Runner Interview – Yana Hempler

Yana Track Running (Photo by Ian Simpson)

Yana Track Running (Photo by Ian Simpson)

When you love and trust the process, progress will be inevitable.

I’ve run several races with Yana, but we’ve never formally met. Still, the Vancouver Island running community is small enough and if you run enough races, you soon get to know who’s who.  After seeing her in a few races, I not only became familiar with Yana’s running prowess on the road, but being a running nerd, gravitating to running blogs, websites, magazines, etc., and I eventually found Yana’s website.  Once I did, I read through it enthusiastically and submitted my email address so I could subscribe to future posts and receive her document Strength Training for Runners (still available… go get it!). Yana is generous with her knowledge and delights in sharing, motivating and inspiring with her blog and numerous magazine articles.

Yana is not only a fabulous runner, winning or most often placing in the top 5 of just about any race she enters (not always the case, which is nice to know, for those who aspire to be there), but she is also fitness model and has competed in the body builder arena as well. Only in her mid 20’s, she has accomplished so much, including becoming a certified personal trainer and a running coach; completing a bachelor of commerce degree with complimentary courses in health, wellness, and nutrition; running the Boston Marathon (after qualifying multiple times in both Vancouver and in Victoria); writing a book and often running to raise money for various charities.

Immigrating from Russia when she was 11, it was a tough journey, with language, culture, and fitness barriers, yet she has managed to excel in all these areas.  Did I mention that Yana was inspirational?  Oh, yeah, she is that!  Just read the testimonials from her many clients.  And you can see her confidence in the Shaw TV interview before she headed to Boston earlier this year.  Plus there was Yana’s generosity again during that interview providing lots of running and fitness tips for both the audience and to interviewer, James Green.  To find out more about Yana keep reading.

What is your running history?
Up until about the age of 11, I hated running. I would always end up getting very tired very quickly, not to mention getting side stitches every time I tried to run in gym class. I was pretty much the slowest kid in my gym class in Russia. When I came to Canada in grade 5, it was Track & Field day and I dreaded the fact that I had to participate. However, after trying it, I realized that I was actually not as bad as I thought.

Then, I didn’t run at all until Grade 7. The only reason I started running in Grade 7 was because I got cut from the volleyball and basketball team, so I figured that if I want to get “points” for extra-curricular activities, then I should join the running team. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good in grades 7 and 8, often finishing towards the back of the pack, but I began to enjoy it. For some unknown reason, I developed a passion for running in Grade 9 and made it to Zone Championships. Then, got really good in grades 10 and 11, winning the Zone Championship in the 1500m and 3000m in Northern Alberta, where I used to live. That’s when I got to represent my school at provincials and enjoyed the experience.

I got injured in Grade 12 (2008) and had to take a few years off running, which was a very sad experience for me. I felt like something was missing from my life even though I knew that one day I would be re-united with my love for running. I spent nearly 3 years taking personal training courses in order to learn what I needed to do in order to rehab myself so that I could run again. I started running again probably in 2011, but nothing too fast, as I ran 10k in 1:30. Then, in 2012, I ran the TC10k in 43:35 and that sparked my interest to run more seriously again, knowing that I successfully rehabilitated myself. I started to run again because I wanted to prove to myself that I’m able to bounce back, improve and come back stronger and faster than before my injury. The injury taught me a lot and most importantly, it made me better at my job, giving me a purpose in life.

I run because I genuinely love it.

Why do you run?
I run because I genuinely love it. It allows me to clear my head, come up with creative business ideas, stay fit and compete in a sport that I’m passionate about.
My biggest piece of advice to aspiring runners is to do it only to enjoy it, first and foremost. Not every race will be a personal best and you can’t keep on dwelling on it. Take your time to develop a solid aerobic bace, do your stretches and strength training exercises alongside your running, learn proper form and do your best. When you love and trust the process, progress will be inevitable.

What was your last best/favorite race?
My best race was the Comox Half Marathon in 2015. I felt great during the entire race and I genuinely had fun. Not once did I worry about my time and it just so happened that it was my best time (1:28:15) and I came in 3rd out of all the women. I would say that my favorite distance is the Half Marathon. It’s just perfect.
For a completely different reason, I also enjoyed the Boston Marathon in 2015. It gave me a big sense of accomplishment when I finished it. It’s one of those races that I’ve been wanting to do since I first saw it on TV when I was 15. It was a race that had to be experienced because it’s a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime.

My ultimate goal for next year is to get personal bests in the 10k and half marathon.

What is your next race?
My next big race is the Puerto Rico Half Marathon in March 2016. My plan is to enjoy the race and to shoot for a personal best. However, the number one thing would be to have fun. I hope to finish under 1:28, but we will see how I feel on race day and how I will respond to the heat. My ultimate goal for next year is to get personal bests in the 10k and half marathon.

I believe in a balanced, integrated running program.

What type of training do you do?
My training program includes a lot of variety. In addition to running between 60-85km a week, I do weight training, hill repeats, core stability training, and speed work. My cross training is usually done in the weightroom or on the elliptical. The majority of my runs are easy runs because I found that if I make my easy days as easy as possible and my hard days as hard as possible then I will be able to recover properly between the workouts, thus minimizing the risk of injury. I believe in a balanced, integrated running program.

Before a race, I definitely love my carbs.

What kind of food philosophy do you follow?
Moderation is the key. I don’t obsess over food or the contents and I occasionally allow myself to enjoy junk food or a drink. I encourage everyone to not view food as an enemy, but rather as something to be enjoyed. Before a race, I definitely love my carbs.

Do you have a running hero/ role model?
My running role model is Lanni Marchant. She is very dedicated and she made Canada proud. I’m the only runner in my family though.

…whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I try to plan the trip around a race in some wonderful place.

How do you relax, when you are not running?
When I’m not running, I’m usually reading about it or writing about it on my blog  I also enjoy visiting the Float House, hanging out with friends, traveling to races abroad and going to the gym. I don’t go on holidays for the sake of going on holidays. In general, whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I try to plan the trip around a race in some wonderful place.

Have you had any running setbacks?
Yes, back in 2008, I was injured. I had plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, patellofemoral syndrome, hip pain and low back pain more or less all at once. Not only did it make running impossible, but it made the rest of working out difficult as well. I took 2 years off exercise and decided to take personal training courses so that I could learn what was wrong with me and how to fix it. I was in university at the time, so I didn’t have any money to see a physiotherapist or any other professional that would have been able to help me with my injuries. However, figuring it out myself allowed me to not only come back stronger and faster than before but also help other people avoid going through what I went through. As a result of my past experience and education, I’m able to prevent this from happening again because I learned how to train properly without overdoing it. Not only that, but I’ve also learned how to choose proper running shoes, proper running form, what my injury threshold is, how to create muscle balance around the joints and when to back off. All of the aforementioned decrease my likelihood of re-injuring myself.

What is your career/job?
I’m a self-employed personal trainer and running coach. I feel like I must make training a priority in order to inspire my clients. Often times, I will run with my clients to help encourage them. I truly feel blessed to have created myself a job that allows me to live out my passion.


At the next race that we are both run, I will be sure to seek out Yana for a face-to-face meet-up and to share running stories. Despite our age difference, we apparently have a lot in common as we both like to inspire and motivate people to get up and move.  So get your gear on…

Yana runs her business out of Studio 4 Athletics in Victoria, but you can contact and follow her on many of her social media sites:







I am a runner.

Posted in Cross training, Marathon, Runner Interview, Running

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