Good morning and welcome to Episode 064 of the Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. It’s Monday again, so this is our weekly, 30-minute episode. (Tuesday through Sunday we produce five-minute episodes with daily tips.) Every episode of the Train Your Brain Podcast provides advice for helping you to improve the function of your brain.
In Episode 064, Dr. Trayford explains some of the most effective techniques that he uses to train peak performers. Whether an athlete, business person, or musician, these individuals push themselves to execute every motion with exact precision. Biofeedback, balance-testing and eye-testing are just the beginning. If you want to up your game, in any arena, Dr. Trayford knows how to train your brain to help you achieve peak performance!
If you have any concerns regarding the information and applications discussed in this podcast, please consult your physician and a doctor who is experienced in functional neurology. Michael Trayford DC, DACNB is available for consultation by calling (828) 708-5274. Thanks for listening.
People have different ideas of what a peak performer is. When I say the term it conjures up for some people a wide variety of images. Most people might think of athletes or musicians.
There is also the academic realm, where you find people that are specialist or who do the best in their particular research or area of study. There are also business figures like CEO and wealth managers. These people need to be operating at a high level to be able to excel in the marketplace and serve a wide variety of customers.
There is also a new class of peak performers that really has nothing to short of beating down our doors, so to speak. We are getting a lot of people who are interested in improving their brain function. About four months ago we had a woman show up at our clinic and she said I want to give myself a birthday present. I want my brain to work better, and I think you are the people to help me do that.
She went through a five-day program and she’s doing quite well for herself in her chosen vocation and family life with not complaints. In most cases people go to see their doctor and they have a laundry list of complaints that they would like their healthcare provider to help them address.
So for me it was very refreshing to see someone come in with no complaints and simply wanting to do better with their brain. This is primarily baby boomers 55 to 65 and seniors as well. They’ve seen their parents and grandparents experience a steep decline when they go into nursing homes and other environments where their brain can’t thrive as much as it used to.
This is usually followed by medications, where these people end up living longer with a lower quality of life.
Myself personally I would favor quality over quantity of life and many people are also starting to see things that way. Modern medicine allows us to keep people alive after traumatic problems like heart disease, cancers and strokes. But often these people also have a decreased quality of life.
Our healthcare system excels at keeping people alive. So now we need to focus on improving quality of life.
What is peak performance?
There are a lot of definitions. This is a state where someone performs to their maximum ability. But also it’s associated with feelings of confidence, effortlessness and focus. Being in the zone right?
Jason: Right Yeah!
There have been plenty of books written on the topics. Including Flow. The bottom line is that there are a lot of things that can be done to help people focus better, concentrate better and remember skills better. So that there are feelings of effortless ness as they seem to be doing daily tasks.
It just helps people do the best they can do at that particular activity.
There is also the element of peak performance in your everyday life. It’s simply being able to do one’s best period.
Now we don’t have to differentiate between people in different places in life or facing different challenges. The goal is simply to help an individual do their very best at whatever they are trying to do for their given capacity, whether they are the CEO of a successful company or someone struggling with Parkinson’s disease.
There is always a higher level of function to get to. Regardless of whether or not there is a particular medical condition holding you back. That’s peak performance.
That’s our goal and job at APEX brain centers.
Jason: I think it’s exciting to think that there are people that are coming in just to see what they can do on top of what they are already able to do. That your brain has more potential that you can tap into.
I think that’s something that you and all the listeners.
Numbers and statistics of brain function or the number of nerve cells are incorporated in the mind can be a gray area. While there are some things we can’t necessarily tap into, you can always take your brain to the next level.
Over the years I am constantly amazed at what I have seen people’s brains be able to do over time, if they take ownership of the process and not necessarily rely on us for it. Because truly effective brain training happens through the course of daily exercises and factors that elevate function.
We are seeing this new population of peak performers.
There was a woman three months ago at 72-years old, she was still acting CEO of her company. She came to see us because she was mandated to take a test to be paid by certain government and other agencies directly to her company.
She had been through a great deal of schooling and testing in the course of her life. Then she took the test and failed it. She wanted to take it again, but failed it again. She had to choose between taking the test again or sticking with the old inefficient payment method.
She came to us and went through a five-day program that worked on concentration, focus and memory. She was doing well at these different aspects, but it was operating in a different way than someone who was in their 40’s or 50’s.
In her case it wasn’t a matter of not knowing the answers. It was related to anxiety and differentiating between similar sounding answers.
Even in the past people taking the SAT would come to use to learn how to attend to the test with greater focus. We wouldn’t do any academic training. We were just working under the hood so to speak to tack on a 1 or 200 points to their SAT score.
With this 72-year old woman it wasn’t as much about her ability as it was finding a better way to focus. People can apply this principle of peak performance to other aspects of their life beyond simply career or testing performance.
We have a lot of CEO’s and managers that come to see us to help up their game and improve their career lifespan. We see in a lot of cases where some people might only be able to maintain a position for a few years before they are replaced by someone coming up behind them that is doing the same job at a higher level.
So brain training helps to improve career longevity.
