Category Archives: half marathon

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: Dominique Spragg WINS the Battle Against Plantar Fasciitis

My coaching client Dominique Spragg wins his long-term battle against Plantar Fasciitis (PF) and finishes his first ever half marathon completely pain-free.


Above: Dominique, me and Jerry post race.

As someone who suffered from it for two years before I came back to being stronger and faster than before, I can tell you one thing: Plantar Fasciitis really sucks!

However, it was during those two years that I learned a lot about it (and myself…). This enabled me to transform a personal disadvantage into an opportunity to use what I learned in order to help people.

When we started training and Dominique told me about suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, I made it my mission to help him overcome it. I wanted to see him win the battle against this terrible injury that plagues many runners worldwide.

The heel and foot pain that PF sufferers experience is unbearable and super annoying. It removes all the joy from running. If not taken care of, it can potentially lead to other injuries.

What I love the most about working with Dominique is that he is always willing to try new stretches, exercises and training techniques.

Dominique is not afraid to ask questions and he always lets me know how the training is going. This not only makes my job enjoyable but also enables me to deliver exactly what the client is looking for.

When Dominique originally contacted me, he was looking for a “running coach”. He hired me so that he could improve his 10k time, do triathlons and complete longer races. However, the same way that a brick wall stands in the way of a race car, Plantar Fasciitis stood in his way.

I initially told him to stop running for a bit (roughly 6 weeks) so we can work on other things like strength, flexibility and core stability. In that time, he still did biking and swimming in addition to our sessions, which helped him keep up his cardio workouts but took the pressure off his foot while we figured it out.

I knew that running through it would have been a bad idea because instead of 6 weeks, it could have taken him years to get over it if we didn’t nip it in the bud. As with any injury, being told to “take time off” may sound like the worst thing ever. However, it had to be done.

Tight calves often contribute to Plantar Fasciitis, so we worked on stretching them. We also  stretched his hamstrings and hip flexors.

Then, we worked on his running form, glute strength, balance and core.

Designing core strengthening exercises is a lot of fun. We worked on everything from obliques, to abdominals to transverse abdominis.

When it comes to glute strength, we primarily worked on the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius prevents the knee from migrating inward. Having a strong gluteus medius helps stabilize the knee joint to prevent other potential running injuries.

We also worked on improving muscle balance around the hips and ankles through a combination of strengthening and balancing exercises.

When I gave Dominique permission to start running again, he had to keep it slow and short. I also instructed him to stop immediately if anything hurts, especially the foot.

As he was building up his running, he told me that there was no more foot pain, which made me extremely happy. Still, I kept holding him back from doing too much too soon, despite the excitement (he is a keener and a doer).

Dominique improved his range of motion and continued to build up mileage and strength. He was becoming more and more confident with every run for the next several months.

However, the most important thing was that Dominique was genuinely having fun and enjoying the process.

In the beginning, it may have been daunting, overwhelming and slightly discouraging (especially when you get a running coach and that coach tells you not to run). The one thing I knew for sure was that if he sticks with it (which he did), then he would do great (which he also did).

It wasn’t long before Dominique was doing 15k runs, then 16k and he continued to add 1 or 2km per week every week to his long run. His weekly mileage continued to progressively increase. Dominique continued his strength workouts with me, which were consistently becoming more and more challenging.

When the big day came, Dominique was happy, healthy and confident that he will conquer the distance. He completed his first half marathon (21.1km) on October 11,2015 in 2:01:13, which equates to a faster pace than his previous 10k.

Dominique never made excuses. Despite having a busy work and travel schedule, he never missed a workout.

This is what Dominique had to say about working with me so far:

“When I first met Yana, I had undertaken to explore triathlons and had spent a year teaching myself to swim.  In the process of re-establishing a running routine over 18 months, I had developed a solid case of Plantar Fasciitis which had become painfully debilitating. 

Rather that just saying,’ ‘tough it out’, Yana transformed the way I looked at running and for that matter all exercise.  Her consistent and progressive method of helping her clients build functional strength, flexibility and capability safely and in a thoughtful way, turned our sessions into the most enjoyable and challenging events of my week. 

