Ultra-Runner, Mother, Retired Army Nurse; An Interview with Samantha Friedel (@blissfullyfitmama)
Name: Samantha Friedel
Instagram handle: blissfullyfitmama
Day Job: Stay at home Mama, Beachbody Coach and Online Endurance Coach
AER: First off, thank you for your service to this country. Do you feel that your time in the US Army leads you to be a better ultra-unner? What types of qualities/lessons do you take from your time in service and apply to your running?
SAMANTHA: My time in the military definitely helped shape me into a better person & runner. There is a certain mental toughness that gets instilled in you from day 1, some accept it and others fight it. I definitely accepted it. I didn’t truly know when I would need that mental toughness until I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. As a military nurse you never know who is going to come into the the ER. You never know what you are going to see in a 12+ hour shift. Let’s just say I am so very thankful to be an American and live in a free country. I saw many injuries that are unfathomable to most and when I think about how I got through that time, I am so thankful that I had running as an outlet. I had a buddy that would run with me starting at 4:30am and we just ran. Not much talking happened because both of us were just tuning out for that time. I think we ran at least 10 miles each morning. Of course this was way before Strava, and all I ran with was a stop watch cause we drove the distance before running it and then ran the same route.
During my time in Afghanistan, I learned to persevere during crazy circumstances. To adapt and be okay to keep moving forward during high stress times and to think quick on my feet when the answer wasn’t right in front of me. All of these qualities are essential in ultra-running.
AER: Are you currently training for anything?
SAMANTHA: I just signed up for The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee! I look at it as a fun challenge and something to keep me occupied during this pandemic. My main focus right now is on expanding our family! That in its self has been I know that if I had a race on the calendar I would train harder than I maybe should…lol It is hard to not be racing but I always love volunteering at races during this time. My favorite thing to do is to help course mark. This way I get to run parts of courses and feel like I am a part of helping racers not get lost..lol So for now, I am keeping mileage is a good place and working on my strength and who knows, maybe you’ll see me racing with a baby bump down the road.
AER: Dream race?
SAMANTHA: My dream race….this is a tough one. There are so many great races out there and more keep getting added to my list. For now, I would say that Badwater 135 is my dream race. Having been the crew chief to a friend of mine in 2017, I got to witness first hand the incredible physical and mental strength that is necessary. I love running in the Texas heat but this is a whole other animal and would love to have the opportunity to be part of the few that get to run it each year.
AER: Greatest running achievement?
SAMANTHA: My greatest running achievement was being the overall winner at the Hachie 50 mile race in May 2018. I had some injuries after finishing my first 100 miler that February and worked really hard to get strong and race well. The day went perfectly and my nutrition was on point. The entire race I was smiling and felt so good! As an added bonus it was the day before my birthday…what a great present to myself….haha
AER: Do you find balance through running? If so, how?
SAMANTHA: Running has always given me balance. I started running when I was 14 years old and found that I could just “ turn off” for that time. When I was deployed to Afghanistan, running was my therapy for all the things that I was seeing and going through on a daily basis. I had a 10 mile loop that I ran almost daily with a friend of mine. Now as a wife and mother, my family knows that even just a few miles makes me a better wife & mama. Running feeds my soul, especially when I am out on the trails. There is just something about being out in nature and listening to the sounds that has a way of making any worries fade away.
AER: As a mother, what do you hope to pass on to your daughter through your running?
SAMANTHA: My hope is to show my daughter that being healthy, fit and active is just a way of life. It is not something that I or she has to do to be a certain size or weight. To love herself and her body enough to take good care of it. I have no expectations for her being a runner like me, although she already talks about doing races with me and how she is going to beat me. (Yes, she will!) I want her to find what feeds her soul through movement and I will do everything I can to help her find what she loves.
AER: You are always keeping all of us on social media on our toes with your constant reminders of strength training!
SAMANTHA: I have been a certified personal trainer for over 10 years and love what strength training does for not only my running but my client's running as well. I used to train in person for many years but once I had my daughter, I realized I wanted to be home more with her and not spend so much time traveling, paying rent and writing programs. Last year I decided to stream line everything and became a virtual coach with Beachbody. Now I get to help a broad base of individuals across the country working on their health, fitness and running goals from the convenience of their own homes. It has been super rewarding! Now I am able to focus on each person and their goals while helping to create balance in their training programs. You can contact me through Instagram @blissfullyfitmama or email me at email@example.com or directly sign up at https://mysite.coach.teambeachbody.com?coachId=1917081&locale=en_US
I hope that more runners will adopt some sort of strength training plan into their weekly routine. I have always known and believed in the power of strength training but it wasn’t until I finished my 100 miler in Feb 2018 that I realized it was one of my missing links for that race. I experienced a lot of issues and my hip flexors failing on me was the biggest one. Like many, I had gotten consumed with just checking off the mileage box when I wasn’t checking off the “maintenance and injury prevention” box. After the fact I got to work and focused more on quality miles and not quantity as well as having more of a focus on the strength & endurance side with weight training. My body was recovering from hard effort runs faster and my speed was noticeably increasing even in the longer distances. Each person is different but for me this a proven system and I will continue to incorporate weight training no matter what distance I am running/racing.