We train and stress our bodies throughout the week with hopes to better our health, our jobs, or overall fitness. Resulting in that, we all have those days of waking up, feeling groggy, and not knowing where the hell you are. Then we have days when waking up feels like a Disney movie. Where the birds are literally singing and deer walk up to your door while smelling the cherry pie that's baking in the oven. A lot of us rack our brains when we feel this good. Like:
"What did I eat and drink yesterday, when did I consume that, and how hard did I really workout?"
Even with strict routines, it's hard to always tell how your body is recovering. Why it's feeling a certain way. And it's especially tough to know how your sleep was the night before. I had used FitBit before only to find out that it was really just a monitor for hitting your step goals and such. The Apple Watch has been a bit better with recent upgrades in software, better heart rate monitoring systems, and ways to track workouts. It's an even better way to get addicted to closing your activity rings. A good addiction in a way. It's bettering your health.
But a year ago I came across an email from the NFLPA about a new partnership with a startup company that manufactured a specific type of "activity tracker". I hit the website and looked into it a bit. I finally figured I would give it try. Not only am I a stickler for new tech, but it looked like it could have an impact on the way I train and live. The company was called WHOOP.
*triggers 'Whoomp, There It Is' song*
I do it too.
The device is extremely slender in its appearance. I barely ever feel it on my wrist anymore. It straps on the wrist with ease and immediately starts to collect data. Knowing the battery life is a little over a full day, I remember thinking what I was supposed to do to charge it. The charger is their "puck". It's a charging block that literally slides onto the top of the band and charges within a little over an hour. But as it charges, the convenience of it allows you to continue with your day as normal. I finally understood why they suggested wearing it 24/7. The physical aspect of WHOOP is dope. They come with multiple colored bands with many different materials. So express yourself the way you want. But the real treasure with this product is the app that comes along with it.
The app provides everything that makes WHOOP what it is. It gives you every bit of insight you could need for the lifestyle you have. I'll explain this how I explain to people when they ask me about it. In my own words. Then I'll sprinkle in some images to help you better understand what you see in the app and what some of the terminology means.
I call this device a "lifestyle tracker". Yes it tracks your workouts, but it also tracks everything else you do in a day without really any help from you. It all starts with sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important parts of our day. Especially if you train. It's also one of the least thought about parts of our days. It's taken for granted. Training, no matter what sport or activity you love, is what breaks your body down. Sleeping helps your body regenerate, recover, and get your body ready for the next day of training. Without proper sleep, you won't reach the ceiling of your potential. Based on your activity the day before, it will suggest a sleep time amount depending on whether you want to "Get By", "Perform", or "Peak" the following day. When you fall asleep, WHOOP starts analyzing your sleep throughout the night. It can detect each stage of it. The times when you are awake, your light sleep, REM sleep, and SWS (Deep sleep).
- REM Sleep= Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This is when dreaming hard and thrusting around in bed occurs. It is also said that REM sleep is important for stimulating parts of the brain the helps learning and retaining memories.
- SWS (Deep sleep)= Slow wave sleep. This is the deep sleep that allows your body to rest and recover. Rebuilding the muscles broken down the day before. As an athlete or someone who trains well, this stage is very important. (They're all important)
Each stage is provided an amount. How much of each stage of sleep you got the night before.
You can also see how many disturbances you had throughout the night (get up to go to the bathroom, restless feelings, etc), sleep latency (how long it takes to fully fall asleep), and sleep efficiency (how much sleep you got vs. the time spent in bed). All of these statistics are shown over the last 30 day average. That way you can see how you improved or declined. All below a simple line of heart rate monitoring. So you can see how your heart was acting all night.
And finally, you get a sleep performance score. A percentage that is a result from the hours of sleep you actually got divided by the sleep WHOOP suggested you truly needed. We all want 100% here, but in this life, that's not always possible.
There are plenty of ways to help this part of the experience. Foods you can eat, precautions you can take, etc. I have implemented a few into my routine to help my own sleep. Yogurt is good to consume before sleep because it has calcium which your body needs to make melatonin which helps you sleep! Tart cherries are also a really good thing to have if you need a late night food/drink. Taking melatonin or magnesium can also help. I take Som Sleep every night for that exact ingredient. I need something to help me wind down and rest my mind at night. Otherwise it's a second job trying to get myself to sleep or chill out sometimes. Blue light blocking glasses. I have these and use them sometimes throughout the day and more so at night. Blue light affects our circadian rhythm. It declines our melatonin levels. For me I feel like it also increases my "alertness". They say it's almost like bringing work to bed. If you are on an iPad, or phone, or laptop, you are use to those devices meaning "work" or something that you do when you're up and alert. So your brain thinks it needs to be more alert to do so. Reading a book, writing, or even listening to music are all better options than being on your phone or watching TV as you fall asleep. I used to do I it in college. I can't stand to anymore. Try to unplug in bed and see how that helps your sleep. Couldn't hurt!
