Category Archives: running

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.

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.


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.


Top 10 Running Articles of The Month: October 2015

Every month I highlight the Top 10 Running Articles that I come across. They focus on topics like injury prevention, race tactics, training tips as well as inspiring stories.

1.Why Can’t I Run Faster?  by Runner’s World. This article discusses all the different sensations we experience while running that keep up from maintaining a fast pace. It also talks about the importance of understanding what goes on in our brains when we run. Why do we feel like stopping? Why do our legs feel so heavy? I’m quite impressed by answers to these and other questions.

2.  Exercise Tips: Circuit Training by Canadian Running Magazine. Personally, I love circuit training. This article covers a few awesome moves that you can use when you build your own exercise circuit. It’s a challenging, yet effective workout that alleviates boredom. It can be done any time anywhere.

3.  The Science of Running by Canadian Running Magazine. This article is very interesting as it covers topics such as whether or not running is bad for your knees, the difference between road and treadmill running, interval training and the benefits of strength training for runners.

4. Over the Hills by Canadian Running Magazine. Consistent and progressive hill training will help you become a better and stronger runner. You don’t have to kill yourself on the hills in order to reap the benefits.

5. The Ups and Downs by Canadian Running Magazine. This article talks about proper techniques for running up and down hills.

6. Running on the Road by Canadian Running Magazine. Just because you have a busy travel schedule, doesn’t mean that you should skip your run. You can stay on track even if your work requires you to travel a lot.

7. Over the Hills: 5 Hill Workouts to Make You Stronger and Faster by Canadian Running Magazine. Ideally, it’s good to have a variety of hill workouts in your training program. Examples include: short/power hills, medium/pace hills, long/endurance hills, acceleration hills and downhill running. Every type of hill workout will help you improve as a runner and this article does a great job at explaining each of them. It’s almost like an “add-on” to #4.

8. Marathon Training and Weight Loss by Canadian Running Magazine. Many people choose to take up a marathon training program in order to lose weight. However, research has shown that people who choose to train for a  marathon in order to lose weight are less likely to complete their marathon program. Part of the reason is that there are other factors that contribute to weight loss and a marathon program alone is not always enough. Therefore, it’s very important to train for a marathon for the sake of training for a marathon rather than looking at it as a way to simply lose weight.

9. Training Tips: Hot-Weather Hydration Planning by Canadian Running Magazine. Proper hydration is very important. Dehydration negatively impacts your performance. Over-hydration is dangerous. The key is finding the right amount of hydration to maintain your electrolyte balance.

10. First Steps: No Excuses by Canadian Running Magazine. This article is inspirational in the sense that it’s real. It’s written by a real person who knows how to relate to others. A lot of times, we come up with reasons not to run, especially when it’s cold, rainy, snowy, icy out and when we are tired. We need to find motivation from within.

Top 10 Running Articles of the Month: September 2015

If you are looking for some inspiration and running tips, check out this list of articles I read and liked during the month of September. I LOVE to promote other running writers 🙂

Seven Ways to Improve Speed Without Increasing Mileage by Matt Fitzgerald of Competitor Running. We don’t always have the luxury of increasing our mileage. Work, responsibilities and family life often “get in the way” of our training. Matt Fitzgerald offers ways to improve your running speed through core training, sprint training, plyometric workouts, and hills.

4 Elite Coaches on the Importance of Base Building by Elite coaches agree that the base building phase is very important in any given training cycle. It prepares the athlete for the hard work ahead and decreases the likelihood of injuries from the speed work, hills and sprints that will be done in later stages of the training cycle.

The Dangers of Overstriding and How to Stop It by Dr. Eric Schweitzer. Overstriding increases stress on your body, which increases the likelihood of injuries. It happens when you land too far in front of your centre of gravity. Overstriding also causes you to heel strike.

10 Exercises to Treat IT Band Syndrome by Jason Fitzgerald. IT Band Syndrome is one of the most common (if not the most common) running injury that affects runners of all levels. Jason shares 10 very useful exercises that will help you conquer IT Band Syndrome so you can continue doing the activity you love.

Six Plyometric Exercises for Runners by Mackenzie Lobby. In addition to adding excitement and diversity to your training routine, plyometric exercises help you become a better runner.

Weak in the Knees? Strengthen Your Hips by Matt Fitzgerald. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a very common knee injury affecting runners. In the past, it was believed that knee injuries originated at the knee. However, recent research indicates that we need to look higher and see the big picture. There is a direct correlation between hip abductor (such as the gluteus medius) weakness and knee issues. Therefore, when you strengthen your hips, you decrease the likelihood of knee problems.

Five Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners by Linzay Logan. Since running is an activity that involves the whole body, it makes sense to do exercises that strengthen the whole body, not just the legs. Examples include: pushups, planks, lateral step-ups, lateral lunges, and Bulgarian split squats.

Strength Training Circuit for Distance Runners by Mario Fraioli. This article discusses eight exercises that will help you gain strength and balance out your body (so it doesn’t look like all you’re doing is training your legs). It will also decrease the likelihood of an overuse injury. With these exercises, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Examples include: pullups, single leg deadlifts, pushups, planks, hamstring curls, burpess, squats, and dips.

Strength Building with the Jump Rope Redux by Duncan Larkin. There are many benefits to jump rope exercises. Jumping rope helps strengthen your glutes, calves and quads. Additionally, it helps strengthen your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.

What Dehydration Does to Your Running Performance by Karl Gruber. Proper hydration is very important for runners and can be the difference between bonking and running a personal best. This article also discusses that “over-hydration”, known as hyponatremia, is also a bad thing. “Finding the right balance for you between dehydration and over-hydration is something you will learn as you continue to consistently run”.

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