Fear is not a bad thing. It can be the tool that pushes humans to reach their ultimate potential. This productive nature of fear is exactly what the Red Bull High Performance group set out to understand with “Performing Under Pressure,” a week-long training camp that pushed ten elite athletes and three entrepreneurs out of their comfort zones and through a series of fear-based activities.
Andy Walshe, who leads the High Performance group at Red Bull, and his team of physiologists tested the group’s physical and mental responses to challenges such as going head to head with massive pythons, laughing and crying on command and underwater breath-holding exercises, and collected data on each participant with the intent of developing personalised strategies for overcoming anxieties in their respective disciplines.
“The camp is created with a vision in mind: how do you optimise yourself when the pressure is high,” says Walshe. “Each element in the camp has a piece that exposes you a little bit and shows us what you need to work on. We wanted to understand pressure from multiple angles.”
The idea that it’s “all in your head” became clear as the athletes overcame primal fears with new strategies including breathing and focussing techniques and meditation. The result was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment across the camp. “Having access to this kind of information is really special. It’s very different from what we are usually exposed to,” says big mountain skier Michelle Parker. “You would think I’d be exhausted after something like this, but I feel completely rejuvenated. I am just elated,” added skier Tatum Monod.
Watch the full story of the camp below to see how the athletes pushed their own limits.
Designed to improve breathing techniques that can provide calm in high-pressure situations, the athletes spent time pushing the limits of how long they could hold their breath in the pool.
To elevate the group’s mental stress levels, they were forced into a constant state of awareness throughout the camp with surprise booby traps, timed bombs and puzzle challenges.
The racing element of the camp pushed the group’s mental agility, bringing the mind and body connection together as they handled their cars at top speeds while trying to keep heart rates low and focus high.
Confronting their primal fears, blindfolded participants had to crawl through a dark box filled with two massive pythons. Navigating the situation forced a heightened sense of awareness, focus and calm.
Trainers from Cirque du Soleil asked the group to tap into their emotions and find their expressive ranges. Performing in front of others pushed the athletes to become extroverts while remaining centered and balanced within.