6 ways to tackle your dreams


 Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. That’s an Ironman. It’s incredible. It’s the world’s most challenging race and I’ve done it three times.

One of my favorite parts about being a writer for the UPMC MyHealth Matters Blog is that not only do I have the opportunity to share tips, tricks, and valuable information about healthy living, but I am also able to share my own personal experiences. Last year you joined me as I trained and completed Ironman Louisville. This year I exceeded even my wildest dreams — I completed two Ironman distance events.

In August I tackled the Ironman North American Championships in Mont-Tremblant. In September I raced in Ironman Maryland. Those two races, just five weeks apart, were absolutely amazing for me. With that being said, I want to share a little bit about how all of you can chase your dreams too.

Dare to dream BIG.

Seriously — as big as you can! A few years ago I never would have thought that I would have three Ironman distance events under my belt and a fourth planned for next year. I focused on my dream and I never took my eyes off it. I did everything I could to get there and finish; you can too! Be BOLD!

Transform your life with positive thinking.

That seems like a no-brainer but it’s hard to do. A positive person anticipates happiness, health, and success. Positive people believe they can overcome any obstacle and difficulty. There was a time in my life where I had to work on this really hard, and I am glad I did.

Find your passion and make it your purpose.

You can’t chase someone else’s goals and dream; trust me, I’ve tried. Take whatever you are passionate about and run with it. The intense happiness that “passion” brings you will fuel a fire within that no one can burn out. When I am on my bike or running, it never feels like a chore. I enjoy every second if it. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, get out NOW!

Set the bar high.

Hold yourself to a standard of excellence and refuse to compromise. This doesn’t mean that you always have to win or that you have to be the best. It means that each and every day you are the best version of yourself and no one else.

Stay humble.

Have you ever heard this saying: never let success get to your head or failure to your heart? It’s true. The path to excellence is filled with trials and tribulations. Welcome them. Each and every one — but always stay true to who you are and remember where you started.

Be a mentor.

I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for people who took me under their wing, not only for an Ironman but in all areas of life. Give back by helping someone else in any way you can. It will not only make you feel good, it will help someone grow and develop. Helping someone is a very rewarding experience.

Do you have a personal vision to help you reach your goals? Who else is included? Share in the comments below!


My Ironman Journey: Next Stop, Mont-Tremblant

We all have something that we are really passionate about, something that makes us feel complete and full of life no matter what. It’s something we look forward to and enjoy above all else. Chances are, that “something” is the source of some of your proudest moments. For me, at this point in my life, it’s my dedication to the sport of triathlon and what being an athlete has allowed me to accomplish.

Let me explain. My journey  as a runner started many years ago, which led me to my passion for coaching and helping others. That passion led to a career as a health coach, where I get to help change the lives of people every day. If you ask me, my passion has led to the most fulfilling opportunity possible: helping someone else.

Coach Mandy's IronMan Journey, take 2

Fast forward to last year, when I finished Ironman Louisville. I can say for certain that my life changed forever. Crossing the finish line was years in the making for me — and it was amazing. I can still close my eyes and feel every moment of that race. It was the hardest thing I have ever mentally and physically accomplished, and yet I wanted to do it again.

Everyone knows of the Ironman triathlon, and a lot of people make a big deal about anyone who has completed the rigorous 140.6-mile race — so I decided to use that to my advantage. I want to use the sport to bring about awareness and support for a cause that is close and important to me: cancer. I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training  (TNT) as a member of Ironteam in honor of my cousin’s daughter Ava, who fought through her battle with leukemia.

Cancer is a disease that knows no boundaries of class, ethnicity, or gender. It affects us all at some point in our lives. The funds raised through my TNT journey are used for research, education, and advocacy. I believe so much in those resources because they are the same ones that my family used just 10 years ago when we found out my mom had cancer. We called on them again when Ava had leukemia, and those resources and research advancements may have saved her life. At 6 years old, she now has many years to live and a life full of joy ahead of her.

This Sunday I will race in Ironman Mont-Tremblant and over the past eight months have raised $6,041 with the help of friends, family, and complete strangers. You would have to look far and wide to find someone who has not been affected by cancer, so it’s been inspiring to hear people’s stories and how they have honored their loved ones.

On Sunday I will be racing with the names of 38 heroes given to me to honor in my race. I am so proud to be able to take their courage, energy, and spirit with me every mile of the way. Like I have said before, we all have an Ironman within us. Go get yours today!