Yana has the gift of gauging where you are at on any given day and taking you just beyond your expectations, “burning matches” as we started to say.  Over time that leads to some pretty impressive results.   

A short 6 months later, I ran a 1/2 Marathon, pain free at a pace faster than my previous 10 K pace and had completed 3 triathlons and several more competitive fun runs by the end of the year. 

Her encouragement and enthusiasm has taught me how to play again.  For this, I am eternally grateful.   I will always cherish what I have learned from her as it has spilled over into many other aspects of my life. 

Enter the Yana Zone, it lies just beyond your expectations.  You won’t regret it.

From the bottom of my heart,  THANK YOU YANA!!  I sincerely look forward to your continued inspiration to motivate my perspiration in 2016.”

I’m extremely proud of how far he has come (no pun intended). I want to take this opportunity to thank him for allowing me to be a part of his journey and I look forward to watching him achieve many other goals. I’m proud to not only call him my client, but also a great friend.

His amazing achievement and dedication also puts him in the semi-finals of my Get Fit & Win $1000 Challenge.

If you are serious about achieving your running goals, then contact me. I can help you too, just like Dominique and many people before him.

SUCCESS STORY: Kent Ainscough’s SECRET to Chopping Nearly Half Hour Off His Marathon Time

Without a doubt, my coaching client Kent Ainscough had a strong showing at the 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon.

In fact, if you compare his 2014 to his 2015 finish time on Raceday Timing, you will notice that in 2015, he was 28:09 min faster than last year. This equates to approximately a 40 sec per km faster pace in 2015 than he was in 2014.


Above: Kent proudly displays his 2015 marathon finisher medal. Big thumbs up!!

So, what was his secret to chopping nearly a half hour off his marathon time? How was he able to finish strong and show a 40 sec improvement in pace on EVERY SINGLE kilometer over 42.2km?

The answer is simple: It’s what he did between October 12, 2014 and October 11, 2015.

Kent first ran the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half marathon (21.1km) in 2013. Shortly thereafter, he started training with me (because his girlfriend recommended me) and worked himself up to doing the full marathon in 2014.

In 2014, 16 weeks before the race, I created a “first timer” marathon program for him where my only goal was to help him get across the finish line (and hopefully under 4 hours).

After he finished his first marathon in 3:59:xx, I recognized that he needed a more structured, progressive running program in order to get a faster time in 2015.


Above: Kent’s Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (42.2km) time in 2014, prior to starting my monthly online running program. He was 616th overall out of all the finishers (1570 finishers total). This put him in the top 39% of the entire field, which is still very good for his first attempt at the distance.

That was when he asked me about my monthly running programs. The advantage to my monthly running programs is that they have a very high degree of customization.

Kent doesn’t have all the weekends off work so the Sunday long run is not always possible for him.

In addition, his work schedule changes every month and I took that into account when designing his monthly running program. I also took his previous running experience into consideration.

As a coach, I believe it’s very important to be fully aware of every potential challenge that a client may face (scheduling, other workouts, vacations, etc.) as well as what their capabilities are. I never gave him more than he could handle and I always made sure to check in with him on how the program is going.

My programs are always adjustable and I believe that his good communication with me and diligence has been the key to his success. Not only that, but he followed my program closely and was always open and honest with me. Kent never complained and he never lost sight of his running goals.

Without a doubt, I knew that Kent was going to run a personal best in the marathon this year. I just could not predict how much faster he would be.

Therefore, I was extremely happy to see him cross the finish line in 3:31:22. Kent looked very strong at the finish and he also walked up and down the stairs as if he never ran a marathon at all (meaning he recovered very quickly). I was very impressed with his recovery time this year.


Above: Kent looking strong in the big race!

His 28:09 min improvement over 42.2km means that he ran every single km on average 40 seconds faster than last year. That’s so amazing!


