Many of us have been drawn to Apple Watch, Fitbit, and other wearables for their health monitoring capabilities. However, health metrics provided by these devices are often presented without context, which can lead to a misunderstanding of what is being read.
One real-life example that comes to mind regarding wearables is when I was on a flight the first week that I owned an Apple Watch. My heartbeat reading showed 94 and a fellow passenger with more of a medical background than me commented on the significantly high number. Through a discussion, we discovered that the 94 was the result of the activity boarding the flight and lifting luggage. Apple Watch retook the heartbeat about a minute later and I was in the low 60s.
That episode reminded me of the time several Christmases ago when my new Fitbit Force showed that I had burned 861 calories when the most strenuous thing I had done was to push the button on my computer.
I considered it a Christmas miracle.
Or a sham.
Only later, after writing up my experience, did a friend call me out for not realizing that we burn calories even when we sleep.
And we’re supposed to know this how?
This brings me to what I recently learned about WHOOP, which is a scientifically-grounded performance optimization system worn by the many elite athletes to positively change behavior and unlock peak performance. WHOOP provides individuals, teams, and their coaches and trainers with a continuous understanding of strain and recovery to balance training, reduce injuries, and predict performance.
The WHOOP Strap 2.0 is a lightweight, waterproof and screenless device that’s worn on the wrist, forearm or upper arm. The Strap’s five sensors measure data 100 times per second and automatically transmit the data to the WHOOP mobile and web apps for analysis and actionable recommendations. WHOOP data has been shown to optimize training and recovery, correlate with improved in-game performance, and reduce injuries.
Speaking at the Geekwire Sports Tech Summit, nine-time WNBA All-Star and Olympian Sue Bird said that technology, and especially WHOOP, has helped her stay at peak performance 14 years into her pro career.
“If it’s going to help you, if it’s going to elongate your career, you are an idiot if you don’t use it, why wouldn’t you use it?” Bird said regarding technology.
WHOOP measures physiological markers to indicate your personal readiness to perform each day. Recovery determines one’s strain and WHOOP calculates exertion based on workouts and daily lifestyle to make sure you’re training optimally. After assessing strain, WHOOP tells you how much sleep you need to recover and then calculates a detailed breakdown of time spent in each wave of sleep.
The consumer version, which is currently sold out, costs $500 and comes with analysis and recommendations, precisely what many of the earlier wearables lack.
Bird, who like her WNBA teammates has eliminated gameday shoot-arounds in favor of additional sleep, appreciates the simplicity as many of us would.
“Just tell us what we need to do,” she said. “Don’t give us the algebra.”
Where do we as consumers go from here? Look for more than readouts from products that will be introduced to rival WHOOP and from iterations of successful but limited products like Apple Watch and Fitbit.
We may never be able to shoot a basketball like Bird, but we will be able to learn more about our bodies and be in position to maximize our own performance.