Hi, I’m Glenn, one of iNform’s clients and a new Whoop user. I’d love to give you a client’s perspective on the Whoop health coach!
By day I’m a desk jockey leading a small team within a big company. I drink way too much coffee, spend too much time in meetings, snack on bowls of cereal, raid the biscuit tin and lunch on whatever is quick and dirty. By night I’m a husband and father of three. Life is busy. Somewhere in there I try to fit in some exercise. The problem: I’m a washed-up age-group triathlete still trying to hit splits from 10 years ago. I just can’t exercise for fun, I need a challenge or a goal. All combined that puts me in a risky category: 95% zero physical activity and 5% full gas, nothing in between. Not surprisingly I became a yo-yo trainer – train, injury, repeat. That’s how I ended up at iNform!
So how does Whoop fit in to all of this? To me, Whoop is like your body’s credit card account balance. Your day to day activities are like withdrawals. Work and home stress, exercise, diet and general activity all drain your account. And just like a credit card you can’t keep withdrawing, you need to make repayments. That’s where sleep and recovery come in. If you keep withdrawing and don’t make enough repayments, the credit card interest catches up with you. Whoop gives you a running account balance to help you manage your life!
What have I learnt about ME so far?
- Sometimes I get to Friday night and I’m simply exhausted, wound-up and seriously cranky – I can see that in my recovery scores. This steady accumulation of work stress and exercise just doesn’t give me the chance to recover. Consecutive days of red zone is my trigger to course correct.
2. Training in the heat (>35C) hurts me big time. My 7km Corporate Cup run around the Torrens in the heat registered an unusually high strain and took much longer to recover from. I even bounced back quicker from the Murray Man triathlon (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run).
3. I get a pretty good and consistent sleep score these days. Interestingly though, more sleep doesn’t seem to be the silver recovery bullet for me. Active recovery, like an easy ride or a hike, seems to be the go.
So far, I’m loving it. It’s so simple yet so insightful – it’s just your heartbeat. While it’s somewhat concerning to see the direct impact that life’s strain has on your heart it’s also satisfying to see how your body responds to recovery. Whoop helps me quantify how my body is coping with life’s strain so I can course correct. After all, you can only manage what you measure!
And finally, one for the triathletes. Glenn’s Triathlon Trip #1: If you struggle to get into your wetsuit, try putting a plastic bag over your hand or foot before you slip it into the arm or leg hole.
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
Do you find it difficult knowing how hard to exercise? The reasons could be many, but one comment I hear time and time again from our clients as they start their journey back to exercise is: I want to get back to it, but I want to make sure it’s safe. I want to be confident that I don’t hurt myself or overdo it.
We all know that exercise is good for us, and that probably we should do more of it. But there’s often a large bridge to build between that knowledge and actually having a plan to implement. And often a larger one when it comes to actually implementing the plan!
As exercise physiologists we are great at delivering tailored exercise sessions face to face with clients, considering all your specific needs. We are are also good at writing and teaching you programs that you can follow on your own in between sessions (regardless of the time gap between our contact with you), be it using your own gym, or home programs, or running, etc.
What we often hear though is: “I wish I could have you with me 24/7 to keep me accountable!”, and “but I wasn’t sure if I should exercise because of how I was feeling”… and this could be due to fatigue, sickness, etc.
Knowing how hard I should exercise
So our biggest challenge has been to find a way to help you know how hard you should exercise, and when. How to progress your exercise and activity based on your specific current fitness, energy levels, etc.
As university trained exercise professionals we know what you should be doing, and we can draw a very good line on a graph to suggest how that exercise should progress. But let’s face it: what sounds good in our studio may be very different to implement once the rubber hits the road for you; once you have to choose on a daily basis if, when, and how hard to exercise.
But wouldn’t it be great to have an exercise coach at home with you 24/7 – ok, maybe not one that will be nagging you consistently! – but one that can encourage to be more active, that can tell you its safe to go that bit further, to push a bit harder?
Well, after years of posing this challenge to ourselves, waiting for technology to catch up with our plans and desires; and months of in-depth research of the tools currently available to us, we have found the right partner for our collective needs! And it comes in the form of an unobtrusive, yet incredibly powerful wrist band called Whoop!
