Monthly Archives: November 2014

At Last, I’m Going to Boston to Run the Marathon

Just a little over 3 years ago, when I had to completely restart my training, I had no idea that I would qualify for the Boston Marathon on my first attempt at the distance, let alone go on to do it 4 more times.

About 4 years ago, I couldn’t even run one block. Even though I did extremely well in track and field and cross country running in high school, my foot injury took away my opportunity to continue the upward trajectory as a university runner. As a result of my injury, I was unable to try out for the university track/cross country running team.

I took about 2 years off running (and other forms of exercise) because ultimately, everything hurt whenever I tried to. Being a student at the time, I couldn’t afford physio or chiropractic services. Therefore, my recovery took much longer. The foot injury and the time off created muscle imbalances and misalignments that made exercise rather difficult. My aerobic fitness was practically non-existent at the time. “Use it or lose it”.

Clearly, I had to completely rethink how I was training if I ever wanted to get back into it again. At that point, I’ve come to the realization that I need to develop a safe beginner running program and be patient with myself.

So, I studied… I researched and took personal training courses that would help me get back to what I loved doing the most.

For the first little while, in any given week, I did 10% “running” (which was more like a slow jog) and 90% cross training and strength training. The purpose of cross training using an elliptical trainer was to redevelop my aerobic fitness with minimal impact.

AMT Precor

Above: I spent A LOT of time on one of these. Probably more than some people would think is required.

Meanwhile, my strength training routine consisted of exercises that would help improve muscle balance around the joints and core stability in order to help minimize the risk of future injuries.

It took me several months before I was able to run a 10k again without feeling pain in my foot. Then, when I did it, it took me 1 hour and 30 minutes. That pace was definitely not Boston Marathon material.

However, deep down, I had this huge desire to run a marathon. More specifically, the Boston Marathon. The marathon was more than 4x the distance I was capable of running but I really, really wanted to do it.

Then, about a year or so after my 1:30 10k, I made a breakthrough and ran the TC10k in 43:xx. During that process, I designed and tested many 10k programs, all of which have contributed to my improvement.

That sub-45 min 10k gave me the confidence to sign up for my first marathon. However, I recommend that you run a half marathon before signing up for a marathon. I skipped the half and went right to the 42.2km.

Knowing that that 10k was the longest distance I’ve ever ran, I knew that at least 4 months of training was required if I were to run 42.2km. I also knew that if I’m not careful, then I would be right back where I started.

My “first-timer marathon” program was very conservative. It was designed with no specific goal other than “get to the finish line uninjured.” At that point, that was my only goal.

Since a lot can happen during your first marathon, I know it’s better not to put additional time goal pressure on yourself. Right from the start, I decided to relax, have fun and take it easy.

When I finished my first marathon back in October 2012, I surprised myself with a 3:28. That was about 7 minutes faster than what was required for me to qualify for the Boston Marathon.


Above: Victoria Marathon 2012, my first time…I even placed top 5 in my age group 🙂 Photo by IMS FotoGrafix

With the newfound confidence, I signed up for another marathon, about 6 months after doing my first one. I became addicted to trying to achieve a better time. Qualifying for Boston on my first try wasn’t enough. I wanted more, so I decided not to go to Boston until I get a better time in order to be in a better spot at the start line.

Sadly, my 2nd marathon didn’t go as planned and I ended up with a 3:31. As I crossed the finish line, I wasn’t sure if I would do another one. However, after recovering, I realized that I should sign up for another one to try to beat my time again.

After changing the training program again, I began to see progress. My 5k, 10k and half marathon times improved significantly.


Above: Victoria Marathon 2013…finish time 3:25:xx

The following was my marathon progress after the 3:31 finish: 3:25, 3:23, and most recently, 3:18. To qualify for Boston, I needed a time under 3:35. Each of my marathon attempts had their own sets of challenges, except the most recent one. That one felt pretty good for the most part. The challenges I’m referring to include: finances, school, being sick during a race, etc.


Above: Finishing the most recent marathon with a New PB of 3:18.

At this point, I’ve decided that there is no better time to go to the Boston Marathon than 2015. I feel very fortunate to be going and I’m hoping all goes well. My goal is to get sub 3:10 because I believe it would be an amazing experience to get a personal best crossing the most famous finish line in the world.


Above: Redeveloped muscle definition. Photo by Armando Tura.

I will keep you updated on my progress. Training is, once again, different.

Why I Stopped Weighing Myself

“The number on the scale is nothing but a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. It does not measure how amazing you are. It won’t tell you how strong, fast and beautiful you are.”

