Samone Franzese

Swim, study, bike, study, run: Samone Franzese balances medical school and triathlon

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Medical students face long days of clinical rotations, long nights of studying and intense pressure to succeed. As a result, students seek activities outside of school that help them relax and decompress. For many students this means spending time with their families, reading a good book or volunteering in the community. For Samone Franzese, however, unwinding means intense training sessions two times a day to prepare for her next triathlon.

On a typical day, Franzese, a fourth-year student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, starts by heading to the pool to swim for an hour, then comes to campus for eight to 10 hours, and then heads out for another hour or two of training at the track or on her bike.

This routine changes depending on her school schedule — a surgery rotation that required 70- to 80-hour work weeks limited her training to key track and bike workouts, and required more time management. She intentionally scheduled her pediatrics rotation during the summer to try to avoid getting sick.

A long-time runner, Franzese was introduced to triathlon while recovering from an injury during her first year of medical school. “I was talking to a trainer who was helping me get back to running, and she suggested I join the triathlon team because there would be more variety in my training and a group to work with,” said Franzese. “That sounded great to me, so I joined and just fell in love with triathlon. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Samone Franzese
Samone Franzese

For Franzese, however, staying physically fit is more than just a pastime – it’s part of her job. A second lieutenant in the Army, she is attending medical school through a military scholarship that has given her the opportunity to go on rotations at military bases during summers and will require her to complete service time after she graduates.

Even among her peers in the armed forces Franzese’s ability in the triathlon is stellar. She was selected to join the United States Military Endurance Sports triathlon team in November 2014, and won the Armed Forces Championship this June. “Being selected for the team vindicated a lot of the hard work I put in,” says Franzese.

Franzese’s success helped her earn an elite license from USA Triathlon, meaning she can now compete in the elite wave of any USA Triathlon event against the top triathletes in the country. Triathletes qualify to enter elite races only after proving themselves in amateur races, and the large difference in competitors’ abilities means new elite racers such as Franzese, who are used to dominating their competition, may find themselves at the back of the pack.

Throughout her training, Franzese has been surprised by the amount of support she has gotten from the medical school. “My classmates are always interested to hear about my races, and I think most people understand that you need to have a life outside of campus. I love getting away from academics for at least an hour a day to just be and think about whatever I want. Triathlon has become my therapy during medical school.”

To learn more about how Franzese balances medical school and triathlon, visit her blog at

Triathlon has become my therapy during medical school.


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