SUCCESS STORY: Jerry Hughes’ SECRET to Sub 40 min 10k and Much More

A little over a year ago (December 2014), Jerry Hughes hired me to be his running coach. It all started because I had a Christmas special on my “fly solo” online training plans. When we first started working together, we have only met each other once or twice in person before that.

What’s amazing is that after about a week or two of following my running program, Jerry bought a training package with me for his wife. To me, this meant a lot because he originally started out as an online client and he trusted me with his family after such a short time of knowing each other.

I knew that Jerry, just like the clients before him, would improve significantly as a result of my training plan. I predicted that he would be a lot faster.

Prior to starting his training program with me, Jerry’s best 10k time was 44:53 at the 2014 TC 10k in April and best half marathon time was 1:36:12 at the Goodlife Fitness Half Marathon on October 12, 2014.

When he started training with me, he was just getting over a few injuries that kept him from running  to his full potential, which at the time, neither of us were fully aware of.

The one thing I knew about Jerry is that he works very hard, he’s not afraid to ask questions and he knows how to follow instructions. That, to me, is a prerequisite to success.

Jerr Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run fior the Help Fill a Dream Foundation. Photo by Ian Simspon

Jerry Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.
Photo by Ian Simpson.

Fast forward to April 26, 2015, which is about 4 months after he started training with me. Jerry ran his first ever sub 40 min 10k, finishing the TC10k in 39:41. At that moment, I knew that bigger personal victories are ahead of him.

Shortly thereafter, Jerry ran a half marathon personal best of 1:27:45, which is over 8 minutes faster than his previous best time. JerryHughesHaldMarathonPB2015

As we continued to work together, his list of accomplishments continued to grow exponentially.

Together, we have raised thousands of dollars for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

Help Fill A Dream is an immediately responsive charitable foundation based in Victoria, British Columbia. They provide hope, help and happiness for Vancouver Island children under the age of 19 with life-threatening conditions by fulfilling their dreams, improving their quality of life and assisting their families with care and financial support.

We also ran from Duncan to Victoria together in order to raise funds and awareness for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

I witnessed him come within 2 minutes of qualifying for the coveted Boston Marathon. Jerry ran his first ever marathon in 3:11:48, which is a significantly faster pace per km than he used to do for his 10k.

Most recently, he has been achieving one personal best after another in all distances across the board. His new 10k PB is 38:46.


Above: Jerry on his way to a new 10k personal best. Photo by Lois DeEll

His 10k time is now officially ~6 minutes faster than it was when he started training with me. This equates to about a 40 second per km improvement as a result of my training and his continuous dedication and commitment to excellence.

Jerry’s story is very remarkable in that he takes away all the excuses people make when it comes to working out. On average, he works over 60 hours a week. He works as a chef, which means that he spends his entire work day on his feet. Not only that, but he and his wife also have 2 young kids.

However, that’s not all he had to overcome to get to where he is. Jerry was born with a rare aggressive genetic disorder called Gardner’s Syndrome. When not diagnosed early enough, the prognosis is not very good. It claimed Jerry’s dad’s life when he was very young.

Despite all the challenges that Jerry was facing, his results speak for themselves. He never ever complained and he always put in the work that I told him to do. Jerry had every reason to make excuses, but he never ever did.

I created a plan that was tailored to his work schedule and circumstances and it worked.

What was his secret? It was a combination of a proper training plan and a genuine desire to achieve his goals no matter what curveballs life throws at him. He persevered in times when other people would have given up.

This is what Jerry had to say about our journey so far:

“Rarely in life do you meet someone that will change the course of your life forever. That day happened to me when by chance I saw a running coach that was super passionate about training runners. That was Yana Hempler. She was the first person that really believed in my abilities. Her encouragement and programs have changed me and inspired me to follow my dreams. I’m now able to talk in front of people live or in front of the camera. We have done charity work together and will continue to do so forever. There have been so many things I have accomplished due to her training from climbing 40,000 stairs, ultra marathon 55km, 12000 ft elevation, 2 marathons. One of the marathons I did was 8 days after doing the 40,000 stair challenge. Participating in Yana’s program has really changed me. My future with running has evolved into crazy marathons, ultras, and biking all to raise awareness for Gardner’s Syndrome and conquering cancer. I really believe if I never met her none of this would have happened. Thank you, Yana Hempler.”


