PAT BOWDEN —Australian FMX Champion, X Games competitor and member of Freestyle Kings the Crusty Demons — shares his training and diet regimes, talks broken bones and how he mentally prepares to perform some of the world’s deadliest stunts…
What made you want to get into this sport, Pat?
I’m not sure what it was about motorcycles that first inspired me. As far as I can remember it’s just something that I’ve always known I was born to do. I asked my dad for a dirt bike when I was three years old and started riding with his help. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to be the best rider in the world in my chosen discipline – Freestyle Motocross.
What’s an aspect of your job that most people would be surprised to know about?
Along with being highly-skilled motorcycle riders we are also professional risk takers. Every time I swing a leg over my bike and perform these tricks, we are facing the risk of death or serious injury. However, throughout the years of doing this over and over my ability to walk the tightrope between life and death has become second nature giving me the ability to feel a sense of freedom that a lot of people don’t get to experience in life. For a job, to have this as an extra bonus is pretty awesome.
Describe your fitness regime?
I try to maintain a fairly high level of strength and cardio training because I compete in the FIM FMX World Championship throughout the year, which is a competition-based format, so it’s important for me to be fit, agile and explosive. Essentially, when I take to the course, it’s a sprint where you must fit as many jumps in as you can in 90 seconds while performing the most dangerous trick in the sport — all while maintaining complete mental clarity.
Describe a normal training day for you?
When I’m home in Australia in between events I usually wake up at 4am, run two kilometres as a warm-up to my local F45 in Helensvale, on the Gold Coast in Queensland, where I then do a 45-minute class – usually a high-intensity strength and cardio workout. If I’m feeling good I might stay for two classes, so a 90-minute workout in total followed by a two-kilometre run home. Then I head into P3 Sports recovery in Burleigh Heads to rotate in the magnesium ice and heat baths. I try do this five-to-six days a week which can be pretty taxing on the body after being away on tour for months at a time. Right now, I’m also doing assisted stretching two days a week at Action Sports Performance in Brisbane as all the training tends to make my body super-tight, which makes it hard to extend my tricks when you’re inflexible. It also helps to avoid injury when you crash and hit the ground.
Is there any specific training you need to do in your profession?
Along with obvious bike practice with learning new tricks, etc… For me, it’s important to stay lean, agile and explosive so I avoid lifting super heavy weights. I guess you could compare me to a gymnast.
What are the most important muscle groups you concentrate on?
It’s most important to have a strong core, however overall strength from arms to legs is ideal. Also mental strength is a necessity as pushing past fear barriers is vital to be successful in our sport.
Describe the mental strength needed to do what you do?
The biggest challenge is having the ability and discipline to let go of fear and push your body into the unknown. For example, recently I was jumping a 55-metre jump and on the approach for the first time travelling at about 100km/h there is so much going through your mind – the gravity of what you’re doing and the consequences if something was to go wrong is just so real it’s easy for your mind to slip and be filled with fear resulting in hesitating and backing out. The thing is though, you only have about three seconds to decide if you’re going to commit and, while travelling at these speeds with all the visual and mental distractions, to be simultaneously calculating a life or death decision it takes huge amounts of brain power and emotions to crush the negative thoughts and decide I’m willing to go for it. This is where getting up at 4am to train comes into play. When you have disciplined yourself to get up well before the sun every day, while your body is screaming “no”, it gives you the ability to be in control when facing a life or death decision.
So, doubt surfaces before attempting a stunt?
For sure! I will be faced with an even worse version of negative emotion in the form of regret in combination and the fact I have a deep belief that this is what I was born to do is essentially my “why”. Meditating on this reasoning is usually enough to get me in the right mind frame to take on the challenge.
How do you prepare for a performance or competition?
Because what I do is just as much, if not more, of a mental game, once I’m actually at an event and I know I’ve done everything physically to prepare myself. The rest comes down to my mentality – making sure I’m focused on being as calm as I can when dealing with the elusive feelings of fear and doubt. Being disciplined in this aspect and keeping a positive outlook when your body and mind is screaming not to do something is just as challenging as the physicality of it all.
