Episode 5 - Dr Ed Wittich

 

  

In this episode, we interview Dr. Ed Wittich, the Performance Innovation Director of Bat Logic, a company that focuses on product development, product design and management, athlete testing & equipment interface analysis, injury reduction, performance gain, movement analysis & performance modelling with experience at both elite & olympic levels. The company has collaborated with well-known companies such as Nike & Bont Cycling and 776 BC.

 

In this episode we cover:

  • Ed’s background as an osteopath and how it is very similar to what he does now
  • Preventative performance consulting and medicine
  • The path where enhancing human function combining sports medicine, anatomy & biomechanics is heading
  • Discussion of his article “Adapt to Survive around Movement Variability”
  • The advantage of weaponising our training with variability
  • Moving well and moving freely as an important focus in performance and injury
  • The effect of having resistance training and different elements such as environment, range of motion, and variability in better performance outcome
  • Bat Logic as an australian sports innovation and technology company
  • The importance of studies on athletes being backed up by data and being based on science and physiology
  • How the feet affect the performance of the whole body
  • Impact of Injuries and what affects it
  • New methodology on rowing shoes
  • Cross-collaborations and new things developing in sports shoes

 

Links

Bat Logic

Project B

LinkedIn - Ed Wittich

 

Transcript

FELICITY:

This is episode five. Welcome to the ‘All Torque’ podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I’m your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque. Let me welcome today’s guest, Dr Ed Wittich, the Performance Innovation Director of Bat Logic that focuses on product development including collaborations with Nike and Bont Cycling and 776BC that includes product design and management, athlete testing and equipment interface analysis, injury reduction and performance gain, movement analysis and performance modelling with experience at both elite and Olympic levels.

Welcome Ed.

ED:

Thank you Felicity. Thanks for the opportunity to speak.

FELICITY:

You’re welcome. Your background Ed, originally started as an Osteopath. Tell us about your journey, how did it all begin?

ED:

In terms of product innovation side, my background is a little left of centre but I graduated as an Osteopath and I think that really formed a great basis to work in the fields that we work in now. Osteopathy is essentially a form of musculoskeletal medicine. I had always had a focus on some of the sport’s side of that as well, having a big interest in sports performance and athlete’s in general.

Generally people think of Osteopaths working in a clinic and being very hands on with patients, which is how I started out but very quickly the models of thinking that you get taught as an Osteopath match up quite well to some of the other areas around product design and working with athletes in a whole range of different areas to improve performance. And in a lot of ways, what I do now is in a different setting, but the thinking patterns and how we work, is very similar. We have a person with a problem, and we try and analyse their biomechanics and anatomy to understand how to solve that problem, make them better instead of just a pain focus, which a lot of the time it is in the clinic. It’s really now in performance and improving the experience of someone in their sport.

FELICITY:

Yes, absolutely. It’s not normally a requisite for people to perhaps, yes it’s more after the event when something’s happened. They come and see you, isn’t it? It’s not prior to keeping themselves in good order.

ED:

Yeah, that’s an interesting point. Essentially, yes but the traditional modes around some of the treatment clinics are that someone suddenly is in pain and then needs some work done. The whole model of preventative medicine and preventative performance consulting is hopefully that we’re getting people before they get injured. Although in some cases, for the business of a clinic, having people injured is a positive. We don’t want that obviously and if

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we can do some work beforehand, hopefully they don’t have to come in in pain already.

FELICITY:

And part of the aspect about that and being preventative, is that people don’t always listen to their bodies. They just keep pushing and persevering, rather than perhaps stepping back and just letting something heal itself or just perhaps not pushing so hard.

ED:

Yeah, absolutely and I think education plays an important part in that as well. So that’s a side we hope we can keep working on too.

FELICITY:

Your focus on enhancing human function combining sports medicine, anatomy and biomechanics. Where do you see it heading from now?

ED:

I think we’re in a really exciting time for this sort of work because we’ve never had more access to connected information technology and knowledge, basically and things are moving incredibly quickly. Where our combination of different skill sets comes in, is that we really focus on the human being as the end point and the key part of the whole picture. And this is an area that I think we’re struggling with, at the moment, in terms of sports science and data fields where we can measure almost anything at the moment, but how that measurement is applied and then what we do with the data that’s gathered. Often we forget that there’s a person, who in the end, is the athlete doing the task or the coach looking at the data or the team using the technology.