I’m extremely proud of everything that he has accomplished so far. It has been amazing to watch him develop into a confident individual who thrives on public speaking and inspires many to follow their dreams. Jerry’s dedication, hard work and persistence deserves to be recognized.

People often say that the trainer inspires the client. That’s not always a one-way street. Jerry inspires me in more ways than I can express in this post.

From the bottom of my heart, Jerry, thank you for trusting me to be a part of your journey and I look forward to seeing what you will do next.

Want to achieve amazing results too? Let’s connect and I will help you get there.

SUCCESS STORY: Duane Mundy completes Spartan BEAST and much more

When I first met Duane, he told me about how he wanted to complete the 20km+ Spartan BEAST obstacle course race, which, in addition to being super long, also has 26 challenging obstacles.

Duane’s biggest barrier to achieving his fitness goal was his knee injury, which resulted in weight gain and a decreased level of cardiovascular fitness.

Now, as a runner, all I can think about is how important it is to take care of the knees.


Above: Duane’s before picture, side shot.

I made it my mission to help him complete the obstacle course race. I knew that weight loss would be a by-product of the training rather than the sole focus. This ensures he enjoys the process, which will in turn lead to results.


Above: Another before photo. Front shot.

First, we did a lot of rowing and elliptical training. Both rowing and elliptical training help improve cardio while minimizing impact on the knee joint. Man, those were tough. I kept on pushing him to go faster and week after week he continuously set new records for himself.

After a while, we were primarily focusing on improving upper body, glute and core strength. All of the aforementioned would help him perform better in the Spartan Beast race.

Additionally, we worked on pushups and pullups. When he first started training with me, he managed to do 34 pushups in 3 minutes. By the time he completed his training program with me, he was doing over 100 pushups in 3 minutes. Not only that, but he also learned how to properly do pullups.

Duane’s glute and core strength improved significantly and his knee also started to feel better. We also worked on stretching his tight muscles, particularly the hip flexors and hamstrings.

When he completed the Spartan Beast Obstacle course race, I was so happy to get the good news.


Above: Duane post-race proudly showing his finisher medal and Spartan Beast swag package. He sent me this photo along with a text that said “Thank you, Yana! I couldn’t have done it without you.” It truly meant a lot to me. 

When we first met, it was overwhelming to think that doing a 20km+ obstacle course is possible, especially because he hasn’t done any running due to his knee injury.

I was overwhelmed with joy when he overcame his challenge and not just survived that obstacle course, but thrived.

Here is what Duane had to say about his fitness journey with me:

“About 6 months ago, a friend of mine told me about Yana and how Yana had helped her reach her goals. I had seen Yana at the gym on numerous occasions and took notice, not only of her chiseled physique, her smiling face and contagious laughter, but more importantly, to me, I noticed how focused Yana was on her clients. I met with Yana and we struck a deal to work on my physique and prepare me for a 20km+ Spartan Beast Obstacle Course in September 2015. Due to a knee injury, I had stopped exercising and managed to gain a few pounds around my midsection as well as deteriorated my cardio fitness. Yana provided me with various exercises and techniques which allowed me to exercise without aggravating or causing further injury to my knee. After 12 sessions with Yana, although gruelling and limit pushing, not only did I lose weight and inches, my cardio increased an amazing amount and I felt FANTASTIC!! I had so much fun with Yana that I looked forward to every session and completed the Sun Peaks Beast Spartan Race with loads of energy and pep leftover afterwards. I continued my training with Yana until I had to relocate for work in January. Thank you, Yana, for your inspiration, motivation and for inviting me and your other clients to your ab-aliscious and stair-aliscious fitness parties!!”  

