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Vanessa Chan 

1) Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your running journey - how and when did you start running?

I grew up in Sai Kung and my family was always very active on the trails but I didn’t start running more seriously until after university. In my early 20s, I was a management consultant and running marathons was the thing.  Around 2003, I did my first 5K race for the Breast Cancer Foundation in Chicago and I loved the positive and energetic vibe. Since then running has brought me to many countries and formed many friendships, especially with the community we have built at Lantau Base Camp. 

2) How and why did you decide to become a certified yoga instructor?

I started Yoga alongside running in a basic studio with a squeaky wooden floor near my apartment in Chicago. I was only curious about the physical aspect at first but as I progressed I noticed how my mental state changed when I practised regularly. Yoga has helped me overcome many challenges, personally and professionally. I have worked in a fast paced male dominated industries for most of my career and Yoga has been my anchor. Now when I am on business trips I either look up yoga studios to visit or practice in my hotel rooms with my travel mats. I understand the struggle of modern day lives, and I hope to help more people to find their balance and inner peace. Yoga teacher certification gives me the skill to be a more impactful Yoga ambassador. Now I have the credentials to teach yoga classes in the office, for example, which I sometimes do.

3) What are the benefits of yoga for runners?

Yoga is a holistic health program with a total of 8 pillars so anyone who wishes to be healthier and stronger can benefit from it. You can learn more here: https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/the-eight-limbs

Specifically for running, I would like to highlight the following:

Physical

  • Asanas, postures practiced in yoga, can improve strength, flexibility and balance.  Yoga poses require multiple muscle groups working together and therefore wake up the muscles we have neglected during running which is a repetitive movement.  With increased strength and flexibility, you can increase range of motion which leads to more efficient and powerful running. 

  • Balance is often overlooked but if you think about it, running is about putting one foot in front of the other and the little wobble you do in each step adds up after a while.  Balance poses not only improve your balance, but also help you diagnose where your imbalances may come from so you can correct proactively.  

Breathing

  • Breathing is referred to as Pranayama. In Pranayama, we learn to control our breath and use different techniques to deepen, lengthen and extend the breath.  

  • Pranayama is either practised alone or integrated into an Asana practice.  Your breathing can improve your heart rate and how you feel when you are physically challenged, so you can maintain your pace for longer.  

 

Mental strength and awareness

  • Yoga is a mind-body practice looking at our body as a whole.  Quieting your mind means you bring more focus and listen to your body better.  Are you slowing down because of fear or your body has really reached its limit? 

  • For trail running in particular, you have to be confident about what is in front of you in order to give your best, and that is a challenging mind game especially for longer distances.    

4) What are you hoping for women to take away from your session?

One size doesn’t fit all.  Nobody knows your body better than you.  Take what you learn from the discussions and build a program that makes you feel good, healthy and empowered.  Running is a great piece for the center stage but make sure you weave all the elements around it to come up with a well balanced, sustainable fitness program that makes you smile! And remember, the program needs to be fluid and change over time as you and your body may change.  

5) Apart from your own presentation which other sessions are you most excited about?

All sessions are great topics for women and the quality of the speakers is unparalleled.  I am excited that we are acknowledging the fact that our bodies change at different points in your life and that the discussion will go beyond what runners need to do other than running itself.  

6) If you could give one piece of advice to women who enjoy running what would it be?

Listening to your body and intuition is important for women runners because a lot of the advice and theories out there are geared towards men. Our culture encourages us to tough it out but in fact surrender is equally important. Spaces between your thoughts are essential for your mental health and similarly downtime is a key driver for your athletic performance. The hormonal network in female bodies is especially complex and delicate. Women are sensitive to cortisol, a stress hormone; if you run with pain or over-train, the cortisol can turn on a series of events that will impact your health. That is also why using Yoga and meditation to balance out your training is important. I also encourage all women to explore more about syncing your daily life according to your menstrual cycle. 

Asia Trail Girls