Nam Baldwin is the Jedi master of personal trainers.
A highly-qualified emotional and stress control and management specialist, Nam is the co-developer of internationally recognised B.E.T Training (breath enhancement training), mentor and motivational health coach.
He’s trained thousands of clients, including world champions like Mick Fanning, Steph Gilmore and Pat Rafter. And now, he’s training the most successful individual canoe slalom athlete of all time: Jess Fox.
She might have won the double world championship in the K1 and C1 less than a month ago, but Jess knows that to maintain her elite athleticism, she needs to keep striving for improvement in both her physical and mental game. Enter Nam.
Watch Nam and Jess Fox in action
Nam’s training techniques focus on training the mind to be able to perform at an elite level while under considerable physical stress. A Nam Baldwin training session works something like this:
Increase the heart rate and challenge the body with a series of traditional cardio workouts.
With the heart rate raised, Nam introduces some activities that require balance, power, speed and calm. The idea here is to challenge and improve physical composure while the body is already under stress, as well as encouraging a sense of calm. Sometimes pressure makes athletes try too hard, when in fact, keeping their heads and allowing themselves to move naturally works best.
Once calm is restored, it’s time to embrace the chaos again while maintaining the same level of performance as in steps 2 and 3.
This process is repeated three times, with the goal being to achieve a higher score on the SMARTfit Machine each time; a better score showing that the mind is processing pressure more effectively.
We spoke to Nam and Jess about this unique way of training, what it offers, and why it’s worthwhile.
RedBull.com: Nam, can you tell us a bit about the program you’ve designed for Jess?
Nam Baldwin: It’s designed to apply pressure, and to teach Jess to deal with pressure more effectively. It’s about finding out what processes work for her, and helping regulate her attention under pressure.
How does that help her in her sport?
Nam: Jess deals with a tremendous amount of pressure in three main areas. The first is expectation, often from others. The second is scrutiny of how she’s performing, which comes from both herself and others. And the third is the stress of winning or losing.
In what we’re doing, we have a score system and a heart rate monitor. The aim of both is to help Jess understand how she’s responding to that pressure, and gradually improve her response to it in order to encourage better mental and physical performance in the long run.
What are the key things that people can take away from this type of training?
Nam: The main thing is, when you’re training, to make sure you train the body and the mind together. Anyone can access to a personal trainer and get fit and healthy, but the mind runs the show. And you need to ask yourself if you’re training your mind.
If you can work in some mental training with your physical, and particularly your mental training when you’re under physical pressure, that’s when you’re going to improve your mind strength as well as their body. When those two things are firing together, got a really good formula.
Jess, what drew you to train with Nam?
Jess Fox: I wanted to get out my comfort zone and try something different, and be challenged mentally as much as physically. It’s about adapting, it’s about dealing with lots of different distractions. My sport is like that – the white water, the expectations, the competition. I’m always looking for ways to improve the mental element of my performance.
How many times do you train per week and what type of training do you do?
Jess: I have a fair bit of variety, I’m generally on the white water five or six times a week, depends on the time of year. Then maybe one or two flat water sessions, and two or three gym sessions. Two of those gym sessions are mainly strength, and the other might be more cardio-focused, such as spin.
During your training, how much emphasis do you put on strengthening your weaknesses?
Jess: I think every year you plan out your goals and look at what you need to improve, what your strengths and weaknesses are. For me, building my strength is big one. I really want to be more regular with my strength training and building my core and upper body and legs – my whole body needs to work in a kayak and I want to be a well-rounded athlete. I’m good on the water from a technical perspective, but maintaining the strength throughout the year is important.
What pressures do you face within your sport?
Jess: Canoe slalom is always changing. There might be weather patterns coming into play, there might be a really hard move with changing water that you’ve got to adapt to, so there’s lot of different variables. On top of that, there’s the pressure I put on myself, the expectations from the media and the outside world – there are quite a few things that come into play.
What did you learn from Nam about your own performance?
Jess: I think the exercises were all very different to what I’m used to, which put me under a lot of physical stress and pressure. I really had to push past the pain.
Learning to think of some cue words to help me relax, and to breathe and dig deep mentally was really interesting. As athletes, we know that pain is our friend in a way, but sometimes we tend to shy away from it. Nam helped teach me that I actually work best under pain and pressure, and helped me realise how powerful the mind is.
How did you feel after the training?
Jess: I felt pretty sore! It was physically tough and it brought out a lot mentally. Combining the physical circuit with the focus needed to catch tennis balls, then hit the targets on the brain trainer – that took a lot of mental effort. I was in a world of hurt, but I was focused. It was a really valuable experience.
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