By Chere Di Boscio
If you’re expecting a big, beefy jock to shout humiliating yet ‘motivational’ cliches to you during your gruelling workout and make you suck back loads of raw eggs afterwards, Ruben Tabares is probably not the guy for you.
Tabares is rather unique in the world of personal trainers – which is possibly why he’s something of a legend amongst his celebrity clientele, including elite athletes Amir Khan and David Haye (the former world heavyweight boxing champion), British rapper Tinie Tempah, Jeremy Piven and Naomi Watts, and those lucky enough to work out with him from his base at the Mandarin Oriental.
When I first met the tall, lithe, handsome Tabares, he explained that he began his career as a ballet dancer, but craved something more athletic and put his experience leaping on the stage to different use by jumping hurdles for the English team. Then things got a bit esoteric.
This is a man who strongly believes in integrating nutrition, physicality, and spirituality into his routines; one of the first questions he asked me was which toothpaste brand I used, of all things (to ensure it doesn’t contain fluoride, which he believes obstructs our pineal gland and damages our health in myriad ways). He also told me that he’s ok with the trend towards vegan diets, but insists that ‘everyone’s body is different, and we need to take that into account’.
Indeed, he tailors his exercise regime and nutrition plan to each client depending on race, body type, blood type, and other personal factors. He starts your training with the “Adaptation Period,” which involves a diet plan, nutritional advice and gentle exercises.
To help form my plan, he asked me what my usual workout routine was like. The good news was that it turns out that my 45-50 mins on the treadmill is a bit excessive; at that point the body begins to feel the results of free radicals, and you may start burning muscle tissue instead of fat. The ‘bad’ news was that I should be doing a lot more weight bearing exercises – not just using weights, necessarily (though he did prescribe plenty of those in my personal workout). When I explained to Ruben that I was about to take a beach holiday with no gym in sight for several weeks, he told me I could still do weight bearing exercises like squats (whilst holding a big jug of water), push ups, and leg lifts with nylon, strap on ankle weights I could fill with sand from the beach. Perfect!
Then it was time to check on my body. After asking me to do a few movements, he noticed I was unable to do what’s called ‘the Asian squat’ – that is, sit back comfortably on my heels for a long time. I was on my tiptoes and if I rested on my ankles, I fell backwards. He immediately knew I’m a huge fan of the high heel, and told me my calf muscles were far too tight and full of scar tissue, as a result of a slight Choo addiction. Heels were impeding the natural movements at the bottom of my legs, and this, of course, was having a knock on effect to my knees and hips. Time to learn to stretch out those calves! I was instructed to lift up and way down from my toes on a step 20 times or so daily.
Speaking to Ruben was fascinating and enlightening. He told me that his son, a budding pro athlete, completely changed his performance on the field and in school after he started eating a cleaner diet. When he suggested that I drink lots of ‘good’ water, I asked what that meant, exactly; which brand, for example. His answer: water that has been blessed. I thought that sounded a little far out until he recounted a video he’d seen about a Japanese doctor’s experiments whereby water that was around negativity and ‘bad words’ refused to crystalize when frozen, but the same water, when spoken to kindly and blessed, formed the most gorgeous patterns. Turns out water may well be alive, and the kinder we are to it, the better it is for us.
And speaking of being alive, I learned a lot from Ruben about a new kind of ‘food pyramid’. You know how we’re taught to base our diet on plants and cereals, followed by smaller quantities of dairy, meat, sugars, fats and junk food? Well, as with most things, Tabares sees things differently. He’s more into a ‘living foods’ pyramid, which dictates that we eat food that’s actually alive. The deadest of the dead – processed and junk foods, should just be avoided, whilst other ‘dead’ foods like meat, dairy and eggs, should be eaten on occasion. Fresh (not packaged or tinned) leafy green veggies, fruit, clean water, fungi and roots and tubers should comprise the majority of our diet, followed by herbs, spices and berries. Every day we should include some foods that are truly alive: chlorella, bee pollen, fermented foods and spirulina, for example. Cooking, of course, kills nutrients, so the rawer most of your food is, the better – and microwaves kill loads of nutrients and enzymes in food and should be avoided.
This guy runs deep. No wonder the Mandarin Oriental has collaborated with him to create a new health and fitness centre in the coming months that will provide an integrated Chinese medical service, special health foods for sale in the restaurant and spa, personal training, nutritional coaching, organic food delivery, wellness treatments and so much more.
Oh, and by the way – I’m writing this on a plane, having returned from that beach holiday. I’ve lost 4kg in a month (yep, it was a long holiday!), my legs and arms are more toned than ever, and as soon as I go home, I’m selling my microwave.
Tabares’s Top Tips
- there’s no need to do cardio for more than 40 mins or so. Even elite athletes and footballers he trains focus more on other forms of exercise beyond cardio
- women need to lift weights. Start small and work your way up.
- high heels deform the calf muscles and you may need to do special exercises to reduce the negative effects of wearing them
- early to bed, early to rise. This is the way our bodies were designed to function best.
- listen to your body, It knows what you need best. You can attune to your body more with daily meditation, which he highly recommends.
- never microwave food. This kills nutrients and leaves you eating something that may be filling, but is pretty much as nutritious as eating cardboard
- follow the living food pyramid.
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