Wrestling is arguably the world’s oldest sport and one that has been represented at every Olympics since their inception. But as the Games have changed with time so too have the tools these athletes use to prepare themselves.
Matt Lindland, head coach of the USA Men’s National Greco-Roman Wrestling Team, is always on the lookout for ways to improve his team’s recovery efforts to bring out their best performances on the mat.
“Since Greco-Roman wrestling is a physically taxing sport on the body, reliable and adequate sleep is essential for recovery and overall performance for any Greco athlete,” said Coach Lindland in a press statement. “I was actively seeking a healthy sleep based solution and approached Steven Kotler, a NYT best selling author and thought leader in the neuroscience & performance space. Steven recommended brain.fm and facilitated an introduction to the team in early February 2016.”
Junaid Kalmadi is one half of the team that founded Brain.fm. Kalmadi teamed up with Adam Hewitt, a leading researcher in the field of auditory brainwave stimulation, in 2014 and together the two have built a platform that enables users to quickly and easily increase specific neurological functions.
“Brain.fm uses cutting edge auditory neuroscience software to build musical compositions from the ground up that are specifically tailored to help the listener achieve a certain neurological brain state,” Kalmadi said. “Two foundational pillars of our science are entrainment and dynamic attending theory.”
The tracks are created via proprietary software that is customized not only for certain effects but also to the individual user. Currently, audio patterns for Sleep, Relaxation and Focus are available on their platforms. Kalmadi explained how the team chose to start development with those areas in mind.
“Focus, relaxation (or meditation) and sleep are 3 areas where we ourselves needed help with. So, we started out to solve our own problems but also recognized that these are issues that the general population struggles with as well,” he said. “When you are working, reading, running, sleeping – with anything and everything you do – your brain is producing brainwaves. Every mental state has a brainwave pattern directly associated to it. So if you want to change your mental state, change your brainwaves.”
That ability to change mental state was exactly what Coach Lindland needed his team to have, to leave their adrenaline-filled workouts and be able to recuperate physically and mentally. Team captain Robby Smith was one of the wrestlers who struggled in this area, often needing to rely on sleep inducing medications in order to get a good night’s rest.
“At first, I was using Brain.fm’s sleep music because I had trouble falling/staying asleep, which is crucial for recovery from intense practices. Then, I gradually started also using the focus and relaxation music to help me prepare and get in the zone for practice and then wind down from practice,” Smith said.
Per Coach Lindland, other wrestlers have also eagerly incorporated the technology into their regular routines, not only for sleep but also for their primary workouts as well. Through the Rio Games and beyond, Lindland hopes the mutually beneficial partnership with brain.fm will continue on.
“Looking forward, the Greco team is excited to work with the brain.fm team as test subjects to develop customized audio for driving % gains in our strength training and recovery routines. We will be using heart sensors throughout the process to track and drive performance and recovery metrics.”
While many things about wrestling have stayed the same since the sport’s Olympic debut centuries ago, embracing new technologies such as Brain.fm will be key in fueling Team USA’s quest to earn gold in Rio.
Author’s Note: One point that is central to Brain.fm’s core philosophy is the technology’s applicability to all users, not just the athletes I’ve highlighted in this article. As part of my interview, I asked Kalmadi what would be the best way for an average user, such as myself, to experience the program and he said just to grab a decent pair of headphones and try it out, no specific prep or training needed. This piece was written, in part, while listening to Brain.fm’s Intense Focus track on Soundcloud and I can attest to the positive experience I had while listening. For someone with a notoriously short attention span, the deep rhythmic electronic beats really did help me. Check them out for a fully customizable experience and trackable progress reports or on Soundcloud and let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter! – Sol