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Like many golfers, I signed up for a WHOOP this summer after hearing that the PGA Tour was distributing the bands to players, caddies, officials and golf journalists. The decision came after PGA Tour player Nick Watney decided to seek out a Covid-19 test after noticing abnormal readings from his WHOOP, a band worn on the wrist or upper arm to check various medical data. Watney was asymptomatic at the time and had recently tested negative – suggesting the WHOOP had issued an early warning that Watney might have been infected.
The effectiveness of the WHOOP as a means of preventing the transmission of Covid-19 is far from established, but I have adhered to the WHOOP for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. First of all, I wear WHOOP because I believe it benefits my overall health – and as a result, I believe it will help my game of golf extend the years that I can stay healthy and competitive.
My Body, My Laboratory
In 2011 I wrote an editorial for TIME Magazine about scientists experimenting with themselves. I assumed at the time that many ordinary people would soon fall into this category due to the adoption of & # 39; smart-connected & # 39; wearables and self-tracking. But at the time, the technology was clunky and immature, so I wasn't an early adopter myself. But I've always felt that wearables can play a vital role in living up to the wise Delphic maxim: Know thyself.
I find it more powerful to be able to track my biometrics, and WHOOP offers a variety of measurements that I can track. Using an optical heart rate monitor, the WHOOP band can measure heart rate, sleep, respiratory rate, and something called heart rate variability (HRV), a measure that can show how well a user has recovered from recent stress.
The band is linked to a smartphone app designed to tell athletes whether to take it slow (to improve recovery) or go faster (to increase tension). Overload can be the result of exercise or some exogenous factor – stress, sleep deprivation, dehydration, illness, and so on. Every day you wake up WHOOP gives you a recovery score that lets you know how hard to push yourself that day. The band measures the load of each workout and the cumulative load of your daily activity – and a & # 39; strain coach & # 39; tells you when you are approaching the optimal load given your recovery at night. If you exceed that level of tension, the band will warn you that you may be less likely to recover the next day.
Here's a view of the app showing your recovery and tax levels
Whoop Learns Over Time
The more you wear the band, the more accurate it becomes – both in measuring your normal "baseline" but also in recognizing your activities. For example, if you have recorded a certain number of rounds of golf or cycling sessions, the band automatically recognizes when you start playing golf or cycling and keeps track of the activity (and the load it causes). It also tracks your progress by automatically reporting, for example, when you are working harder than normal during an activity, for example: “You spent 16 minutes during this workout at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate, which is 4 minutes longer than you normally would. spends while cycling.
A summary of a quick jump rope workout
How I use WHOOP for golf
Even before WHOOP became a free touring accessory, it had a popular following among elite golfers, including Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. I find this puzzling: the device is clearly designed for a different kind of athlete – those who often overtrain, increasing the risk of injury or diminishing fitness gains (I'm thinking cyclists, marathon runners, triathletes, and so on). Additionally, because the device only measures heart rate and respiration and cannot measure stress hormones and other internal responses to stress, it appears to be better suited to athletes who engage in vigorous cardio training than those who focus on resistance training (such as golfers). Indeed, when I do a tough weightlifting session I am always shocked at how little tension the tire registers. I won't see confirmation of my hard work until the next morning, when I see a diminished recovery.
If you want to understand how Rory uses his WHOOP, he has recorded a podcast on it. For me I have discovered that the WHOOP has helped my golf game in two ways:
It has helped me become more aware of my sleep. When I first started wearing the band, I learned that I wasn't sleeping enough. I had developed a bad habit of scrolling social media before bed, causing what the WHOOP calls "sleep efficiency". – the time I spend sleeping in bed. I personally find that when I am well rested, I make better decisions on the golf course and can show more patience during a round. I get irritable and unfocused when I'm tired and things aren't going well. I saw an immediate improvement as I increased my sleep efficiency.
I've learned that golf burns a lot of calories. Here is the screenshot of a recent & # 39; shamble & # 39; that I played in a golf cart at my local club and a screenshot of a recent 76-minute hike on a mountain in Colorado, which was a real ass-kicking workout by my standards. A social round of go-kart golf burned more than 1,000 calories; the walk burned half that amount. This opened my eyes to the importance of preliminary and regular nutrition. My favorite snack in turn – a single banana – just didn't provide enough fuel. Along with feeling exhausted at the end of the round, it led me to overeat at the club house as I arrived very hungry which led to weight gain. Now, for each round of muesli, I take a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich down the hall – and skip the burger and fries after the round.
Take a look at all those calories burned on the golf course!
Image is everything
These are admittedly modest contributions to my golf game – which I probably could have gotten from any smartwatch or other wearable device monitoring basic biometric data. So why am I still using the WHOOP? I am convinced that overall health is under-emphasized in golf fitness instruction, which tends to focus on strength and mobility. What good is a ball speed of 170 mph at age 50 if you have a heart attack at age 55? I wear a WHOOP because it is not specifically for golfers, but athletes. By wearing it, I can identify as someone who is conscientious about fitness and overall health – not just my ability to hit a golf ball over long distances.
Other wearables have "gamification" features such as the Apple Watch "activity rings" and the virtual coins or stars that other wearables assign to users at certain training milestones. I like that WHOOP has none of that – it assumes you are serious about your fitness and can stay motivated without the use of behavioral gimmicks. It is designed with competitive athletes in mind. My desire to be the type of person who wears a WHOOP helps me to be that type of person – it keeps me motivated, even though keeping fit gets harder and harder in middle age.
WHOOP & # 39; s Biggest Benefit
But the main reason I kept my WHOOP has nothing to do with physical benefits – but rather the improvement it has made in my mental health. In part, this is due to an increase in cardio since using the device (some studies show that regular aerobic exercise is just as effective in treating mild depression as drugs). But most of the time it's through the WHOOP & # 39; community & # 39; feature, which allowed me to connect with my friends and monitor their sleep and activity levels. If I see that a friend in Dallas hasn't slept well, I can get in touch and ask if everything is okay. If a friend in London has a particularly epic workout, I'll encourage them.
These interactions were a lifeline for me in a difficult time. Researchers have found that women's friendships are made face to face: they talk, gossip, cry together. Friendships of men are side by side: we play golf. Watch sports on TV and so on. I would never answer the phone just to chew the fat with my friend in Dallas or London (maybe I do). But being able to check in and talk about our sleep, recovery, and workouts has provided a necessary source of connection and an excuse to maintain the friendship.
The Bottom Line
Has my WHOOP made me a better golfer? Not in the short term. But golf is a lifelong activity. Being happy, healthy and connected with friends and family is a great foundation for a long life – and my WHOOP certainly helped with that.
Would I recommend the WHOOP to other golfers? It depends. If you already own a smartwatch or other wearable fitness tracker (like a Fitbit or Oura), I see no reason why you should need a WHOOP. But if like me you're a late user of smartly connected wearables, then the WHOOP can be a great option for building healthy habits for a lifetime.
About the author
Eben Harrell is an editor, writer and competitive amateur golfer who divides his time between Colorado and Scotland.