How Athlete Dr. Jedidiah Ballard Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Habits are the absolute key to success. Your lifestyle is essentially the summation of your habits, both positive and negative. The great news is that habits only takes discipline in the beginning. The time varies, but if you can commit to something daily for around two months you most likely will establish it as habit.

As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jedidiah Ballard of Isopure.

Medically and militarily Jed has relied on grace and hard work to ground him and help him excel. These principles helped him score in the top 2% on his national emergency medicine exam, go straight through US Army Ranger School and earn Honor Graduate in the Army’s Airborne and the Special Forces Dive Medical Tech courses.

Outside of Medicine, Jed is passionate about service and fitness. He is an Isopure athlete and loves helping non-gym people work simple common sense fitness into their lives. Additionally, Jed has done humanitarian work on four different continents and teach clinical Ultrasound courses to Physicians in Panama and Peru. Domestically he is regularly involved with the Boys and Girls club, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Organization and the Denver Children’s Hospital Burn Camp.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

By US standards I grew up pretty rural and poor. I was born at home, didn’t get shots until I was 20, have hitchhiked, didn’t have a TV, we lived in a barn for a year, etc. Honestly it was a great childhood, I got to run around the woods with my brother and pet wolf, and it really helped me develop into who I am today. All that said, I’ve made very conscious choices to ensure my adult life is different.

What or who inspired you to go through intense Special Operations training to become an Army Ranger when you were already an ER doctor? We’d love to hear the story.

I have a long family history of military service and being a US citizen, I was able to grow up poor but still go to medical school. I have spent time in the Africa, Asia and Latin America and this simply does not happen in a lot of the world. Our Nation isn’t perfect, but I am very grateful for the opportunity it’s given me and joining the Army was a way to give back for a period of time. Also, coming from a very hardworking blue-collar background, working with my dad in ranch and construction labor jobs I needed to prove to myself I was still tough as I transitioned into the white-collar world of Medicine.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I went to my junior year of undergrad at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. When I was leaving the Island I was saying goodbye to my girlfriend and missed my flight. At the time money was pretty tight so I was kind of worried wondering around the nearly empty airport as the Big Island is pretty low population. I wound up running into a really cool Doctor who had practices on the islands and knew the gate agents by name, he got my flights changed for me for free. He took me to the VIP lounge and spent an hour mentoring me on medicine as a career. We boarded the same flight, he went to 1st class, I went to coach and even though I never saw him again and wouldn’t recognize him if I bumped into him today, that hour he spent talking to me changed my life.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

Role models are a great place to look for patterns of success. Learning about those you respect, including little habits like their morning routine etc. can be very useful. No one is perfect, learn from multiple sources, and adapt what works for you. Also spend the alone time to figure out who you are and what you really want, not what your parents or anyone else expects you to be. The first step to achieving a goal is having one. The more clear and specific the goal, the more likely it will be achieved.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am writing a book called “Fit Enough for Happiness” which is a very practical common-sense guide to working in healthy eating habits and staying fit in spite of our over busy adult lives. Beauty is about confidence and the goal is to meet people where they are at and help them feel good about their bodies in a sustainable, realistic efficient manner. I want to share what I’ve learned over 20 years of keeping myself strong and healthy through medical school, 80 hour workweeks, military deployments and a full time job with heavy travel demands.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

Our breathing has a huge impact on our autonomic nervous system. That is the system that is in constant balance between fight or flight (sympathetic) and rest and restore (parasympathetic). When I notice I am getting somewhat anxious or decreasing my effectiveness fluttering rapidly between tasks vs prioritizing and completing them, I will simply stop and take one very large, long deliberate breath to calm and reset. There is legitimate science behind this approach as well. A deep slow breath will stimulate the vagal nerve which is a powerhouse in the parasympathetic or rest and recover system, which simultaneously tones down the fight or flight signals from the sympathetic system.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

