her world record squat of 655lbs contributed to her a combined all time raw total of 1520. She is only the second female to total 1500 in the history of raw female powerlifting. She trains at the popular Grit House gym in Cleveland, TN and when the weather’s nice, at Dustin Reed’s local garage gym. You can follow her training on: Facebook Instagram Periscope: @colemanstrong.