How WHOOP Helped Win a Medal at the Spartan World Championships
Earlier this month, Team Thrive member Alyssa Hawley topped the leaderboard for Strain on two consecutive days. On Saturday December 2, Hawley posted a Strain of 20.6 (out of a possible 21). The next day, she followed it up with a 20.7:
“I ran some big races that weekend at high altitude,” she explained. “Saturday I ran a Beast Spartan [the most difficult kind] that was 16 miles long and featured 32 obstacles. It took me three hours. Then on Sunday, I ran the course again two more times. I was out there for almost seven hours. I did one lap, took about 10 minutes off to eat, change, and use the restroom, then I went right back out for another lap.”
Hawley is not your average “weekend warrior” Spartan racer, she does it professionally. How did she get to that point?
“I ran my first race about two-and-a-half years ago,” Alyssa said. “I was a D1 softball player at Stony Brook University on Long Island. When that ended I needed a new athletic goal. I saw a Groupon for a Spartan Race at Citi Field where the Mets play, so I went for it. I ended up taking first overall in the open division. That’s when I thought ‘Huh, maybe I could be really good at this.’ From there, it kind of took off and I soon fell in love with it. I did more races and kept ending up on the podium, eventually I was asked to be on the pro team.”
It’s not just obstacle-course racing that causes Hawley’s high Strain numbers–her other job plays a significant role as well. “Spartan isn’t full-time,” she told us. “I also work construction with my dad for his company. I’m out in the field with him, framing, doing concrete, those sort of things. I have a very physically demanding lifestyle on top of all my training.”
Getting on WHOOP
Hawley began using WHOOP this past summer after several disappointing race results:
“I came out super strong to start the 2017 season. In April, I won the first U.S. Championship Series race in Seattle. But, then I think I started doing too much and overtraining and I didn’t even realize it. Other girls peaked and I didn’t. I ended up finishing fourth in the series, not where I wanted to be at all.”
“I knew I needed to make a change before the World Championships in Lake Tahoe at the end of September,” Alyssa continued. “I’ve never really been one to use much training technology before. I used to track heart rate with my watch, but it really didn’t do much for me except make me aware of what zone I was running in. I tried monitoring my HRV [heart rate variability] for a bit, but I got annoyed with the chest strap. My watch could also track how long and far I ran, but then I literally had to just log it in a journal. Trying something like WHOOP was new territory for me and I was skeptical.”
What Happened Next?
“I went to Lake Tahoe two weeks early to train, get focussed and get used to the elevation,” Hawley said. “I set up WHOOP and started using it the day I got there. Right off the bat, I thought the Sleep tracker was the coolest thing ever. I also loved how it calculated the Strain I put on my body through my workouts, it took things to a whole new level so I could analyze my intensity on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, Recovery had always been an issue for me. Normally, I would just train through however I was feeling. But in this case, I listened to what WHOOP told me to do with the Strain I was taking on and how much Sleep I needed to be Recovered the next day.”
Alyssa’s data over those two weeks reflects a near-perfect training plan:
She trained hard leading up to the World Championships, with a string of high-Strain days (above in blue). When her Recovery (red, yellow and green) dipped into the red as her race weekend approached, she began to cut back on her workload:
“On the Tuesday before the race, I started tapering my training and my Recovery went up and up,” Hawley said. “I was perfectly primed and ready to peak that Saturday morning. I’d trained smarter and more efficiently than I ever had before and I ended up taking 3rd place in the World Championships!”
“I really do owe a big thanks to WHOOP,” Alyssa continued. “It played a huge part in my training and Recovery up until race day. It blew my mind looking at the data afterwards. Then of course my Recovery dropped significantly after the races because of the high Strain. But I kept following the recommendations from WHOOP, and I was still able to run a PR in a marathon the next weekend.”
“I’ve been using WHOOP consistently ever since the world championships,” Hawley added. “I am so excited to take it into my 2018 training and racing season as my secret weapon!”
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