“Amanda Budzowski from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

I doubt I will ever forget those nine words — or the incredible journey of my first IRONMAN. I’ve waited almost a week to do this recap and share my experience with you because each time I start, I have gotten completely overwhelmed with intense gratitude for the experience and for everyone who has supported me this season.

My family, fiancé, friends, coaches, colleagues, and fellow competitors have stayed with me this entire year and helped me focus on what mattered — the journey and not the finish line. I can confidently and joyously say that IRONMAN has changed my life and I will never be the same person.  I consider this milestone a huge success and a building block for even greater things to come.

The days leading up to the event were busy: athletes had to check in, attend the athlete mandatory meetings, prep transition bags, and take our bikes to transition. Coach Matt arrived in Louisville on Saturday just in time to help me navigate the bag and bike check process.  I was relieved to have him there because there was so much to do and it was all new to me.

Race day started at about 3 a.m. and ended about 10:30 p.m., so it was a long day. It was so humbling to be racing with athletes of all abilities — from pro athletes to athletes with disabilities. Everyone on the course was giving their very best and all they had. All day long, I kept thinking about how all of this had come to be. It wasn’t too long ago when I saw the Rick and Dick Hoyt videos for the first time and then ran a marathon for cancer in honor of my mom, who later would lose her battle.

Every bit of the day was so emotionally overwhelming. Happy, sad, exciting, and nervous energies surrounded me. I remember crying at mile 100 on the bike and wiping tears through my sunglasses; I was so physically and mentally drained. That moment as well as all the others let me know that the human body is amazing and can achieve anything that the mind believes it can.

Throughout the day I met some unbelievable athletes. During the run you really get to talk to folks and find out a little about them while everyone is encouraging each other to get to the finish.  I met men and women of all ages from all walks of life. They shared the most breathtaking journeys of their IRONMAN drive.  Those athletes will never know how much they helped me get to the finish when things started getting really tough — they were my angels.

At every turn I could hear “Go Amanda” and “You’re close, 201!” I am forever thankful for the positive atmosphere and all the encouragement on the course from everyday fans and volunteers. I am especially thankful for my IRONFAN group (both virtually and in person) who followed me relentlessly and helped me get through the day.  I had to dig deep and really focus on getting to the finish line and all the positive vibes were motivating.

Close to midnight, we went back to the finish line to cheer in the last athlete to become an IRONMAN. I will never forget the man who came through for all of the fans cheering him in. With ten seconds to go, we heard, “You are an IRONMAN,” and he just collapsed into a volunteer’s arms. I was so overwhelmed and grateful at that moment I couldn’t help but cry. I was crying for him, I was crying for me, and I was just so happy in that moment.

It’s difficult for me to put all this to words and explain exactly how this has made a profound impact on my life, but it has. I am sure in weeks to come I will continue to decompress from the day and reflect on all that I have experienced. One thing I know for sure: as I said at the beginning, ordinary can be extraordinary!

I started this journey by saying everyone has an Everest, and IRONMAN was mine. I think that we all have an “IRONMAN” — whether it’s completing a 5k, achieving a healthy goal, or conquering a lifelong dream. I challenge all of you to chase your IRONMAN. The experience of reaching that finish line is beautiful and will forever change your life too! It’s about so much more than a personal best. It’s about finding something inside yourself that you may not have known you have. That’s what IRONMAN did for me.

I’ve made it official: I am so proud and happy to announce that on August 17, 2014, I will be competing in the Subaru IRONMAN North American Championship Mont Tremblant with Team in Training  in honor of my family’s little hero Ava Maryann Turner. I am alive and well and want to use this positive experience to raise money to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

Thanks for all the love and support. Go get your IRONMAN!

— Coach MANDY




Hi everyone! I have finally arrived in Louisville for the 35th Louisville IRONMAN. I am checked in and will spend the next two days preparing for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.

Athlete Check in

Over the past few days, so many of you have shared stories with me of how my IRONMAN journey has inspired you to go after a dream of yours. That is truly the favorite part of the career I have chosen, ALL OF YOU! Each milestone I have helped someone get to is also a victory for me.

IRONMAN Bib Number

I want to share a quote with you, from Christopher Reeve: “What I do is based upon powers we all have inside us; the ability to endure; the ability to love; the ability to carry on, to make the best of what we have — and you don’t have to be ‘Superman’ to do it.”

