Podcast: What You’re Missing About Recovery with WHOOP CEO Will Ahmed

Athletes dedicate their lives to achieving their full potential, or as close to it as possible. So why do so many of us — strength athletes especially — take shortcuts when it comes to recovery? That’s the question Will Ahmed, CEO and Founder of WHOOP, set out to address when he was still an undergraduate. WHOOP makes hardware and software to track recovery, performance, and sleep for athletes from the everyday to elite.

WHOOP built its brand working with pro athletes in leagues like the NBA and NFL (Kevin Durant is an investor), and now Will and his team have set out to help strength athletes quantify and better manage their recovery, working with athletes like multi-time CrossFit Games Champion Katrin Davidsdottir.

The important thing to understand about strength athletes is that you actually don’t get stronger in the gym. Your body is breaking down in the gym and then it repairs itself, and that’s how you get stronger. The whole repairing process occurs primarily during sleep.

Will’s experience as a college athlete and researcher led to what many consider the most promising technology company in athletic recovery. But it didn’t happen overnight, and the challenges WHOOP helps strength athletes overcome have led to some particularly interesting revelations.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Will Ahmed and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • WHOOP’s origins and Will’s inspiration as a college athlete (2:20)
  • The over-emphasis many athletes place on training — at the expense of recovery (5:00)
  • How strength athletes are using WHOOP (8:52)
  • Why so many fitness trackers have failed strength athletes (11:46)
  • What Will wants strength athletes to get from WHOOP, and where there’s space to grow (15:52)
  • Balancing sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the nervous system, and a quick test to feel the difference yourself (17:37)
  • The impact of alcohol on training and recovery, and why it’s probably more pronounced than you think (19:29)
  • Sleep tracking for performance (23:51)
  • Will’s predictions for the next “big thing” in athletic recovery (27:46)
  • The upcoming rebelling to technology addiction, and what that means for companies like WHOOP (29:46)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast, where we talk to top athletes, coaches, influencers, and minds from around the world of strength sports. Presented by BarBend.com.

Today on the BarBend podcast, I’m talking to Will Ahmed, the CEO and founder of WHOOP. WHOOP is technology and wearables company dedicated to unlocking human performance.

The WHOOP strap device uses heart rate variability and some really cool, intuitive software to help athletes of all types track and quantify their recovery and sleep. Will founded WHOOP while he was still a student at Harvard University, where he played squash and conducted research on athletic recovery.

Since then, his company has grown to partner with major sports leagues and some of the world’s most prominent pro athletes. Over the past year or so, I’ve personally seen a big uptick in strength athletes using WHOOP to help keep better tabs on how they’re recovering between training sessions and within training cycles.

Multi-time CrossFit games champ Katrín Davíðsdóttir is just one prominent strength and fitness athlete we’ve seen use the device.

Now, BarBend listeners can use the code “barbend” that’s B-A-R-B-E-N-D, to get 30 percent off of a WHOOP membership.

I’m excited to chat with Will on WHOOP’s growth and goals. Specifically with how they’re engaging strength athletes and their recovery needs.

Just a quick reminder, if you’re enjoying the BarBend podcast, make sure to leave a rating and review in your podcast app of choice. This helps us stay on track with bringing you the best content possible, week after week.

If there’s someone you’d absolutely love to hear on a future BarBend podcast episode, let us know in your podcast review. I personally read each and every review, so your suggestions will most definitely be seen.

Today on the BarBend podcast, I’m joined by Will Ahmed, the founder and CEO of WHOOP. Will, thanks so much for joining us here, live in Brooklyn.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Thanks for having me, man.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

WHOOP is based in Boston. When you founded the company shortly after college, what was your goal in founding a performance and recovery based company like that?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

We both had the pleasure of going to Harvard, I was playing Squash while I was in school. I didn’t really know what I was doing to my body while I was training. I was someone who used to overtrain, so you go through periods where you’re getting fitter and fitter, and then all of a sudden you fall off a cliff.

