BY: TONY L. STARKS
If you tune into the PGA Tour a lot (like many of us in the industry), you may have noticed an inconspicuous looking band around the wrist of players like Rory McIlroy or Justin Thomas. It’s hard to spot, but if you saw it you probably guessed that it was an Apple Watch or maybe a Fitbit. Your guess would’ve been wrong.
It’s actually a newly developed performance and recovery tool called WHOOP. It tallies advanced metrics in the body to determine an athlete’s readiness – tracking their real-time physiological changes during training and everyday activity. WHOOP analyzes the data collected from the strap and provides daily recommendations for Recovery, Strain and Sleep, enabling users to take calculated steps.
It can be a valuable tool for coaches and trainers, as they can view the data and create customized practice or training schedules to the fit their student’s physiological preparedness.
We recently caught up with the company’s founder and CEO, Will Ahmed, and chatted about how WHOOP can help both golfers and golf instructors.
Golf Range Magazine: WHOOP is an interesting name. What was the vision behind the name and the brand?
Will Ahmed: The name WHOOP illustrates a cry of excitement or energy. We wanted something that could reflect a feeling and emotion, because so many athletes experience intense joy from competing and performing well. I believe that every person has the inner potential to be a champion, and we wanted to align our brand with that feeling.
GRM: Tell us a little about the technology itself. How does it work?
WA: We build hardware, software and analytics tools designed to monitor an individual and help them improve performance. The hardware, the WHOOP Strap 3.0, collects data across five sensors 50 times per second. So it’s a granular data set that transfers from the sensor to your phone and from your phone to the Cloud, where we do additional analysis. We give you daily feedback on Strain, Recovery and Sleep.
Strain is the intensity of a workout or your overall day. Recovery measures how well your body bounced back from the prior Strain, and Sleep measures the quality of your rest. All three of these areas work together to manifest an athlete’s preparedness. So throughout the day, WHOOP is updating and providing info on when and how much you should use your body.
GRM: We can see a lot of great benefits for the high-level athlete, but what about recreational or casual athletes? How does WHOOP fit into their lifestyles?
WA: As of today we have an enormous number of recreational fitness enthusiasts on the platform. The value for them is understanding how all of these different areas fit into their life. Not just exercise, but factors like stress, lack of sleep and work life balance. All these different things affect people’s performance. Even things like supplements and your diet. When you change the things you put into your body, WHOOP acts as a very powerful barometer for how they’re impacting you.
A lot of our focus is on sleep and recovery time. Those are important whether you’re an athlete or not. However, because WHOOP is so performance oriented, it does cater to people who are aspirational and want to perform at a higher level in any area of their life.
GRM: From a business perspective, how does WHOOP compare to some of the other fitness bands in the space?
WA: WHOOP is providing technology and feedback that people really can’t find elsewhere. So for us, our focus is on continuing to improve human performance and helping people perform at a higher level.
GRM: How can this technology impact the way someone schedules lessons or coaches an athlete, particularly related to golf?
WA: As golf professionals know, the game is actually more stressful on the body than people think, especially if you’re trying to compete. What we see in the data from high-level golfers who are traveling a lot, maybe not sleeping enough, going across different time zones to compete while also going to the gym in between, that’s really intense on the body. WHOOP is really good at providing feedback on that – it let’s you know when you should be active and when you need to just stop for a moment and rest. It gives you that feedback throughout the day.
So you wake up in the morning with a Recovery Score that’s telling you on a scale of 0 to 100 percent how prepared you are for the day. If it’s a high Recovery Score, you’re ready to take on a lot of Stress that day. So for a golfer that might mean an extended practice session or playing more than 18 holes.
WHOOP may also tell you that your body’s run down and you’ve got to really recover. In that case, it’s up to the individual and also the coach to decide whether they want to dial it back on that particular day.
So if a student is grinding it out on a day when they’re not physically ready for that type of workload, that’s actually detrimental to their improvement. This idea of doing less and actually recovering is quite novel, but it’s critical to someone’s performance levels.
GRM: How can people find WHOOP and what does it cost?
WA: You can find us at www.whoop.com and it’s as little as $30 a month to signup, which includes the free WHOOP 3.0 Strap. We allow customers to keep the band even if they decide to discontinue service. Right now we’re only selling online, but we’re continuing to evaluate other distribution channels.
GRM: What’s the lasting impression you want golfers and golf professionals to have of WHOOP?
WA: Really it’s regardless of whether someone wants to improve at golf or at life, WHOOP is going to give them feedback that really helps them understand themselves. The key to human performance is understanding your body and managing what you measure for the sake of improving.