WHY the Shark? Why not? Look at him!
The whole idea of getting 62-year-old Greg Norman to be the face of our Get-Fit Issue for 2017 actually started at the 2016 OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico.
More specifically, it was triggered by this photo [below] of Norman during the tournament’s pro-am. An unusually buff, athletic-looking (even for him) Norman turned heads everywhere as he marched around the fairways looking more like a professional wrestler than a two-time British Open winner.
“Holy s–t, check out the guns on Norman,” was the simultaneous cry here at Australian Golf Digest HQ. “How old is he again, 50-something?”
Open mouths, wide eyes and gobsmacked silence swept the office. It was evident the man who ruled world golf for 331 weeks during the ’80s and ’90s hadn’t lost his bite in his senior years, at least not in the gym.
While Norman these days spends most of his time in a boardroom or in the air on board his luxury private jet, arguably the world’s most successful athlete-turned-businessman always makes time for his body.
“I don’t know what a typical day for me looks like but I can tell you it feels pretty darn good,” he says, wiping sweat from his forehead during our photoshoot at his home gym in Florida.
Don’t worry, it looks pretty darn impressive too, Greg.
What makes Norman the perfect fit for this special issue is his seniority. Many readers of Australian Golf Digest are of similar age to the Shark, and most grew up watching and idolising him. It stands to reason what The Shark says about golf and fitness should be more relatable for readers than, say, a young athlete like Jason Day or Adam Scott, whose respective metabolisms are still firing on all cylinders.
“Strength combined with flexibility is the most important thing in golf and it’s never too late to get both,” Norman says.
“But if you have too much strength without the flexibility, it’s a recipe for disaster in the golf swing. Conversely, if you have too much flexibility – and I was too flexible at times during my career because I was a prolific stretcher – that can be detrimental to your golf game as well. Your joints are your joints; your facets are your facets.
“No matter how good and healthy they are, if you have very dense muscle mass around them, that will protect them to a degree but if you throw in supreme flexibility on top of that, the weakest link is going to break down most of the time and that’s why you see a lot of guys on the tour with back problems – power players like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. Most of these guys have some sort of ailment because of a strength and flexibility imbalance.”
Norman avoided major ailments for most of his career due largely to his fitness work with personal trainer of 20 years, Pete Draovitch. He still lives by those same workouts and dietary advice today, and is now sharing them with you exclusively on the following pages.
“To me, if you feel like acting a certain age your body will follow, provided you’ve looked after it properly,” Norman says. “When I go out onto the tennis court, I can stand on the baseline and return balls to two professional tennis players at the net. I’m addicted to the cardio workout it gives me and I can do it for two-and-a-half hours.
“At 62 years of age, I take great satisfaction when guys half my age say they are struggling to keep up with me.”
Before Norman could reveal his workout secrets to help you lose weight, get fit and ultimately play better golf, we threw some key questions at him to get you well on your way to shaving 30 years off your game, just like the great man himself.
Australian Golf Digest: Describe a day in the gym for the super-fit Shark?
Greg Norman: Well, I normally start my day off with a 45-minute workout on an elliptical trainer to get my heart rate up around 185-190 and sustain it if I can. I then do five-to-six routines in the gym. I love to train on my own, using all the workouts my former trainer, Pete Draovitch, designed for me while I was competing on tour. Right now I’m in a position where it’s all about maintaining what I’ve got – I don’t need to get any bigger or stronger. I feel really, really good where I am right now and if I have to push myself harder in training, I simply ramp up the intensity, not the weights. I always train in the afternoon, around 4-6pm, because whether I was playing a golf tournament, sitting in a boardroom or flying around the world for business, the end of the day has always been my stress-reliever time. I turn the music on loud, watch a bit of TV if there’s some golf or tennis on, and I work up a sweat. And to be honest, when the sun goes down I don’t even turn on a light … I keep training in the dark because it keeps me focused in my zone. The gym is my happy playground for a few hours.
How often do you work out?
When I’m home, at least five days a week, sometimes seven. I’ll occasionally take Sundays off, but if I’m feeling a little lethargic on those days I’ll head to my gym and get the blood pumping again.
How important is fitness on and off the course?
Fitness is key to any successful golfer, sportsperson or just life in general and it’s easy to incorporate it into your life. Even when I’m sitting in my office I’m doing some type of mini-workout, whether that’s working my hamstrings or firing my abdominal muscles. You can do leg raises sitting down … there’s always something you can be doing to fire up your body and then let it relax. There’s nothing worse than sitting down for hours on end in a board meeting and feeling lethargic. But after you do a few little movements, all of a sudden you get a jolt of energy, your mind feels sharper and you get back into it.
What’s your advice for people, particularly those your age, who want to get fit, healthy and play better golf?
