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Podcast No. 16: Mike Mancias, Trainer to LeBron James

March 27, 2019

Today’s podcast guest is Mike Mancias, long-time personal trainer to LeBron James. Mike and I first met four years ago, and he’s been a friend and advisor to WHOOP ever since.

By Will Ahmed

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Mike’s journey is a fascinating one. We explore how he went from being the equipment manager of a small college basketball team, to training arguably the greatest athlete of a generation.

From there we talk about the various preparation and recovery techniques Mike uses with LeBron, and how he’s helped him be one of the NBA’s most durable players for the past decade and a half.

We also discuss how Mike first got involved with WHOOP, the benefits he sees in it and why he believes the data is so important, plus the one piece of training advice he’d give to the average everyday athlete.

Mike Mancias Podcast Show Notes:

3:05 – Late Night? After back-to-back game nights, weather delayed Mike’s flight and he didn’t get to bed until 3:30 am, five hours before recording. “That’s the business we’ve chosen. … I always say that our travel schedule is that unseen opponent that’s constantly there.”

5:19 – Will and Mike First Met in the early stages of WHOOP. “I was able to see the vision back then.”

6:17 – Student Manager to Training LeBron James. “My foot in the door was equipment, I was equipment manager for our team for about a semester.” He kept elevating his career by being bold, persistent, and constantly networking. “If I’m doing it at this level, why can’t I do it at the professional level?”

10:18 – Working with Tim Grover and Michael Jordan. “Next thing you know we’re on a call in 2001, and MJ decides he wants to come back and play with the Wizards, and he’s training in Chicago. The stars aligned I guess, and Tim said ‘OK, you want to come and help us out, go ahead.’”

12:35 – Learning what Superstars Need. “You must be consistent and you must be even-keeled. … You have to be available 24/7.”

14:01 – Letter of Recommendation from Jordan. “I guess I’m a quick learner … I asked for a letter of recommendation and thought ‘what are the odds?’ and sure enough he did it.”

15:00 – Joining the Cavs. When they offered Mike a seasonal internship, “I almost passed out.”

15:55 – Working with LeBron. “It was never intentional. He was just one of the players.”

17:11 – Introducing Training Techniques. “I think it all started with stuff in the weight room, and with core strengthening and flexibility. … Even back then he wanted to be better.”

18:52 – Durability. “Recovery never stops, even while you’re playing.”

20:45 – Post-Game Recovery. “As soon as the game is over we start to nutrify the body.” James drinks a Ladder recovery shake “before and after every game.”

24:27 – Getting Involved with WHOOP. “I was excited because here was this new technology that if done the right way could be extremely beneficial, we can basically unlock the body’s recovery process. … I said ‘If you can pull this off I’m all in,’ and here we are.”

26:31 – Effects of NBA Lockout in 2010-11. A shortened season led to fewer off days and teams sometimes playing games on three consecutive days. “That’s when all of the conversations we were having on sleep and recovery came into fruition.”

27:24 – How Mike Uses WHOOP. “How can I be better recovered? Am I getting enough sleep? What does that mean for my performance the next day? … I have to be the MVP for my family.”

29:11 – Nutrition Trends. “One of the things that’s overhyped right now is the idea that you have to stick with one way and that’s it. … Just try to balance it out.” Mike is primarily vegan. “Find out what works for you.”

30:24 – Training Trends. What does he recommend? “If you want to really push yourself to the next level, I’m not a paid endorser but there’s a company out there called Rise Nation, they do 30-minute versa-climber classes. … It’s a very, very challenging workout, but it’s a very beneficial one at the same time.”

32:21 – Recovery Methods to Combat Aging. “Cryotherapy is big. … I think we’ve had great success with that for several years now.” He’s also a fan of Hyperice. “We just got introduced to this new product called Kelvi, picture an ice wrap but without having to use ice and water.”

36:03 – Things to Avoid Pre-Game. Mike mentions dry needling, “something that is going to make you sore.”

36:19 – Low Energy on Gameday? What does he suggest? “Sometimes all you need is a 20-minute nap.” Mike and Will break down a few different scenarios. “Do some reverse engineering, why are you tired?”

37:30 – Caffeine Benefits? “You have to be smart on your dosages.”

38:34 – More Recovery/Performance Tips. Normatec and “water with electrolytes.”

39:34 – Career Highlights? “Our very first championship … For me it was a little validation, as an athletic trainer that I had a little bit of influence.” Mike also describes in detail his memory of the amazing Ray Allen three-pointer that led to LeBron’s second title.

42:07 – Evolution of the Game. “The guys are a lot more educated in the process. Not only recovery but in performance, ‘How can I get the most out of my career, out of my body, etc.’”

43:21 – NBA Players Not Happy? “You have to find resources to help you cope with what you’re experiencing and dealing with. … Take a step back and make sure you don’t lose sight of the big picture, and that’s your overall health.”

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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.