I thoroughly enjoyed watching him achieve various milestones throughout his fitness journey. He was able to do all the things that he didn’t think were possible. Most importantly, he had fun during the entire process.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Duane for allowing me to be a part of his journey and for giving me permission to share this story.

Wishing Duane continued success, health and wellness as he embarks on a new journey in a new city.

If Duane’s story inspired you, I can help you achieve your goals too.

SUCCESS STORY: Charmaine Niebergall Achieves New Fitness Goals!

You may have previously read about Charmaine’s transformation when I finished the first round of the Get Fit & Win $1,000 Challenge, where she came in close 2nd.

Charmaine believed that the value she received from participating in the challenge the first time warranted her to sign up for it again.

I was honoured (and surprised) to hear that she canceled her travel plans to Hawaii in order to focus on achieving her fitness goals and to save money to be able to invest into training with me. It genuinely means a lot because I view foregoing a nice (and well-deserved) vacation as a sacrifice.

Charmaine made a sacrifice in order to keep herself on track with her fitness goals. I have a huge amount of respect for her dedication. Despite facing some financial challenges, Charmaine still made it happen because she believed that training with me is a long-term investment into her future and her health.


Above: Charmaine and I after she completed yet another personal milestone on the stairs :)

This is what Charmaine had to say about her experience in the 2nd round of my Get Fit & Win $1000 Challenge:

“Due to financial constraints, I had to fundraise in order to afford the cost to participate in this 2nd round of the Fitness Challenge, but it was important to me to do it again because I knew that Yana’s proven support was what I needed to keep reaching my fitness goals.

Yana does not just support me with pushing past my perceived physical limits, or making me see that I can do things I never thought I could, or help me safely manage injuries and limitations while motivating me, but she does all that while helping to support me with the biggest barriers to fitness excellence: psychological barriers.

Yana supports me to really allow myself to ENJOY my workouts (she laughs and she smiles and yells “fitness party” all the time!); she helps me to stop worrying about how EVERYONE ELSE looks (she focuses on my good physical features and tells me about it); and she focuses on how I am reaching amazing accomplishments by reaching MY personal bests, not everyone else’s.

While I’m proud that I can now do 21 push-ups (properly!), complete nearly 100 sets of stairs with 20lbs. worth of weights, 151 sets of stairs without weights, box and kickbox (a true dream come true, with a pretty solid roundhouse and a left hook!), or how my glutes are now strong and support my week hip joints (my physiotherapist is glad for that!), or how I’m 6 lbs lighter, or how my biceps are bigger, my triceps are tighter, my tummy is smaller and my back is more defined; the true accomplishment to me is that I spend most of my day at work looking forward to getting to the gym, and I now miss working out, exercising, moving my body (be it the gym, or a run, or kickboxing) with even just ONE day of rest.

I’m not the lightest I have ever weighed, and I can’t run the farthest I have ever run, but Yana has taught me how to set, meet and exceed my own ever-changing fitness goals by pushing me psychologically, emotionally and dare I say spiritually, to feel accomplished, healthy, fit and happy.”

It was extremely exciting to see Charmaine continuously set new personal records. The most important thing is that she is focused on functional strength rather than vanity. Charmaine has developed a healthy attitude towards fitness and for that I’m very proud of her.

We did a variety of exercises to help her overcome her injuries and finish the challenge while at the same time setting new and bigger goals for herself.


I started this challenge as a way to help my clients reframe their thinking around fitness and what it represents to them. Not everyone wants to just lose weight and not everyone wants to get six pack abs.

At the end of the day, everyone who finished the challenge and stuck with it is a winner, regardless of who will actually take home the prize money and who was selected to be a finalist.

Charmaine has transformed both physically and mentally. She is becoming very strong.

