People | Nina Sieh
Nina Sieh is unassuming, lean and quiet, she speaks softly but smiles often. Her long black hair gleams while it whips around her shoulders as she looks at me and looks at the ground. Looks away. Looks back at me. Looks back at the ground. Nina is a little fidgety, especially when talking about herself.
Having known her for a couple years I was well aware that she doesn’t like talking about herself but that didn’t dissuade me, because Nina Sieh is also exceptional. At only 25 she works as a Neuro-Rehab Therapist, Kinesiologist and Running Coach, is halfway through a Master’s of Fitness Science, and is triathlete bordering on Elite territory, a class distinction she will likely achieve by the end of this season. But beyond all of that, Nina is kind and compassionate and while naturally shy, her tentative nature is lost when talking about the work she has done with others. Speaking enthusiastically with bright eyes Nina shared anecdotes about her time spent working at the gym at Western University, where she ascended from front desk to personal trainer to group fitness instructor with excitement but not without hesitation. She also speaks highly of her current work in a Neuro-rehabilitation clinic for cardiac patients. And, perhaps a meager accomplishment in comparison, Nina gets just as excited when sharing a story about that one time she and a bunch of other students helped her gym teacher start up the triathlon club at her high school. In retrospect, it’s fairly easy to understand why.
“I actually don’t know why I decided to join cross country, I just remember the first day of cross country practice I dragged Rina to go with and we just stayed with it. I guess because it was a school sport there were meets and practices, it gave me something to do after school.” As if she were not enough of an anomaly, Nina also has a twin sister, Rina, who shares the same lean build but is significantly more outspoken. And while they argue it’s unintentional, the two frequently show up to the same event in in contrasting monochromatic outfits—a pleasing reaffirmation of my beliefs in the the psychic connections between twins. Nina was so eager to try cross country not because of the running per se, but as way to break out of her shell, meet new people and try new things. Despite attending Turner Fenton High School, one of the bigger schools in the Peel Region, her involvement in the International Baccalaureate program segregated her and her fellow IB peers from the majority of the larger school population. (The International Baccalaureate program is an advanced program run in conjunction with primary and secondary school for a select group of students aged 3-19, something similar to the Gifted program.) “By joining those school clubs you got to meet people who weren’t in the IB program and other teachers that aren’t really your teachers too. I think what made me go is not ‘I wanna run, I wanna do this,’ it was more about meeting people, having fun.”
After her high school years Nina went on to study Kinesiology at Western University in London, Ontario. Notorious for its uber competitive spirit, Western’s Varsity Cross Country team tryouts were a week long and cumulated in an invitational race – but Nina left just after they began. “The first workout just killed me, it was fartlek workout, and I was the last person. All the girls were wearing sports bras and shorts and I was just trying to stay in the pack, I was way too discouraged from the first practice that I didn’t go back.” But (thankfully) instead of walking away from running altogether Nina took refuge in Western’s Triathlon Club (“It was so much more chill, so much more fun. I met basically all of my best friends from university were from the club”), where she started out training with just the run club portion but eventually found herself absorbed into all aspects of the full trifecta. After her first year with the Tri Club Nina was elected as an executive, which is where she was exposed to swim and cycling practice and ultimately developed a lot of the confidence to pursue the leadership roles she has today
Fast forward three years to 2010 and Nina competed in her very first Triathlon at the end of her undergrad as part of the University Triathlon series. Shortly thereafter, she competed in her first official triathlon, a Try-a-Tri in Gravenhurst, Ontario with MultiSport Canada. But it wasn’t until she moved to British Columbia for an internship with Canadian Sport Institute—the organization that works with national and olympic athletes in exercise physiology, sport medicine, nutrition and many other areas—that she got serious. It was at that point that she bought a road bike, found a coach and began competing regularly. The results of which were staggering: on her second season of racing Nina qualified for Worlds.
I will digress for a moment to remind you that throughout the conversation thus far Nina has been fairly uncomfortable. Despite having an extensive portfolio of skills, talking about herself is not necessarily one she exercises often—so we switched gears. Currently, Nina works in Cardiac Rehab Clinic as a Neuro-Rehab Therapist, working with Cardiac patients through exercise and education. “44% people of continue exercising after cardiac rehab. So basically we’re figuring out if the program is doing a good job. If it’s teaching people skills & education so they can be independent & heart healthy.” Through this role Nina has been exposed to both the clinical and research side of the role, but given her preference for talking about others – she has an obvious predisposition for the former. “I like talking about and focusing on other people because in the clinic setting you’re always about the patient like ‘How are you, what’s up, tell me how I can help you.’ — I like that role. But when people start to ask me questions, I get really uncomfortable. So I’m a person where I like being in the role where I can ask them questions.” In this regard, Nina sees Triathlons and her clinical work as mutually beneficial, testing her limits in different but convergent ways. “I think I use the sport of Tri just to test my limits. Obviously, I feel like I’ve come a really long way from being really shy to being more outgoing and open to meeting people, and into a role of a leader or an executive and now a run coach and interested in working in the field.” Constantly growing and learning, just like the bio of her new-founded website will tell you, Nina Sieh is always in pursuit.