Scroll below to find the exact links to the products I use to help sleep.
Recovery part is exactly what you see above. We all strive to be in the green everyday, but if you train hard and are constantly increasing your work loads, that's really just not possible. In my experience at least. Every body is different. Just because you sleep 100% of your suggested sleep time doesn't mean you'll be in the green and primed to grind. You must sleep well for your own self. Quality over quantity in this case. I've noticed some people can get a way with getting an hour less sleep than I can and have a higher recovery score than me. It's just a different body with different ways of adapting and recovering. And I have also come to learn the just because you are in the yellow doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing if you have been training hard daily. (I have the exact response from a WHOOP genius within the company that I cannot find at the moment. If you care enough, I can dig it up and hit you with the answer if you ask!)
This biggest part about your recovery for this app is HRV.
-HRV= Heart Rate Variability.
HUH?! Yeah I asked the same question. This is in simpler terms: just the time in between each of your heart beats. The time is never the same consistently. It detects the changes in those measurements. It is the interaction between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. SNS correlates to the "fight or flight" response and PNS is more so the rest and digest part. HRV responds to everything you do throughout the day like exercise, eating, sleeping, etc. It even responds to how you take stress. (Might I add, these explanations are all from my education while externing at the WHOOP headquarters earlier this year).
The higher your HRV level, the more ready your body is to peak and perform that day. Which also means your recovery score is probably pretty good. Of course, this too is all relative. Low HRV? It's probably best you take a day off to rest some more. Take a nap maybe. Most trackers don't have this ability which sets it a part from a lot of the different ones people use. Resting heart rate and sleep are also other factors in how high or low your recovery score is. Resting heart rates for adults are usually at least 60 BPM and range typically to 80. If you're fit and train a lot, like me, yours might be lower than that. For example: I can look at my RHR data and see plenty of 50's with the occasional 40. Which is good. Watching these trends within the app can help you better understand the fluctuation between readings each day. Another great indicator on if you're ready to train.
Through my experience, I push through a lot of yellow and red scores. The work load in the practices and workouts we go through is a lot higher than the average person. But in a way our bodies are adapted to it. I can't tell you the amount of times I wish I was in the green leading into a HEAVY day of work. I wake to check my recovery score before any other notification on my phone these days. I guess that's a better use of my phone usage in the morning, right? I mean I'm making sure my body is functioning okay.
Strain is what everyone goes through. Honestly, whether you're active or not. It's absolutely the workouts we put ourselves through. But at the same time the WHOOP keeps track of daily strain. The whole day. Not just that one workout you did at 6 AM, but that phone call you had at 3 today that had you ready to cuss that co-worker out? Yeah it tracked that increase in heart beat. That added a bit of strain. You danced all the way through washing dishes while listening to your favorite song? Yeah, it got that too. It shows you how you're responding to workouts, work, at home life, and travel. Your whole DAY!
Above are the examples of what Strain looks like. Or can look like. Sunday and Monday were off days. I let myself recover a bit. Saturday I think I played spike ball on the beach that day. But through your max HR, average HR, and calories burned each day, WHOOP shows you the strain you've built. And again these three statistics are shown above three 30 day average scores. Always able to see improvement or lack there of. Another thing I love about this is that it can detect increased activity on its own.
There are so many different actives (shown right) you can choose from. But if you choose not to pick one or forget, the band detects your activity and will alert you of the activity detected. You then can go into the activity, specify what it was, and give input on how hard the workout was to you on a scale from 1-20. Or Resting to Maximal effort.
My strain during training camp is insane. Which leads to lower recovery scores because my sleep suggestion based on my strain is so high that it's impossible to get that much sleep with our schedule. Whew. That was a long sentence. But it all works together so well. That's the beauty of it.
Side note, I think the "Dance" activity is on my most recent because of a wedding I was just at! Wedding receptions I get down and that heart rate rises!