Women Inspiring Women: Catherine Chan

This month, we’ll be hearing from inspiring women in our network and sharing their stories. We’re passionate about supporting women, especially in their health and wellness journeys. Read on to get top tips for living, working, and playing optimally from women trailblazers.

Profile: Catherine Chan

Tell us about yourself.

I’m the CEO of FitIn, a company I founded to help people both find fitness faster and be inspired to try new things to optimize their holistic health. My goal is truly to make an impact on Canadians’ mental health through fitness.

How I spend my time when I’m not working is a lot of walking, since the fitness industry has had to pull out of the gym environment. Until the shutdown, I was working on building my strength. I’ve been enjoying walking through Toronto neighbourhoods – I either meet up with friends to walk, or I listen to audiobooks. My latest is Richard Branson’s “Finding my Virginity” – I’ve been really inspired by it, both because of his business savvy, but also because of his earnest desire to make the world a better place for all. That really speaks to me.

How I spend my energy is also tied to how I can help improve the lives of others. I’ve made my stand around health and wellness, but I’m only getting started. I think a lot about the novel and entrepreneurial ways to bring fitness and wellness to more people – people who have less access to it, people who can’t pay top dollar for it, and people who have other barriers due to being differently-abled, such as the elderly, the disabled, and pre- and post-natal moms. Luckily there are a ton of people out there also doing that work, so there’s a huge community to work with.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you can’t do stuff. You can. You have NO IDEA just how talented you are, and it’s not even the stuff you think you’re good at. Get out there and try a whole bunch of different things! Be fearless.

How do you stay productive and be your best self at work?

I’m a big planner, so I rely on that well-developed skill to keep me productive and moving forward. I make sure I start every day knowing what I plan to get achieved. That’s possible because I also start the week with a master list. That weekly list gets pulled from my quarterly plan.

The unknown variable in this approach, of course, is other people – you need to be able to trust and rely on others in your work sphere. This is where I try to make sure I’m my best self – whether it’s managing others or working alongside others, I try to ensure there is a balanced exchange of support and energy; what I love best is when everyone wins from working together.

What’s your top mental health tip for when the going gets tough?

Those long walks are key, let me tell you! But I also have been learning the power of pranayama breath work to really stay grounded and clear of negative emotions that might prevent me from working at peak performance.

I’m a firm believer in fitness for mental health, because the best therapy I have ever had is a good workout. Being able to sweat out my stress, run out my frustrations, or distract a weighed-down mind with martial arts has been a real blessing for me. This was the inspiration for FitIn, for which I do indeed have audacious goals. The best part of those goals is that being of service to others in this way also helps my mental health. It’s a good feeling.

What are your top health hacks?

I get out for a walk every day, and on weekends, I walk upwards of 15km. I blew my knees out 6 years ago, so I can’t run a half marathon every weekend, anymore, but I do have it as a goal to run another marathon, so I consider myself in training, even though it’s slow going at the moment! I want to make sure I’m being careful and being safe, so that I can actually achieve that goal.

For food, I usually do a little meal prep on weekends so that I have something healthy to eat in a pinch during the busyness of the week. I’m also a huge fan of sandwiches – so I always have lots of salad greens on hand, along with veggies and roasted chicken or the like. My other go-to is a lentil salad full of a dozen different veggies for maximum nutrition.

Sleep is the toughest one for me – I’m a natural night owl, and I work really well at night. I have to make sure I stop early enough every evening so that I can wind down before turning off the light at a reasonable hour. Having said that, being an entrepreneur and a startup founder is constantly pulling me into tasks well past 5pm, so it’s something I really have to work at, mindfully and consistently.

What’s your favorite fun activity?

My favourite fun activity is probably travelling – whether it’s getting on a plane to an exotic location, or taking a road trip somewhere local. I speak a few different languages, because I think it’s the best way to understand a different culture, which is a passion of mine. I love to learn about different people and places, including their food, religion, art, architecture, and history. There’s so much beauty in getting to know and understand all the incredible diversity we have in this world. It’s fascinating.

Having said that, I really miss Kung Fu – that was a joy to learn and to practice…I had the chance to train with some really amazing women and men that I consider friends to this day. It’s such an incredible community – or even family – environment. We trained hard, but we had fun together. I recommend it to anyone.

Who are your female role models and why?

There are SO many…but I’ll start with my daughter. She’s such an incredible, smart, strong young woman – she’s the teenager I wish I’d been when I was her age. She sets her mind on something and then she goes after it full force. She achieves everything she puts her mind to. She has this incredible ability for someone so young to be very focused and driven. It’s been a tough year for all kids, what with missing out on seeing their friends at school every day, and having to learn off a laptop. But she hangs in there, every single day, and does her best. It pushes me to work hard to make her proud and to leave the world a better place for her.

I also have some incredible female mentors who I respect madly and I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them. I’m thinking of Petra Kassun-Mutch and Kira Leskew, specifically….both are fierce entrepreneurs in their own right, and they are both these incredible changemakers who are beyond resilient, and who have shown me that I can dream big and achieve those dreams.

This month, we’re sharing inspiring women’s stories. Who inspires you? Leave their name and social media link in the comments below!

Read more Women Inspiring Women profiles here.

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