At a school like Harvard, it seemed like a very unintelligent training process. It seems like random when I was going to be really fit, or when I was going to be run down. I got very interested in physiology in school.

I ended reading something like 500 medical papers. I met with a bunch of cardiologists, physiologists, and ultimately, I ended up writing a paper myself on how to continuously understand the human body. My own personal interest in over-training led me down this deep rabbit hole of things of heart rate variability and recovery and slow-wave sleep and how to improve.

From there, I started taking a couple classes that were more geared towards how to write a business plan. I actually founded WHOOP halfway through my senior year so really out of the dorm room. Months later, I met John Capodilupo, who became one of my co-founders, and he was studying some of the hardest math classes in the country at Harvard, and had a much more technical background than I did.

It turns out his father is a professor of exercise physiology. We had a real overlap around physiology. He had the technical chops to do some things from a sensing standpoint that hadn’t been done before. I had a vision for how to build a product for coaches and athletes and beyond. That was really the beginning of it. That was, yeah, it’s the summer of 2012 we sort of were off to the races.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

That’s a lesson for all the college students listening to this podcast. This is what happens when you do the reading.

You found a successful company in college. You grow it after. It becomes a massive runaway hit in the sports community. I really love your questioning mindset that you had there because in college they always teach us to test, retest, use the data points. It’s something that we see in business. It’s something that we see in so many aspects of life.

In the fitness industry, when it comes to recovery, we’re so obsessed, I think, especially in strength athletics, with that next PR measuring your progress, but actionable data to measure recovery and to optimize recovery is something that’s, I think, still very much missing from corners of the industry.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

I think you’re absolutely right. That, I guess, was the core insight that I had in starting WHOOP, was that I believed there was this massive over-emphasis on what you were doing when you were exercising and massive under-emphasis on the other 20, 22 hours of the day. It turned out that I wasn’t over-training just because of what I did when I was exercising.

I was over-training because I was also a student. I was also going out at night. I was studying all the time and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Those things actually had a bigger factor on over-training than just the specific exercise itself.

Obviously, exercise can be a big component, but yeah, I think recovery, that’s the single most important thing that WHOOP has brought to market. This idea that every day you wake up with a score from 0 to 100 percent, red, yellow, green. How prepared is your body to perform? That is definitely the most important thing we’ve brought to market.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

 In the early days of WHOOP when you’re testing some of the early technology, when you’re working with athletes, using yourself and your team as guinea pigs, really…

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Literally.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

What were some of the biggest surprises when it came to recovery and the body’s response to over-reaching that you saw in those early stages?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

 I think one thing that was fascinating was this concept around how to peak on a given day. If you’ve got 20 athletes, doesn’t matter what sport, and you’ve got a game on Saturday and today’s Monday, a typical training plan will look like you want train hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, taper Thursday, taper Friday, peak Saturday.

The reality, though, is that each individual is experiencing something different over the course of that week. Everyone’s bodies are unique. What I believed before starting WHOOP, and what is proven now to be true with data is that over the course of a week, you need to actually treat most individuals on a personalized training plan versus on these sort of macro team training plans.

Inevitably, you’re going to need to have team drills and whatnot. From a pure cardiovascular load standpoint, you need to manage the guys who are already rundown on Monday and Tuesday. You can’t just push them over the wall. The guys that are still rundown by the end of the week, you need to make sure they do even less.

One thing that’s interesting about measuring strain is that you can see even if someone’s tapering properly. As your body is more recovered as you get fitter, it actually becomes harder to tell the amount of stress that you’re putting on the body.

People, especially college teams, will actually over-train two days or a day before the game because they’ve started to get more rest and they’re more recovered. When they do those drills, the drills seem easy and they don’t realize that they’re actually putting a meaningful amount of strain on their body.