Whoop – my exercise coach at home
In a previous blog I described the way the Whoop band, worn around your wrist as in the picture featured above, monitors your sleep, and hence your recovery levels. It then uses that information to recommend how much exercise you can do that day based on your recovery.
What I love about the Whoop system is that it also takes into consideration the overall ‘load’ – they call it ‘strain’ – that you are under. In that blog I explain how all your life commitments, activities and pressures result in a measurable physiological ‘stress’, or strain. So Whoop takes into consideration how tired, fatigued, stressed – or full of beans (!) – you may be, and recommends the right level of activity you can do that day. This makes sure you progress appropriately to ensure it is safe!
My motivator to push a bit harder!
The picture below shows the display that Whoop gives you when you are exercising, if you chose to record an ‘activity’. What you see in the middle is a number showing you the amount of ‘strain’ (physiological load) that you have accumulated during that session. Around it is a guide showing you what the optimal level of strain for that session should be, based on your overall daily strain levels, and your recovery over the previous night – genius, right?!!
What you can see is that I was well within my optimal levels. So what that display did was to encourage me to push a bit harder, to go a bit longer, as I knew I could get away with it. It indicated that I could maximise that exercise session to get the best outcome from it without risk of overdoing it.
So now we have a perfect partnership. Our team of exercise physiologists can teach you the right exercises to do, specific for your needs. They can guide you through how to progress those exercises and when. And your Whop band can assure you of how hard you can exercise. And if your goals are to get fitter and stronger, Whoop can guide how hard you should exercise to maximise your outcome.
Because your Whoop band and phone app can unobtrusively guide your activity levels, by showing you your current levels of ‘strain’, it can be a great motivator to encourage you push that little bit harder to achieve your goals.
I would love to chat further with you about how this great piece of technology can you assure you that you are doing the right amount of activity, but most importantly, how it can motivate you stay on track!
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
About The Author
If you are like me, you need to be told NOT to exercise, instead of TO exercise. Do you feel guilty, or perhaps even grumpy if you haven’t exercised in a couple of days? are you the one who on a holiday needs to exercise first thing in the morning so you can “tick that box” – and then dive into the breakfast buffet?! Is exercise one of those behaviours you have now just built into your life, like brushing your teeth, because it is good for you? yes, it makes you feel good, it helps to de-stress you, and its part of your health insurance, right?! But what if sometimes it works against you??
Some background to stress and recovery
This is a very practical blog, but a bit of background is important. Exercise works because it is a form of ‘stress’ for the body, that we need to physiologically adapt to. In the right doses, and with the right recovery, exercise makes us fitter, stronger, healthier and more resilient. But you know this. You feel it. intuitively.
Interestingly, the body doesn’t know where stress comes from. And it comes in many forms: yes, physical stress; but also in the form of the more commonly known emotional, or psychological stress; but also, toxic stress; inflammatory stress, etc. And these from many sources, such as the foods we eat; physical pain and injury; lack of sleep; toxic relationships; deadlines; financial pressures; public speaking; sick parents; our kids in trouble, etc, etc…. you know: life!
In the right doses, we can adapt to all those stresses. We can get more resilient, and develop a capacity to deal with all of them better, to lift the threshold line. As long as we actually adapt. And we do that by having the right balance between ‘stress’ (or strain) and recovery.
The balance between strain and recovery
Now, the word stress stresses me out. I much prefer, in this case, the word strain. Strain speaks to me of an overall tension; and overall load; that is useful. It achieves things.
Ok, one last bit of back ground, just to make sure we are on the same page. All that stress (strain!) can be positive if we actually benefit from it. If we get something out of it. If it leads to a positive outcome. And the crux of the argument here, is that we only adapt to strain when we recover. That’s right, you don’t get fitter while you exercise. You don’t get stronger while you lift weights. Those exercise bouts are the triggers for adaptation. but your body will only adapt while it recovers. And recovery comes in the form of the right nutrition, active recovery strategies such as massages and meditation, rest (knowing when NOT to exercise), and the all important SLEEP!
My new recovery coach
So let’s go back to your and my personality: the “I have to exercise today…”. We feel this way because we are convinced that today’s exercise bout will be good for us… but what if it’s not? what if our bodies (and minds) would actually do better having an easier day? can we bring ourselves to having an extra day off? or perhaps to just do some light stretching and foam rolling?
