Last week I brought you an interview with coach Frank Evertsen. I’ll continue by sharing today’s interview I recently did with Henk Kraaijenhof. If you have had a chance to read Henks blog Helping the best to get better or listen to him lecture around the world, his insight into training and how he manages the stress of athletes and professional executives is world renowned.
Could you start by telling my readers about your background both in high performance sports training and when you began working with the private sector?
My background is originally in track and field (sprint and explosive events). I have been working as a club coach, national coach and individual coach from 1976 to 2004, going to 5 Olympics as an accredited coach. I am proud to say that had the honor to be educated by some of the best brains in the world of elite sports. Some of my athletes were: Nelli Cooman, world recordholder and 2 times world champion 60 meters indoor from Holland, Merlene Ottey (Jamaica), Mary Onyali (Nigeria) Sandra Framer-Patrick (USA), Patrick Stevens (Belgium), Troy Douglas (Bermuda), Letitia Vriesde 800 meters (Suriname). I always tried to look around and beyond. I have worked as consultant for Juventus soccer in Turin, Vancouver Canucks, UK Athletics, Welsh Rugby Union, and many other clubs, federations and organizations in elite sports. Also tennis player Mary Pierce has been one of my clients. In 1998 my mentor Carmelo Bosco and myself introduced whole body vibration training in sports. And in 2000 I started working with the Omegawave system, being the first user in Europe.
You were one of the first coaches to begin using the Omegawave with professional executives, corporations, Special Forces and other people outside of sports. What lead you to begin working with this population?
By coincidence I was introduced to work with Special Forces Operators for performance-enhancement. In the same way I was contacted by a few executives of major companies who were interested in performance-enhancement for themselves and their employees. Both these groups were very interested in measuring stress and fatigue, which are the two steady travel companions of elite athletes. Whereas the stress of athletes is mainly due to physical loads of training and competing, the stress in SF operators is both mentally and physically and in executives it is predominantly mentally. But in the end the stress responses are the same. Since you cannot improve what you cannot measure, it is good to establish baseline values for stress, fatigue, functioning and performance for these groups. (The Omegawave system is one of the systems I use for both groups). Once the baseline is known we are able to apply a wide range of interventions, but now targeted towards improving a specific status. The main objective: improving or maintaining performance under pressure, acute and in the long-term. I explained this in my book: The Art of Performance (in Dutch).
When you are testing this population of corporate executives on the Omegawave, they sometimes are not involved in fitness training, don’t want to train or don’t have a lot of time; how does this change your recommendations after testing them on the Omegawave? Are you advising them on diet, lifestyle changes, air travel protocols?
Although some people like to see the executive as a corporate athlete, it is easy to see where this comparison has only limited value. Yes, there is a competitive environment, but then: who isn’t dealing with a competitive environment nowadays? The load of the athlete is mainly physical and the load of the executive mainly mental, and for the athlete his/her body is the instrument with which they express themselves and make a living. For the CEO the body is a limitation, a limiting package of a beautiful mind. Their body needs to eat properly, but often they have no choice, the body needs to sleep and rest which is a waste of time, the body doesn’t like intercontinental travelling, the body might have pains and aches which are a nuisance, etc.
Of course there are executives who take very good care of themselves, but the main limiting factor is the lack of time or at least the perception of that.
Exercise could be a great asset, but not only for its obvious physical benefits, also to “clean the brain”, and for me it is also the side of being momentarily detached form the cognitive load of their work: exercise time is time for YOU and probably the best investment they’ll ever do. Most of the time they do not see this till it is too late.
But not everybody should exercise. Some people just aren’t born to exercise, so they will suffer from injuries. The choice of exercise is the important factor here, if you have a stressful job already, MMA, playing American football or squash against a colleague who can’t stand losing is not your exercise.
Some executives are avid athletes, but there is always the danger of overload or overtraining, since these are people with a strong drive who do not give up on a given task easily. They, like most people do not understand that exercise is stress!! Think about it: flight-or-fight!!! Exercise is not a panacea that can be applied to anyone at any time, without risks. Exercise is a drug, with a wide, but specific application, and with side effects, certainly when overdosed or misused.
Since executives have little time to spend on exercise and still want to see results, we often rely on short, high-intensity programs, but again: this triggers a stress response and again, they put pressure on themselves instead of taking enough time for it. If executives don’t want to train, well, who am I to force them to. I just explain the advantages it could have for their performance, health and well-being. The choice is always theirs, just as with my athletes.
The interventions are mainly life-style interventions, diet, supplementation, stress management techniques, exercise, and a regular coaching talk, to see and monitor where they stand and where they are going with their lives or to listen to their dilemma’s and problems and advise them.
The results of the Omegawave can tell me in which direction I have to think and I adjust my interventions accordingly, the next test will prove if the intervention was optimal.
For both athletes and executives what are a few key points you would make on why regular Omegawave testing can be beneficial and the impact it can have both on sport and corporate performance?
The Omegawave can tell us about the mental and physical resources and which system is outside of the norm: I developed many simple protocols to normalize these systems and since we tested more than 5000 different customers over a longer period of time, we see the patterns evolve.
With the current global situations at hand, we see an increase in stress-related symptoms throughout the population and measurements confirm this. Our approach offers new ways of help to maintain and improve health, functioning and performance for a wide range of clients.
If you want to improve your health, functioning and performance like Henks clients, click here to learn more about our Omegawave testing programs.