An elite athlete turned strength and conditioning coach, Ruben Tabares is offering guests his expert training sessions at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
Ruben Tabares in the fitness centre at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
Ruben Tabares is Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London’s strength and conditioning coach who is renowned for achieving results, whether his client is a world champion boxer or a regular person needing to lose weight. Here, we catch up with him in the hotel’s sleek new fitness centre, adjacent to The Spa and pool, to find out his background and unique training methods.
How did you get into coaching?
I trained at the Royal Ballet School until I was 12 or 13, but I left ballet for football and was at an academy for a while. At the time [100m Olympian] Linford Christy was big, which really excited me, so I went on to do athletics, winning the European Junior Championships for the 400m hurdles in Croatia. But when I returned I fell ill with a virus, which made my immune system crash. So from the age of 19 to 22, I was in bed. The doctors gave up, but I found a homeopath in Dorset who got rid of everything. I then went back to running, but because of that experience I wanted to learn about nutrition and alternative ways of training people. In around 2005, I started helping others, juggling being a runner and training [professional boxer] David Haye. He was cramping because of what he was eating, so I cleaned his diet and he never cramped again.
How has your career in athletics helped you as a coach?
I was talented but the majority of my coaches didn’t understand my body, so I picked up injuries all the time because of the wrong training techniques. So it is my understanding of that and the knowledge I now have that means my clients never suffer injury with me, and that’s something I take pride in.
When I was in the GB squad in 2005, Mo Farah was my room-mate, so I used to talk to him about what he was doing, how the Kenyan runners lifted weights. I also realised I wasn’t eating enough fat (from olive oil, coconut oil, krill oil and pumpkin seed oil as well as raw cream, butter, unpasturised full fat milk and oily fish). As a runner, if you are not eating enough fat, you won’t have the cushioning of your fat pads [a mass of fat cells within a joint]; once my fat intake went up, my injuries disappeared.
Tabares recommends eating these healthy oil-rich foods
What other nutritional advice do you give?
If you eat food with a lot of minerals in it, eventually your body will crave that food. To help people lose weight, I put them on mineral-rich food, like bee pollen. When they eat it, their food intake decreases by 20 per cent, because with bee pollen they are getting all the necessary nutrients. It has up to seven times more protein than beef, chicken or eggs, gram for gram. The body loves it, as it is easy to digest and absorbs better than a steak for example. I ask people to keep a food diary for two weeks so I can see their food patterns, what they are eating and how much nutrition and water they are taking on board.
How much water should we drink a day?
People should drink two to three litres of water, depending on what they are doing during the day. You lose about a litre of water at night, so it is good to replace it, especially if you are trying to lose weight and for general wellbeing.
Tabares coaching world champion boxer Amir Khan
Do you take on people of all fitness levels?
My clients are varied, from David Haye, who I was training before he became Heavyweight Champion of the World, to Amir Khan, John Terry and Danny Cipriani. Because of the sports people I’ve trained, a lot of other people have come calling – such as P Diddy, Mickey Rourke, Dynamo, Tinie Tempah. I also train business people and people who are overweight.
What makes your training sessions unique?
When I am training someone for the first time, I put them through a process called ‘adaptation’, which strengthens the tendons and ligaments in joints, and conditions the muscles, so you can start training without getting injured. I make someone do adaptation for about two months. (But obviously if someone comes in and says they need a six-pack in six weeks, then we can’t go through adaptation.) We then do strengthwork, because whether you are a marathon runner or a sprinter or a football player, strength makes your ability to do your sport easier. Also, the amount of reps and the amount of rest I give a client is not what normal trainers do – you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to get results.
Pilates as well as yoga classes are available at Ruben Tabares Fitness
Do you design a programme that people can take away?
With adaptation there are so many different exercises, but it’s about using very light weights, mainly body weight. People can then go away and do it for a couple of months. After that, I see how they have improved and give them another session.
What motivation would you give someone?
Little and often is better than going to the gym for two hours. The good thing about adaptation is that you don’t need a gym. It’s when you start moving onto strengthwork that you need bigger weights.
What are your top training tips?
If you are just starting training, go slow. Don’t get sore in the first month or so, as you may be damaging yourself so much that six months or a year down the line your back may go or you might start feeling pain in your knees. Also, find a good trainer who can write out a good programme for you. How to find a good trainer? Find someone who has vast experience, has been in the industry for a long time, and has been involved in sports before, and been through it.
Where would you recommend going for a run in London?
Hyde Park [across the road from the hotel] is a great, peaceful space, especially in the mornings. A run around the Serpentine lake is fantastic.
The 17-metre pool at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
And where for a healthy lunch?
I don’t really have a favourite place to eat as I cook most of my own food – I get my organic fruit and vegetables from The Organic Delivery Company – but I love going to Bar Boulud, London once in a while.
Do you have a favourite juice recipe?
The following juice is great for fighting inflammation: 2 apples, 1 lemon including skin, 4 pieces of broccoli or 4 Brussels sprouts, 1 finger of turmeric root.
What do you enjoy doing outside of the gym?
I coach my son’s football team twice a week, and I play football on Saturday afternoons for my local team, Eton Wick FC. I also love to do a lot of research on nutrition and alternative forms of treatments for diseases.
Why did you base Ruben Tabares Fitness at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London?
In 2014, the hotel approached me. The quality of service is what I would offer as a trainer to other people, so there’s a synergy there. Whenever some of my famous clients come to Mandarin Oriental, they all leave in awe of the hotel and the service and that’s important to me.