All of this is to say is that you can really only manage what you measure. By having real data on things like strain and recovery, you can now start to balance them.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

 WHOOP has really made a name for itself and continues to work very closely in the realm of team athletics, for a lot of the big major leagues, the major pro sports. Something that the company has really made huge strides on in the past 18 months, 2 years is targeting the individual consumer.

For our listening audience and our readership, it’s a lot of strength athletes. It’s a lot people who are power lifters, weightlifters, CrossFitters, strongman athletes. They’re interested in individualized recovery, which is something that WHOOP was promoting, and is promoting in the team sense.

Breaking it down to how WHOOP and the metrics you all measure, HRV, recovery, response to over-reaching. How are you seeing that used and used effectively among strength athletes?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

The important thing to understand about strength athletes is that you actually don’t get stronger in the gym. Your body is breaking down in the gym and then it repairs itself, and that’s how you get stronger. The whole repairing process occurs primarily during sleep. The fact that WHOOP is the most accurate wrist-worn sleep monitors is huge advantage in this regard.

In particular, we measure different stages of sleep. The fact that we measure slow-wave sleep really accurately is very important for people who lift weights because slow-wave sleep, as you know, produces 95 percent of your body’s human growth hormone. Think about that.

95 percent of your body’s human growth hormone is produced when you’re in slow-wave sleep. If you’re getting 30 minutes of slow-wave sleep versus an hour and a half, that’s having a profoundly different impact on how your body is building muscle form that gym session.

What we’ve seen in working with power lifters and working with some of the best CrossFitters in the world, and working people who train pretty seriously to build muscle is that actually the biggest gains for them can be made outside of the gym. It can be made really dialing in recovery, really dialing in slow-wave sleep.

By the way, once you start measuring these things, again, you can manage them.

In the beginning, you might not get as much slow-wave sleep as you like, but then you start to realize what are all these different things in my life that can affect slow-wave sleep? How can I improve my slow-wave sleep? For me, I’ve gotten into melatonin before bed. I wear an eye mask now. I wear blue-light blocking glasses that are supposed to boost REM and slow-wave sleep.

I sleep in a really cold bedroom, right, really dark bedroom. All these things have helped me personally. Now, many of those things may help our listeners, but who knows? You want to figure out what’s that perfect recipe for you.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I think there’s a misconception, or at least a conception, some of it potentially founded in the strength sports community, that fitness trackers aren’t for strength athletes.

I think that’s because over the past decade strength athletes have been exposed to, marketed to, and bombarded by a lot of fitness trackers, really that aren’t designed for them and that don’t improve their performance. That are fitness trackers that I think were designed more for triathletes, runners, things like that.

A step counter isn’t going to mean the same thing to a power lifter as it would to someone who maybe isn’t interested in improving their PRs and those lifts. What I find really interesting is how WHOOP is useful to, and these recovery metrics, are useful to any sort of athlete.

Are there any sort of misconceptions you see, especially among strength athletes that you kind of have to work to overcome when talking about the device, marketing the device?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

First of all, I think you’re absolutely right about the step counters and sort of these trackers that have come before. I wouldn’t even call them necessarily fitness trackers because they’re not measuring fitness.

Steps is a completely irrelevant metric for a vast majority of the population, but especially people who lift weights because here you are crushing yourself in the gym, and low and behold, you only got 30 steps because you weren’t moving your arms that much. Whereas you could be waving your wrist while you’re speaking, and you get a lot of steps.

Steps, especially for weightlifters, completely irrelevant. To your point about how to optimize WHOOP in order to get benefits from weightlifting, I think a lot of it comes down to understanding that our technology is actually flexible in the way you can wear it. You don’t necessarily just have to wear on your wrist. You can wear it on your forearm, or your upper arm.

That benefits a lot of people who are throwing kettle bells around, or doing some things that are moving their arms in a unique way. Separately, we’ve now developed a strain coach in the app.

