My guest on today's show – Will Ahmed – grew up loving sports and exercise. Many of his childhood heroes were athletes. He was recruited to Harvard and became Captain of the Men’s Varsity Squash Team. As a D1 athlete, he was amazed by how little he knew about his body. He would train for 3 or more hours a day with his teammates without knowing what gains he made. He was surrounded by athletes, himself included, who overtrained, misinterpreted fitness peaks, underestimated recovery and sleep, and got injured. Being prepared for game day often seemed…random.
So he became inspired by a simple idea: Humans, especially athletes, could optimize their daily performance. Optimizing performance was not a random sequence of events and decisions, but rather a systematic approach to understanding your body.
At Harvard, he met with cardiologists and physiologists. He read over 300 medical papers because he became obsessed with understanding the human body. What he learned was amazing: There are secrets that your body – your physiology – is trying to tell you. These secrets can help prevent overtraining and injury, they can detect fatigue and even sickness, and, sure enough, they can be used to optimize human performance. But few actually monitor those metrics.
He partnered with his co-founder John Capodilupo, who was studying math and statistics at Harvard before dropping out to found a self-quantification company called “WHOOP”, and also partnered with Aurelian Nicolae, a graduate from Harvard with a gift for mechanical prototyping and engineering. They then spent the past 4 years building a technology called “the WHOOP System”. They assembled a scientific and performance advisory board and now work alongside our team of 50 engineers, designers, and data scientists in a downtown Boston office overlooking Fenway Park.
They've been fortunate to work with many of the best athletes in the world. What they've discovered has amazed Will, and we talk about it all on today's show. Self quantification can transform your life and induce effects like positive behavior change, fitness improvements, injury reduction.
Will believes that the data he's collecting on athletes is unprecedented, both in its sophistication and scale, and that no physiological studies have ever occurred on this magnitude. WHOOP benefits from the fact that athletes also have tangible performance data (wins/losses, batting average, time trials, etc) across sports. They want to share this data: the unbelievable correlations between physiology and performance; the approach to health monitoring and the different ways to interpret or action your body’s feedback. Beyond building a product that people love, Will and the team at WHOOP hope to advance human knowledge with our discoveries.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-The key defining characteristics that set WHOOP apart, including skin conductivity, accelerometer data, and continuous HRV monitoring…[13:25]
-Why WHOOP is the only company to measure the activity and fluctuations of the cardiac autonomic nervous system, particularly as it relates to recovery, training status, and training readiness…[13:57]
-The actual hard data being collected by the WHOOP, and HRV, pulse oximetry, temperature, respiration, etc.)…[15:30 & 24:30]
-Why the WHOOP uses a combination of PPG (photoplethysmography) sensors (4 LEDs and 1 Photodiode) along with 3-axis accelerometer, capacitive touch sensor, ambient temperature sensor…[18:17]
-How coaches and trainers can use WHOOP to monitor the sleep, training and recovery status of a large number of athletes and clients…[20:00, 30:00 , 35:50 & 47:50]
-Why the WHOOP has 90% sleep/wake accuracy compared to gold-standard sleep labs…[22:10]
-How the WHOOP sleep coach automatically calculates sleep needed based on your sleep baseline, any sleep debt that has accumulated over the last few nights, and any naps taken for that day…[39:15]
-The technology the WHOOP uses to tell you how much sleep you need and to give you a picture of when you should go to bed based on your habitual sleep efficiency and desired wake up time…[40:15]
-Why athletes like Lebron James and Michael Phelps are using the WHOOP…[59:15]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
–WHOOP (use code GREENFIELD for $50 off at checkout)
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Will or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!
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Also published on Medium.