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Niagara Falls
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Sports: Playing the long game

NOTL fitness expert Nathane Jackson helps golfers get trim and improve their game



Rick Janes
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

Nathane Jackson doesn’t need to know the temperature or check outside to see if the grass is turning green to realize a new golf season is here.

He just needs to check his inbox and count the emails from golfers looking for his help to add another 20 yards to their tee shots. 

Jackson is a veteran health and wellness authority with over two decades of experience as a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and nutritionist helping clients shed body fat, build strength and improve performance.

He’s an athlete and former university basketball player, who fell in love with the game of golf and has been training golfers ever since. 

Now 45, he was born in Fonthill, where he attended elementary school and played baseball, basketball and football. His father was transferred to the small town of Cary, Ill., where, in Grade 9, Jackson quickly learned that sports in U.S. schools were vastly different from Canada. 

“Playing high school sports in the United States was a huge shock. I went from playing football at recess as a way of making friends to getting crushed in football practice every day,” he says.

“I’d come home with bruises all over my body and tears in my eyes because I was being hit so hard. It was a horrible experience. I hated it, but I couldn’t give up,” he recalls. 

Jackson hit the weight room for his second year of high school and got stronger. He was named co-captain of the sophomore football team and got called up to the varsity squad as a practice player when the team made the playoffs.

When basketball season came, the tall and lanky teenager had grown into his 6-foot-4 frame and no one pushed him around again.

He attended West Chester University, a Division II school just outside Philadelphia. He missed Canada and transferred to the University of Windsor where he played two years of varsity basketball and earned a degree in sociology. He started to train in 2000 soon after graduation.

Jackson’s first job was at GoodLife Fitness in Toronto’s Union Station, where he quickly realized that the big box experience was more about selling memberships than training clients.

He moved to Revolution Fitness, a small boutique gym on Yonge Street, where he met Sidney Crosby’s longtime personal trainer Andy O’Brien, a much sought-after strength and conditioning coach. 

“When Crosby and O’Brien came into the gym, they had a ball and a couple of bands. That was it. They didn’t use any of the equipment. They used our exercise room, not for its privacy, but because all they needed was a wall and a floor,” says Jackson.

“Here was one of the best athletes in the world training this way, which made me realize how much I didn’t know. This was different. It was about movement, mobility and stability.”

By 2015, Jackson’s parents had returned to Canada and settled in Niagara-on the-Lake. He was still training in Toronto when he joined his father and uncle at the Queenston Golf Club for his first game of golf in nearly three decades.   

“During that round I hit a shot square on the clubface that felt like hitting a pillow. It was that perfectly struck shot that keeps us all coming back. For me, it was a watershed moment,” says Jackson.

“I knew right there that golf could fill a competitive void that I had, not only as a sport that I could play, but one where I could share my knowledge as a strength and conditioning coach to help golfers perform better. I’ve been an avid student of the game ever since.” 

A small-town boy at heart, Jackson soon returned to the Niagara region and started training clients at the community centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He enrolled in the Titleist Performance Institute, a certification program designed by golf teaching professionals, medical practitioners and fitness trainers that teaches how the body functions during the golf swing.

He then started collaborating with Norm Moote, a protégé of the late PGA Tour player George Knudson and full-time golf teacher for more than 40 years.

Jackson was anxious to learn as much as possible about the swing and Moote was looking to add yards to his drives and lose some weight. The collaboration worked and Jackson became a decent player in a short time. 

“While I knew nothing about golf in the beginning, there are fundamental things from my strength and conditioning experience that clients need to be able to do regardless of the sport. I knew I could train people to achieve the fundamentals,” he says.

“That’s 80 per cent of the job. You train the person first and then you train for the sport.”

His approach is based on a pyramid, at the base of which is movement, followed by strength, and then power.

“If you can’t move properly, nothing else will follow. You can’t have strength without movement and you can’t have power without strength. And you can’t add 20 yards to your drives without increased speed.”

Pre-pandemic, 60 per cent of Jackson’s training was done one-on-one in the gym. His practice today is entirely online and his clients, who are now mainly golfers, come from across North America.

“You can’t have strength without movement and you can’t have power without strength. And you can’t add 20 yards to your drives without increased speed.”

–Nathane Jackson

Among his various services, his programs feature follow-along videos delivered through his website including six-week mobility programs for hips, spine and shoulders, and a 12-week coaching program designed to help golfers increase clubhead speed for added distance. 

Is it too late to start training for the golf season? Absolutely not according to Jackson. 

“My clients in Sun Belt markets train throughout the year. Those who stop training during the golf season eventually find it harder to walk the course, feel like they’re losing distance and start to experience injuries,” he says.

“I recommend that my clients train for a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week during the season. One hour, three times a week would be amazing.”  

There is a popular Chinese proverb that says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

The same is true of fitness training. Adding 20 yards is like losing 20 pounds. It takes time, patience, consistency and commitment. And the thought of a perfectly struck shot every once in a while.

Rick Janes is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. For more information about Nathane Jackson visit nathanejackson.com.

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