In real time, you can actually see how your heart rate’s building, how your strain’s building, and WHOOP’ll tell you keep going or stop based on the amount of strain you’ve accumulated, and again based on how recovered you are. Because that’s another interesting thing.

Maybe you’ve been planning to do a PR this week, but you wake up with a low recovery on WHOOP. Do you really want to do your PR on a day where your body is not optimized? Probably not. Do you want to do that huge lift on a day your body’s not recovered? Probably not. That’s where you can start to again manage these things and create a little bit of variability in your workout planning.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

What do you think is…and we’re jumping a little bit ahead here so feel free to reel me back in on this.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Sure.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

What do you think is next for WHOOP on the consumer-facing side as far as evolutions of the device? What people are using it for now compared to what people could be using for a few years down the road?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

One really big evolution for us was transitioning completely to a subscription model. Today, you can get WHOOP for just $30, and it’s $30 a month, and the hardware comes completely free. There’s no notion of buying hardware. By signing up for this membership, you’re getting hardware and software and analytics, and you’re part of this community. All bundled together for as little as $30.

What’s powerful about that, and what’s exciting for us as a company is it puts a lot responsibility on us to prove to you every day and every month, that we’re still delivering value. You ask where we’re going.

For us, it’s continuing to add amazing software features around understanding your body, add amazing analytics feature around understanding your body because every month we need to keep fighting for that 30 bucks so that you’re getting value.

By the way, I think that’s part of the issue with other wearable products to date, is they just had a big lump sum up front and they didn’t care about you afterwards. That affects the way that a team, internally, thinks about supporting its customers. Whereas for us, it’s the opposite. We want to make sure that you continue to have an amazing, amazing experience so that you stay on the product.

A lot of our future development is just that. It’s making sure that we continue to develop amazing software and analytics features.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You mentioned earlier, we were talking about some older fitness trackers that I think you don’t necessarily see on the market anymore that clearly weren’t that successful, weren’t that sticky among athletes. You mentioned how they weren’t really tracking fitness.

They were more movement trackers and it was up to the user to try and piece together and parse through the data to take actionable steps and apply those things to their training and to their recovery, which is probably a big reason you don’t see a lot of those on people’s wrists anymore, especially in strength sports.

What are some things that you would like WHOOP to be able to do or that you would like strength athletes to be able to get from WHOOP that they aren’t necessarily getting right now?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

 I think one of the biggest things, again, is understanding which days to really push it and which days to dial it back. Because strength training is so dependent on the status of your body.

No matter where you are in a cycle of lifting, if your body’s run down, and intellectually people know this, if you just did a big bench press and dead lift yesterday, and then you try to PR the next day, it’s going to be worse. That’s obvious. What’s interesting is what are all the nuances of how your body’s recovering that can then prepare you for your optimal lift.

With WHOOP, I think one benefit you’ll see is this ability to understand am I properly recovered for the lift that I was planning to do? If you’re not, then you can think about how you might want to adjust that. That’s a powerful moment.

In fact, a lot of the research I did initially in starting WHOOP that we talked about was on Olympic power lifters, in the ’70s and ’80s because they would get hooked up to an electrocardiogram machine in the morning and measure their heart rate variabilities. They used that metric, in fact, to determine how much they should lift that day. More so than their own intuition, and more so than coaching.

The fact that we’re able to measure things like heart rate variability while you’re sleeping just in the background, that’s kind of a breakthrough.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I think weightlifting, you’re referencing in particular, and that’s my background, weightlifters come to this realization eventually in their career, that they’re not just training the muscle. They’re not just training the movement pattern.

They’re training their nervous system. I think a really undervalued aspect of recovery is how is your nervous system recovering and responding to this stimulus as opposed to just your muscles?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Absolutely. Because your nervous system is the predictor in a lot ways of how prepared your body is to perform. This idea of balancing sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. Sympathetic’s activation, so it’s heart rate up, blood pressure up, respiration up. It’s what’s happening when you’re exercising, or you’re stressed, or you think about something.