The common thread in peak performers is this feeling that you want to do your best. You might be very good at doing something, but peak performers feel a certain drive to want to do their best.
There are also some common challenges we see with peak performers. Try to think of a company or a CEO that does doesn’t have a trait like defiance. Many of these people got to their lofty positions by crushing the status quo and blazing their own path.
That’s something we try to squash in our school systems. People who want to break the mold are discouraged, because we fear creativity in this country for some reason. So it’s important to understand that a certain level of defiance is healthy, but it can get into the extreme where people do have such severe issues that it can become disabling for them.
The same traits that make someone successful in sports and business can also increase odds of getting involved with alcohol or drugs. When you look at their brains, they look relatively similar to each other in most cases. So peak performers also have similar brain patterns and common threads with people who struggle with addiction issues.
So I really want people to understand perseverated behavior, where someone does something over and over and over again.
Look at the professional athlete doing something 4, 5, 6 hours a day. In some cases that’s perseverated behavior that some people might actually look at as an issue with mental health.
Jason: anyone who likes to run for a long period of time might be mentally ill.
Really too much of anything is going to cause some sort of issue. Too much oxygen, water or exercise, cannot be good for you. I would personally choose sports of drugs or alcohol, but in many ways their brains are wired the same way.
One of the things that helps with brain training and peak performers is that they will essentially do anything you tell them to do, because they are driven to be the best at what they’re doing.
We’re essentially acting as a coach for these kinds of people. They are the most willing participants. Which really helps because what we ask people to do can take some time, effort, energy and resources. So it’s really nice to see people with these traits that can push themselves. Again it has to be a healthy push.
So what can be done?
We’ve talked about some things in the past, like in 36 with the internal metronome.
One of the things that you seek with peak performers is that they have a habit of trying to do things a little bit too early. So as far as mental processing goes they do things before they’re supposed to. We coach them to correct these behaviors through coordinated movements and sounds generated by a computer.
We can train them to recognize and time their reactions to these sounds, so they can perform on the beat rather than before the point where they predict the beat. This is really cool because we see them develop a much greater attention span and working memory.
When it comes to neuro-feed back, which is a tool where we can assess one’s brain through EEG, where we look at brain waves. We can see what’s too much and what’s too little in the case of a a peak performer.
A lot of times with peak performers we see a lack of Alpha activity or too much Beta activity. In other cases there might be too much delta activity.
This means that in some cases these are minds that are somewhat restless and unsettled. This can be a good thing, because in some it can be what helps drive people further. Often times there can be an unhealthy activity at that.
So if we can adjust for more alpha activity it helps them rest easier and get into a more effective and efficient rhythm, while also helping them to be more self-reflective. Analyzing themselves and decreasing their stress responses.
Jason: It’s just so incredible to me that you can ramp up their brains like this.
Absolutely. Look at professions where they continue to push the envelope. Look at NASCAR where they’re going at 200+ miles per hour. Yet year after year they start going faster and faster. Many NASCAR drivers and athletes are doing neuro-feedback for stress management and recovery. It helps them reflect on what they did wrong this time, so they can focus on what they could do better the next time.
We’re also looking at things like balance and eye movements and how it impacts balance and memory retention. We see improvements like this in people with ADHD where they can’t move their eyes very efficiently.
Racecar drivers, their eyes are 90% of their game out there. So as they improve their eye movements so they can avoid hitting that wall and cross the line first.
Beyond simple eye and balance training, we’re also talking about metabolic aspects. The brain can’t transmit information efficiently from one brain cell to the next if your blood sugar is not working well. It is the same thing with thyroid function, cortisol, stress-management.
We need to look at the big pictures like sleep, exercise on metabolism and putting things together to find the brain training program that’s right for you.
I feel ultimately if we can take someone and slow down or halt the process of brain degeneration then we’ve done our job.
In the healthcare industry it’s better to deal with things on the front end before they break down. Because once they break down they tend to stay broken down.
This tip follows the vein of peak performance mentality. It’s simply exercise in the morning.
We’ve talked about different exercise tips, but this is critical. One of the things we’ve seen in peak performers. It’s different for different people. You want to get up and get moving for a little bit. It doesn’t have to be the most strenuous workout in your life.
It helps to get blood flow and circulation in the body. This gets certain hormones circulating and controlling other hormones that create stress. Some people have high elevations of cortisol early in the morning.
Exercise helps to mitigate the effects of cortisol early in the morning.
It also provides a sense of accomplishment.
Have you ever exercised in the morning?
Jason: Yeah I actually prefer to exercise in the morning, because it seem like my whole day goes better.
Just like fixing your bed in the morning, the more things you can do to stack the cards in your favor, the smoother your day will go. You become more resilient to the effects of stress throughout the day. You’ll also burn calories more efficiently and handle blood sugar better throughout the day.
If you don’t make time to exercise, you have to find time to exercise. Then the day tends to get away from you.
I’ve heard people say that they can’t exercise in the morning.
Start smart, go slow, you don’t want to hurt yourself. Get moving and build it up over time.
Links for this episode:
To read more about the Michigan Quarterback click here.
To read Dr. Trayford’s blog post on the issue of non-reporting in sports click here.
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