How a Hongkonger quit her desk job to run triathlons and teach yoga

Nadine Bubner moved from working in the furniture export business to running her own yoga company

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2015, 6:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 5:45pm

Ever dreamed of throwing in the towel on your corporate career? This month we meet three Hongkongers who've done just that, opting rather for a healthier career and a healthier life

It's rare to see Nadine Bubner without a smile on her face. Then again, having transformed from a non-sporty corporate type to a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher running a successful yoga business, she has a lot to be happy about.

Bubner, 36, originally from Germany, once worked in the furniture export business where "everything was automatic and mindless" until three years ago when she plucked up the courage to pursue her passion.

Today, she teaches a full schedule of yoga classes six days a week and is the co-founder of SUP Yoga Hong Kong, holding yoga and meditation classes on stand-up paddle boards during summer.

"Before I quit my job I had many fears: would I be able to sustain my lifestyle? Was I organised enough? Without a corporate framework, organising your own business is quite frightening," she says.

Learning the skills to take part in a triathlon helped her find the bravery to break from the past. Since 2012, Bubner has completed four Ironman triathlon races (3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42km run) and other shorter distance races.

"Exercise played a huge part in my career change," she says. "Being able to believe in your own ability is very powerful."

Her achievements are more impressive considering that before signing up to her first-ever sprint distance triathlon (750 metres of swimming, 20km of cycling and 5km of running) she couldn't swim freestyle and had never run for fitness.

"I always thought running was bad for your knees," she says, laughing.

Watching a triathlon competition on television inspired her to sign up for a local triathlon race the following day. With help from group training sessions at the local Tritons Triathlon Club, she finished her first race 11 weeks later - with her knees intact.

Yoga and Ironman are definitely at opposite ends of the spectrum when you consider "types" of sport. But for me they go hand-in-hand. I found a regular yoga practice gave me so much energy and space in my body. I felt invincible.

I am drawn to the process of triathlons At the beginning you feel you can't possibly do it, but by the end of training you feel so fit.

My first run was around the block It was only a few minutes long but I was exhausted. When I got a bit stronger, I ran along Bowen Road (4km), got to the end and caught a taxi home. It took me a while to build up my strength for running, but I did see improvements quite quickly. Swimming wasn't as straightforward: I used to panic swimming freestyle; I didn't enjoy putting my head under the water and at times, even now, I feel like I'm still learning.

My first Ironman was not an enjoyable experience It felt like a non-existent husband had beaten me up. I had wanted to enjoy the experience and be happy, so I was disappointed. However I soon realised you go through all the emotions during the course of an Ironman; it's like living a lifetime in a day. It's not about being happy the whole time - that's not realistic. It's about sticking with it.

Being flexible in my body means I am flexible in my mind During training for my first Ironman, while I was still working full time, I couldn't do as much yoga. I was very stiff, and I found that made me stiff in my mind. Since I began working for myself I've committed to making my practice a priority. To give, you have to take.

Teaching yoga can be both thrilling and exhausting I manage my energy by always recharging through nature. I need that time, and now I make sure I plan it into my schedule. I really insist on my day out and I make sure I go out and enjoy nature on my day off.

For my next challenge I am thinking of running a 100km ultramarathon. I like trying new things and Hong Kong's trails cannot be beaten. The timing hasn't been right yet, but it's on my mind.

Sometimes I can't believe I had such a different life before. I find myself walking through Central among all these people [going to work] in business suits and when I catch my reflection I can't believe it.