Do you have a specific routine before you go out and perform?
Not particularly. Mostly, I just try to remind myself that right now I’m living an experience I’ve literally been striving for my whole life. A lot of my time at an event is spent in my head, reminding myself to be great and full for the opportunity I’m getting to experience. And to not put too much emphasis on results because, at the essence of it all, I do this because it’s fun and because I want to experience an extraordinary life. So, getting caught up in anything less than enjoying myself is a waste of time.
What goes through your mind before performing?
If you’re not careful, all types of crazy stuff! Some of the more risky stuff I’ve done, like when I did the world’s first “Ruler Front Flip” in competition – Google it – I was faced with so much fear and doubt I was overwhelmed with a temporary feeling of depression. As humans we are hard-wired to stay out of harm’s way, although when you’re gifted with a passion that happens to be based around risking your life, it’s a real contradicting predicament to find yourself in.
How do you stay focused?
Over time it’s become somewhat second nature. I remember when I was still climbing the ranks in the sport, sometimes I wouldn’t be completely unfocused because I was distracted by the crowd or things around me. I learnt the hard way that this caused accidents. So, over the years I’ve developed the ability to shut everything out around me. Now, when I compete or perform – even if I’m in a stadium with 20,000 people screaming – I’m in my helmet completely oblivious to the fact there’s even anyone else there except me.
When it comes to motorcycle stunts, do you have a personal favourite?
It’s always changing. At the moment I would say my favourite trick is a “double grab backflip” – hanging off the back of the bike by my hands perpendicular to the bike while doing a backflip. It’s funny because this trick used to make me feel sick I was so scared of it, but over time it’s become easy and fun.
Was there moment in your career that made you actually fearful?
Yes, one of the most traumatic things that happened to me was when I was 17. I shattered my femur (thigh bone) into about eight pieces, down into my knee joint. Due to the way it happened I was mentally scarred for so many years, even until today. I was on crutches for over a year – that accident almost ended my career.
You’ve had five broken bones in your careerto date. What’s been the worst injury you’ve had?
I’ve had some pretty gnarly accidents throughout my career so far. Besides the femur, I’d say the other nastiest injuries I’ve had are concussions – countless times. Being young and inexperienced, I used to have a problem judging jump distances and I’d either go too far, or not far enough, resulting in a hospital trip. Breaking bones is one thing, but when it comes to damaging your mind that’s when it becomes a game-changer.
How important is diet to your job?
Because I travel around the world more than six months of the year, living out of a suitcase and eating takeaway can cause pretty serious changes. So, it’s difficult to manage but I try to train as much as possible and eat well when I’m away – but it’s never the same when you’re out of your routine. Usually, it’s a game of catch-up when I’m home to undo all the negative effects the travel life can cause.
Take us through your daily or weekly diet and how you manage your weight.
When I get home from a big trip, usually I’m craving my routine. I get straight back into the gym, five to six days a week, to build my fitness back up and shred any fat I’ve gained. To speed up this process I usually invest the first week into going two times a day just to jump start the progress. In terms of diet, I’m usually trying to cut fat so I focus on eating as clean as I can with minimum carbs and low-fat meat with vegetables.
What advice can you give to anyone wanting to do your job?
Take it slow, don’t rush, be patient and consistent. Keep your head down, work hard and when you look up eventually you’ll be where you dreamt of. It’s better to progress slowly over five years than to progress fast – make mistakes, crash, heal and start over.
Is there anything you have yet to try or achieve?
Yes. Right now, I’m in a transitional phase – I’ve achieved most of what I’ve set out to do in my FMX career. So, the next chapter for me is going down a route you could compare to the likes or Robbie Maddison or Evel Knievel – I have huge ambitions of doing world’s-first stunts in front of the masses. It’s just about filling in the gaps between where I am now and where I see myself. ■
For all Crusty Demons 2019 Australian tour dates and ticket information head to WWW.CRUSTY.COM
PHOTOS (THIS PAGE): MERCEDES-BENZ GOLD COAST
For the full article grab the August 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.