I’m so happy that I’ve been able to help her achieve her fitness goals while working through past injuries and past mental barriers.

Now, she also does kickboxing, running, and so much more. Charmaine now enjoys exercise and has truly made a lifelong commitment to health and fitness.

They say that consistency is the key to success. I genuinely believe that’s true. It’s one thing to show a client some good exercises, but it’s another to help the client reframe their thoughts about exercise and facilitate adherence to the program.

Adherence to the program is where the real progress is made. Charmaine has done that.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Charmaine for allowing me to be a part of her journey and for letting me share this story with you. It truly is an honour and a pleasure.


Do you want to change your life too? Want to reframe your thinking around exercise? Contact me and let’s get started.

How to Build a Run Training Plan

When it comes to building a run training plan, one size does not fit all.

What works for one of my clients may not work for another.

This is why I always like to take care of all the minor details because, to me, details are very important and they are what sets my plans apart from the generic training plans.

Although a more generic training plan is designed when I do small group training, I still give people the option to make minor adjustments to it in order to best accommodate individuals’ needs.

When designing a training plan, below are the things that are important to take into consideration:

1. Current Fitness Level: this determines the difficulty of the plan. It has to be both challenging and manageable at the same time. Therefore, I can’t tell a beginner (who hasn’t completed their first 10k) to start out with doing 30km long runs.

2. Schedule: how many times a week you can realistically commit to running given your current obligations such as: work, family, social life, etc.

3. Time before your target race: Ideally, the more time you have before a race, the more elaborate your training plan will be. You will also be able to spend more time on each of the following: aerobic base development, strength training/hill training, and speedwork while still incorporating recovery weeks into your schedule. The more time you have to train, the more likely you are to reach your goal and do so uninjured because you are allowing for a more gradual build-up to race day.

4. Injuries (current and past): If you have dealt with injuries, you must proceed with caution which often means setting a different type of a goal (such as finish the race without re-injuring yourself) and implement other training into your program (to stay strong and to defend your body from injuries). If you are clear to run, give yourself plenty of time before you begin training for your target race so that you don’t run the risk of re-injury. See my previous post on how to prevent running injuries  before you proceed with a training plan.

5. Other training you do. This will affect the amount of days in any given week you can dedicate to running. Although other training is encouraged, it’s very important that it’s complementary to running. As I found out in 2013, it’s not very fun to train for a fitness competition and a marathon at the same time because they both require different types of training (although I still managed to survive). However, If you strength train (specifically for running, rather than for bulking up) or bike or cross country ski, for example, then your running will be complemented by that training.

6. Goal: your running plan will be tailored specifically to your goal and it’s very important that you set a realistic goal based on your schedule, time before your target race and current fitness level.

Once you have established where you stand with the above, it will be a lot easier to design a plan that works for you and your life (which is why I refuse to just copy and paste training plans and send them out to clients).

Every training plan has the basic elements or phases. Every good coach will be able to answer the main question, which is “why” we do what we do when we do it. Every workout has a purpose and that purpose must be known.

Below are some basic rules that should be considered when building a run training plan:

1. You can’t build a pyramid without a base. A pyramid without a base will fall over. Aerobic conditioning is the foundation that allows you to handle the hills and the speedwork that will come later in your plan. Without it, your plan is just an upside-down pyramid. We have to teach our bodies how to use oxygen efficiently in order to achieve peak performance.


Above: This is what the ideal Lydiard Peak performance pyramid looks like. I even got it from the material that was given to me when I took the Lydiard coaching certification course. Note that it calls for 24 weeks to peak performance. Given that we don’t have 24 weeks all the time, the aerobic conditioning phase can last between 4-16 weeks. The Hill Training phase lasts between 2-8 weeks and the anaerobic development stage (aka interval training) lasts between 2-6 weeks. Then, you are at the coordination/integration stage where you are well-developed aerobically and anaerobically so you can combine the previous phases. Finally, you taper leading up to race day (taper lasts between 1-3 weeks), in order to feel recovered before your race.

