Three years ago, in January of 2014, the Harvard University Men’s Squash Team decided to give up alcohol. They made that choice because of what they discovered using WHOOP, and the results that followed were incredible.
The impetus behind WHOOP came from Founder and CEO Will Ahmed’s experience as Harvard Squash Captain in 2012. In describing what motivated him, Will wrote “As a D1 athlete, I was amazed by how little I knew about my body. I would train for 3 hours a day with my teammates without knowing what gains I made. I was surrounded by athletes, myself included, who overtrained, misinterpreted fitness peaks, underestimated recovery and sleep, and got injured. Being prepared for game day often seemed…random.”
Two years later, WHOOP was in its early stages of development. Will needed a team to test out the technology and Harvard squash was the natural fit. The captain of that year’s squad was senior Gary Power, who’d played with Will in 2011-12.
“Will was captain of the Harvard Squash team when I was a sophomore,” Power said. “I knew him pretty well and knew what he was doing after school. I was interested in what WHOOP was and what Will was up to. I followed what he was doing after he graduated and that culminated in my 2013-14 season where the company was at that point where they were looking for a team to be the first beta tester. It made sense for the squash team that Will had been a part of to be that first beta testing team. To have someone like myself who already bought into the idea of quantifying various different aspects of training made us a great target and a great use case for the first team to start using the product.”
Power and his teammates were thrilled with the data WHOOP made available to them. “It was the first time I could actually quantify various different things I do to my body and how it affects it,” he said. “I think being able to see both the positive and negative things you do to your body and how that shapes fitness is how WHOOP really helped myself and my team perform well.”
Two examples in particular stick in Power’s memory of how he benefitted from using WHOOP. The first related to him as an individual:
“One of the things I started doing [because of WHOOP] was looking into what could help my cardiovascular fitness–squash is a very cardiovascular-intense sport. Research showed that ginseng was know to improve cardiovascular stamina. As I started taking it, I saw my resting heart rate decrease, I saw my HRV (heart rate variability) increase, I felt my fitness overall was improving over time and I was able to actually quantify that.”
The second was something the entire team took advantage of:
“Another thing we saw was that when we went out and had a couple drinks on a Saturday we didn’t just see that our data–our resting heart rate and our heart rate variability–were taking a hit the next day, it was really the next three days. It wasn’t rebounding until a three-day period was over. On that side of the equation, for us, we had six weeks in the season when we had to really focus, all of our big matches. We made a decision as a team to stop drinking. I think a big part of that was through the WHOOP data we were able to see how alcohol was negatively effecting our training.”
What happened from there was nothing short of spectacular. Power’s squad captured the national title in outstanding fashion. “We had a phenomenal season,” Power said. “We beat every team 9-0 at nationals, the first time that’s ever happened. We certainly had the best season that we’ve ever had–one that can only be matched and never beaten since we won 27-0 over three matches at nationals.”
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Power credits superior physical fitness as a key factor in the success of both him and his team:
“I also personally had the best season I’d ever had. One of the things that really stuck out was that as a team we were overall just a lot fitter than everyone else. In a sport like squash where you’re burning more calories per hour than any other sport, and when you’re working out your at a heart rate of 180-190, cardiovascular fitness is so important. Often times the fitter team is the one that wins. I think that really showed and shined through for us, and the WHOOP data was able to help us achieve that.”
Today, Gary Power is an Elite Performance Manager in the Business Development department here at WHOOP. After being a member of the first team ever to use WHOOP, Power was well aware of its potential and knew it was something he wanted to become a part of.
“Seeing what the company was doing with Recovery, personally helped myself as an athlete, it helped our team enormously as well,” he said. “It helped me see the value of the product before I started working at the company. It was a very natural progression into working in a business development role at WHOOP.”
Power says the knowledge he gained from WHOOP as one of its initial beta testers inspired him to take on a role that allows him to share what he learned with others:
“It was a great experience for me to be one of the first athletes to use the product and see how it fit in a team setting, to see how it improved my personal performance, how it improved our team performance and how it improved our accountability. This made it a product that was very easy for me to sell, and something that I wanted to sell because I knew the benefit it had for myself and my team. I wanted to give that benefit to other teams as well.”
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