WHEN you have a wave the size of a three-storey building about to come down on your head it’s pretty hard to remain calm.
But that is exactly what Worongary-based trainer Nam Baldwin coaches when he works with elite high-risk takers, including big wave surfers, rugby league players and business people.
The former sprinter and martial artist can hold his breath for a phenomenal seven minutes and says in a high pressure situation, controlling the body’s natural fight or flight reflex can be the difference between a wipe-out or glory.
“We prepare for worst case scenarios — it’s about remaining calm under high stress, when the fight or flight response kicks in,” Mr Baldwin said.
“When the athletes remain calm, the perceived rate of stress and intensity of an activity can drop five fold and that’s really useful for a these guys who thrive on high-risk situations,” he said.
While he said he put his athletes through hard yards in the gym, the technique he calls “breath enhancement training” focuses more on an athlete’s mentality.
“It’s almost like rapid meditation — the more the athletes train themselves to relax the more effective they are at using their fight or flight mechanism,” he said.
Along with training the likes of tennis champion Pat Rafter, three-time surfing world champion Mick Fanning and the Auckland Warriors NRL team, Mr Baldwin has been working with professional big wave surfer Ryan Hipwood for eight years.
“Ryan pulls himself into a relaxed state in a matter of seconds now. His breathing slows and heart rate calms almost right away,” Mr Baldwin said.
Hipwood said Mr Baldwin put him through drills in the pool that mimicked being caught under big waves.
They included lung-busting underwater sprints with only seconds rest between sets and wrestling underwater with lungs empty of air.
“Big wave surfing is all about preparation and some of the big wipe-outs I have had would have been tougher if I didn’t do this training,” Mr Hipwood said.
“I want to make sure I am relaxed out there (in big waves).
“Obviously I don’t want to wipe out but if I do, I want to be able to get back out there and surf all day,” he said.