I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview Judy Molnar, the vice president of Iron Girl and a certified USA Triathlon coach.
Iron Girl’s mission is to empower women toward a healthy lifestyle. Launched in 2004 with just two events, the Iron Girl brand has grown to now include ten events nationwide, varying in distance from 5K to duathlon and triathlon. Click hear to check out the list of 2009 Iron Girl events!
In 1996, Judy weighed 330 pounds, but after a doctor’s check-up, she decided to turn her life around and help others. Now a happy and healthy weight, Judy is an accomplished runner and triathlete! And WOWZA – she raced the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona! Judy even wrote a book called You Don’t Have to be Thin to Win.
Check out our interview below!
Question: What makes Iron Girl events unique?
Iron Girl is unique in that it is a women’s-only event, but not just one type of event, as we offer triathlon, duathlon and run/walk events that allow women to find their personal sense of fitness.
Question: Why, as women, should we consider signing up for an Iron Girl event as compared to a regular running or triathlon event?
Iron Girl offers the opportunity to enter a race, for and about women. As a participant, you are less nervous and fearful knowing you will be part of an amazing, supportive community of like-minded women. Iron Girl fosters camaraderie and a passion for healthy living, not just competition.
Question: I read that you competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii! Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Sure did – twice – in 1998 I did not finish, but in 1999, I finished!
Amazing, life changing and something I never dreamed of doing. The journey from signing up for the Ironman Lottery to stepping into the beautiful, blue Kona Bay was challenging. I didn’t see any of my struggles as a bad thing, but rather they were part of preparing for something I was not mentally ready to do. I certainly had done the training, but felt mentally psyched out, as I didn’t look like a fit, world-class athlete. I was standing there as the big, fat girl thinking – ‘lottery, couldn’t I have won the Powerball instead?’ That was all part of the journey though, and I was grateful to have experienced it. It made me come back even stronger the next year to finish something I never thought I could accomplish. The second time around, I had a better balance between what was going on in my head and heart. Once I figured out how to balance those two things, the body came along. It was glorious to come down Ali’i Drive that night knowing I did it – I finished. I will never forget that feeling – I have goose bumps right now just thinking about it!
Question: What’s your advice for "normal women" looking to squeeze exercises into their daily routines?
Be realistic with your time and what you can do. I’ve found that having small goals and small steps toward your goals – fitting in what you can, when you can – is what makes you the most successful. There are so many resources available to help us workout, but none that will physically get us off our butts and to the gym. It helps to find something you enjoy that gets you moving and to start there. Whether it is dance, tennis or outdoor hikes, just get moving. Another suggestion is to find someone to move with. If nothing else, get a dog and start walking. If you have a dog, go take him/her for a walk. There is something uplifting to simply walking – just go, leave your cell phone at home and enjoy the quiet of the morning or calm of the evening. If you prefer being indoors, head to the gym treadmill to zone out to your favorite tunes on the iPod.
Question: What’s your advice for maintaining the habit once we’ve started it?
It’s interesting, once you make exercise a part of your life, your body starts to crave it. You feel better, so you will start to make it a habit. Once there, mix it up – go longer, faster or try a new workout. It can be as simple as learning a few Yoga moves that you can start your day with.
Of course an Iron Girl event will take you over the top – your fitness routine will become an adventure, you know, that journey to the finish line.
Question: Tell us briefly about your struggles with weight and how it affected who you are today.
I still struggle. It is an on-going struggle. When Oprah talks about her battle with weight, she says – once you have it, it is always there, a reminder of where you have come from and where you are now. I have gained over 50 pounds since my Ironman finish. It was slow; over time the pounds added up. My habits changed, my lifestyle changed, but I continue to work on it. Along the way, I also faced some health issues I didn’t know were affecting my body. This process and on-going struggle has taught me to make today count!
Question: Did you have a ‘tipping point’ when you decided to change your habits for the better?
That initial ‘tipping point’ was at a doctor’s appointment. During my appointment, I noticed she wrote the words ‘morbidly obese’ on my chart! I was in shock. I thought: ‘are you kidding me? I am not a pretty face that is just a bit heavy?’ It was at that moment, I could no longer deny the statistics, the hard facts and the impact it was having on my health. A second ‘tipping point’ came in the last five years when we discovered some health issues. That second ‘tipping point’ has helped me focus and make fitness a priority again.
Question: Your book is called You Don’t Have to be Thin to Win. What’s the premise behind this book and who do you think would most benefit from reading it?
I was writing the book while preparing for the 1999 Ironman World Championship. It was meant to be a reflection on my experience, something to show that normal women can be fit and participate in athletic events, even if overweight. It was a chance for me to share some insight and to show why events are such a great place to find your fitness.
Anyone would benefit from reading the book. I know after it was published the feedback was amazing. I heard of sisters sharing it with their sisters who were overweight, husbands giving it to their wives and friends sharing the book with other friends to motivate them. The book made people stop and think – if she can do it, maybe I can do something too.
Question: Would you share your normal workout schedule with us (on a week you weren’t preparing for a big race)?
Ironman training was like no other kind of training. I worked out six days a week and all of my time on weekends was spent logging miles. My normal schedule, however, includes working out two to three times a week with a personal trainer. Working alongside a trainer is an experience unlike any gym experience since the main piece of equipment we use is me, my body, not machines. I also mix up my activities with walking, spin class and anything else that might sound interesting. Of course, I walk my dog at least twice a day!
Question: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you during a race?
The funniest thing has to be dodging goose poop! It was my first time running a 5K event. I was ready to run with my Rocky inspired sweatshirt and new shoes. As we headed off on the first mile, I was lead around a lake – then there was poop and more poop getting on my nice white running shoes (well, they were green after the event)! It’s funny; I was so focused on dodging the goose poop that as I came around the other side of the lake the volunteer yelled ‘¼ mile to go.’ I was almost finished already! Wow, my mind had totally been focused on the goose poop, so my body didn’t even notice the miles. Lesson one: the mental aspect of racing. You really can do what you set your mind to and it is important to be mentally strong! This really came into play during my second Ironman attempt!
Question: What’s your favorite pre-workout snack?
Luna Sport Moons – an energy chew with a gummy texture. They are super yummy and good for you too!
I hope you enjoyed reading about Judy as much as I enjoyed interviewing her! And be sure to check out the list of 2009 Iron Girl events!