Our bodies are capable of remarkable things, even as we age. Leah Jantzen has experienced this firsthand and has achieved more than she once believed possible. At the Ironman Maine 2019, Leah secured a remarkable 3rd place in the fiercely competitive women’s 45-49 age category.
What’s truly astonishing is that Leah first learned to swim at the age of 43 while juggling the responsibilities of raising four young children. On top of being a triathlete, Leah is also a guidance counselor, performance coach, and speaker. She’s not one to let her circumstances limit her—and this is the same attitude she tries to instill in her students and clients.
Leah doesn’t just challenge physical boundaries; she’s a guide to unlocking mental strength. She shares helpful strategies to fortify your mind, surpass psychological barriers, and achieve your goals. Additionally, she shares valuable insights on empowering parents to support their overwhelmed children amidst societal pressures.
Join Leah Jantzen on an inspiring journey of resilience and unwavering determination, and discover how to elevate your mental resilience for success.
If you met Leah Jantzen today for the first time, you would assume that she has been an athlete her entire life. Her incredible athletic achievements include finishing numerous marathons and Ironman competitions. She even placed at the Ironman Maine 2019 event and qualified for the Ironman Worlds in her late forties. While it’s true that she participated in sports as a child, by the time she graduated high school she felt burnt out and chose not to pursue collegiate athletics.
In her early 40s, Leah decided that she had unfinished business. At the age of 42, Leah completed her first marathon. At 43, she started swimming lessons for the first time. Her late success was fueled by a desire to fulfill her untapped potential.
Leah shares that her transformation from a non-swimmer to an Ironman participant in her forties was a humbling experience that required her to learn new skills at an older age. Open water swimming presents many challenges, but embracing something new despite initial difficulties proved to be a rewarding experience for Leah. She attributes her drive to succeed to a sense of unfinished business from her youth and found solace in her athletic pursuits, even as a mother of four young children.
Her training became her cherished “me-time,” allowing her dedicated time to focus solely on herself physically and mentally. Leah emphasizes the importance of making the most of every training session, prioritizing and valuing the time allocated for personal growth and fitness despite the demands of motherhood.
Modeling Success for Future Generations
Neither Leah nor Christina are strangers to the challenges and rewards of balancing work, family, and hobbies outside of motherhood. Christina reminisces about owning a retail store. Her children have observed that it is possible for a mom to have a career or a passion alongside parenting. She advocates for women to embrace an identity beyond motherhood, seeing it as a valuable lesson indirectly passed on to children.
Leah acknowledges how her dedication to her pursuits inadvertently became a lesson in discipline and hard work for her kids. She wanted to model the behavior she expected from them, aiming for consistency between her actions and the values she instilled in her children regarding effort and dedication.
Setting a positive example for kids to follow is an important role for parents and people who have the opportunity to influence the next generation. Defending the younger generation, Leah and Christina discuss how they do work hard and possess positive qualities, despite misconceptions and stereotypes regarding Gen Z.
Leah’s motivation for running ultra-distances like 50 miles includes her love for running and the joy she finds in pushing her limits. She tells her students that her races aren’t about competing with others but about challenging herself to see what she’s capable of physically and mentally.
Pushing oneself can be thrilling, irrespective of age. The joy derived from striving to do one’s best can bring a unique type of fulfillment. Leah’s story revolves around her desire to inspire others to care about their endeavors, driven by the excitement of discovering one’s potential and the satisfaction of giving their best effort.
A Growth Mindset
Along the way, Leah learned many valuable lessons. She harnesses the lessons learned along her athletic journey and infuses them into her coaching business focused on mindset and achieving personal goals. Leah reflects on her success and acknowledges that it was deeply rooted in her mindset. She continues to challenge the limiting beliefs many harbor, such as being too old or inexperienced, and she advocates for a positive shift in mindset by encouraging people to change those stories that no longer serve them.
