In recognition of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating our women instructors. Get to know Wellbeats instructor Leah Hiller (formerly known as Leah Prudhomme), a powerhouse instructor known for strength and speed who trains personally in long-distance triathlons and bike races.
Wellbeats instructor Leah Hiller’s indomitable spirit is one of grit, determination, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity. In her youth, she used that competitive drive to excel as a musician, playing both the violin and the viola at a high level. As an adult, she found her calling as a triathlete, cross country mountain biker, and coach.
Leah is passionate about endurance sports and has done several short and long-course Ironman triathlons, marathons, cross country mountain bike races, and trail races. She also volunteers as a coach for her local high school’s mountain bike team.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Leah tackles everything life throws at her head on. Though she’s achieved significant athletic success, her personal wellness journey has not been without obstacles. Leah uses her resilience, work ethic, and determination to chase down her goals while also inspiring others—no matter what obstacles stand in the way.
Competitive Drive for Distance
Leah’s passion for fitness and sports did not reach its pinnacle until her adult years—though she has always been active. Growing up in northern Minnesota, Leah spent time camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing as a child. She was always outdoorsy. She had a horse and took riding lessons, and her family lived on a lake, so she swam but not competitively—until the day she decided she wanted to swim across the lake.
Her parents said no at first, but Leah persisted.
“I wore them down with sheer drive,” Leah said. “I was determined to do it, so I just kept asking and asking and asking. I think they figured I would give up halfway across the lake, so eventually they said they would follow me in a boat. In terms of what swimming technique would probably have been most efficient, I was not very good at it.
“I got across the lake, and that kind of marked my inner drive for distance. I always set my mind to do something big and then go after that goal. It’s similar in biking or hiking. I always wanted to make it to the next ridge or reach the next distance, the next mountaintop, that I could see or imagine. That was kind of the birth of it.”
Fast forward to today, and Leah has used her drive for distance, combined with years of training and coaching, to complete five full distance Ironman triathlons. She’s qualified for two Ironman 70.3 World Championships and competed at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships last September. She has placed among the top-five overall females at the Fat Bike World Championships and has qualified for and competed in one of the toughest mountain bike races in North America, the Leadville 100 MTB in Leadville, Colorado. Over the decades, Leah has competed in well over 100 triathlons, road races, and mountain bike competitions.
That swim across Pike Lake in Duluth, Minnesota, as a child sparked Leah’s competitive spirit and showed her what she is capable of when she sets out to achieve a big goal, but her personal wellness journey has not been without adversity.
An Athlete Is Born
Not long after that defining swim, Leah experienced another life-changing event when she was the passenger in a terrible car accident at 18 years old. The driver of the vehicle fell asleep at the wheel, and the car went off the road and crashed into a tree while traveling at 75 miles per hour. Leah was ejected through the front windshield of the car.
“Honestly, it was a miracle I survived the crash,” Leah said. “I went through the windshield headfirst. I was sleeping in the car, so I didn’t actually feel it on the impact, which was good.”
She suffered a shattered broken arm and a broken back in the accident but refused to let the setback stop her from pursuing her dreams. Her right arm had taken the brunt of the force of that windshield but also helped save her life.
“I think this time in my life is when the athlete was born,” Leah said. “In the hospital recovering, they had to rebuild my arm. Lots of surgeries and blood transfusions and metal plates later, they put me back together. I broke my back, but I wasn’t paralyzed. I realized there were just so many miracles in surviving the whole thing.”
Her doctors expected her to make a full recovery since she was young, strong, and healthy, but one doctor in particular warned Leah that she “might not be running marathons anytime soon.”
“Just by saying, I don’t know if you’ll be doing anything like that—you probably won’t—of course that was everything I wanted to do,” Leah said.
“When they told me I couldn’t, I said, ‘Watch me.’ And so over time, I started working with a physical therapist and then a personal trainer. I started lifting weights to get strength back in my arm and back. Then I started running. It was pretty pathetic, but I soon completed my first half marathon.”
Passion for Cycling Endures
After recovering from the car accident, Leah moved to Arizona to attend college at the University of Arizona. It was there that she fell in love with biking, which she first picked up as a convenient way to get around campus.
“I thought I would just commute to class, but then I started riding outside of class,” Leah said. “Then I started riding 50 miles—and then 100 miles. I was so excited about biking. I decided it was really my thing. I could just keep going and going and going.”
Once again, Leah sought to see just how far she could go, which led her to bike across the country in one month during her college years.
