Nick Watney didn’t have a cough at Harbour Town. He didn’t have a fever, either. But when the strap attached to his wrist showed a big jump in the number of breaths he was taking each minute, he went and got a coronavirus test.
Watney became the first player in the PGA Tour bubble to be diagnosed with Covid-19 last June and sent interest soaring in the small device that alerted him to seek medical advice.
The Whoop strap is now everywhere in professional golf. At nearly all tournaments you’ll see players sporting the fitness monitor – either on their wrist or on a bicep.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and both Jessica and Nella Korda are just some of the high profile adopters routinely monitoring their sleep, strain and recovery numbers to improve their training and performance.
So could it help sharpen your game? NCG’s Steve Carroll, a 10-handicapper, and Hannah Holden, a scratch player who regularly competes in Britain’s biggest amateur tournaments, have spent several months wearing the strap and poring over graphs and figures. Here’s what they found…
The club golfer
The night before a competition, if it was an event where I really wanted to be at my best, I’d avoid a big session on the ale, writes Steve Carroll.
Hangovers and golf don’t equal a good show – none of us need a fitness device to tell us that. But one of the key things I found using Whoop is what just a small amount of alcohol does to my body.
A single pint after about 9pm can obliterate the parts of my sleep that really matter – REM and Slow Wave – and push my resting heart rate up as much as half a dozen beats.
So I don’t hit the sauce any more if I’m really keen to make birdies.
I always thought I got a solid eight hours anyway. Whoop has revealed I’m nowhere close.
Did you know we regularly wake up in the night? Some episodes are brief enough that you might not even notice but they all add up.
In my case, it’s an average of 14 disturbances every night – combining to just over an hour of lost shuteye.
We all feel stress sometimes and we all feel tired. But Whoop means I can measure that in numbers. I can see how a hard day affects my recovery as a percentage. I can measure the balance in my autonomic nervous system to see how the way I act, and what I eat and drink, affects my heart rate variability.
And now, like Watney, I religiously measure my respiratory rate range as a first line of prevention should I ever contract Covid-19.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t. I look at the app for a couple of minutes each day.
I’ve tweaked my alcohol intake and try to make sure I get better sleep. If my recovery levels are in the green, I go for it. If they’re not, I make sure to rest.
That is it. No fancy gimmicks, no sudden 10-mile runs, and I still get stuck into a takeaway pizza.
But even these small changes in lifestyle have produced significant results. I started using Whoop last July when my game was in the heart of a two-year slump.
As I’ve made these alterations, also assisted by some modest equipment changes, I’ve started breaking 80 in practice much more regularly and have won a club board competition after 15 years of trying.
They say knowledge is power. Whoop gives you that knowledge.
The elite amateur
I was interested to see how other activities in my life affected what they call strain, writes Hannah Holden.
I do a lot of work, and in the gym, and then golf. You might think that’s sometimes too much pressure on your body at once.
It was quite surprising, though. I do a lot more heavy lifting – compared to cardio – and because you’re doing it for a short period of time and it’s not that anaerobic the strain level is quite low.
I already tracked my sleep through Fitbit, so I knew quite a lot about that, but the biggest thing about Whoop was tracking heart rate variability.
You are seeing all the effects of stress and that was a bigger impact for me than sleep.
So I can see, when I’ve got a lot on and I am stressed, how that affects me compared to where I would be typically.
I would always take a lot of consideration into making sure my sleep and so on was good before a tournament but there can be a lot of other factors affecting how you’ve recovered that you’re not necessarily thinking about.
I went on a diet at the start of the year and I wasn’t eating much gluten. When I started eating it again, I didn’t feel that well and Whoop showed my heart rate variability was down.
When I cut gluten out, it goes back up. You can sometimes think, it’s probably just me but when you have actual graphs and numbers showing you that something is not right then it gives you more data to make a decision.
It will be interesting once I get to use it in the season and see how I’m affected during a tournament – especially as Whoop tracks your heart rate a lot more accurately, particularly when at high levels.
It will also be really interesting to see how that might change if I find myself in contention, and how my sleep is affected the night before, or when I stay away from home and how that environment affects my recovery.
Do you have a Whoop strap? How does it help you, or are you thinking about getting one? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us.
- For more information, visit the Whoop website