Discovering one’s drive and purpose is an important part of setting and achieving goals. Leah’s motivation is to leave a legacy for her children. She illustrates the importance of mental fortitude alongside physical training and stresses the significance of positive self-talk, resilience, and managing challenges, relating them to both sports and life.
Christina relates her personal journey, highlighting the influence of circumstances on mindset and physical activity. Despite early beliefs of not being athletic, she transformed her perspective and embraced an active lifestyle, showcasing the power of mindset shifts and the capability to change habits at any age.
When Leah learned to swim at the age of 43, she started with basics like blowing bubbles in a pool clinic and eventually worked up to swimming over two miles in open waters. Immense progress like Leah’s is achievable with dedication, regardless of age. Christina emphasizes that it’s never too late to embark on new endeavors, regardless of your age or past beliefs, if you have a positive mindset.
Embrace New Goals
So how do you break habitual beliefs and embrace new, exciting goals? Leah says we need to deprogram habitual thinking. Society often suggests people fade into the background after a certain age, but Leah reminds us how important confidence is and reassures us that we are further along in our journey than we realize. No achievement is too small to celebrate!
Positive self-talk goes a long way. Leah advises everyone to acknowledge their progress instead of focusing solely on what’s left to achieve. She emphasizes the idea of being present in the moment, using her endurance training as an analogy, where it’s about taking it one step at a time. Everyone starts from zero, and gradual progress is still progress.
Realistic goal-setting and managing expectations is so important, especially for mature women starting new ventures. Leah admits to feeling the pressure herself but emphasizes the importance of taking things one step at a time and not rushing the process.
From Guidance Counselor to Performance Coach
Leah has had a rich journey as a guidance counselor and a sports enthusiast. With over 20 years of counseling experience and a background in coaching, she combined mindset work and self-care techniques from her own athletic endeavors into her coaching approach. Recognizing the immense pressure on student athletes due to academics, sports commitments, and college preparations, she introduced mental health and performance coaching specifically tailored for these athletes.
Having pioneered this initiative in her own school district, Leah is passionate about bringing programs like this to districts nationwide. The increasing professionalization of high school sports and the mental stress it brings to young athletes is profound, and her goal is to encourage other school districts to adopt similar positions to aid student athletes’ mental well-being.
Leah aims to leverage her experiences as an athlete to connect with and assist these young athletes, ultimately striving to make mental health and performance coaching a norm across high schools in the country.
Meet Them Where They Are
There are many challenges faced by student-athletes, and Leah offers valuable insights for parents seeking to support their children effectively. She highlights the importance of creating a conducive environment at home to encourage open communication with young athletes. Rather than bombarding them with questions or criticism after an event, Leah suggests a patient and supportive approach, allowing kids to initiate conversations about their experiences.
Leah underlines the significance of recognizing signs that indicate stress or disengagement in young athletes. It is important to be observant when kids lose interest in things they once enjoyed or display changes in behavior, as this could indicate underlying issues. Encouraging parents to avoid judgment and remain understanding, Leah emphasizes the necessity of validating and embracing the unique experiences of today’s youth, especially in a digital age where constant connectivity can contribute to mental fatigue.
Both Leah and Christina advocate for a shift in approach, urging adults to appreciate and connect with young individuals rather than passing judgment or criticizing them for their differences.
Leah is in a phase of exciting reinvention, relishing the thrill of starting something new even at this stage of life. Her focus is on spreading her message, reaching out to student-athletes everywhere, and aiding school districts in establishing supportive mental health and performance coaching programs. She’s eager to educate parents and anyone guiding teens on understanding and connecting with student-athletes. Despite the age gap, Leah finds herself learning a lot from the high schoolers she mentors, their enthusiasm and encouragement propelling her forward.
Looking ahead a decade, Leah envisions herself speaking extensively, even running to speaking gigs in bigger cities. She’s eyeing a potential book, hoping to broaden her impact and inspire others to embrace new ventures at any age. Leah’s journey from 40 to 50 has been amazing, leaving her excited about whatever the next ten years might bring.
Watch Leah’s full episode here:
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