Above: Kent’s time in the 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon after following my monthly online running program. As you can see, he was significantly faster. Kent finished 176th overall (out of 1200 finishers total), which put him in the top 15% of all the finishers. Without any doubt, that’s quite an amazing improvement.

Most importantly, Kent was able to run faster while continuing a normal life, including the occasional treat and a vacation. He worked hard and at the same time was able to enjoy his life.

This is what Kent had to say about his journey so far:

“I had procrastinated about entering the Goodlife Half Marathon for years. On a whim and with no running program or practice to speak of, I entered it on the Tuesday before the run. I got a 1:40 on my first half and I was sore and walked funny for about a week after that. My girlfriend had Yana for a training program and had nothing but great things to say about her. I really wanted someone to help me with my running goals and to generally kick my butt during workouts. That is exactly what I got: a running program to fit my schedule, never ending encouragement, new routines, and the stairs….oh God ,all the flights of stairs and the #abparties. I am now fitter, happier, and healthier (and close to qualifying for the Boston Marathon) thanks to Yana.”

Kent’s tremendous improvement also put him into the semi-finals for my Get Fit & Win $1000 challenge. 🙂 I can’t wait to see how he does at the next event!!!

If you also want to run a new personal best, you can find more information about my coaching programs HERE.


Above: Glad to hear Kent had fun. It’s no small feat to accomplish a marathon.

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Success Story: MEC Victoria Race 5 2015 Yields Great Results

The MEC Victoria Race 5 took place on November 1, 2015 on Hamsterly Beach, on the north-end of Elk Lake. I didn’t run the race but I was there.

At this point, you are probably wondering why am I writing a race report for a race that I didn’t run…

The truth is, it’s not all about me.

I owe my congratulations to my clients and MEC run clinic participants who did a fantastic job and had a strong showing at the race.

It was an honour, a privilege and a real pleasure to watch them come across the finish line in less than ideal weather conditions.

It may have been cold and wet, but that didn’t stop the run clinic participants from achieving personal bests.

A bit of background: In August 2015, my friend Andrew McCartney (who is a super fast runner and a fantastic triathlete) and I started coaching a new group of MEC half marathon clinic participants in preparation for MEC Race 5.


Above: Andrew McCartney and I prior to the start of MEC race 5.

The first time that Andrew and I worked together on a run clinic was in the first half of 2015. He is a fantastic team player and we coached so well together that we were back to doing it again. 🙂

We were thrilled that some of the participants from our first clinic signed up again and brought recruits. 😀

Andrew and I coach through a combination of personal experience, education, and entertainment.

We strive to create a supportive, learning filled environment where fun is the key to success.

What’s exciting is that we have succeeded.

Many clinic participants became friends outside of the clinics and not only that, but they also achieved their goals. Above all else, they genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere.

It’s not about “he’s faster than her” and “she’s better than him”. It’s about doing it together with the success of the entire group in mind.


Above: Race start. I can see how focused Peter and Jerry are right out front! And, of course, how can we miss Andrew!?

Here are some notable finishes from my clients and/or run clinic participants who Andrew and I coached:

*Jerry Hughes (individual coaching client, half marathon) 1:29:39-I told him to take it easy and he did. Now, he can easily break 1:30 in a half, just like that.

*Peter H. (MEC Run clinic participant, half marathon) 1:32:55-Personal Best

*Rafael M. (MEC Run clinic participant, half marathon) 1:43:52-Personal Best

*Alixe R. (MEC Run clinic participant, half marathon) 1:46:38-Personal Best Equivalent (PB was 1 sec faster on a road course in ideal conditions, this race was done on a trail course in rainy conditions)

*Patrick H. (MEC Run Clinic participant, half marathon) 1:48:48-Personal Best

*Ryan L. (MEC Run Clinic participant, half marathon) 1:51:28- Personal Best (approximately 3 weeks after running the Victoria Marathon…great recovery!)

*Carolynn C. (MEC Run Clinic Participant, Half marathon) 2:04:07-First half marathon successfully completed.


Above: Carolynn was all smiles after her big accomplishment. So proud of her!

