Coached is a heart rate training programme for runners and triathletes that allow you to track, optimise and enjoy your training.
Coached offers fitness testing and diagnostics for runners and triathletes
Said Ben Pulham, 36, founder of Coached, “We offer fitness testing and diagnostics for those who want to improve their endurance and performance, lose weight and improve their general health. So there is a variety of tests that we do, to measure different physiological markers and prescribe exercise, nutrition and stress management to improve these readings.”
He added, “And the good thing is that we can track it over time because a lot of the time, people exercise and think that it is working but it is not, so this can show you clearly in a graphical way, whether what you are doing is really working. It comes without the variables that can happen on race day too, and is in a more controlled setting so that allows people to really see their progress.”
Ben admitted though that people who are not used to the Coached philosophy can be sceptical that it really works. He said, “Sometimes people are sceptical because it is counter intuitive. So being able to see how your body functions in a graphical way through the testing will give you confidence to execute and you will be able to see the improvements first-hand.”
Visited the new Coached Lab
I recently visited the new Coached lab premises at Tanjong Pagar, to have a look around the new premises and also to have a Lactate and Fuel Efficiency test done. Ben had moved into this new location recently.
Said Ben, “We chose Tanjong Pagar because of its proximity to the CBD. Most of my clients are coming from Marina Bay Financial Centre, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar, so we wanted somewhere central and easy to get to, for a good number of people and with a reasonable rent. We are lucky that we found this place and have been here for a few months.”
For me though, the Tanjong Pagar location is a bit harder for me to get to, as compared to the previous City Hall location as there is no direct bus for me! I admit too that I got lost while trying to find the lab for the first time – the numerous streets and buildings at Tanjong Pagar can be rather confusing for someone who does not frequent the area that often.
Stepping inside though, my first impressions of the new Coached lab is that with the large window pane lining one side of the wall, it definitely feels brighter, as well as being more open and spacious than the previous lab, and there seems to be more space to move around, and so you don’t feel claustrophobic too.
Ben also has a personal lift in his unit, similar to that of a penthouse apartment and I found this to be rather cool.
At the new lab, Ben partners up with a podiatrist and a nutritionist
In the new lab, Ben partners up with Tim Maiden, a podiatrist at The Foot Practice and nutritionist Sonia Osborne.
Said Ben, “We all run small, complementary businesses so it is good for us to share rent, power and Internet, but most importantly it gives us the chance to talk to and learn from each other. Tim and Sonia are great assets to the Coached team so it is a nice ecosystem for Coached; they will be able to share ideas with me and to better also help the clients who come to see each of us.”
Tim works with people who have severe blisters and gives them strategies to manage these blisters. He also shares with them, how to lace shoes to avoid blisters and black toenails. Contrary to what many might believe, there are different ways to lace your shoes for runners who are prone to certain types of injuries, in order to prevent or reduce the risk of these problems.
And Sonia as a nutritionist, works with people who have diabetes as well as those who wants to lose weight, and helps them to manage their respective conditions.
As well, sports massage therapist Boon helps out at the Coached Lab, to help athletes who need a good massage pre or post race, as well as to help them to manage their training commitments.
Thanks to Sonia and Tim’s recommendations, Ben also remarked that he has been getting more clients who wish to lose weight.
He said “The highest number of people that we see are still runners followed by triathletes but we are now getting more people for fat loss and weight management. Tim and Sonia are sending people who need to lose weight to me, as well.”
Revised the Coached run programmes
Ben also shared with me that apart from the Coached lab, he has also revised the Coached run training programmes and is currently in the process of revising the triathlon programmes too.
The new programmes, according to Ben, are much more race focused, with the easy sessions being made easier and the hard sessions consisting of harder sets requiring athletes to do work in their Hard heart rate zones. The harder race sets in the previous programme had instead focused more on the Moderately Hard zone and only with a sprinkling of effort in the Hard zone.
I had experienced snippets of the new programmes during the physical Coached Sessions trainings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I will be embarking on a brand new style programme for the first time as I gear my training towards the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon and I hope to see good results there.
