Prime – the go to facility for Elite athletes in Durban
07 June 2016
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Brad Brown: Great things start here, great things start now. This is Old Mutual Live running and we continue our look at some of the high performance centres around the country doing some amazing things in various sporting codes.
But also helping some of our Elite runners and back of the pack weekend warriors become better when it comes to running. We’re joined now by one of the Director of Prime Human Performance Institute, Dennis Jackson. Dennis, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us today.
Dennis Jackson: Thanks very much.
BB: Dennis, you guys are based down in Durbs and you’re doing some amazing work. Tell us a little bit about Prime and how it all started, what’s the history of it?
The history of Prime
DJ: Okay, well Prime started about 4-5 years ago, we opened in Moses Mabhida Stadium just shortly after the World Cup completed. It was born out of a desire for Durban to have a high performance centre. We’ve had such great high performance centres around the country, but Durban has never really had one. So that was basically born out of that idea and we all got together, a group of medical practitioners essentially and we formed Prime Human Performance Centre and it’s grown nicely since then.
BB: That little precinct around Moses Mabhida is magnificent. Obviously the stadium as a backdrop is just incredible. But obviously the pool’s there, there’s a lot going on in that precinct.
DJ: You know, in terms of having all the facilities in a close environment, it’s perfect. We’ve got the athletics track across the road, the swimming pool across the road, the rugby field, soccer field. So all the sports from the actual sport activities are taken care of.
Like any academy or high performance centre around the world, you’d have all those facilities in and around your high performance centre. Us being based right in the centre made most sense, we got the promenade close. So in terms of running on the promenade, going to swim in the sea, for an ocean swimmer and then the pool and the athletics track, we’ve got everything right here.
BB: You can’t ask for more. Tell me a little bit about some of the teams and sports stars that use Prime as a facility?
Athletes and teams that use the facility
DJ: On a regular basis, we work a lot with the Dolphins Cricket Team. They’re based here with us, they’re in here at least twice a week. Together with them, the Dolphin’s Academy, their junior guys work with us. The Sharks, we work with the Sharks quite a bit, with some of their rehabilitation. With some of their junior teams. Then Amazulu Football Club is a regular as well, so that’s in terms of the teams.
Then in terms of athletes, we’ve got over 130 Elite athletes from various sporting codes, from 14 different sporting codes. From athletics to swimming, mountain biking, canoeing and they all come through quite regularly into Prime. We essentially are that high performance centre for those Elite athletes in Durban.
But I think like you mentioned earlier, we also provide a service to your weekend warriors, guys that want to improve their Sani2c times or their Comrades time, or they want to do their first 5km run. We have the broad spectrum so that your average person who is trying to improve their times, can train alongside your top swimmers or top athletes.
BB: You mentioned helping the Sharks guys as an example, with rehab. This isn’t just about rehab, obviously it is a service that you guys can provide. If a runner is struggling with a specific injury and they need help, they can come and see you. But as a runner, if I want to just get better, Prime is a great place to be at and become the best runner you can be, if you are based down in KZN.
A one stop shop for runners
DJ: 100%, that’s essentially, like I said, what we’re looking to do, is to improve everyone. From whatever standard they are to where they want to be. We take people who have never run before to their first 5km, then 10km, then 21km. We had a guy complete the Comrades two years ago who wasn’t running 5km.
We’ve got guys that have been running 10-15 Comrades that are just trying to improve their times or trying to get to that magic number of 20 or whatever. It’s a broad spectrum, but we focus on improving you to the level you would like to be at.
We have great machines and technology at Prime. We have an anti-gravity treadmill which we use a lot with our runners. Obviously being an anti-gravity treadmill, you can remove the bodyweight from the person, so it’s used a lot when the runner is injured or training through an injury or trying to get better from an injury. They can run at 50-60% of their bodyweight. At the same time, of recent times, a lot of the top, elite athletes have been using it as getting in extra training.
They would do their normal, say you want to do 130km in a week. If you’re training for a marathon or Comrades or something, you’d do 130km in a week. But now with the anti-gravity treadmill, they do extra sessions on less bodyweight. So that they’re not taxing the body anymore, but they’re getting the training session in. They end up doing 160-170, of which 40 of those kilometres aren’t any impact on the body. There’s lots of various things.
BB: If you figured out how I can take one of those things on the Comrades route with me, I would be keen! I think a lot of runners would be too! You don’t just deal with South African athletes, you’ve had a few internationals through your doors as well. Tell us about some of the big name internationals that you guys have worked with?
