Battle of Body and Mind | Teen Ink

Battle of Body and Mind

November 18, 2022
By Mstaiano GOLD, South Setauket, New York
Mstaiano GOLD, South Setauket, New York
12 articles 7 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
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I have ‎ ∫ [f(x)]dx ‎ friends
‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎‎ ‎ θ

Name: Leah Jantzen

Occupation: WM guidance counselor; Motivational speaker


“I just want to see what I can do; see what someone with four kids and a full-time job can do against the best”


If you had asked 20-year-old Leah Jantzen about her plans for the weekend, she’d have probably mentioned a simple jog around the neighborhood. Ask her the same question 20 years later and she would be thrilled to tell you about participating in a 17-hour athletic championship in Hawaii.

Jantzen qualified for the IRONMAN Competition, an internationally recognized long-distance triathlon race organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. It is widely regarded as one of the most difficult single-day sporting events in the world, consisting of a 3.86 km swim, followed by a 180.260 km bicycle ride and a 42.195 km run.

Jantzen is especially excited for the foot race because she loved tennis, volleyball and running during her high school and college days; but, according to her, as a child she had absolutely no experience in, arguably, the most brutal sport of the IRONMAN-- swimming. 

“I never even swam in swim trunks. I kind of had to learn how to swim,” Jantzen said. “I watched youtube videos and swam with other people to learn how to swim.”.

One may think the pressure to win would be too heavy a burden to handle, but Jantzen thinks otherwise. She already knows she’s among the best of the best just for being able to write her name on the attendance sheet. 

“It’s like going to Harvard and everybody’s really smart, except you go and everybody’s really fast,” she said. “I don't have to do anything at the race that's stressful in that regard”.

Naturally, Jantzen diets and watches her calories, making sure to eat a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein throughout the day. She practices a different skill every day after work, especially running, which is the easiest and most fun for her to practice. 

As a widely influential motivational speaker, Jantzen has honed her way with words when it comes to pepping people up, including herself. When asked how she manages to endure hours of physical struggle, she explains that the real struggle lies in strengthening her mentality as she pushes through.

“You just have to take it one minute at a time. Positive self-talk. Get to that next mile marker. I’ve done this before, I can do it again”.

For most people, participating in the IRONMAN would be a means of concluding a long personal journey of fitness and self-care; but Jantzen isn’t like most people. She has already planned a trip to Finland next summer after qualifying for another international competition, and intends to return to Boston for yet another marathon.

 “I’m not stopping,” she said. Jantzen has countless races to go before she reaches her mental finish line. 

Due to a fascination with the pursuit of one’s best, Jantzen knows that feeling good about oneself allows them to achieve more. As she bids farewell to Long Island, she leaves us at home with a thoughtful message.

“What do people come to you for? That’s your gift” she said. “My gift is suffering, I suffer really well”.

With that, Jantzen heads to Hawaii for the transformative experience, carrying in her heart the hopeful wishes sent to her by her friends and family.

The author's comments:

This is an October 2022 feature article about athletic champion and motivational speaker Leah Jantzen following her participation in the IRONMAN competition in Hawaii. I interviewed her myself

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