At the new lab premises, I also had a lactate test and a fuel efficiency test done.
The ability to clear lactate is fundamental for success in endurance sports.
The Coached lactate test measures the accumulation of lactate at increasing intensities and determines your lactate threshold and thus establishes your personal heart rate zones.
There are five to six stages in the Coached lactate test. The first stage is always at an easy conversational pace, and the test works towards a very hard effort where you are running at what would feel like an effort near your maximum heart rate by the final stage. Each stage lasts five minutes and there is a one minute rest in between each stage. I was panting and completely shagged by the end of the test!
Ben remarked that my results showed some improvement for this test. He told me that my lactate threshold has improve but by not as much as he would have liked to see. But at the same time, my aerobic base was great.
Explained Ben, “I think that is because we have not been doing a whole lot of speed work. The test shows that you have a good aerobic base; we have been working on this for a while and it is now looking strong. So what we need to now do is to include higher intensity training. So we will be doing more tempo stuff and short, hard VO2 max type stuff.”
He added “This is an exciting place for you to be right now because you have more flexibility in the type of training that you can do. And I think that you will respond really well to it.”
Ben added too, that many runners tend to go straight to the speed work and higher intensity training without first spending the time to build their base. He said “This creates a higher risk of injury and illness as the body does not tolerate the high intensity training so well. The results will also not be as good.”
He continued, “If you invest the time to build your aerobic base, you will first get faster at a lower intensity and then when you inject the hard stuff, you will be able to improve your threshold level.”
Fuel Efficiency Test
This is a metabolic test that measures the percentage of fats and carbohydrates that your body is burning at different intensities to determine your ideal fat burning zone.
The test lasts for 20 minutes and it begins at an easy walking pace on the treadmill. The speed will then gradually increase to a slow jog, then to running pace and finally, to all-out sprinting, whist wearing a device that looks like an oxygen mask.
Ben recommends exercise and nutrition strategies to improve your body’s natural ability to burn fat.
And the results of my fuel efficiency test wasn’t too bad.
Ben said “Your fat burn is awesome. At marathon effort, you are generating close to 70 per cent of energy from fat; this means that your reliance on sugar to fuel your marathon is dramatically lower. So you need half the amount of sugar to run a marathon because you can tap into your fat stores for energy.”
This is quite true; I took about three to four gels at the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon, completing the race in 4 hours and 31 minutes. This is more than 45 minutes improvement over my previous marathon personal best of 5 hours and 17 minutes – that time had been set at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2013 before I joined Coached and I still remember then, that I had required about eight gels to take me through the race.
Added Ben, “Being a good fat burner not only has a great impact on ability to run fast for a long time, but also gives a more stable energy supply from day to day. It will also help you to maintain a lean body composition.”
Ben also took down my weight during the testing and he had remarked that I had lost seven kilograms off from my body weight as compared to the previous time that I had gone to the lab for a testing. He mentioned that this weight loss had been quite significant and he had attributed it to the improvement in my ability to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
Ben continued, “And if you get sick and cannot train or if you are injured, you will not put on weight as fast as other people who were in a sugar burning mode. So everything is looking good; we have to continue to dial into the training and what you need to do over time.”
According to Ben, some general reasons for improvement in fat burning are a change in diet and an increase in aerobic training.
He said, “Cutting down on carbohydrate intake can improve insulin sensitivity and the ability to burn fat. This, when combined with the aerobic training on an empty stomach, teaches your body how to get energy from fat.”
My prospects for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon
Based on the results of my tests, Ben is excited about how I would perform at this year’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon as I will be running in the Full Marathon there. But when probed, he told me that he would rather not pin my hopes on a result that he thinks I can attain.
Said Ben, “I am not going to tell you how you will do; results take care of themselves. I would rather you went away and got plenty of sleep, ate really well and did the training as prescribed to the best of your ability and then on race day, execute the race really well and if you do that, you will have a great race.”
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