Parasympathetic’s all the opposite, heart rate down, blood pressure down, respiration down. It’s what helps you fall asleep. In fact, you want for every sympathetic to have a parasympathetic response. You want those things to be in balance.

You can actually feel this when you inhale. [inhales] That’s sympathetic. [exhales] When you exhale, that’s parasympathetic. That’s why when you meditate, or you take six deep breaths, all of a sudden your body calms itself, because you’ve gotten sympathetic and parasympathetic more in tune.

We’re able to measure this phenomenon through heart rate variability, because the more in tune sympathetic and parasympathetic, the higher your heart rate variability. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but the higher the heart rate variability, the better. What that does is it gives us this lens into the status of how restored your body is, because we’re measuring it during slow-wave sleep.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Let’s talk about some of the factors that are outside the gym that could impact recovery. Again, with an eye particularly towards strength athletics and strength athletes. Nutrition is something that has become more and more of a component of the lifestyle of strength athletes, powerlifters, weightlifters, CrossFitters.

Alcohol is something that certainly affects training and recovery. It’s something that we all kind of anecdotally know, but often don’t really take the time to measure. In talking to WHOOP users and reading some of the content that you all put out, it’s very interesting to see the impact that drinking alcohol is having on recovery, and how that’s reflected in the data that WHOOP is giving users.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Absolutely. I think one of the things we’re proudest of at WHOOP is that you can see how all these different things in your life affect your body, and effectively do these little A/B tests on yourself.

Alcohol is really black and white. The more alcohol you drink, the worse your recovery, period.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I don’t think anyone’s advocating “Just do shots for PRs” right now.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

No, they’re not. What’s interesting is even some nights, having two drinks can really mess up your sleep and your recovery. It also matters how closely you have those drinks to going to bed.

Intellectually, I think most people will have a beer or have a glass of wine and think “It doesn’t matter.” However, you can find some nights it actually really does matter, so that’s one interesting thing.

Binge drinking is exceptionally bad. We work with a lot of college athletes, so we see binge drinking all the time on WHOOP. What’s fascinating is it’s not just the next day that they have a low recovery. We’ll see suppressed recoveries of athletes who drank versus the ones who didn’t on their team for up to five days.

Your body is still showing signs of being hung-over five days later from a big night out. All you college athletes listening, just think about that extra shot.

The other thing that’s interesting is nutrition, and you touched on this. There’s a lot out there right now on what’s the right diet for me if I want to get big, or I want to get stronger. By the way, a lot of conflicting information, frankly.

There’s a reason there’s 10,000 diets, because it’s not obvious what’s right for you. One of the cool things about WHOOP is you can see how different diets affect your body. I would really encourage people who are very serious about weight lifting to look at how different supplements and different diets affect their body.

If all of a sudden you decide to go keto, and you just flatline on WHOOP for 10 days, guess what? That’s doing damage to your body. That is not the right diet for you even though it sounds cool, and a lot of people are doing it, and it’s a good test for you mentally.

We’ve seen that happen. Sure, we’ve seen it work for people too, but we’ve seen people just red-line. I mean red recovery every day, for 10 days.

By the way, if they hadn’t seen that data, they might be like “Yeah, this is going well. I’m a keto guy.” I think that’s important. The other thing is looking at how some of these pre and post workout things are affecting your body.

I know a lot of people like to take a pre-workout drink that has a lot of caffeine in it. Well, guess what? If you’re taking that later in the day, later in the afternoon, that may be dramatically impacting your sleep.

Either you want to try take that in a morning workout, or just think about whether you want to do it in the afternoon or the evening. We typically see after 4:00 PM, if you drink caffeine it’s going to negatively impact your sleep.

For you, you may be able to get away with it, or maybe you can’t. You should know that, right? You should measure that.

Overall, I think the thesis here is you can manage what you measure.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Let’s talk about some of your work in the past year, year and a half, with some big athletes and some very recognizable personalities in the strength sports community.

