How a "Half Iron" made Jodi Gruhn feel whole again.

Jodi had made a big decision to be at home full time with her kids. At first, it felt right. But she began to realize she had forgotten to consider one essential factor - herself.  

We caught up with Jodi to talk about what it took to get "herself" back. 

not gonna fall off, nope, really, i'm gonna get ..to..the..top......

not gonna fall off, nope, really, i'm gonna get ..to..the..top......

Don’t wait. If something is calling you, listen. We all have unique needs to fill and only by listening to our inner voice will they be satiated. Choose one thing from your list and just start. More will come from just making that one decision.

Staying at home full-time with the kids was a major decision for a woman with a successful career. When did you realize you needed something more?

One year prior, I decided to step away from work to raise my 2 sons (ages 3 and 5). During that year, playgrounds, pools and libraries replaced skyscrapers, Starbucks and paychecks. Kids replaced adults. Parenting and playing replaced work and happy hours. Slowly, the joy and confidence in my decision to step away from work started melting away and it was taking its toll on me.

Caregivers experience a blessing that I found a curse. Small slivers of time occur when your children are satiated and entertained, offering moments for reflection. A narration began to play in my head during these moments and self-depreciation, disappointment and lack of accomplishment became unrelenting themes. Negativity crept in.

What I failed to realize about staying at home with my children, was that not only would I have a lot of time with them, but I would also have a lot of time with myself. And WITH yourself is very different than FOR yourself. In my case, this wasn’t good. As the pace slowed, I found myself alone with a laundry list of potential self-improvement projects, but without time to execute on anything of meaning. I had become highly aspirational, but felt tethered by my life.

I needed something for me and for me alone.

A Half Iron isn't exactly a walk in the park. What made you choose it?

A rush of major accomplishment was needed ASAP. My friend and calming agent throughout life has been exercise, so this relationship made it easy to choose an athletic event rather than any of the hundred other ideas on my list. 

I also needed something that couldn’t be multi-tasked to death (i.e. include my kids). Researching triathlon training with my extreme susceptibility to mom guilt, led me to imagining my training being a beautiful learning experience for all of us (my kids and I). Long country road rides and lots of time in the lake… what the hell? Clearly I needed separation! 

What changes did you have to make in your life to do this? Which ones have stuck?

Self-prioritization - I hadn’t been taking much time for myself (probably why I was in such doldrums). Training required that I make myself a priority. While I had no time goals, I was cramming a 12-week training into 9. To finish, I had to follow a strict schedule. Failure was not an option that my fragile self could handle.

I said “no”. I walked/ran/swam/biked away. I let others in. I asked for help. All very important lessons in life. I can’t say this one has “stuck”, it will forever be a work in progress for me. I like to think I can do it all, when in fact there is no reason one should ever attempt such a feat.

My relationship with food - I know very few women who don’t have a love/hate relationship with food. Previous to this race, I viewed exercise as a means to burn calories, never a reason to consume calories. Calories and nutrients timed appropriately are imperative to success. I’d done plenty of other athletic events, but never had a nutrition strategy. I shifted my thinking, researched and developed a nutrition plan, listened to my body and ate. It is amazing to experience your physiology - to experience the crashes and victories because of your fuel and mindset.

Confidence - after completing this event, a clichéd realization hit me - the only thing that stands in your way is you. When motivation and circumstances collide, you spark that fire in yourself. Then you plan the work and work the plan. Since successful completion of the ½ Iron, qualities of decisiveness and action returned which I had thought had been lost in a caregiver abyss.

What was the hardest thing about your training?

Inexperience, time, and my personal tendencies.

I was a novice to triathlons only having done one short race the year before. I’d also never really trained for anything before. Previous races I’d completed were fueled by coffee and I was usually sleep deprived. My mantra, “Drink coffee. Race.”  My inexperienced body and mind had a lot to learn in the weeks I’d given myself to train.

This event requires dedicated time to train in all three areas. If you get off schedule, it’s difficult to make it up. Some days I just had to make do. Twice I threw life jackets on the kids, put them in the kayak, fastened a rope to myself and dragged them across the lake. Some days I’d run late at night or set up a trainer on days it rained.  I laid down the law with myself and put this training on the top of my list. It had to happen, no matter what.

How did you feel when you’d completed it?

Relieved. Complete (for a moment). Pride. I felt accomplished. And - why hadn’t I done this before? Why did I wait so long?

I’ve become more comfortable with my unreasonably high-achieving thoughts. Being WITH myself is a little more tolerable because I did this one thing FOR myself. My inner narrator can’t deny I achieved something I had never thought possible. With the negative voice quieted, I have more space for peaceful reflection, gratitude and comfort with my decisions- truly my greatest aspirations.

What advice would you give other women who want to change something in their lives?

I am a regular person. I’m a planner but also a total procrastinator. An ill-defined goal can take shape quite unexpectedly. The ½ Iron came to be because I had a vague interest in the event and I’d mentioned it to friends (which held me accountable before I truly decided this was going to be my thing). I researched, set the wheels in motion and began the process of checking in with myself daily. This process works with just about everything.


Want to know more about Jodi's journey? Connect with her here

Thinking about taking on anything remotely close to an Iron Man? Read this