And really where I want to see my field going, we’ve got a multi-discipline background around that sports medicine, anatomy, biomechanics, the human-centered side is really trying to make sure we don’t forget the end user. And whether that’s linked to technology or even just someone using simple low tech equipment, I think that’s really important to have those different backgrounds linked, when you’re creating a product or a performance solution.

FELICITY:

With both rowing and cycling being repetitive motion sports, in your article ‘Adapt to survive around movement variability’, how do we weaponise our training with variability?

ED:

I really like that term ‘weaponise our training with variability’ and the purpose of that article was really to explain that to be a good athlete or even, let’s talk in broader terms, to be an effective human being or an effective animal, we need to move well and we need to move a lot. There’s a lot of science around why that’s good for our general health but in our sort of narrower lense, which is performance, really what we want to see is an athlete that’s able to cope with a number of different scenarios that might be thrown up during their course of competition or training.

And that might be movement based, it might be environmental based, in terms of changing

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weather conditions, but if we take your focus sport of cycling and say over the course of a hundred plus kilometre race, we might be featuring head winds, tail winds, cross winds, differing temperature conditions, obviously different altitudes with some of the climbs as well. And we want an athlete that’s able to cope with all of those different areas. The ability to move well and move freely, across a number of different settings and in different environments is absolutely important from a performance side and an injury side and we see that most of the athletes that have the ability to do that, are generally more successful.

And there’s a lot of research now on the fact that we used to believe that an athlete would execute a certain skill, let’s say a golf drive or a kick, in the same way over and over and over again. And what made them elite was their ability to reproduce that exactingly each time they went out and did it. But what we understand now is that’s not how the elite athlete’s conduct their skill. They have minute variations and a range of variations that they might use a number of different techniques with their skill each time but the output is the same, so they’re very accurate or they’re very effective or they’re very strong in what they’re doing but they can call on a number of different movements to make that as effective as it can be, at the time that they’re executing it.

So a kick in the rain might look different to a kick in the dry for an AFL player but they have the ability to execute that effectively in both settings.

FELICITY:

Yes and I know that there is a lot of resistance training now and also doing sprints and all that kind of stuff. There’s also, as you say, the elements of the environment and that definitely does play it different. You’re saying that we really need to train in all those, encompassing all those different elements?

ED:

Absolutely and then if you step away from just the environment and even talk about someone training in the gym, I think we need to train in different ranges of motion and under different conditions as well because a jump or a bench press or these sorts of movements are never the same, all of the time. I think getting someone to train with a good wide range of motion even, is certainly important. And training in different environments around even how we’re feeling things. I’m a big fan of every now and then, doing some resistance training in bare feet, for instance, because it makes you think about what you’re doing and feel things in a different way and I think that can only be helpful.

Specificity is still vitally important, we don’t want key cycling athletes to go out and just become good at tennis because we said it was good to be variable. I mean we have to be specific in terms of what we’re trying to achieve but variability in training, environment, range of motion and exercises, as long as we have a goal. That’s always going to result in a better outcome.

FELICITY:

Well that’s good to know, I’ll make sure that I encompass that with my training as well.

ED:

Great.

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FELICITY:

I’ll give it a lot more thought from now on.

What about, tell us about Logic? Tell us about that.

ED:

Sure. Bat Logic is essentially is an Australian sports innovation and technology company, we have a focus on rowing as a sport, at the moment, in terms of a direct product line of equipment that we’ve, have either invented or created ourselves or have had some role in consulting with other companies on as well. And we’ve got other arms to it too.

We have a consulting branch which is designed around rowing athlete consulting and analysis and then another branch where we can go and work with companies in almost any sports or any field where they’re trying to find a performance solution. We work with a lot of different teams, a lot of different organisations and it’s a very varied and exciting workplace.

FELICITY:

Does it get very scientific? When you’re studying athletes and there’s a lot of aspects to what I noticed on your website. Does it get very scientific?

