Omar Mansour tells Less-Stress London why he’s on a mission to bring the joy back into running…
Less-Stress London: How did you become a personal trainer?
Omar Mansour: When I was a youngster I used to compete in track and field events and my speciality was 800 metres. After getting a job in recruitment I soon realised that an office job wasn’t for me, so I went to university and did a degree in sports science. As soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in the fitness world.
L-SL: You’re a personal trainer and a running coach. How do you divide your time?
Omar: Monday to Friday I work at Matt Roberts gym in Mayfair as a personal trainer, which involves everything from strength and conditioning to high intensity work.
Two nights a week I coach the Run Club at Matt Roberts Mayfair. Usually we go to Green Park or Hyde Park for an hour, doing running drills and showing people how to improve their technique. The club is open to non-members as well as members.
L-SL: You’re also a Nike running coach. How does that work?
Omar: Over the past couple of years Nike have run free weekly running clubs in London for the public. There are three groups: one for beginners, one for speed work (which is the one I usually coach) and one for longer distance runs. Occasionally, we have big events too, which can attract a couple of hundred runners.
L-SL: What’s different about your approach to coaching?
Omar: A lot of people say to me: ‘I’m not a runner.’ But when you’re a kid you run without thinking. I tell them that you just need to tap into that. Running is a natural movement. Maybe you’ve been working at a desk for 10 years, maybe your muscles aren’t strong, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t run.
L-SL: Why should people run?
Omar: It sounds cheesy but running really can change people’s lives. As well as helping with weight loss and fitness, it can improve your mental health. I’ve seen people use it as a positive addiction.
I always ask my runners: ‘Why do you run?’ If you have a purpose to your training, that’s what makes you feel good, that’s what keeps you going.
L-SL: What advice do you give to beginners?
Omar: The most important advice I can give is that consistency is the key to long-term results. It’s all about staying injury free and progressing slowly, building it up step by step. If it’s too drastic, your body doesn’t like it, which is why crash training doesn’t work. My clients get the best results when they make it a lifestyle change.
L-SL: What’s the best way for someone who is unfit to start?
Omar: If you’re inactive and want to get running, I would take you out to jog at a pace at which you can hold a conversation. When it’s getting too intense you change to a brisk walk. When you’ve recovered and the heart rate has come down, you jog again. This first session would be for a maximum of 15 minutes. Next time you might run for a little bit longer.
L-SL: What advice do you give to runners who have reached a plateau and want to run faster or burn more fat?
Omar: One great way to kickstart a plateau is to do speed interval training, which means including short, intense bursts of speed — faster than your body is used to. After six to eight weeks, it will have a positive effect on your running times and your fitness.
Another version of this is something called ‘fartlek’, which is Swedish for ‘speed play’. This means continuous running and walking with some bursts of speed, but in an unstructured way. For example, you might go for a half-hour run, going through the gears with different paces within that run. I love it because there are no set times, you just change the pace as you feel like it. It takes the pressure off and brings the fun back into running.
L-SL: What tips can you give to longer distance runners?
Omar: I’ve trained a few guys for marathons and I actually did the London Marathon myself this year. It’s important to schedule in de-load weeks while training to prevent burnout and injury. When you come back the following week you feel much fresher.