When Manchester United are impressed…
DJ: We’re very fortunate when both Manchester United and Manchester City came through to play games here in Durban two years ago. They both chose Prime as a base. They trained here with us, which was really great. We used that opportunity as well to work with the medical and high performance teams and exchange info and exchange ideas. Normally you find in the medical and high performance sports science field that the guys are very open to that.
In fact, just a small story, when Man United were here, old Rio Ferdinand was still very involved. He was still playing and I remember him seeing some of our equipment and just chatted to a high performance guy and basically told him straight; listen, by the time we’re back here, I want to see this, this and this machine at Manchester when we get back.
So obviously he was quite impressed with it and obviously at the time he was quite senior, so we got a call from that supplier the next week saying, thank you for the referral. We got orders of like 20 of these machines for Manchester United.
It was really great to have good teams like that through. We often have guys with training camps coming through, athletes coming through for the week. We were happy to have the Para-Olympic South African team which is based down in Stellenbosch come and use us for a week. It was great to have them here. Various teams have come through, but it’s been great.
BB: You guys have also got an elite athletic development programme, tell me a little bit about that.
Development is also important at Prime
DJ: So that’s a programme that is funded by the Partner of Sport and Rec KZN. They have given funding to look after 123 elite athletes in the province. Basically those elite athletes come from 14 different sporting codes. The federations themselves of each of those sporting codes apply to the department to have athletes put on. In the end, between the federation and the department, they choose the athletes.
Prime, we’re the service provider. We get given that list of athletes on a yearly basis, mostly it stays the same. There’s a few on and off every year. But ja, we look after them, everything from their sports science testing to their high performance training to their medical fees. We just make sure that they’re completely taken care of from dietary, everything is taken care of for them.
BB: Brilliant. I wanted to touch on two of the athletes that you are working with as well, one being a name that we’re going to be watching fairly closely at the upcoming Rio Olympic Games, Anaso Jobodwana who is just, he’s running phenomenally well, a sprinter. It must be pretty cool working with someone of his calibre and the way things are growing in sprinting in SA, it’s pretty exciting for you guys.
Anaso Jobodwana, talented and professional
DJ: You’ve hit the nail on the head. Sprinting in this country has really blossomed and I think we’re all excited for the Olympics. Not just with Anaso, there’s a few other big names up there from around the country that are really putting the hopes of some medals on the table for us.
Anaso is great. Anaso’s been based in America over the past two years, but has come through regularly to us at Prime. He uses us, he particularly uses our sports doctor, Kevin Subban who he trusts impeccably. That’s where he comes through. He’s also based on our Elite athlete development programme and he’s a great guy.
He is completely down to earth, but you see the absolute professional he is when he trains at Prime. He’s working towards obviously one of the biggest goals that any athlete can work towards. It’s great to have him here.
BB: You mentioned that success breeds success, that’s what it’s all about. Another aspect of running that’s really growing here in South Africa and we’re getting great results is on the ladies’ side of things. You work quite closely with Jenna Challenor as well, who is based down in KZN. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve done with Jenna.
Helping Jenna Challenor turn up the heat
DJ: Jenna’s been based with us, as you say, she lives down here. Jenna progressed over the last two years from being a very talented 10km and 21km runner, running for South Africa in those disciplines and really getting amazing speed.
Then decided to take it up a notch over the last two years and move into the marathons. She’s done exceptionally well. She’s done, I think, three marathons now and her times, she did the qualifying time for the Olympics and she’s been great. Jenna works very hard as well, a lot of mobility work with her and core strength with her and then monitoring her training.
She uses, as well, what we have down here in Durban is our simulated altitude room. Obviously being based at the sea, our one downfall, we don’t have that other guys up at Pretoria have is altitude. Simulated altitude training has really taken off around the world. The rest of the world learnt about it shortly after the London Olympics, when we realised that most of their athletes had been using simulated altitude training and they did so well at the Olympics.
So, we in Durban decided, we need to have something like that to help us. So we at the time put in a simulated altitude room and Jenna’s in there at least twice of three times a week. Working hard, building up her aerobic capacity.
BB: Awesome stuff. Dennis, if people want to find out more about Prime down in Durban, I know you guys have got a website, where can they get more details?
DJ: So you can go onto the website, primehp.co.za or alternatively just look us up. You can contact us on 031 9405556, but the website is probably the easiest to get the most info. You’re more than welcome, anyone is more than welcome to contact us if they have any questions.
BB: Fantastic. Dennis, we’ll put those details up on the show notes of this episode as well, so if anybody wants them, they can click straight through. Next time I’m in Durbs, I’ll make a point of popping by. I love that precinct and I’ll come and see what you guys are doing.
DJ: Absolutely, we look forward to it.