Remember, we all have an IRONMAN inside us … go chase yours! I’ll see you all on the other side and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Coach Mandy

IRONMAN Athlete List

Peak Week: What I’ve Learned Training for IRONMAN

How to prepare for triathlon peak week

August can be a bit bizarre for any athlete, especially a triathlete. At this point, an entire season of training has brought about a new level of performance — but also a new level of fatigue. I think the fatigue I feel is more mental than physical, and for me that is motivation to keep going. The bottom line is inspiration and the drive to succeed.

I still have a lot of work and preparation to do between now and the race. Last week was my most challenging part of training yet: peak week. It’s the week I had to complete the highest volume of work. Topped off with a 110-mile bike ride and an 18-mile run.

This week, I will enter into a downhill or taper. It’s a complicated process, and I’m glad I have my coach to help with this part.

This has been an AMAZING journey for me. I would like to share a few lessons I’ve learned that you can apply to any sport or area of your life:

  • Have a clear goal: When I first saw Rick and Dick Hoyt complete an IRONMAN I thought, Wow, that’s incredible. Five years ago I ran my first marathon, and a year later did my first triathlon, then a half IRONMAN. This year I decided it was time to go for the full IRONMAN. Start small, think big, challenge yourself, and don’t give up!
  • Determine what’s between the goal and you: When you set a goal, you are trying to improve in some area. So it’s important to be honest about what needs to change. Be specific! My big change was giving up unnecessary workouts so I could dedicate that time to training. Find yours.
  • Redefine mental toughness: I talked about this a few weeks ago and it’s extremely important. Keep up your confidence. Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. A can-do attitude can go a long way.
  • Focus on a life of success: If you want your future to be different, you need to start changing your thinking to build the identity of the person you want to be. Start small and over time those changes will spread to other areas of your life.
  • HAVE FUN: Simply put: this sport is difficult, but I love it. Do more of the things you love and less of the ones you don’t. It will create a life of passion far beyond what you could have expected.

I am feeling overwhelmed and grateful as I reflect and prepare. The starting line is so close that I can feel it, and I have my eye on the prize. I will keep you updated on my progress as we near the starting line —but I want to hear from you:

Is there anything you want to know about training for an IRONMAN or the impact it has had on my life?

Leave your questions in the comments and I will answer them in my next IRONWOMAN post!

Thanks again for following along over the past few months. It’s been my pleasure to share this with all of you!

Tri-umphing Over Fear


We’re all afraid of something. For me, my fears are inseparable from my passion and love for triathlon — and my goal of completing the IRONMAN.

I am deathly afraid of two things: open water and riding my bike on the road. And for good reason. Five years ago, I was in a really bad white water rafting accident and nearly drowned. I didn’t get into a pool or lake for over a year after that. Then, two years ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bike.

Both of those experiences affect each and every decision I make in the sport of triathlon. But I haven’t let them define me, and that’s the key. I have a positive mindset. I told the fear I felt to take a hike, and it did. It’s definitely not easy, but overcoming fear can be one of the most positive and powerful things you do for yourself.

I share these two examples because my biggest fears are also my biggest motivators. To continue to compete and improve in the sport of triathlon, I had to overcome the fear and deal with the feelings associated with it. I have successfully used my positive thoughts and energy to control the fear that could have potentially sabotaged my dream to finish the IRONMAN.

Each time I go for a swim or head out on my bike, I have to remind myself that I am completely in control. The first few moments are always the hardest for me. Once that uncomfortable feeling has subsided, I am ready to tackle the day. It’s not that I have forgotten my experience or the lessons learned. I now use it to motivate me and push me towards success.

If you have a fear about something like starting to get active, losing weight, or even quitting smoking … know that YOU CAN do it! Use my simple steps to get started on your positive path to facing your fears:

  1. Believe in yourself. You deserve the best no matter what. Accept that fact about yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with people who uplift you. We all need cheerleaders. Let them cheer you on to success and encourage you to overcome the obstacles.
  3. Take baby steps. Growth takes time, and that’s okay. Know your limits and how fast you can adapt to changes.
  4. Help others. Give back to someone who is going through the same thing you have conquered. It feels great, plus you can be part of someone else’s journey to success.

You don’t have to give up just because something is difficult. If your goal is more important than your fear, face that fear and don’t let it win. Of course you will find yourself feeling uncomfortable. Best advice I have is to try to look within and find your superhero self, then head out to combat the fear.