Back when I was in high school, I felt the need to step on my mom’s scale at least 3 times per week. Back then, I was running track, cross country, playing volleyball, badminton and lifting weights. My week consisted of track workouts, long runs, volleyball and badminton practices. In addition, I hit the gym about 3 times a week to do strength training.

However, if at any time, the number on the scale went up, even if it was just 5 lbs, I would start to feel bad about it. I often wondered: “Why am I gaining weight when I’m doing so much exercise?”

Of course, at that time, I didn’t know that weight is not the best way to gauge fitness and I didn’t have the tools to do a body composition test (nor did I know how to). Had I known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have stepped on the scale at all, and if I did-I wouldn’t take that number to heart.

When I got injured after high school and gained weight because I took over 2 years off exercise, I decided to learn as much as I can about fitness and weight loss.

ScaleBeing about 30 lbs heavier than what I was used to felt pretty bad. (In high school, I used to weigh around 105 lbs.) So, there I was, in university, in the worst shape of my life, having to restart my fitness journey. Reading all my personal training books became inspiring and I was thrilled to be able to learn so much.

Consequently, I became my own first client. I knew that if I could overcome my own barriers to fitness, then I could for sure help others do the same.

One of those barriers was the emphasis that I used to put on weight. The only way for me to stop worrying about my weight was to “reframe” my thinking. In other words, I had to change the way I feel about weight.

Here are all the reasons why I stopped weighing myself and how I was able to reach my fitness goals at the time:

1. Took the pressure/stress off myself. You see, when you are constantly weighing yourself and aren’t seeing much of a change in the number on the scale, you start to doubt yourself. Doubt is highly detrimental to progress. Instead of looking at the scale, I went on faith…Faith in the fact that if I stick to my exercise program long enough, results will follow. I had to love and trust the process, knowing that progress is inevitable.

2. Weight is not the best indicator of fitness nor health. My personal training courses have taught me to use different ways to measure progress. Quite frankly, I liked them much better because they made more sense. I was able to look at my body composition (fat % vs. lean muscle mass %), V02 Max, resting heart rate, strength, endurance and speed. All of the aforementioned areas indicated that my fitness level was improving (even though my scale didn’t budge for a while). Therefore, I had even more faith in my fitness program.

3. At 120 lbs (my current weight), I am faster and stronger than I was at 105 lbs (before the weight gain). At 105 lbs, I didn’t have much muscle balance, so I was weaker and more injury-prone. As long as I keep getting faster and stronger, I’m not going to worry about anything else.

4. At close to 140 lbs (when I gained weight due to being off exercise for 2 years), I wasn’t in good shape because I had more fat and less muscle. Therefore, I also wasn’t very strong nor fast. A 1:30 10k was the extent of my accomplishments as a runner after having to restart. With that in mind, I made it my goal to improve my 10k time and forget about my weight.

5. Focusing on developing strength and speed has helped me stop weighing myself. However, my weight ended up taking care of itself without unnecessary stress.


To conclude, I feel that in order to reach your fitness goals, even if they are weight loss related, it’s necessary for you to find other ways to measure your progress. This will help you avoid disappointment and keep you on track. When you strive to be healthy and fit, the weight will take care of itself.

As long as you are healthy, confident in yourself, are functionally fit and are enjoying your journey rather than worrying about some kind of a destination, you can live happily ever after without compulsively stepping on the scale.



Top 10 Weight Loss Secrets

People often ask me: “What’s the secret to losing 20+ lbs and (most importantly) keeping it off?”

Another question that they ask is: “Do I have to run 70+ miles a week and only eat salads to lose weight?”

First, the secret to losing 20 + lbs and keeping it off is no longer a secret and I don’t want it to be. That’s why I want to share these 10 weight loss tips with you.

Second, I have some REALLY great news. No, you don’t have to do endless cardio (if cardio is not your thing) and only eat salads to lose weight. In fact, the answer will surprise you.

These Top 10 Weight Loss Secrets will help you enjoy life while you are in the midst of accomplishing your fitness goals.

After all, if you are not enjoying your life, sooner or later you are going to quit and any progress you make in a short period of time will be nullified.

1. Create a plan. Not having a plan is like traveling to a huge, unfamiliar city without a road map and/or a GPS. You must have a clear idea of where you’re going and how to get there before you start your journey.

2. Be realistic. You will most likely not drop 20 lbs in 1 week in a healthy way without doing anything drastic. Set a safe and realistic goal, such as 1-3 lbs per week (range may vary depending on your starting weight, current activity level, metabolism and genetic factors).