“I decided, why not bike across the United States, from Tucson, Arizona, where I live, to Duluth, Minnesota, where I grew up? And I did it!” Leah said. “Naturally, if you do a 2,000-mile adventure like that, you’re going to get pretty good at the sport and find out what your true potential is.”
In addition to exploring her potential and passion in cycling, Leah was still running and eventually began working with a swimming coach after deciding she wanted to do a long-distance triathlon. It comes as no surprise that one triathlon turned into two and eventually led her to competing alongside world class triathletes and going the distance for five full 140.6 Ironmans and over a dozen 70.3 Half Ironmans.
“Triathlons really became something where, as an adult in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s, I’ve really maximized my potential,” Leah said. “I’ve taken it as far as you can take it while still working in a full-time career, being a parent of two, and coaching part time.”
She may be maximizing her potential, but Leah shows no signs of slowing down.
From Adversity Comes Motivation
Grit, courage, determination, and perseverance have repeatedly served Leah well in her pursuit of excellence in sports and fitness—both as a competitor and as an instructor.
“When you go after sports with the passion and zeal that I do, you’re also going to encounter setbacks along the way,” Leah said. “There have been concussions, crashes, injuries, and surgeries.”
Her sports injuries have included both the expected and the unexpected.
“In 2012, I got attacked by an otter while training for a triathlon,” Leah said. “I got bit 25 times. I think in this case it was a mother otter protecting her den, and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she was not happy about me being in her territory, and she did not leave me alone. It’s a long story.”
No matter what life throws at her, Leah channels adversity into motivation not to give up. It inspires her to focus on her next big goal, and it’s even informed her approach as an instructor and a coach, focusing on mental toughness.
“All these crazy things that have happened to me in life have only taught me how to adapt and how to not quit,” Leah said. “I think fitness is a lifestyle. Getting into sports, the entry point [for me] was overcoming that car crash. It taught me that I don’t take no for an answer well. I was going to survive and persevere. That grit is there [already], which I think is a perfect formula for endurance sports.”
Sharing her love of endurance sports and fitness, especially her passion for coaching cycling classes, has always been a positive outlet for Leah. It allows her to engage with others in the sport and share her enthusiasm, further maximizing her potential.
“I do a lot of cross-country mountain biking, and I coach mountain biking as a high school sport too,” Leah said. “It’s more of a volunteer thing, but I’m passionate about helping. One of my kids is in high school and the other is in middle school, and they both ride and compete.
“I love giving back. I take that Wellbeats instructor mentality and put it to work in teaching some of the younger kids about balance, bike-body separation, on the bike skills, off the bike skills, and how to focus and not crash.”
As an instructor, Leah has found that her experiences racing, competing, and overcoming adversity allow her to inspire people at any level of fitness though she acknowledges that she tends to connect best with “intermediate riders and competitive athletes,” rather than strictly beginners or fitness enthusiasts.
She loves sharing the knowledge she’s gained over her years of coaching and training and specializes in helping people take their fitness on the bike to the next level by training the mind as much as the body. Leah firmly believes that mental toughness is a skill that can be trained.
“I’ve had these experiences where you just don’t know if you can keep going—it’s really hard,” Leah said. “It could be the climb, the mountain, or the injury. The fear is real. It may seem like it’s the end and you can’t get through it, but a lot of times it isn’t the end at all. There is a way to get through it—you can find it. It may take time, but you can get better, go faster, and go farther.
“I’ve learned: ‘Fear No Distance.’ If you set your mind to it, you have the courage and keep at it. Face fear or failure or injury head on, and learn. It’s just like I say to my athletes, ‘You never rise to the level of your expectations; you fall to the level of your training.’”
Take a Wellbeats Class with Leah
Leah is a powerhouse instructor known for strength and speed with significant experience both on the road and in the gym. Whether she’s instructing cyclists or leading group rides, Leah uses her passion and work ethic to help people overcome obstacles. Wellbeats members are encouraged to take one of Leah’s classes now. Connect with Leah on Strava, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Based in St. Louis Park, MN, Wellbeats, a LifeSpeak company is a leading provider of on-demand virtual fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness classes for use in workplaces of all sizes, health plans, on college or university campuses, multi-family housing, the U.S. military, and fitness and health clubs. Wellbeats makes fitness accessible, affordable, and approachable for everyone. More than 1,000 classes and 30+ programs are available to help members stay on track and meet their goals. To learn more, visit www.wellbeats.com or check out a sampling of the company’s fitness classes during a Facebook Live class, and follow Wellbeats on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.