2. It’s response-regulated. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you feel and how your body is responding to the training. If you are suffering physically and mentally as a result of the plan, then the plan is not right for you and changes must be made. On the other hand, if you are finding the plan is too easy and you’re not being challenged by it at all, then your plan also needs some adjustments.

3. Don’t do 2 hard workouts in a row. Never schedule back-to-back hard interval and hill sessions. Those types of sessions take about 48 hours to recover from and you should not overdo them. Doing more interval sessions throughout the week will not necessarily make you faster and could lead to disaster (if you burn yourself out).

4. Increase your weekly mileage gradually. Going from 30km a week to 100km a week is like asking for injuries. Your weekly mileage increase should not exceed much more than 10% compared to the previous week.

5. Sequential development. The training plan must be followed in the correct order. First, you start with increasing volume at low intensity to develop aerobic fitness and then you do higher intensity but lower volume when you get into hill and interval training. The order is as follows: aerobic conditioning, then hill training, then speed training and then taper.

 6. Understanding what your body is telling you. You must learn to distinguish between good sore vs. injury pain. You must also learn to recognise the difference between tired from training vs. overtired from overtraining.

7. The majority of the long runs in your aerobic phase should be easy. Don’t try to hammer out a long run at your desired race pace. You should be able to maintain a conversation during your easy run.

8. Don’t spend more than 20% of your training time in the Red Zone in any given week. After all, 80% of all your weekly volume should be done in the Green Zone (aka aerobic) or slower. This means that you should be able to pass the “talk test” for about 80% of your training week.

9. Pay attention to the total distance of the fast portion of your interval workouts. If you are training for a marathon, the sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 7km. If you are training for 5 or 10k, then the total sum of all the fast segments of your interval workout should not exceed 5k.

10. The run training schedule is a guideline. At the end of the day, nothing is ever set in stone and “it depends” is the answer to almost everything. The most important thing is understanding the principles rather than just blindly filling in some numbers and hoping it will work.

11. Don’t overdo it on the workouts in the 2 weeks leading up to race day. This is where you gradually decrease the workload, also known as taper. It will allow you to feel recovered going into race day rather than burnt out.

Please note that there is so much more that goes into building a running plan than what I’m able to cover in this post. If you have something to add or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

11 Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

Running injury prevention is one of the most important things that I like to cover early on whenever I coach running clinics or take on new clients. Chances are, if you run, you have been injured before. If you have been injured before, you know injuries are not fun.

Injuries take all the joy out of running. So what are some things you can do to prevent them?

1.Understand your injury threshold, which is different for everyone.

You have to avoid the “terrible toos”, which are: too much, too soon, too fast. Some people can get hurt running 15 miles per week, while others can run 150 miles a week before they experience any issues.

I have worked with people of all levels of injury threshold and have successfully helped them reach their goals through progressive approach to increasing their weekly mileage.

If you’re in doubt, then I recommend doing less because sometimes “less is more”. The safest way to build up your training volume is to not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.

2. Build your base first.

There is a reason why I don’t shove hills and intervals down people’s throats when they first start training with me. Your body needs some time to adjust to your new training schedule and that’s why I tell people to spend the first 4-8 weeks (depending on the total length of your training plan) to do easy runs.

Building your base will prepare your muscles and joints for the hills, drills and speedwork thrills in your future. Think of your training plan like a pyramid. With a strong and wide base, it’s less likely to fall apart.

3. Don’t do two hard workouts in a row.

Your body needs about 48 hours to recover after a hard interval or hill workout. If you do a hard workout, then you should do an easy workout for the next two days (or even take a rest day if it was very hard).

If you do too many hard workouts in a row, you will not recover as fast and are more likely to get injured. The body needs time to adapt to the stresses of a hard workout and to recover.