ED:

Absolutely, everything that we do is based around some form of measurement or understanding. For instance, they’ve invented an instrument, a foot stretcher that at the moment we hold the largest ever pool of foot four starter in rowing and we choose to apply that in different ways around the consulting and also of course, the products. At the end of the day we, it’s always great to come up with an interesting and creative idea but if you can’t prove that it works, then you haven’t really created something.

That’s the approach that we like to take, absolutely want to back up everything that we do with data and it’s all based in science. And we have a multi-discipline team around again, that sports medicine, physiology, even direct athlete backgrounds where we work with a lot of people who have experienced sport at the elite level but also people who are school based athletes because, to us, anyone doing sport is someone we want to work with.

FELICITY:

Yes and in yoga, I do yoga. The feet is the foundation really, if you’re starting from the bottom then the only way to go is up, isn’t it?

ED:

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really great point, our product range specifically has generally focused on the feet. So we have a quick release system, which is a shoe plate that supports the foot structure and positioning in the rowing boat and allows people to use their own shoes, in any seta, in any boat and even on the ergometer. And then we have a shoe range which is with a collaboration with Bont Cycling and Bont’s new rowing branch, called project B.

But although we’re working on the feet directly, we always think about the effect that will

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have on the rest of the body. And that’s an absolute keystone of everything that we do, is that the body works as one unit, so if we change the feet we know we’ll be getting a change in the upper limbs as well and vice versa.

FELICITY:

That’s right and if any injury was to happen, then obviously it’s coming from the ground up so the effects are, it just goes on and on, doesn’t it? It’s a domino effect.

ED:

Yeah, absolutely and that’s definitely how we function, in terms of our bodies and the mechanics behind them. There’s nothing that happens, say at the top down, if you like or the bottom up that won’t have an effect through the whole body itself.

FELICITY:

If an athlete that you were testing did say, get an injury, what you were doing developing resulted in an injury. How do you back track, how do you rewind and go back from that?

ED:

One of the important things and often one of the most complicating factors to all of this is that injuries don’t ever come about because of one single reason. We have to have a good understanding of the load that the athlete’s under, what they were trying to achieve when the injury occurred which can be really hard with sort of long term chronic overuse type injuries. But we want to basically pull apart each section that we know can have an impact on that injury and analyse it and a lot of the time, what we see is there’s elements of poor technique matched with potentially over training. But sometimes you have to go even wider around things, like nutrition and even sports psychology.

I think again, we have to see the athlete as a whole and for a specific example, like a knee injury. We’re never just looking at the knee.

FELICITY:

No. well it’s very interactive when you’re, as you say, when you’re looking at all those elements, it’s actually quite hard to narrow it down necessarily, isn’t it?

ED:

It is, look and after a while it gets easier because you tend to see patterns that work and are common across athletes but again, you never see the exact same injury twice because you never see the same athlete until we start bringing cloning into sports, whenever that will happen. We won’t be seeing the exact same athlete on any team or as an individual either. There’s always nuances in there because of the individuality.

FELICITY:

Don’t tell me you’re getting into cloning now, Ed.

ED:

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Not really an interest area at the moment, no I think we’re pretty happy with shoes and shoe plates just for now.

FELICITY:

Sounds good. I’m interested in the rowing shoe that you talked about that basically I didn’t realise that, because I’m a cyclist and we have our own shoes and cleats, that rowers actually, traditionally didn’t have their own shoes and cleats. Can you explain about the new methodology that you’ve made available to that, to our listeners?

ED:

Absolutely, yeah it might shock some people who aren’t experienced with the sport of rowing but for the history of this sport now, we’ve seen systems where there is a shoe bolted into a station of the rowing boat. You might have a boat with one seat rode by a single athlete or crew boats rode by up to eight athletes and often the shoes are just bolted in the boat and left there. I know from a male’s point of view, at a lot of the rowing clubs they just choose a huge size, say 13 shoe and that gets bolted into the boat and then for the unfortunate female members of the rowing club, who might be size nine or ten, they just have to just jump in these massive shoes that might have been worn by ten plus people during that day.

