• Sat. May 14th, 2022

A Moonlights fitness app as a male support group

Like other singles his age, Mack Knight, 40, an executive in a software company in Los Angeles, has a team of pals who enjoy exploring the city, traveling and training together.

They take their exercise seriously: Each one wears a fitness tracker called Whoop that monitors their body’s vital signs (including heart rate, breathing, and sleep) and makes that data shareable through an app.

The other week, Mr. Knight was reviewing his Whoop stats when he noticed that one of his buddies, a friend from business school, was missing his daily workouts. “It didn’t look like him at all,” he said. “He trains religiously.” So the next time they spent time together he asked if his boyfriend was okay.

The ability to share intimate stats with friends has turned this fitness app into a de facto virtual male support group. People use it to keep tabs on each other’s physical and mental health and to lend a hand if a friend seems to be in trouble. (Turns out Mr. Knight’s friend was fine – just engrossed in a cryptocurrency project.)

Whoop was established in 2012 as a premium monitoring device for professional athletes. Worn on the wrist or arm, it collects health data that can be shared with coaches and personal trainers to improve workouts.

“I was a varsity athlete,” said Will Ahmed, the app’s founder. “I thought it would be helpful to create something where we could see each other’s data as a team and see how we were evolving. “

Data is highly personal and even intrusive. It shows if your heart rate is increasing randomly or if you are only burning 300 calories per day instead of 1000.

Whoop users can choose to keep their information private, but since the device became available to the public a few years ago (users pay $ 30 per month, which includes the group), unforeseen uses have appeared among groups of friends. The app is for everyone, but it found a use case that serves men in more than one way.

“Whoop found a sneaky way to help men feel comfortable sharing things with each other without hitting them over the head and saying you have to share your feelings all the time,” Dr Jelena said. Kecmanovic, clinical psychologist in the Washington DC area. who often writes about the impact of technology on life.

The fact that the data is being shared “makes men wonder, ‘You didn’t sleep last night, what’s going on?’ “Said Dr Kecmanovic. “It’s a nifty way to get people to check in, support each other, congratulate each other and feel like part of a group. “

Peer pressure is a side effect. “We can all see other people’s numbers so I want mine to be good,” said Joe Wernig, 30, senior product manager for NBC Sports, who lives in the East Village. He joined Whoop in January after a friend convinced him. He is now part of four groups of two to six people each. “There is friendly competition,” he said.

During Memorial Day weekend, for example, Mr. Wernig was partying with friends at an Airbnb rental in Cape May, New Jersey, when he viewed the app just before midnight. He saw that all of his friends had exercised more than he did that day, so even though he was drunk and it was raining, he went for a run along the beach.

“You can see how often your friends are running or lifting weights,” he said. “I can learn lessons from this that I apply to my own life. “

Friends are also using the app to spy on each other. “My friends laugh at me all the time,” said Anthony Martinez, 30, chief financial officer at Vice Media who lives in the West Village. “If I dance and my heart rate increases, someone will say, what were you doing last night at 2:00 am?” “

Off-label use of the app as a social support group became more pronounced during the darker times of the pandemic.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about the things that challenge us,” said Lee Chadowitz, 31, a product manager in Hong Kong, who is on a team with his coach and eight friends. “I can see if my boyfriend only sleeps three hours a night, and then I probably have to check in.” I don’t even have to say anything directly. I might just nudge, “Hey, wanna have a beer?” “

According to Whoop, the app has around 85,000 teams (or groups of friends who have created a sharing network on the app). “The majority of our teams are in the order of 10,” said Ahmed, who declined to disclose the total number of users.

Blake Reichenbach, who runs Self-Himprovement, a men’s wellness website, said Whoop is for men who feel more comfortable coming together around stereotypical male activities.

“There are a lot of groups popping up to get men to support other men, but the big problem they have is that men aren’t conditioned to meet other men and talk about their feelings,” he said. said Mr Reichenbach. He points to groups like Mr. Perfect, which debuted in Australia in 2016 and brings together men under the pretext of barbecuing.

“Men have fewer opportunities to form communities where they check out, welcome and support each other,” Dr Kecmanovic added. “We see a lot of male clients, especially after leaving high school and college, struggling with isolation. The pandemic has only made matters worse. “