It’s all about what your passion is in life. I enjoy fitness because, for me, it’s a stress reliever and I saw the benefits of working out 30-plus years ago. What you put into your body is what your body is going to deliver, physically and mentally. If you put good nutrition in your body, you can go to your gym and do as much or as little working out as you want. The important thing is to move … constantly. I even work out in my office. My staff don’t know it but when the door is closed I’ll do some stretching exercises and light workouts to get the blood pumping. The other thing is I design a lot of golf courses so I’m regularly walking virgin terrains, from the Colorado Rockies at 9,000 feet to the deserts of Jordan where the temperature can reach 50-plus degrees Celsius. I need to walk all over the place to find the little nuances that you don’t find with a topography map, so that’s a big reason why I need to maintain my fitness levels in my 60s. When I spend time at my ranch in Colorado, I love to do 10-hour hikes. I’ll take off in the morning with my wife and we’ll set off for an entire day and end up at 13,000 feet. We have done hikes at 18,000 feet – my highest climb reached 20,000 feet in Kyrgyzstan – and if I wasn’t fit enough I would never have been able to discover these things in my life. So start with a clear game plan and good nutrition.
How can amateurs find more power through fitness?
It’s all about strength and flexibility. You can be big and strong, physically, but that won’t necessarily translate to being a bomber off the tee. Combining flexibility with your strength, like some of these young kids do today, is the key to getting more distance. Those of us who were power players know the equation: it’s distance without effort. It’s all about rotation, timing, your inner core and releasing into impact properly. A lot of amateurs try to hit the ball too hard from the top. They use their little muscles to hit the ball instead of the big ones like the glutes, quads and core. When you turn and rotate with these muscles, everything else really goes for a ride. If you’re a weekend warrior and don’t workout a lot, just stretch a little bit – as you get out of your car or when you leave the office. Little 20-second stretches may seem insignificant but you won’t believe how your body responds to such movement.
In your opinion, who are the fittest golfers in the world?
Dustin Johnson is by far the most natural athlete I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen him workout before but he looks like an absolute specimen. I’ve been free-diving with him and my son so I’ve seen what he looks like in a pair of shorts and nothing else and he’s got a body on him, let me tell you. From a golf swing-point of view, DJ’s got everything you want: he’s tall, strong, very flexible and has great leverage. Rory McIlroy, for someone who is a lot smaller in stature compared to DJ, has tremendous flexibility to match his strength. And from an Aussie perspective, I’ll single out Jason Day because he has done such an amazing job of transforming his body and overall health from when he first cracked the US PGA Tour. Jason identified what he had to do with his body to become a better player, and that started with nutrition and finished with the way he works out today. The way he goes about it is so professional.
You were big on preparation. What’s your favourite warm-up routine for the first tee?
Well, if I had a 7am tee-time, I’d get up at 4.30am … maybe 4am. I’d have a very light breakfast then head to the gym at the club I was playing at and hop on the VersaClimber (a machine that combines upper and lower body exercise into vertical climbing motions) for 10-12 minutes. Why that amount of time? It takes my body between seven and nine minutes to start to sweat, and I need to get a light sweat going so my blood is flowing and I feel like my muscles are ready to go. From there I’ll go and do a real light session on the weights, again to fire my muscles, then I’ll stretch for 20 minutes and head to the driving range 40 minutes before my tee-time to hit a few balls with selected clubs. The only difference today is maybe I can shoot my age for nine holes [laughs].
What’s one of the most overlooked aspects of training on tour today?
Well, it’s amazing when I hear commentators talk about how windy a particular course is and how the players are getting buffeted around. When I was out there on a windy day, I would go practise my putting and squeeze my inner-core muscles under my navel. I did this to make sure my centre of gravity was so rock-solid that nobody could walk up and push me over. Yet I still had the flexibility and relaxation in my upper body to create a little shoulder turn to allow me to stroke a putt. Without question, strengthening your core muscles with a trainer will benefit any level of golfer.
Why does Adam Scott have a great physique and flawless golf swing?
It’s a conversation I’ve had numerous times with 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater. I was a good surfer and Adam is a good surfer. I am absolutely convinced to this day, and I didn’t know it when I was riding waves, but surfing is probably the best sport for a young kid to get into if they have dreams of becoming a professional golfer. Why? It’s all about your proprioceptors. In surfing, when you drop in on a wave and you get up on your board and plant your feet where you feel comfortable, you’re feeling every ripple and every movement working up through your body, through your glutes and core, all while your upper body stays loose so you can control the board and your balance. Now Kelly Slater is a scratch golfer, right? I said to Kelly, “It’s because you’re surfing.” Take it from a guy who used to surf and was the No.1 golfer in the world, the correlation between the two sports and the way the body works on the surfboard – yes you may not have the rotation of a golf swing – but, my God, you know exactly where you were in space at all times because of how you were centred on the board and yet your upper body was so relaxed to make those little movements to keep yourself in balance. That’s why Adam has such a good swing and partly why he has a good body. When he’s paddling out to surf he’s using and pulling down on those lats (Latissimus dorsi muscle in the back). What’s one of the key muscles in the golf swing? The lats. As a result Adam’s downswing is accelerated with power and speed, which he gets from surfing. So my advice is if it’s ever too hot to hit the fairways, hit the waves instead!