3. Be reasonable with your diet. In fact, don’t diet at all. Don’t cut your daily caloric consumption to less than 1000 calories a day and don’t starve yourself. Eat everything in moderation, rather than completely cutting out food groups. Stay away from fad diets because they don’t work long term. Also, minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar (ie. pop, candy, etc).

4. Exercise. The act of exercise burns calories. It can help you create that caloric deficit you are looking for, without having to starve yourself. It also builds muscle and more muscle=higher metabolic rate. Exercise=MOVE your body in a way that you enjoy. If you don’t like cardio, do something else. If you don’t like lifting weights, then do other stuff. Just move.

5. Identify your obstacles. Ask yourself-what’s keeping you from reaching your goals? Once you know what your obstacles are, you can focus on eliminating and overcoming them. If you can’t think of any, dig deeper or come to the conclusion that you have nothing stopping you.


Above: Shot by Armando Tura

6. Snack carefully. Look for a snack that has nutritional value, rather than just empty calories. For example, opt for raw almonds rather than a bag of Doritos.

7. Track your progress. Keep a workout log and a food log. Even if you are not seeing immediate weight loss, you will notice that you are getting stronger/feeling healthier overall. This should keep you motivated.

8. The liquid calories are pretty sneaky. Try not to drink anything with calories and if you must-then limit your intake. For example, instead of 6 beers, drink 2 and instead of a large pop at the theater, drink a small one.

9. Eliminate negative influences. Negative influences can come in many forms, from the friends who don’t understand the importance of your goals to your own negative self-talk. Spend more time with positive people who understand and support you. Find people with similar goals and encourage each other to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

10. Reward yourself for a job well done. Celebrate even the small victories. For example, if you make it to the gym at least 3 times a week for a full month, then go and buy yourself that new outfit you’ve been wanting. Remember that a great accomplishment is the sum of small victories repeated day in and day out.

What do you think?

What has been your secret to weight loss?

If you found this article helpful, please pass it on. 🙂


Congratulations, Robert Bailey! Another Client Success Story :)

I’m extremely excited to share Robert’s success story with you!

Rob has shown tremendous improvements ever since I first met him back in January 2014.

Ever since we first met, I knew he was a winner.

Rob has always been willing to work hard during my sessions. He told me that he wants to be challenged during his workouts. I promised to do exactly that…

At the start of his first session, he said something along the lines of: “I want to be pushed very hard.” With that in mind, I gave him a fairly advanced, yet safe workout.

Compared to what he is capable of now, his first workout would be considered “super easy”.

After his first session, Rob told me that he almost threw up and that it’s exactly the kind of workout that he is looking for. I’m very good at establishing people’s current limits. (I also knew that Rob is a healthy person, which is very important to take into consideration before deciding how hard to “push” him.)

The second session was equally as challenging. At one point, he told me that he felt like he was going to pass out.

However, he did not give up.

Fast forward to a few sessions later…Rob was asking me for more and more challenging workouts.

At that point, I knew he was ready for some amazing personal bests and I wasn’t afraid to test him.

When Rob first did the 1 mile run challenge, he was excited to get 7:11. About a month and a half later, he broke 6 minutes and ran a personal best of 5:44, which qualified him for the $20 cash bonus (it was a promotion that I was doing to reward my clients for their hard work). That’s approximately a 20% improvement in a relatively short amount of time.

Shortly thereafter, Rob moved on to the wall sit challenge. When I first had him try it, he made it just a little over 2 minutes. A few weeks later, he made it over 6 minutes and earned another $20 cash bonus to add to his collection. Most recently, Rob lasted over 9 minutes in a wall sit. He improved by a REMARKABLE ~450%!!


Above: Rob & I after he won one of the first $20 cash bonuses.

We continued to focus on strength, endurance and speed. Later, I told him about the 3 minute push-up challenge and he gave it a try.

The first time he tried it, he got 68 pushups in 3 minutes, which I thought was pretty decent.

However, I KNEW he was capable of more. Therefore, when he did 122 pushups in 3 minutes about 5 weeks after he was first introduced to that challenge, I wasn’t surprised. He nearly doubled the amount of pushups that he started with.



Above: Rob & I after he got the $20 bonus for doing 122 pushups in 3 min.

To date, Rob also improved his bench press from 165 lbs to 205lbs.