How have you worked to conquer your fears and reach your dreams? 

Redefining Mental Toughness

Are you mentally tough?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to train for an IRONMAN? My best description is that it’s a lot of really hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. This week I am 10 weeks away from the starting line and I could not be more focused or excited. At this point every mile I swim, bike, and run is adding up and preparing me to complete the challenging 140.6 miles on race day. I definitely can’t miss a workout, and there’s no room for cutting corners either if I want to finish and do well.

There’s something else I’m doing to prepare: I call it “redefining mental toughness.” At IRONMAN, or any other race, it takes a great deal of motivation to focus and push through every bit of wanting to give up. Mental toughness is the ability to continue on during trying times. It can be the difference between a personal best and a mediocre workout —or the ultimate difference between success and failure. In my opinion, mental toughness can make up for lack of skill, ability, and strength because of the willpower and guts to keep going.

Mental toughness was literally ALL I thought about last weekend in midst of an 8-hour workout. The weekend started off on Saturday morning with a training schedule of a 2-hour swim, a 70-mile bike ride, and a 40-minute run. Part of me was tired and wanted to give up, and the other part was completely focused on enjoying every bit of the hard time I was having. I had to dig into my mental toughness to get through the hard times in the workouts.

I want to share with you three “tricks” I use to put the thought of giving up out of sight and out of mind:

  1. Be positive. We all have inner dialogue with ourselves and it can be either really helpful or really hurtful. To be successful, focus on all the positive thoughts that make you feel better about yourself. Have a powerful reason behind anything you do — and when times get tough, remind yourself of that reason.
  2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. To get better, you need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Working through difficult times and stressful situations can improve your ability to handle stress of any kind —in all areas of life.
  3. Be your own coach. Everyone needs a coach. But even your coach is not doing all of your workouts with you. Use the same encouragement your coach does and speak to yourself in second person. Think something like, “You have done this before and you can do it again.” Chances are this will give you extra energy to work through it.

The real trick to mental toughness: practice. Just like physical endurance, mental toughness is a skill that takes practice to improve. You don’t need to be an IRONMAN to overcome any obstacle using these techniques. I use mental toughness in my personal life, career, and racing; these areas all spill into one another.

How have you gotten better at mental toughness? Have you tried other ways to stay focused?

Why Even Coaches Need Coaching

Even Coaches Need Coaching

You may be surprised to know that I have hired a coach to help me prepare for the Louisville IRONMAN. Now, this may sound unusual to some of you since you know me as a coach myself. Several people have asked why I need a coach. The truth is, this is something I’ve been considering for a while.  I’m so glad I decided to do it.

The Louisville IRONMAN is 140.6 miles and I’ll have 17 hours to complete the race. That’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run — continuous! I have completed many endurance events and trained myself as well as others to cross the finish line healthy and happy — but this is different. I have been on my current training plan for 10 weeks and I could tell I was starting to get into a funk. I was even slacking a bit on some of my workouts.  The biggest barrier for me in this training is fear of the unknown; I have never done the full IRONMAN.

Having a coach who has been in my shoes and trained others is a huge advantage. Coaches can provide many significant benefits:

  • Accountability: Hands-down, this will be one of the greatest benefits for me. Knowing that your coach will check in on workouts and your progress is being examined will motivate you to do your best at ALL times.
  • Expert knowledge:  Having a coach who has been successful where you are new or trying to improve will give you peace of mind and sanity.  You will feel prepared and confident that your plan is solid and that you have the right resources for success.
  • Motivation: I know that my coach will push me to reach for more within myself while providing the support I need to keep my head in the game.  Motivation can sometimes be challenging if you are training on your own. Having someone to help you stay motivated and focused can lead to huge improvements in performance and allow you to have fun at the same time.
  • Questions and feedback:  Having a coach provides you the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and get feedback on what’s going on. A coach can look at strengths and weakness and prepare a plan that tackles both. Having an expert at your fingertips is the ultimate learning experience and opportunity to grow and improve.

Hiring my coach was one of the best decisions I have made in a while. I can’t explain how much of a stress relief it is to have someone beside me who knows exactly what I am trying to achieve.  I trust him: he is one of the best IRONMAN and triathlon coaches in the area, and he has experienced great success in the sport himself.

