Hacking Human Potential

Posted on: Monday, 9 May 2016 at 12:42:02 PM

Hacking Human Potential

Article from an AICC(WA)’s Business Breakfast with Edith Cowan University’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute, on 6 May 2016

The science of sport is a global industry, big business, and a sector within which some of the most technologically advanced innovation is under development.

Within Western Australia, the ECU Exercise Medicine Research Institute, and its associated commercial entity the Vario Health Clinic, leads the Australian foray into this exciting and rapidly growing market. Associate Dean and Co-Director Professor Robert Newton showcased the Institute, established in 2004 and now translating medical research into health clinics and programs to support physical activity and physiology. Bringing a holistic approach to health and lifestyle, the Institute now has 128 staff and brings its activity to support national and international clinics. Professor Newton shares a professional and personal relationship to Dr Andy Walshe, drawing on both to introduce a keynote address on how science and technology is used to advance the pinnacle of human endurance, entitled “Hacking Human Potential”.

Professor Rob Newton PhD, Associate Dean, Medical and Exercises, Co-Director, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Foundation Professor of Exercise and Sports Science, Edith Cowan University

 Dr Andy Walshe is a globally recognised leader and expert in the field of elite human performance. For over 20 years the Californian based, but native Australian coach has been focused on the goal of “demystifying talent” by researching and training individuals and teams across a vast network of world-class programs in sport, culture, military and business settings.

As Director of High Performance for Red Bull, he works with international athletes and cultural opinion leaders where he supervises a team of industry-leading scientists, engineers, physicians and technologists to develop and implement elite performance models.


 Dr Andy Walshe, Director of High Performance, Red Bull

As his opening gambit Andy Walshe submitted that when attempting to motivate and enhance an elite athlete at the top of their game, there are no benchmarks or limitations to their inestimable ability.

Delivering involved but logistically uncomplicated models for development that fully integrate every aspect of a training regime, large amounts of research and experience feed into the development of a program. Core elements of basic approach are;

  • Motivation
  • Repetition
  • Progression
  • Feedback
  • Acknowledging capacity to fail


 Working through examples of each, Andy Walshe showed how technology such as use of cameras and data support the impact of each. Noting his comments on failure, the translation of non-attainment into learning and measure was a core component of his model. He noted failure should be harnessed, not something to be scared of.

Dr Walshe provided a fascinating insight into the monitoring of the body, the tracking of physical development and how response to exercise, both neurological and muscular, can be utilised to enhance instinctive decision making. Real time adjustment to circumstance, when everything is on your mind, is the key to high performance under pressure. “The brain doesn’t respond as well when you are stressed” he noted.

Using a fascinating series of video presentations, Andy Walshe showed how the limits of endurance under pressure can not only be surpassed, but shattered. Using science, technology and coaching he showed how individual response rates are tested and extended. It is, he noted, about mastering risk and pushing beyond a risk threshold. The same dynamics can be replicated within the boardroom in a corporate setting. Similarly an analogy to the economic success of the nation of Israel was drawn from the same basic tenant, that necessity is the mother of invention.

Andy Walshe also spoke of the future of gaming sport, and the convergence of online and physical activity in the form of rapidly advancing new industry. He spoke about the future of training, suggesting that the use of data and medical science would lead to incomprehensible changes to all forms of sport, exercise and lifestyle in the next 5-20 years. Red Bull makes its data open source, such that its use and drive towards collaboration further accelerates this trend. Andy Walshe quipped “Everybody is creative. Some people get paid for it, and some people don’t.”


Professor John Finlay-Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Edith Cowan University

Some of the more innovative examples presented by Andy Walshe included

A world record jump from space, breaking the speed of sound in freefall

Surfing in extreme conditions

Red Bull Hacking Talent, and some extraordinary training techniques


From crawling with snakes, x-sports and motor racing, through to the Red Bull Stratos program, Andy Walshe left his audience spellbound on the capacity of human endurance and the evolvement of elite performance. ECU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Vice-President Professor John Finlay-Jones proposed a vote of thanks, further drawing on the role of the ECU Exercise Medicine Research Institute in the advancement of technology, data and science within the sphere of human endurance.


 From L to R - Professor John Finlay-Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Edith Cowan University and Dr Andy Walshe, Director of High Performance, Red Bull



Back to Search Results