*Dominique S. (individual coaching client, 10k) 54:54-Personal Best in less than ideal weather conditions, previous PB was on the road at TC10k when the weather was great. I actually told him to take this one easy too, but he still ran a personal best and said he had fun and didn’t push it too hard.

By the way…my first half marathon ever was 2:12:xx, and ALL my run clinic participants beat that with time to spare. At the start of the clinic, I was 100% sure that they all would, even those who were running their first one. 🙂


Above: Dominique and Jerry post-race. Clearly, they still had enough energy to show their sense of humour. 😉

Over 80% of the MEC clinic participants (coached by Andrew and I) who started the race, finished with a new personal best. Some MEC clinic participants did not start the race because they had conflicting work schedules that prevented them from making it to the start line.

I cannot attach a numerical value to the friendships that emerged as a result of the run clinics.

I truly love sharing the joy of running with everyone. MEC has given me the opportunity to do so through leading the run clinics and for that I’m grateful.


Above: Party time never stops. 🙂

By the way, I’m coaching a new MEC Run clinic targeting the TC10k. Space is limited, so sign up early. You get a FREE MEC race entry with your clinic registration and now it’s your turn to get a PB.


Race Recap: Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon 2015

Every year, this is the biggest running event in the fall in Victoria. I always look forward to doing it. The crowds are fantastic and the atmosphere surrounding the event is great.

For the past 3 years, I did the marathon (42.2km), but this year I opted to run the half marathon (21.1km).

I felt that after finishing the Boston Marathon, I had to take a break from the 42.2km distance in order to focus on running shorter races faster. Doing one marathon after another becomes too much so I had to switch things up.


I decided that until I run a half in under 1:25 (or a 10k under 40 minutes), I will not do another marathon. The reason being is that 1:25 seems to be the elite or sub-elite standard at most races and my PB is a couple of minutes too slow (1:28:15 at Comox Half Marathon 2015).

Since I was dealing with a few challenges (moving and an incident with a cyclist on the trails) leading up to this year’s race, I knew that I wasn’t in shape to get a personal best, but deep down I believed that I would get relatively close. After the incident with the cyclist, I took a full week off running, which I think was a good decision.

What I was most looking forward to was seeing how some of my coaching clients will do in this race. Two of them were doing the marathon and one was doing his first half. By the way…they all more than exceeded my expectations of them (but that’s for another post as I feel each of them deserves a separate one highlighting their amazing individual achievements).


After my week off from running, I decided that I was going to have fun at the race and that I won’t look at my Garmin more than 4 times in total. In the past, I would find myself staring at my wrist for the majority of the race and that’s not good.

In fact, some of my best races have been the ones where I didn’t stare at my wrist so much.

At the start, I saw many of my running friends. We all wished each other luck in the race and off we went.


The first 5k felt very easy. Then, the next thing I knew, I was already passing the 10k mark, in a shocking time of 41:06!!! What???

For those of you who don’t know, my 10k PB is 40:56, which, if my math is correct, is only 10 seconds faster than I was at the 10k mark of the half marathon. This means that I almost ran a 10k PB while racing a half marathon.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the turnaround point. Coming back was a lot of fun. I saw many familiar faces and at that point I was so happy that I wasn’t staring at my Garmin.

Instead, there I was, enjoying the moment rather than worrying that I only have X amount of minutes before I have no hope of running X:XX.

As I was starting the last km of the race, all I thought about was how much I enjoyed it. Truthfully, I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end.

To my surprise, as I approached the finish line, I saw that my time was 1:30:xx. It was my second fastest half marathon time ever. Most importantly, I felt no stress and no pressure to “perform”. Sure, it wasn’t 1:25 but at the same time, I was in the Top 100 overall finishers and over 3000 people finished behind me.


Shockingly, I ended up being 3rd in my age group (out of 263) and 24th female overall (out of 2008).

The good thing about finishing was that I was reunited with my friends and clients. Let’s also not forget the post-race food….delicious!! 🙂

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