We sat down with Amp Human Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) member Dr. Brett Kirby to talk about his impressive background including his work with Nike, training world record marathoners, and his involvement with Amp Human.
Human Performance Philosophy
Dr. Kirby’s human performance philosophy begins with relationship building. He believes that a healthy, productive relationship is key in a coach/athlete partnership. He strives to use creative approaches when solving human performance challenges and believes that it takes a mixture of science, technology, and human experience to get the best results.
Tell us about your coaching background and your process when it comes to working with athletes.
I would describe myself as an integrative physiologist. I’m always striving to ignite the imagination in others through collaboration and thinking outside the box to continually grow and achieve ambitious goals.
I got my start in the coaching world by working with local cycling teams in Colorado when I was completing my Ph.D. Cycling was a great sport to start with considering it has been very progressive in terms of human performance and technology integration for decades. Regardless of the sport or level, I begin by spending time analyzing the traits of athletes and building a strong relationship with them. This allows for effective teamwork when trialing new approaches that push the boundaries of their sport.
How did you get involved with Amp Human?
I first heard about Amp Human through an athlete I was working with. He expressed that PR Lotion made him feel better during exercise and helped with recovery. I took his recommendation and tried it myself. I used PR Lotion for the first time in a half marathon and felt a real difference. The main thing that drew me to Amp Human was having shared values. I saw a company that was helping athletes achieve greater heights in an authentic way. It was clear from the beginning that Amp was more about the greater mission, which spoke to me, and how I approach my career. In addition to the shared values, I was impressed by the science that backed PR Lotion. There are many companies in the space that do not put a premium on science, Amp Human does the exact opposite.
What’s your goal as part of the Science Advisory Board?
I was excited to join the SAB with the goal of continuing to drive a science-based approach to authentic products. My main goal as a board member is to maintain the integrity and authenticity of everything that Amp Human does.
Tell us about your role at Nike, what have been some defining moments?
I was previously working in medical research when the chance to transition to a senior role with Nike came up; working at Nike has allowed me to apply my skills and creativity in an area that I am passionate about. I’ve been able to work with athletes at the highest level and help them push the boundaries of physical performance to a level that would be hard to access anywhere else.
The Breaking 2 Marathon project was definitely a key moment in my career. Nike kicked off the project in 2016 with the goal of accomplishing a sub-2-hour marathon. We surveyed 40 labs for feedback on feasibility and almost no one thought it was possible. A few respondents thought that there was a chance if a ‘perfect storm’ situation could be put together.
As we progressed on the project we realized that it would require key variables to have a real shot at success:
1. The Athlete: The right athlete was critical, and marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge was our choice
2. The Conditions: The right conditions were vital - low winds and neutral temperature
3. The Training: Kipchoge is a special athlete; he has a great oxygen-carrying capacity and he can operate at a high level for long periods of time - this was critical for our approach to his training plan
Kipchoge missed the record by just 25 seconds the first time, then broke the world record and went on to break the barrier at Vienna coming in at 1:59.
Do you have any tips for recreational runners?
1. Patience is key! Get outside and develop as an athlete but don’t overdo it.
2. Always maintain a hunger for the next workout, don’t expend everything you have on one workout.
3. Mindset is critical, try to stay in a mindset that focuses on enjoyment and preparation around workouts.
4. Remember, the 23 hrs around the one hour where you workout are equally important.
What are the best ways to facilitate recovery?
Proper hydration, adequate rest, and proper stretching. The sensation during a workout will be very different when you don’t hydrate, rest, stretch properly. Another big element is diet, make sure you are taking in nutrients (carbs and protein) shortly after a workout
In my opinion, quality sleep is the best investment a person can make for enhanced performance. This could include taking naps if you are consistently working hard. However, naps should not interrupt your regular sleep patterns, overly long naps can cause a net decline in sleep quality and energy levels.
Dr. Kirby is currently the Senior Scientist of the Human Performance Team in the Nike Sport Research Laboratory in Beaverton, Oregon where his team focuses on holistically solving athlete problems through human performance optimization. Prior to Nike, Dr. Kirby received his Ph.D. in Human Bioenergetics from Colorado State University and performed postdoctoral fellowships at Emory University in Cardiology and at Duke University in Biomedical Sciences.