Whim Hof is an actual living Superhuman, holding seemingly impossible 20 world records. I’ve just started to employ some of his methods such as finishing a shower as cold as the water will go and consciously breathing slowly and relaxed for 1–2 minutes.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Straight off the Deadpool movie, often right before I do something high stakes — like walk onto stage to speak or a medical procedure, I will whisper “maximum effort” to myself. It’s a little reminder to flip the switch and enter “win” mode.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Consistency and intensity. Life happens and you don’t always have time for a long workout, but exercise has such a positive impact on our mood, hormone levels and how we process food. I workout in some manner 6–7 days a week but what I do varies greatly. If I am really short on time I might do a quick 7-minute routine — try to get 100 burpees with a jumping jack and pushup in 7 minutes then gen add 3–5 sets chin ups to make it total body. With training, getting a full balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and good fats is a must. I am a fan of whole food over supplements in general but do use protein powder daily as it’s just so much easier. My go-to is ISOPURE’s all-natural line of whey protein as I don’t like artificial sweeteners.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Habits are the absolute key to success. Your lifestyle is essentially the summation of your habits, both positive and negative. The great news is that habits only takes discipline in the beginning. The time varies, but if you can commit to something daily for around two months you most likely will establish it as habit.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

It all comes down to how bad you want the results. If you want the significant results be prepared to put significant effort into training. Limiting distractions, like not having your phone in the room with you when you are studying, is exceptionally useful.

As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

Flow is simply about being fully present. Last 4th of July I was coming off a long string of busy overnight ER shifts and needed to rest my mind through working my body. I climbed a string of four Colorado 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet) at a fast clip by myself. Actual physical danger is a sure-fire way to achieve flow. I can remember the sheer joy and clarity of my heightened senses and agility while running down a cliff edge jumping between rocks.

There are safer ways to achieve flow though. Just like you mentioned the key to getting into flow is finding a task that is within your natural talents that is hard enough to push you but can still be achieved. This can occur in a huge range of tasks but the overriding key is focus. Eliminate all distractions and fully engage in whatever you’re doing and flow will come.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

I frequently go on long walks through areas that require little concentration to let my mind go on autopilot but be awake and free to sort through and make sense of my thoughts. It works incredibly well in nature or even a quiet neighborhood. A busy city street where you have to pay attention not to run into people or cars is still physically good for you but drastically less mentally restorative/meditative.

Many of us are limited by our self-talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

The adage that we are our own worst enemy can be so true at times. We all doubt ourselves at times, and it can be so detrimental to our effectiveness. In the short term saying little quotes to myself is helpful when I can feel doubt creeping up like, such as “everything is impossible until someone does it.”

Longer term though, it’s about coming in prepared. Knowing I’ve put in the work builds a lot of confidence. Consistently getting a healthy amount of sleep, exercise and nutrition allows my body to generate all the neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that my mind needs to maintain a positive outlook and believe in myself. Live in a manner that you are fully rested and ready for whatever opportunity comes up. Save your stress for when things that matter. Discipline creates freedom.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve done humanitarian work on four different continents and am a regularly involved with Children International, Smile Train and The Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization. Recently, I was able to fund a school weight-room though Pfunanane Ministries in South Africa. This was special to me because while on a month-long rotation as a medical student, I left the hospital and spent a week at the school helping teach, play soccer and taking the kids camping in Krugar national park. The same 8-year olds I taught to swim years ago are now in high school and wanting to get better at sports, so it was a neat opportunity to marry my passions of fitness and service.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Be slow to judge those who choose to sin differently than you.” — We are all weak in some areas, but it can be so easy to look down on weakness that isn’t our struggle, it’s just a great reminder about the human condition.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Hugh Jackman is an incredible human from everything I’ve seen. One of those I hear about and immediately realize that not only is he more accomplished and intelligent than me, he’s also simply a better human being. I’m a low key comic nerd and growing up in the Montana rocky mountains identify with Wolverine, so the X men movies is where I started to follow him, but then seeing him not just give money, but actually go to Ethiopia to sweat alongside coffee farmers and then start Laughing Man Coffee to help combat global poverty was pretty inspiring. He also appears to be a really good husband and is just a man I’d like to sit with for an hour and learn from.

Thanks a ton for your interest, seriously great questions!

Best Wishes



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