Coach Hendrick Ramaala Has Rather Contrasting Coaching Views To Those Of Other Top Coaches.

10 March 2019

​Read Iza Trengove's  article on contrasting coaching view between Coaches Lindsay Parry and Hendrick Ramaala.

In her February newsletter, Iza interviews two successful coaches in the South African marathon and ultra-marathon scene to demonstrate contrasting coaching styles. 

Real or Rumour?
by Iza Trengove

The Comrades Marathon is the oldest and largest ultra-marathon on a paved surface. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, a proper training programme is essential. In this month’s Health Noise we ask: a good coach is indispensable – Real or Rumour? We interview top coaches and examine their value-add. Also: a lawyer’s perspective on the Caster Semenya controversy.

Lindsey Parry: Biokineticist








Parry is an online running coach and the official coach of the Comrades Marathon Association. He ran Comrades six times and has completed many marathons and ultra-marathons. He now focuses on his online coaching website. He has coached Comrades winners, Charné Bosman and Caroline Wöstmann.


1. When should one should consider a running coach?
There are two important reasons why one should get a professional coach. Firstly, he or she has intrinsic knowledge to create a step by step plan
which will ensure one gets from point A to the end of one's journey successfully. Secondly a coach will provide one with guidance on what to
expect and suggest interventions or adjustments to one's training programme.

2. How do you motivate a runner?
Coaches have different styles of motivating runners. Once a runner signs up with me and we discuss his/her goals I may point out that it could be
difficult but believe nothing is impossible. People are capable of great things but at the same time I am realistic about short-term goals. If
someone wants to train to lose 60 kilograms I will start by suggesting they lose one kilogram at a time. If he/she stops after 30 kilograms they are
already much healthier than before.

3. How do you assess a runner?
There are various ways to assess a runner, their running history, their speed, recovery and experience. Depending on their goals and ability I
suggest a programme which is then adjusted later depending on their progress. If it is someone who is experienced and who aspires to become a
top runner then I ask them to have tests done to determine their cardio fitness and endurance capacity. This information helps me to be more
accurate with what speed they should be running at.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of online coaching?
The single biggest disadvantage is that there is little contact time. It's better to face someone and decide whether they should be doing interval training or rather an easy run. Online coaches rely on what people tell them, then use their data to make decisions. The biggest advantage is that I can coach anyone from anywhere. I also travel extensively and give Comrades talks nationwide where I meet many runners who supply me with data about what they are doing and how they are feeling. This helps me create or revise programmes.

5. How important is one's form?
Earlier in my career, I tried to correct an athlete's style or biomechanics, stride length, strike etcetera. However I found that as soon as one puts
pressure on an athlete, he/she will revert to how their body is designed to perform. The reality is that if a coach focuses on changing an athlete's
natural form, it is like selling trimmings on the plate. I prefer to focus on the steak and the steak is whether I am going to make you a better runner. In my experience athletes make subtle changes themselves as their training progresses. One's body is like an ongoing scientific experiment. With
every step it sends messages to and from the brain. Over time one ends up with the most efficient style for one's body type. Unfortunately, that also means that there will be those who are always at a disadvantage. One's genes do play a role in determining if one is capable of doing 200
kilometres a week. If one is not built for this, one needs to focus on cross training.

6. How important is cross training?
It's very important. I am a big fan of spinning, Pilates and yoga. The more average you are the more you should focus on cross training. The top guys are doing it anyway and they should. 


7. What does the average Comrades training programme involve?
It depends on one's goal. The top runners need individual advice. If I talk to groups, I advise athletes to train consistently four to five days a week from January to June. Most of the time one has to do 55-75 kilometres a week. There will be times when it will go up to 80 kilometres a week.
Consistency is more important than running long distances. The majority of athletes who fail to complete Comrades are unsuccessful because they
over-train and start with an injury. It is much better to do less and allow one's body to recover. One can do cross- training on the two days that you
are not running and then have a minimum of one rest day. It is better to double up on some days and do nothing on one or two days.

8. How important is nutrition?
It’s crucial. I always refer to the three pillars of recovery … sleep, rest and nutrition. One trains hard and when one's body repairs itself it gets stronger and is able to handle that hard work better. 

9. Are you a supporter of high-fat, low-carb diets (HFLC)?
Eating a balanced diet is critical. The HFLC diets limit one's performance if one's goal is to improve one's speed. If one's aim is to lose weight and not necessarily achieve one's personal best, then the HFLC works well but I would still recommend that one take some carbs on race day. If one's goal is to perform at maximum, one can't put diesel in one's body, one needs to put in high performance petrol and that is carbohydrates.

10. And additional vitamins or supplements?
I encourage athletes to have blood tests done to establish if they have any shortage. Usually it is not necessary. If one is under pressure and doesn't have time to eat balanced meals, I would advise a mineral supplement, but it is usually unnecessary.