4. Avoid Over-striding.

Over-striding can increase your chances of injury because it often causes you to land heavily on your heel and puts a lot of pressure on your joints. If you are over-striding and landing on your forefoot, that causes a lot of pressure on your calves and Achilles tendon. Therefore, regardless of which part of the foot you are landing on, over-striding is not good for you.

In addition to putting pressure on your joints, it also reduces your running efficiency by causing a breaking action with every step. This prevents you from smoothly moving forward.

With that in mind, work on shortening your stride and increasing your cadence. Aim for a cadence of about 160-180 strides per minute. Land with your foot directly underneath or slightly behind your hips, rather than in front of you. This will help you run with less effort and less impact on your joints because you will be able to land softer.


Above: Running Cobble Hill 10k 2016 and I’m noticing that my foot is touching right under my hip (possibly even slightly behind it). I’m also leaning slightly forward. When I looked at the cadence I also noticed that my average cadence was 176 strides per minute. I was happy with that.

5. Strength train to balance your body.

Runners who just run all the time end up getting injured because of the repetitive nature of running. It’s important to keep your core, glutes and back strong if you want to continue improving as a runner and avoid potential setbacks. It’s also important to balance out your quads and hamstrings.

You are far less likely to get injured when you have balance around your hip, knee and ankle joints. In running, some muscles are overused and some are not used enough, which is why strength training is an important part of every running program. By “strength training” I don’t mean that you need to lift as heavy as you can or do curls for the girls all the time. What I mean is functional movement that increases core stability, glute strength, back strength, and balance.

Contrary to popular belief, strength training will not make you too bulky to run fast. In fact, it will make you lean, toned and serve as a defence against injuries. In order to get “bulky” from strength training, you’d have to do something completely different from what I have the runners doing. As far as I know, no one accidentally developed a body-building physique.


Above: Core exercise using the bosu ball.

6. Listen to your body.

If something hurts in a bad way, take 3 days off. Then, try an easy jog to see if you still feel the bad pain. If you don’t feel any bad pain, then you may resume your training program. If the pain is still there, take another 3 days off. If you don’t feel it after that, you may continue training. If it still hurts after 6 days off, then you should see a physiotherapist.

7. Run on an even surface.

If you are consistently running on a slanted road or sidewalk the same way, then you will develop leg length discrepancy because one foot will hit lower on the slope than the other. This can cause hip and knee injuries because your pelvis is no longer stable combined with the impact of running. If one hip is higher than the other, your likelihood of injury increases.

You should also avoid constantly going the same way on the track when doing intervals. Continuously going around the curve of the track causes a similar effect.

8. Don’t forget to stretch.

There is a correlation between tight calves and Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis. Additionally, there is a link between hamstring and hip flexor tightness and hip and knee injuries.

If you sit at a desk all day, it’s very important that you pay attention to hip flexor tightness. Because of where the hip flexors attach (the vertebrae of the lower back), tight hip flexors can correlate with lower back pain.

Also, you should take care of your IT band to make sure it’s not too tight, or else you will experience pain on the outer side of the knee.

9. Cross train.

There are several ways to cross train to maintain your fitness, including: swimming, stationary bike, outdoor cycling, Nordic Track, elliptical trainer, and the rowing machine.

10. Get proper shoes.

If there is one thing I know, it’s the importance of proper running shoes. Although shoes can’t cure injuries, proper shoes can help prevent them. Every foot is different so it’s very important to get fitted for shoes by an expert. If a shoe salesperson tells you that “Shoe X” is perfect for you, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They have to be able to tell you why they believe that it’s the best shoe for you.

If you’re a pronator that wears shoes designed for someone who is a supinator, can you see where the problem is? It’s amplifying the problem you already have making you even more susceptible to injuries.

11. Foam rolling and massages.

They both help decrease muscle tightness. When muscles have their full range of motion, they are much happier and healthier. Don’t forget to foam roll your IT band (it really hurts the first time you try it).

I hope that you found this information helpful. Please share with all your running friends so we can help each other prevent running injuries.


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