What if the Red Bull High Performance Team could give you the combined talents, strengths and abilities of the entire breadth of achievement of human kind? Would you be interested? Understanding how to package up all of this into a formula or a product that can be handed out to everyone in the world is their goal.

Red Bull has grown a reputation far beyond its routes as a drinks manufacturer (Krating Daeng) from Thailand. Their pursuit of associating their brand with extreme sports and the achievement of incredible things has propelled extreme sports into the mainstream more than ever before. They spend millions of dollars a year on sponsorship deals and making sure the best in the world are proud to wear the Red Bull logo.

Andy Walshe is the head of ‘High Performance and Human Potential Development’ for Red Bull: His task is to take these extraordinary and world-class athletes and make them better. Often his subjects have already broken records and exceeded the achievements of any other athlete in their field in history. So, how can they make these people better? How do they know if it is even possible? And if they are already the best, why do they need to be better?

Well even the best can be pushed further, can achieve new records, heights, speeds and abilities. Andy and his team have devised a simple structure that highlights the individual’s strengths and, more importantly, their weaknesses. He believes that this simple analysis can be used for individuals, teams and even companies. The idea is that by creating a more rounded person in each area, we can develop not only an incredible athlete, but also an all round extraordinary human being.

So here it is, the simple framework of 10 areas that need to be developed in order to achieve your full potential in any field:

RedBull Framework

Skills:

This is usually quite a strong area for most athletes as it is the main requirement in getting into competitions. However, once you have reached the required level of skill to compete, there is still a lot to be developed in order to become the best or to start setting new records.

Red Bull have a prescription to make sure their athlete’s skill is continually improved:

  • Motivation – Are they motivated? Are they motivated to improve?
  • Progression – Develop incremental steps to improve height, speed, strength or agility. Keep moving the bar so that over time all of the small improvements add up to something ground breaking.
  • Feedback – Always have clear indicators or data to track development. This way the athlete will be able to quantify progress and also monitor what has a positive effect and what has a negative effect.
  • Repetition – Give them the opportunity to practice the skill over and over again. Allow them to fail more often and to learn form their mistakes.
  • Failure is OK – Let the athlete know that failure is encouraged!

 

Physical:

Most athletes will be in good shape, but – through specific training of different muscle groups, added flexibility or a variety of different styles of exercise – the athlete may be able to complete new tricks, endure higher strains on their body or compete for longer.

Their focus:

  • Exercise – Beyond the practice of their sport, the team can analyse the key movements and muscles used in order to include specific resistance training in these areas
  • Variety – A variety of different workouts and activities will encourage functional strength and will get the athletes body used to functioning in different ways
  • Nimbleness – Activities like yoga can be great to increase core strength and flexibility. It can also act as a way to keep muscles loose and flexible while training
  • Training breath – Seeing as breathing is the oil to any movement, training it can regulate heart rate, increase focus and even improve survival rate for big wave surfers

 

Psychology:

Psychology can play a huge role in separating the winners from the runners up. When everyone can land the same tricks in practice, psychology separates those who can land it on the day and those who can’t. It brings out those who can take the pressure, who can come back from defeats and who can consistently commit to that big trick knowing that they will land successfully.

The psychological focus includes:

  • Mind – Traditional phycology work i.e. sitting down with a psychologist and talking through underlying issues or limiting beliefs
  • Brain – Mapping a highly optimised and successful brain of an expert operating at their highest level and then using this map to train other brains to be more like that one.
  • Nutrition – Manipulating the neuro transmittal levels in the brain to optimise function

 

Technology:

What technology can we use to help take the athlete to another level? A core technological focus has been on monitoring; helping with the ‘feedback’ point listed above. This could be collecting data as the athlete practices or live during competition.

Technology has also been used a lot more recently to help to train the athletes to put themselves into the all-important ‘flow state’ more often. Technology such as the Versus is a popular choice of the Red Bull team.

 

Nutrition:

The nutritional needs of a body builder are totally different to that of a freediver. Each activity or discipline will require different body builds, abilities or functionality. For example a long distance runner will eat foods focused on endurance, where as a sprinter will need short term bursts of energy.

Nutrition can affect recovery time and how sluggish or energetic the athlete feels. The process of digesting different types of food or volumes of food may also take its toll on other body functions (most of us know what it is like to have a bog lunch and lose all concentration for the rest of the afternoon!).

 

Life Skills:

Red Bull is notably keen on taking their athletes out of their comfort zone and taking them on out-of-comfort-zone expeditions with other athletes or to do training in new disciplines. This helps the individual to grow as a person, to test their team and leadership skills and to remind them what it is like to learn something new from the beginning.

Felix Banberger – famous for his skydive from the edge of space – turned around a blip in his confidence during training by defining his reasons for attempting the stunt and to remind himself how he wants to be remembered.

The life skills take a variety of forms and depend on each individual athlete and their needs:

  • Facing fears
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Personal brand
  • Leadership
  • Working with people

 

Creativity:

Enhancing creativity encourages the mind to think of new ways to view an obstacle or innovative ways to put tricks and skills together.

 

Spirituality:

I was unable to find much information on this from Red Bull. However, my assumption is that it is to do with the use of core values and purpose: Having an understanding of what you stand for, what your governing moral framework is and the ability to share the load with someone or something else bigger than yourself. This will be the area where the team looks at philosophy, meditation and purpose.

 

X Factor:

The final area has been left open to cover those areas we do not yet understand. This is the area where we try to look for the things that make people special but are as yet indefinable.

 

How can we use this framework?

These techniques aren’t only useful for athletes: Red Bull says that these variations can be used to enhance anyone with talent in fields such as music, business, arts or the military. You can use the framework to improve whatever dominant skill you have chosen to pursue.

The physical and the nutritional areas are applicable to everyone as they have a positive impact, even if you are working on being the best accountant. Healthy habits, good nutrition and regular exercise promote brain function and general increased feelings of happiness.

Psychology, spirituality and creativity will give you different perspectives on problems and challenges, and help you to manage stress.

Entry level technology can be used to track your performance and give instant feedback, such as the instant feedback FitBit, Jawbone Up or the MisFit. Being able to quantify your fitness or activity levels will allow you to track your progress more effectively.

Medical testing to check for deficiencies or potential disease (such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease) can be achieved through private blood testing. Companies such as CuroSeven (in the UK) and Wellness FX (in the US) offer a service that analyses blood markers to help optimise your training and diet to help you perform at your best. I will hopefully be going through this process in a few months to cover it in greater detail and assess its effectiveness. (I’ll keep you posted!)

As Andy has repeatedly said in all of his presentations: This is a work in progress and their first attempt at building a framework to organise and utilise a range of different areas of improvement.

The key message from this structure is to look outside of the immediate skill that you are practicing. Look at your mental game as well as your physical. Track the journey and check what technology is available to help take you to the next level.

I am interested to hear what optimisation techniques or technologies have worked for you. Has anyone tried blood testing? Let me know in the comments…

 

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