Through “slowing down” with his running, avid runner Romain Chanu has managed to cut his marathon personal best from 3hours 45minutes in 2014 to 3hours 13minutes in 2016.
This is thanks to the heart-rate based Coached training programme that Romain has been on since February 2015.
Came across Coached in November 2014
Said Romain, 33, an IT engineer, “I came across Coached, which was then known as Journey Fitness Company, during a training clinic for Standard Chartered Marathon (SCMS) 2014.”
That had taken place around November 2014 and at that time, Romain had no idea that the clinic would reshape his views about running and training.
Romain continued, “I met the founder, Ben Pulham, on the day. He was sharing some useful information about race execution. After the speech we went for a short run and drills. We had the chance to talk about heart rate based training, fuel efficiency, lactate threshold, racing and so on. They were new concepts for me, but very instructive.”
The runner added, “A few weeks later, I ran SCMS 2014 where I hit the wall at 30km. Like most of the runners, I started way too fast and ran out of steam. The last 12km of the race was just hell. From this bad experience, I decided to change my approach to training and joined Ben’s programme so I could learn more about running and become a stronger runner.”
Did not know about heart rate training prior to Coached
Prior to joining Coached, Romain admitted that he did not know much about heart rate training, and the concept of “running slow” to run fast, was completely new to him. He said, “I did not know much about heart rate based training before meeting Ben. I remember the first thing that Ben told me: we will have to slow you down. That came as a shock to me. I wondered, how will slowing me down make me faster? It is so contradictory but the weird thing is, it works!”
He added, “Looking at my improvements, I do not regret following the Coached programme. It is after all, based on sport science – heart rate and lactate threshold has been studied for many years in competitive endurance sport. This is the clear differentiators with other training programmes that focus only on mileage and pace.”
Started running in 2014
Romain, who had started his running journey back in 2014, had been running with the SAFRA Yishun Running Club prior to joining Coached. He said, “I was following the club’s training programme of three weekly sessions – two weekday runs of 8-10km each and a weekend long run of 15-32km. As a new runner, I had this ‘runner’s high’; I was training hard in each session. I was racing a lot, running by feel with no heart rate monitor and trying to chase my fellow runners. Thanks to them, I improved a lot and that led me to a 3hours45minutes marathon at SCMS 2014.”
He continued “But with Coached, my training is a lot different. It’s all about train smart, not hard. Since I am training at the right intensity, based on my heart rate zones, I do not feel as shagged when I complete a training session and my recovery is a lot faster. That also allows me to run more often now – five to six sessions per week. In terms of results, I cut down my marathon timing to 3hours 13minutes at Berlin Marathon 2016.”
A sub three hour marathon is now possible for Romain
In fact, prior to Coached, Romain never thought that a sub three-hour marathon was possible for him, but now with Coached, he feels confident of achieving this milestone soon. He said, “Honestly, that was not even in my mind prior to Coached. But as I saw myself progressing and running faster with Coached, a sub three hour marathon is now possible. It is a matter of time before I get there.”
Coached programme is flexible
Romain also adds that due to the flexibility of the Coached programme, it is easy to juggle the training requirements with his full time job, family commitments and other hobbies. Said Romain, “The Coached training programme is quite flexible and focuses on quality training. That means I can decide to switch my training sessions around if I am busy at work or if I have commitments. The training load can be relatively low and yet very efficient. There are no ‘junk miles’; all the training sessions have a purpose and you train your heart rate zones for maximum benefits.”
Limitations of Coached
However Romain feels that the main limitation of the Coached programme is its focus on running over rolling hills, due to the mostly flat terrain in Singapore. He said, “This is challenging in Singapore where the roads are mostly flat.”
He added, “Also, since the training is heart rate based with some specifics, it could be tricky to join other fellow runners. Most of the runners would go by distance and pace while Coached training goes by duration and heart rate. And for the road race addicts too, no racing every week! Coached encourages runners to select key races so that you can focus on training and maximise performance on race day.”
Overall Romain feels that the main takeaways that he has picked up, from the past couple of years under Coached is the train smart, not hard philosophy. Says Romain, “Running in your heart rate zones is a lot more efficient than smashing yourself every training session. People tend to forget that performance is a fine line between training and recovery. If you train hard and recover little, how will you improve?”
In fact this is a common mistake that most novice runners tend to make, according to Romain. He said, “Most of the time, novice runners do too much, too soon and have no structure in their training plan. They run hard and fast, they run long and spend little attention of their recovery. Training at the wrong intensity will not benefit you in the long term and having a high mileage will increase your chances of getting injured. Coached provides a structured programme to ensure that you train at the right intensity, stay injury free and build a solid base.”
He continued, “The other main takeaway from Coached, is to learn to be patient and trust the training. Marathon is an endurance sport; getting good at it takes time. You look at the professional runners, they spend years before reaching their true potential. With Coached and Ben’s guidance, I have also learned to focus on training and not so much on the outcome, that is, race timing. The training takes care of the outcome.”
Hopes to qualify for Boston Marathon and is confident Coached will help him get there
And in terms of his own running, Romain eventually hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and he is confident that Coached will one day take him there. Said Romain, “My long term goal is to complete the six World Major Marathons. That includes Boston, where the entry is only by timing; in my age group, I need to run below 3hours 5minutes for the full marathon. It is a tough task but not impossible. But I have faith in the Coached training, and I know it is a matter of time before I achieve this.”
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To find out more about Coached, check out their website at http://www.coached.fitness