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Podcast No. 37: Ginny Thrasher, Olympic Gold Medalist, Air Rifle

August 28, 2019

My guest today is Ginny Thrasher, winner of the first gold medal awarded at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The sport: 10-meter air rifle.

By Will Ahmed

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Ginny took up rifle shooting after hunting with her grandfather at age 14. Five years later, she was an Olympic champion. It’s a fascinating sport to learn about, and the effort and concentration needed to repeatedly hit a bullseye only half a millimeter wide is astonishing.

Ginny and I talk about the dedication and mindset necessary to go from beginner to world champ in just 5 years, and what she did to stay focused while competing at the Olympic Games. Additionally, we discuss how her research as a West Virginia University student led to her getting on WHOOP, and how she’s used it to steady her shooting by improving her HRV and lowering her resting heart rate. We also touch on what she’s doing now in terms of training, diet and sleep as she prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

For anyone looking to succeed at a new endeavor, or just simply be better at what you do, I think you’ll find the principles Ginny applied to win a gold medal to be very beneficial.

Show Notes:

3:27 – Gold Medal at Age 19. “It was one of those life-changing moments.”

4:18 – Sport of Air Rifle. “We’re shooting at a dot that is the size of a period in Times New Roman size 12 font.”

8:05 – How’d She Start? “I tried a lot of sports growing up, I’m probably the most unathletic Olympic gold medalist.”

8:59 – World’s Best in Only 5 Years. “What I really appreciate about my sport is what matters most is effort. How much deliberate practice are you putting out there? That matters so much more than your innate talent.”

11:01 – 60 Shots in 60 Minutes. Ginny discusses strategy while competing in the Olympics. “There are times when you’re struggling and you want to take a break and go off and talk to your coach for 5-10 minutes.”

14:33 – Getting on WHOOP. “I ended up choosing WHOOP to be my main wearable after testing several, because I thought it was the most accurate.”

15:53 – Lowering Resting Heart Rate. “You want to shoot between heartbeats, and therefore the lower your heart rate the better.”

20:17 – “Cue Words” to Stay Focussed. “The more intense it is, the more adrenaline, the more you need to simplify. Throughout the [Olympic] Final I simplified my cue words to ‘See and react.’”

21:34 – Ted Talk at WVU. Winning the Olympics: A state of mind.

21:44 – Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset. “A growth mindset means ‘I believe through effort I can grow. I can improve.’ You can apply this to anything.”

23:44 – Affirmations & Journaling. “For me the journaling is about being intentional and being able to articulate what my core beliefs are. Your core beliefs are what drive your behaviors.” Ginny also uses journaling for self-reflection.

24:49 – Mindfulness. “I really like mantra-mindfulness. In mantra-mindfulness you repeat a phrase or quote over and over in your head. … My mantra is ‘Trust the process, commit to the 10.’”

29:58 – Balance. “It is important to take days of, and make it so when you come into the range you’re being as effective as possible.”

30:33 – HRV’s Effect on Shooting. “When I was in the fight or flight mode was when I shot the best.” Ginny noticed that when her HRV was high, “My reaction times were getting better. My vision in general was improving. It was my body’s way of saying ‘Hey, I’m ready to go.’”

34:24 – Sleep Consistency. “I like to go to bed around 10:30.”

34:56 – What Affects Her Sleep? “What I know influences my sleep most positively is reading before bed.” She also uses a weighted blanket.

38:01 – Sleeping on Planes. “I have the biggest neck pillow in existence.”

38:47 – Nutrition While Traveling. “I think hydration is really important … I try to pack snacks so I’m eating healthy and pre-portioned.” Will mentions the benefits of avoiding eating on planes because your body is limiting its functions (like digestion) while at altitude.

40:31 – Training Diet. “The most important thing for us is to stay consistent with our weight. I do not do any caffeine, because I find that that makes you jittery when you’re shooting.”

42:08 – Alcohol. “Very, very occasionally. I do find that alcohol affects my sleep a lot. I won’t even have a glass of wine the night before I have practice.”

43:00 – Naps. “Either 20 or 90 minutes.”

44:28 – Performance Factors. “I believe the only things that really affect your performance are how much deliberate practice you put in, and what your mindset is the day you’re competing.”

45:28 – More on Growth Mindset. “It’s a choice, it’s a daily choice.” Ginny gives a lot of credit to a sports performance consultant she worked with at WVU, Dr. Raymond Prior.

48:01 – Optimism Takes Work. “It’s easy to be optimistic when the situation is easy.”

50:41 – What’s Next? “We have a two-part Olympic trial system, one part in the fall, one part in the spring.”

51:13 – Find Ginny Online on InstagramTwitter and Facebook @GinnyThrasher.

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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.