And really from a performance point of view, where we’re talking at the pointy end, it makes absolutely no sense at all but from a hygiene aspect, and even your experience of the sport, having a generic shoe that other people get in and wear as well, just seemed crazy to us and that’s why we’ve developed a clip in and clip out system in the quick release through that logic. And then now we have a really, I’m obviously biased, but I’m terribly proud of the shoe collaboration that we’ve done with Bont Rowing, the rowing branch of Bont Cycling for Project B where we’ve created a carbon fibre split sole rowing shoe. Both Project B and our visions are that people will use their own shoe, which is their own size, they can just click in and click out of all of their boats every time that they row.

I think that is the future for rowing and it’s extremely important that things move that way.

FELICITY:

That sounds amazingly exciting really, I can’t imagine not wanting to have your own pair of shoes.

ED:

There’s not many arguments for it, I don’t know if people out there enjoy jumping in other people’s foot bacteria and fungus and things but yeah we aren’t too keen on it so it seemed like an obvious place to go.

FELICITY:

Yeah and that would obviously reduce injuries as well, dramatically I would’ve thought? Having a shoe fitting the soles of your feet and then being effective in the whole process of rowing.

ED:

Absolutely.

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FELICITY:

Yeah and it’s amazing it’s taken that long really, when I think about it. It’s 2018, so you think it would have been around for, it’s a great idea and thank goodness that they’ve got that opportunity now.

ED:

Absolutely, we were there at the right time obviously. But it’s been a pretty obvious one to us for quite a few years.

FELICITY:

Do you see, I don’t know if you know much about cycling necessarily with shoes, but I’m guessing that you might? Having done what you’ve done with rowing..

ED:

Sure.

FELICITY:

Do you see any new things happening with shoes, with the research that you’ve done, in cycling? Is there any progression there?

ED:

Yeah, definitely. I think Bont, the team that we work with there have some fantastic ideas already as a base with the shaping of the feet and the way that force is transferred as well, so they’re already starting out from a place where I can honestly say, I haven’t seen any other cycling shoe come close to their shaping, fit and then design even around some of the carbon fibre technology too. What we want to do is to continually learn from the groups that we work with and hopefully have them learn from us as well. Again, although we can get very insular and siloed in our approaches to the sports that we’re interested in a lot of the time, what we want to do is see cross learning from different sports.

So although a sport might not look the same initially, I guarantee you that every sport could learn from any other sport and if we can keep an open mind, definitely, I think sharing ideas around how to measure foot force, sharing ideas around the function of feet as well, we’ll certainly get some great learnings out of that no matter what the sport is.

FELICITY:

Absolutely, I think cross collaboration is crucial and exciting. We all have different ideas, we think differently and we can collaborate that information that means we can go further with it. I think it’s also the same in business, usually a lot of principles in business also transfer along across different industries. I imagine it would be the same in that area as well.

ED:

Absolutely.

FELICITY:

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Ed, how can we find you? Where would people reach out to you, if they’d like to get in touch?

ED:

I’d absolutely encourage people, even if you’re not a rower yourself, but obviously to all the rowers that are listening out there and a lot of rowers are cyclists and vice versa as well. Head to our two websites for Project B and Bat Logic, so we’ve got www.batlogic.net and our Project B website is www.projectb-rowing.com .

Both of them give some really interesting insights into how we design our products and then obviously showcase what the products are and how they can impact your experience of the sport and things like performance and injury as well. There’s a lot of information up there that I’d encourage people to go and have a look at and then I’m on LinkedIn as well, obviously a lot of the sport’s community exists on LinkedIn and have some great connections around the different things that we’re all up to but you can just search for my name on LinkedIn, which is https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-edmund-wittich-45209965/ nice and simple but yeah, very happy to connect with anyone who’s interested and have further discussion.

FELICITY:

Fantastic, well thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been very interesting and I look forward to hearing more about your collaborations and research as you progress. So I’ll keep you posted.

ED:

Much appreciated, thanks to people like yourself who are putting these different interest areas out there and hopefully we can spread some learning and result in lower injury rates, higher performance and more enjoyment of sport.
FELICITY:
Absolutely, what a great goal that is. Thanks, Ed.
ED:
Great, thank you.
FELICITY:
Bye, bye.

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