Katrín Davíðsdóttir certainly comes to mind. She’s someone that I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few times over the past six or seven years when she was just getting started off in CrossFit, was making that transition from gymnastics. I know she was a guest on your podcast, as well.

What feedback have you been able to get back from her and other top CrossFit athletes regarding their recovery, and some of the deltas or gaps they’re still having when it comes to optimizing recovery?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Yeah, I think what’s interesting, again for CrossFit, as a community, is it’s such an intense sport. It’s such an intense discipline. People are susceptible to injury. They are susceptible to over-training. The recovery piece, the sleep piece, we get a lot of positive feedback about that.

I remember when Katrín was on the podcast, she was really talking about how she realized that the time in bed she spent didn’t actually equal hours of sleep. That’s kind of breakthrough actually for anyone to understand. Especially a professional athlete.

When you ask someone, “Hey, how’d you sleep last night?” They’d be like, “Ah, I got seven hours of sleep.” It’s like, “OK, when did you go to bed?” “I went to bed at 11:00 PM and I woke up at 6:00 AM.” Well, actually, no.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Yeah. [laughs]

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

You spent seven hours in bed. By the way, depending on your sleep efficiency that’s probably somewhere from five hours of sleep to six and a half. Understanding that just as a simple baseline understanding is quite powerful. That’ll just inevitably encourage you to spend more time in bed and try to get more sleep. People like Katrín get very dialed in on what’s the right pre-bed routine.

Mindfulness, all these different things that can try to improve their sleep. If you’re a competitive person like a Katrín, you realize you want to be beating everyone at recovery as much you want to be beating them in the gym.

You start to think of yourself…this is the shift. You go from thinking of yourself as a professional athlete two to four hours a day when you’re competing and working out to thinking of yourself as professional athlete 24/7.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

What are some the communities, could be in strength athletics, it could be just in general active communities I’m kind of thinking of, that WHOOP hasn’t made a lot of headway in, or you think has the biggest potential for growth in?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

I feel quite fortunate in that I do think today we actually work in most pockets of sports and fitness. We have athletes on WHOOP that literally represent every sport imaginable. We have fitness communities that are really quite wide ranging.

The thing that holds all these communities together is this idea of recovery and sleep. Yes, there’s different ways to manage strain and we measure that, too. I think the sleep and recovery piece, though, is just transformational for anyone who’s trying to improve.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

We’ve seen a lot of trends in the fitness industry over the last decade. Some flame out, some continue on. I think that when I first heard of CrossFit about 10 years ago, I kept hearing from everyone that I was weightlifting with, “Oh, it’s a fad. Oh, it’s a fad.”

Well, CrossFit’s actually been the best thing for weightlifting imaginable, as far as bringing it mainstream. If you look at what’s out there now, we’ve mentioned a few diets on this podcast. We’ve talked about a few different training methodologies. What do you see right now that may have some staying power when it comes to the fitness industry and training long-term?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

I think the CrossFit thing is proven to be pretty sticky. I think that’s…

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I think it’s going to stick around at this point.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

…that’s been an amazing call to movement. Talk about something that just began with an email. Now I think there’s a million people who do CrossFit. Maybe 10 million, actually.

 

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

The number varies…

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Yeah. Excuse me.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

…depending on who you hear it from. There are certain…

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Somewhere between a million and 10 million are doing this…

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Certainly quite a few.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

…thing that started with an email.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

By the way, it’s also very disruptive type of workout. It began with some kind of influence from Navy Seals. I think that’s quite amazing. I think it also just shows you the power today of fitness. Fitness is a growing phenomenon. It’s not slowing down. The question is, of course, how do you get more people that are on the other end of the spectrum.

We still have a massive obesity problem in this country. You’ve got this sort of bimodal distribution where more people are getting fitter and more people are getting fat and less people in the middle. That’s an interesting question that I think about. Another question I think about is what are the things that people aren’t talking about that will become very important?