In addition to doubling almost everything else he lifts, he was also the first of my clients to take on the 10 sets of stairs & 20 pushups x 10 challenge (100 sets of stairs and 200 pushups total). He completed it and, in my opinion, made it look pretty easy.

Rob has been making amazing progress over the past several months and he continues to inspire me with his determination, drive and “can do” attitude.

Here’s what he had to say about his journey with me so far:

“Before my first session with Yana, I was a bit skeptical about working with a personal trainer. In the past, I had experience with a few different trainers, however, I always left dissatisfied, knowing that I could have pushed myself harder. Don’t let her small size fool you-Yana is a giant ball of muscly energy. Because my physical condition wasn’t what it is now, after the first session, I almost puked. After the second session, I almost passed out. After the 30th session, I set 3 personal records in one week, including running a sub-6 min mile and 122 pushups in 3 minutes.

Yana has helped me overcome my mental barrier to success, helped me achieve physical feats I never thought were possible, and manages to do it all while making me laugh.

I cannot wait to continue my growth in the future!”

Thank you, Rob, for having me be a part of your story. You are a pleasure to work with and I know that many more personal bests and stellar achievements await you in the future.

10 Truths About Running

It’s very easy to make assumptions and stumble upon incorrect information about running. If you know how to decipher good information from bad information, then the Internet can be a wonderful source of knowledge. However, if you don’t, it can be very easy to stumble upon incorrect information about running.

If I got paid $1 every time someone told me that running is bad for your knees, running only eats away your muscle, or that running causes heart attacks, I would probably have enough money to retire (just kidding about the retire part).


Above: Photo by IMS FotoGrafix.

In order to put an end to misinformation, I decided to share the 10 Truths About Running.

1. Running is not bad for your knees. Although some runners experience knee pain, the mere act of running is not the reason why. The real reason why some runners experience knee pain is most likely due to muscle imbalances around the hip and knee joints. A couple of months ago, I wrote an article for Canadian Running Magazine about ways to fix that.

Another reason why some runners experience knee pain is bad running form. Proper strength training will help improve muscle balance as well as learning proper running form will help prevent knee pain.

2. Running will help you lose weight. Running will help you burn calories and as long as you are not eating more calories per day than you are burning, you will lose weight.

The reason why some people who run don’t end up losing weight is because they either overestimate the amount of calories they burn while running or underestimate the amount of calories they are eating (or possibly both).

3. You will make new friends when you start running. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet runners of all levels, from beginners to elite. Every single runner that I’ve met has been pretty awesome. Runners are generally very open to meeting other people who run, regardless of what level they are.

4. Running will not eat away all your muscle. In fact, it will help you get lean muscle on your legs and core, provided that you fuel yourself properly. If your body starts to burn muscle because you’re running a lot then it could be because you need to consume more calories to fuel your runs.

Additionally, you must balance running with strength training exercises for your upper and lower body for optimal performance and lean muscle building.

5. Getting started is the hardest part. Beginners find it challenging because at first it’s hard to get and stay motivated to run, especially when they can’t run as far or as fast, yet. I PROMISE this will pass.

6. Running gets easier if you stick with it. As you gain experience as a runner, your body will adapt to the activity and you WILL be able to run longer and faster.

7. Running too much, too often, too soon and too fast can contribute to injuries. This is why you need to build up your weekly mileage , intensity and duration over a longer period of time.

Many beginners get too excited at the start, thinking that they can do 12-15km runs right off the bat, or run a marathon less than 3 months after they first started running. That’s simply not the case. Give your body time to adapt and it will thank you with many enjoyable miles of running down the road (no pun intended).

8. Running is good for the heart. Running is a cardiovascular activity and that means that it will help strengthen your entire cardiovascular system, which includes the heart.

9. Running is relatively inexpensive. Although race entry fees, technologically advanced GPS watches and special shoes that cost more than $200 per pair make you believe that running is expensive, it’s really not the case. The truth is, you don’t need all the latest and the “greatest” stuff.

However, I do recommend that you invest in a good pair of shoes (which should be around $150) and your feet will thank you. Running is supposed to be simple and it’s accessible to virtually anyone who wants to do it.

10. Running actually feels good. A lot of people associate running with discomfort, pain and extremely hard work. However, running with proper form,  at the right intensity feels awesome and shouldn’t hurt. It will help you decrease stress, clear your head and energize you.

There are a lot of myths out there. If you found this article informative, please share.

If you’re a runner looking to get stronger, then get your FREE copy of “Strength Training For Runners” HERE.

If you have any questions about running or ideas for upcoming articles that you would like me to post, please email me or message me on my Facebook page.

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