For the third instalment of our Runners of SOAR series we caught up with personal trainer, coach, runner and original SOAR model Brahma Pochee.
A sub 15 minute 5,000m runner, and a seasoned performer at the national club level, these days Brahma spends more time dedicated to helping others get faster than he does on honing his own speed.
Following a few years of bad-luck with injury Brahma offers fresh insight into why training smart often trumps training hard.
We chatted coaching and running in times of uncertainty, staying focused when you can't race or run, and training solutions for injury-prone athletes.
Hi Brahma. You’re a full-time personal trainer and coach, specialising in running, with over a decade’s experience. What took you down this path, and what’s kept you there?
For the love of the sport that’s given me so much. A fascination with the science got me hooked at first. “So running long and easy allows you to run short and fast, are you sure?!”.
Realising that simple yet key training concepts could make a big impact on people lured me in deeper. I certainly got fast-tracked, as I absorbed as much info as I could off my brother, then began forming and developing my own framework and understanding. I’ve relished passing it on ever since.
It’s not exactly a 9-5 and it’s certainly not a desk job. What does a ‘normal’ day or week look like?
In the good ol’ days (which is now how I’ll refer to pre corona crisis) there was a predictable morning and evening rush. Working with 1-1’s, corporate run clubs (LGN Wellbeing) and community-based work (GoodGym). I’d get around London, a lot.
And what has the current situation meant for your coaching – how are you and your runners managing? What advice do you give to people looking to stay fit when resources are limited, timeframes are indefinite and a return to racing appears a way off?
I’m doing more online work, creating bespoke and group training plans. Virtual sessions have been completely new to me, but we are making it work.
Depends on the athlete, some have thrived off solo training and setting new, unique individual goals. With more available leisure time they can train more, but this can risk overtraining.
Others are pining for the social element from training, racing and competing. Group challenges and virtual competitions serve this group best, whilst also viewing their training through a new lens, “you probably won’t run the same splits at this point in time, but that’s OK.”
You’re no slouch as runner yourself, having run under 15 minutes for 5km and sub-4 for 1500m, how do you balance your own training and racing goals with those of your athletes? Do you coach yourself or get input from elsewhere?
Firstly cheers. I ran a 30’ min loop yesterday (I can’t run much now), whilst it was a joy to be out, I felt like a baby giraffe stumbling out the womb. It’s relatively easy to schedule in my training around work, often embracing the lunch hour(s) for a spin into the sticks, or some S&C with my ‘rustic’ garden set up. I used to receive limitless expert coaching from my brother, Ben. His key training tenets and exuberance are enduring. I still bounce ideas off him, but now I’m essentially self-coached.
Over the last few years you’ve had more than your fair share of injuries, keeping you from racing, what advice can you give to those curtailed by injuries, both short and long term? How have you kept motivated and scratched that training itch?
Aggressive weekday drinking won’t repair your tendonitis. Strength training done correctly can alleviate most common running injuries. Get help lifting, ask a professional to check your squat patterns and your dead lift movement. These big hitting compound moves are invaluable. Also diversify your sporting hobbies to maintain physical and mental fitness. Maybe, more importantly, make sure you create other avenues to seek movement-based joy.
Have you learnt anything from running less and cross-training more? For instance would you do anything differently in your younger days as a runner if you knew what you know now?
Yes, I would run less and cross-train more! Not that I never had the chance to be a high mileage runner (small violin….now), I’d break when anyone even whispered ‘65 miles per week’. I’d like to think I’d be more proactive than reactive. For example, I used to only get on the turbo when injured. It would’ve been wiser to have just kept it in permanently. So, 2 x turbo per week. One a hard threshold session the other a longer ride. Removing the long run for a long ride, it's less time on feet yes, but you are still getting plenty of low base HR training. Each athlete is unique, but that’s a few tweaks that could’ve helped a young me.
What advice do you have for those runners building training plans who can’t run as much as they’d like to?
Embrace cycling/swimming/S&C, let it be the contrast and running supplement you need. Only when perched on your turbo in an unworldly pain, ponds of sweat besides you, staring at your eggshell wall….can you truly appreciate the gift of running. It’s the best.
And how can they effectively integrate and balance a strength and conditioning regime alongside aerobic training?
Accept the early stage delayed onset muscle soreness. It goes and/or you get conditioned to them, but it takes a few months of consistency. Three sessions per week should be your aim, that is when you’ll see your body responding. Schedule your strength sessions as far away from key sessions as possible.
You get around town with your coaching, but what is your favourite place to run or train solo in London?
There’s a 1.3 mile loop in Regent’s Park, rumour has that it was laid for the lactate threshold.
And on a more painful note, when it’s time to pin a number on, what’s your number one race?
National 12 Stage Road Relays. Team Gold and Silver in ’16 and ’18. What memories, what a race.
Will we see you back racing once competition resumes?
Hoping I can get a couple of operations tied up, though that might be a while. I’ll be back, like a moth to a flame.
And lastly, our bell-lap questions:
Tempo run or long run?
Track session or hill reps?
Strava – yes or no?
Adidas Adizero Adios
And most crucially, what’s your favourite piece of SOAR kit?
Brahma will be taking over our Instagram stories feed at 10am on Friday 24th April. He'll be guiding us through a range of the best strength & conditioning exercises for runners, requiring minimal specialist equipment and which can be done at home.
Follow Brahma's Instagram tutorial and ask for his advice on S&C routines to ensure you have the chassis to support your aerobic engine via @soar_running