I think sleep’s already now entered that stage. Now everyone’s talking about sleep. Sleep’s really become the new steps. Breathing is something people don’t talk about enough. I think that’s going to be very big in the next 5 to 10 years. I’ve found personally that the way I breathe throughout the day can really dramatically affect my performance just intellectually, not to mention sports or anything else.

Just the way I think, if I’m breathing effectively versus not. It’s one of those things that the more you think about it, the more you practice it, the better you get at it. I do transcendental meditation. A lot of athletes I work with do all sorts of other things.

Learning how to breathe properly is so fundamental. It’s mostly being talked about through the lens of meditation today, and it still seems a little whoo, whoo. It hasn’t quite broken through as like something that everyone needs to understand about themselves. You’ll see that in 5 to 10 years be a big phenomenon, this idea of breathwork.

Something we’ve seen in the strength community. I know Mark Bell, who’s a pretty well-known powerlifting coach has been posting a lot about this, breathing habits at night nasal versus mouth breathing.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

There you go, yeah, all this stuff. I totally buy all of that. The more people start to understand it and try it themselves, the more they’ll see benefits from it. You even said, those are two different types of breathing.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s something that even five years ago, and I consider myself as…I work in content in the fitness space. I should be up on this, but it’s something that I wouldn’t have thought about consciously, five years ago.

You look into the research on it, the impact of nasal breathing versus mouth breathing, especially during sleep cycles. It’s a promising area of research and one where we can already draw some conclusions. Certainly, something that the average athlete or the average person isn’t consciously thinking of, but I’m sure that’s going to change.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

By the way, it also ties to another trend, which I think we’re going to see, which is a bit of a rebellion to technology. Right now, we’re approaching, some degree of peak addiction towards technology, where it seems culturally totally acceptable whether you’re on the toilet, or in the subway, or any moment of boredom, you have to be looking at your phone.

There’s going to be this sort of rebellion to that at some point. People are going to realize they need to actually go completely the other way, and figure out how to not do that. That’s where you also see more of a focus on breathwork.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

As someone who founded and runs a tech company, does that scare you or is it something that you think, WHOOP can position itself to survive, as we gradually and consciously disconnect?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

The criticism that I have for other technology brands that dominate, let’s take Instagram, for example, is they’re overdoing it a little bit. They’re trying to create too much of an addiction engine. You don’t need a push notification when someone likes your photo. You don’t need 25 different forms of push notifications.

I’ve gone into my phone, and turned off all push notifications pretty much across everything. This doesn’t affect me. A lot of the default settings end up being the default settings. By the way, we think about it all the time at WHOOP. Part of the reason that WHOOP doesn’t have a screen is we want it to be passive.

We want you to choose when you want feedback from a coach. WHOOP doesn’t have a screen. It’s mostly material. In fact, we want it to disappear on your body. We don’t want you to think about it. That’s a very different point of view than I think a lot of technology companies today.

You have to be mindful of these things. How are you going to actually improve someone’s body? I don’t think you’re improving their body if you’re pinging them every five minutes to check in with you. There needs to be a few key check-in points throughout the day, and that’s it.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Excellent. Where can folks follow WHOOP, and stay up-to-date with what the company is doing? Maybe more relevant to this podcast. Where can folks stay up-to-date with what you’re doing?

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Yeah, absolutely. You can find me online @willahmed, W-I-L-L-A-H-M-E-D. You can find WHOOP @whoop. Instagram, Twitter tend to be the most popular for both myself and for WHOOP.

You can also shoot me an email, [email protected] I will probably respond to you, or  I’ll read what you say. I’m happy to answer questions about the product and building the business, in general.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us today. Enjoy the rest of your trip and really, really excited to see what comes next from you, and from team of WHOOP.

Will AhmedWill Ahmed

Thanks for having me, brother.

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