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Podcast 141: Track Star Gabby Thomas on the Mental Side of Running

September 21, 2021

One of the fastest women on Earth, Gabby Thomas, joins the WHOOP Podcast to discuss her career, consistency, and visualization as a key to success.

By Will Ahmed

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Gabby Thomas is a two-time Olympic medalist, but she’s so much more than just an athlete. She graduated from Harvard, where she studied neurobiology and global health, and is currently studying for her Master’s degree in epidemiology at the University of Texas at Austin–all while maintaining her elite training schedule.

Gabby joins the WHOOP Podcast to discuss her career, the importance of consistency, and why visualization is one of the keys to her success. She also shares how WHOOP helps with her recovery and in her day-to-day life.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!


Olympic Runner Gabby Thomas Podcast Quotes and Highlights:

2:12 – Getting Into Running. Gabby says her mom encouraged her to take up sports. She started in soccer before transitioning to track and field.

4:50 – Going Pro. “I didn’t even know that going pro in track was really a thing until I did it. I didn’t realize that it was actually something that I could make a living off of. I knew that some people were running post collegiately because they loved track, but I thought you had to be like Usain Bolt to even begin to start making money and actually be able to do it.”

8:46 – A Matter of Seconds. Will and Gabby discuss how the difference between peak performance and poor performance in running can be minuscule. “In the 100 meter, you really want to see a consistency where you’re not varying by 0.3 seconds in a race.”

10:15 – Not Just an Athlete. Gabby discusses her academic pursuits at Harvard and why that was important to her. She studied neurobiology with a minor in global health and health policy. She also got a citation in French. “That’s kind of a typical athlete workload,” Will jokes.

13:24 – Using WHOOP. Gabby was one of the first people to ever wear WHOOP and was a beta tester for WHOOP in 2015. “[WHOOP was] something my [college track and field] coach was really passionate about,” Gabby says. “That’s where I really developed my foundation for focusing on recovery and taking care of myself. I’m just not sure that I would have developed that kind of consciousness without my coach and without WHOOP.”

15:10 – Activities That Negatively Affect Recovery. “If I eat right before bed or even just a couple of hours before bed, it just has a shocking impact on my recovery when I wake up,” Gabby says. “Same with alcohol, alcohol is the craziest dip in recovery that you just don’t expect. It’ll just take you straight to the red.”

20:10 – Heart Rate and Training. Check out this video of Gabby training while using WHOOP Live to broadcast her heart rate.

21:35 – The Mental Side. “I do a lot of mental work. So much of the race is mental,” Gabby says. “I wake up, do my visualizations, do my meditation. … It’s a part of my competition warmup. It’s picturing and visualizing the race. At big competitions, obviously I envision myself winning. I envision it probably a hundred times before I actually run the race.”

29:01 – Idols. Gabby says she looks up to Allyson Felix. “She is just outstanding. She’s had such a long career and just a very, very consistent career. She’s not the type of athlete to just pop off a fast time here. She remains consistent. You know when she’s on the line, she’s going to compete, whether she’s getting a gold medal, a silver or a bronze.”

32:00 – Importance of Sleep. “My Harvard track and field coach used to make me write essays on sleep and the importance of sleep. So when I tell you it’s ingrained in me, if I don’t get sleep, I’m stressed. It was great coaching. It’s a great foundation that was laid for me.”

36:06 – Muscle Recovery. “I don’t do a lot of [muscle recovery] during training. I like to teach my body to kind of figure it out on its own. When it comes to championship season, when I’m at trials or Olympics, I’ll do an ice bath or an Epsom salt bath, but I pretty much steer clear from that when I do the bulk of my training.”

39:16 – Nutrition. “My rule of thumb is whatever you’re putting into your body, it has to make sense. It has to fuel you and have nutritional value.”

42:12 – Health Scare. Doctors discovered a tumor on Gabby’s liver during an MRI scan of her back. The tumor was eventually determined to be benign, but Gabby says getting a clean bill of health fueled her strong performance at the Olympic Trials. “When I found out that it was benign and it was such a relief,” Gabby says. “And I think it did make a difference when I went [to trials]. I went in just so grateful and ready and just feeling so healthy and alive, knowing that I actually did not have cancer when I thought I had cancer. It just fueled me so much more. It probably was part of why I ran so fast.”

43:26 – Being Thankful for Good Health. “I’m so grateful to be young and healthy. I’m mobile. I’m able to do anything that I want to do. That’s something that we take for granted when you’re young and healthy.”

46:51 – Global Health. Gabby explains why she’s studying to be an epidemiologist. “It’s really important that public health has diversity. Racially, culturally, and that people like me are in that field and being at the forefront and making these recommendations and being a part of the research.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.