Coaches can bring out your best and help take you to that next level in preparation to reach your goals. I strongly believe that anyone can benefit from coaching and that you should experience it at some point in your life.  Life is all about improving and making progress.  Whether it’s a life coach, a financial advisor, or a sport coach — we all can benefit from an expert in our life.

Having a coach will prepare me to arrive at the start line and go the distance at the Louisville IRONMAN. Have you ever had a coach? If so, what was your greatest benefit from having a coach?

Yes You Can!: My Inspiration for Running IRONMAN

When someone hears that I am training for an IRONMAN a few things happen: they ask me the distance, congratulate me, and then they ask me why. The “why” is the part that usually surprises them, so I want to share two things with you today: motivation and inspiration. Almost anything you begin takes a combination of motivation and inspiration to get started and also to see through to the finish line.

In 2005, I was an undergraduate student at Slippery Rock University studying for a minor in Adapted Physical Activity. On the first day of class the professor started lecture with a video of Rick and Dick Hoyt. When the video was over the professor told us that if the video inspired us, we were in the right classroom; that our time in the class would be spent studying to help people like Rick, who had a disability. This was the first moment I remember wanting to be an IRONMAN. I was so inspired by their story and wanted to help others like Dick also achieve their wildest dreams.

Rick and Dick Hoyt are a father-son team that has completed 1091 race events over the past 34 years consisting of:

  • 252 triathlons (6 IRONMAN events)
  •  70 marathons (30 Boston marathons)
  •  94 half marathons
  • 155 5k races

Rick was born in 1962 and as a result of oxygen deprivation to the brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Team Hoyt formed in the spring of 1977 when Rick came home from school and told his father that he wanted to participate in a local benefit race for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. At the time Dick was not in the best of heath, but he agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair at the race. After finishing the race, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” From that first race Team Hoyt was created with the motto “Yes You Can!” Together, they share their inspirational story to help those who are physically disabled become more active members of the community.

After seeing the video, I called my mom and told her that I was going to be an IRONMAN. She suggested that I start out by running a marathon to build my endurance to complete an IRONMAN someday.  That next summer I decided that I would run my first marathon in honor of her as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. At the time my mother had colon cancer and unfortunately, that first marathon was the only marathon finish line she lived to see me cross. Almost to the day, a year later she passed away and it fueled my passion, motivation, and drive more than ever to continue training and make my way to an IRONMAN.

I share this story not only because I think it’s an important part of who I have become, but also because part of this journey has been to help inspire others to believe that anything is possible. I am an average woman setting out to chase down one of the biggest goals I ever have had. I definitely will not win the IRONMAN, but I will finish and I will continue to help empower others in believing that they can achieve any goal they set their mind to.

By focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t do — ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! I love hearing about what has inspired you to start your goals and what motivated you to continue. Share your stories with us in the comments section!

Sore after exercise?

Is muscle soreness after exercise normal?

“I can’t believe how sore I am from that workout yesterday” — sound familiar? It’s normal, but the discomfort can make it a little more challenging than you anticipated to stay on track. People of all fitness levels can experience something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

What is DOMS? DOMS is a normal physiological response to strenuous or new types of exercise. DOMS usually occurs between 24 and 48 hours after activity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS is believed to be the result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise and inflammation of tissue.

How and why do you get DOMS? Activities that may cause DOMS include:

  • Strength training
  • Walking down hills
  • Jogging
  • Step aerobics
  • Jumping

The aches and pains should be minor; your body is adapting to the activity you performed. Next time you tackle that activity, you will be stronger and able to perform better. If you’re a little sore after some types of exercise, don’t let it discourage you.

Can DOMS be prevented? One of the best ways to minimize the symptoms of DOMS: Ease into any new activity, and don’t overdo it. Starting slowly can give your muscles time to adapt to the stress.

Be sure to stretch. Stretching can help with the tightness. If you are new to exercise, take it easy for a few days and try light exercise such as walking or swimming for relief.  Also, watch for signs of overuse or injury. Pain that occurs during activities of daily living or during exercise should be checked out by a medical professional.

This week I am 6 months away from the IRONMAN. I have started increasing my workout times and intensity; I have been a little sore from it. By monitoring progress and how my body feels, I can prevent injury and continue in my training program feeling stronger.

Are you training for anything? Have you ever experienced DOMS? How to you prevent the side effects or how do you make sure to prevent injury?