11. Why is running your passion?
I just enjoy running immensely and love the people who run. The interaction with other runners on race day is hard to beat. Now that I have turned 42, I am slowing down a bit. I also enjoy challenging myself and achieving my goal. Running allows one to get away and think things through. When you come back you feel mentally refreshed.

12. How much does a running coach charge?
If one subscribes to the basic programme, it costs about R248 per month. We also have an interactive online forum that will help one individualize one's personal training programme. If one subscribes to individual coaching it costs up to R2500 per month.

13. What is the best running advice you have been given?
Essentially two things. One must learn to run easily and have the right proportion of easy and hard training to progress. The average person runs
too hard on their easy days and that means they can't run fast enough when they need to run fast. Top athletes do 80% of their training much
easier and 20% really hard. I have adapted that for the average person to train 10-15% high intensity and 85 - 95% easy training to progress.


14. Where can you be contacted?
Through the website: or they email me
at or

Four-time Olympian and running coach Hendrick
Ramaala has an opposing view to Parry’s.


















Ramaala holds South Africa's 10 000 metre record of 27:29:94 which he set in Port Elizabeth in 1999. Five years later he won the New York and Mumbai marathons. He also has two silver medals from the IAAF World Half Marathon championship in 1998 and 2006. In 2006 he won the men's great North-great South runs. Other wins include the Belgrade Race Through History in 1997 and the Marseilles-Cassis Classique Internationale in 1998, the Lisbon half marathon in 2001 and the Portugal half marathon
in 2003. Although he no longer competes, he continues to run with his team and focuses on coaching and inspiring up and coming athletes.


1. When did you start coaching?
I have always guided people around me. My running has allowed me to travel extensively and learn from the best runners and coaches in the world. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow runners. In 1994, I started the Zoo Lake runners and since 2015 formed a sports' foundation to develop future champions. This encouraged me to do coaching courses and register as a running coach. Now I use my experience with the latest available research to train the team. So far, we
are doing well. Our team includes the best 10 kilometre runners in South Africa, Precious Mashele and Maxime Chaumeton and Desmond Mokgobu, a marathon athlete who competed in Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in Japan earlier this month and finished ninth in 2:10:42.


2. Can anyone join your team?
Many runners approach me to help them train, but my focus is mainly on high performance athletes. I use their running times to assess whether they have the potential to become world class athletes. I also advise some athletes who do marathons and ultra-marathons, but my main focus is on athletes who have the potential to represent the country.

3. How important are one's genes?
I guess they're crucial for a sprinter, but for long distance you need a combination of talent, focus and hard work. Often the most talented guys get results too easily and they don't have the determination to break through the ceiling and become world class.


4. How much should marathon runners train?
It depends on their goals and how much time they spend on their legs in order to run an ultra-marathon successfully. They have to put in many hours of running. High-performance runners cover at least 180-200 kilometres a week. Recreational runners must run at least 150-160 kilometres a week. This should include one long run of 45-50 kilometres. Their legs have to get accustomed to long distances. They also have to do speed and endurance twice a week and strength training, hills and core exercises at least once a week. My team trains at Zoo lake from 8-10 in the morning six days a week and in the afternoons we do track, hills or speed and core exercises. It's also essential to get sufficient sleep to enable one's body to recover and become stronger. 


5. Is it important to take off one day per week?
Yes, I encourage runners to take off one day a week to do personal stuff. In Kenya runners rest on Sundays and go to church to keep in touch with their spiritual side. This helps them recover and come back rested and refreshed.

6. What type of diet do you prescribe?
The world's top athletes eat a balanced diet that consists of lots of carbohydrates, protein, fats, greens and fruit. These recharge their bodies and replace lost nutrients.


7. And the Banting diet?
I think banting is only for recreational runners who want to lose weight. It's not ideal for good running times. The best runners in the world come from Africa where they eat lots of maize. In Japan the top runners eat rice and in Europe pastas. They have to eat whatever they're comfortable with. 


8. Do top runners take additional supplements?
Supplements can't replace a healthy diet. Runners have to eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and protein. If they want to take supplements, they need to make sure they are clean.


9. What is the best running advice you have been given?
It takes focus, extremely hard work and dedication to become a world champion runner. Japanese long distance champion, Toshihiko Seko, who won marathons in
the eighties and trained 50 kilometres a day, once told me that to become a world champion one has to love a marathon as if it were a girlfriend. 


10. How much does it cost to join your team? 

I don't charge my guys because they don't work. We raise money to fund them. My main aim is to develop world class runners. In order to do that they need assistance. The money we raise goes towards paying them an allowance, for food and for accommodation. Other coaches do it as a business but my team members are like family. In the US, GB, Japan, Kenya and Ethiopia big companies own clubs and support their runners. In South Africa it's quite difficult to raise money because there are so many
competing interests.

11. Caster Semenya is challenging an IAAF rule aimed at restricting
testosterone levels in female runners. What is your opinion? It's a human rights' issue for me. Hopefully the IAAF will make the right decision so we can put it behind us.


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