Since exercise is actually another form of stress, could that extra session actually tip us towards illness or injury, rather than away from it?? Well, there’s a plethora of evidence to suggest that the answer is unfortunately a resounding YES!
So what would it take to convince you to have an easier day? In my experience, hard objective data is typically what convinces me to change my mind… and sometimes someone to hold that data right in front of my eyes and force me to stare right at it!! does that resonate? I know that we have a LOT of clients at iNform like you and I. So over the last few months we have been doing some in depth research into existing tools that can measure how much strain our bodies are under and how well they recover, particularly while we sleep. We have looked at almost every activity tracker, exercise watch and smart watch in the market, and we feel we have found a winner.
Yep, my new recovery coach (with a little bit of accountability from my exercise physiology colleagues) is my new Whoop band. Funny name, but an incredibly powerful and smart tool to make sure we optimise our exercise, strain and recovery to get the most out of every day.
In a nutshell, it calculates the overall ‘physiological load’, or strain’ that your body underwent during the day. It then recommends how much one should sleep to recover from that strain. Based on how you actually slept, it rates your recovery and recommends the amount of strain you can get away with the following day. Very simple concept, supported by very smart technology! and it has helped me make some good decisions (against my initial intuitions) with the help of quality objective data displayed in easily understood displays.
I’ll tell you more about it in my next blog, unless you want more info earlier, in which case flick me a question in the comments below! I would encourage you to check it out at the link above, and keep an ear to the ground, as there’s a little offering coming up to iNform clients very soon!!
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
About The Author
I’m going to do something that I would never otherwise willingly do, and that is to plagiarize someone else’s work. But the article written by Josh Glancy in this weekend’s The Weekend Australian’s Inquirer is too good and on point to not make you aware of it. Josh’s article is based on an interview with Greg Lukianoff and Jonthan Haidt, who wrote “The Coddling of the American mind”. At iNform we have just instituted a No Snowflake Policy so this article resonates so strongly that I’m just going to pass on my summary of his words.
As a society we are starting to employ iGens, the generation made up of those born after 1995. they entered University around 2013, and the workforce as we speak. Now, of course this does not apply to every person, or perhaps even a majority of people, born in this period. But many factors in the last couple of decades have led to a coddled and over protected generation with a tendency for low resilience and ‘catastrophising’ what are otherwise bad and unwelcome events into disastrous ones.
Creating iNform’s No Snowflake Policy
What led the team at iNform to create the ‘No Snowflake Policy’ were a small number of members of this generation who came in with a tendency to think in binary terms; their arguments driven by emotions, by how things make them feel, rather than pointing to facts or rationality; and with little capacity to think beyond themselves and their circumstances and idealistic desires. We see the iNform ‘business’ as an elite athlete, a body at peak capacity; where every part of it is incredibly important, but only effective if it works as a part of the greater whole. Needless to say, snowflakes would not be a productive part of this organism!
As highlighted by Lukianoff and Haidt, this is not a political or ideological problem, but one of mental health; primarily due to over-protective parenting that fails to equip children to deal with confusion, adversity, and risk. And why? Maybe because increases in safety and technology are making our lives so comfortable that we now recoil from comfort! “safety has now taken on an almost religious quality” with the downside being children not feeling enough control over their lives.
We grow and develop as a consequence to adaptations to exposure. So with restricted exposure to risk and danger; fear or freedom; injury or adversity; these ‘young adults” first exposure to risk, adversity or pain is likely to be overly traumatic. The consequences to this can be severe, including anxiety, depression and even suicide (with rates for all these climbing over the last decade).
An over emphasis on academic achievement has also led to a decrease in ‘free play’ in children, which is when they get to learn the basic principles of team-work, compromise and conflict resolution… all in the sandpit or playground. For an example of how this is being tackled by Australian school’s, read the recent ABC article on the ‘Anti-cottonwool Schools‘.
Concerningly, we are also starting to see the outcomes of the snowflake effect in young adult’s capacity to deal with their first significant injury. As they have not had a chance to experience their body’s amazing capacity to heal and recuperate, this first sign of ‘something wrong’ is often catastrophised disproportionately. Luckily we have the skill set in-house and with our network of health professionals to get these clients back on track!