Sunday, January 23, 2022

Whoop Learning - Week One

It finally arrived–Whoop 4.0!!

Having completed the CrossFit Level 1 Training Seminar back in September, I received a discount-offer to invest in a Whoop-strap, a fitness-tracking device with way more information than any normal human being needs for committing to their fitness journey. But I was pleased with my risk-lean into the training seminar–which I never thought I would or could do. I was still in the mental space being eager to try new things. So I signed up. Then discovered there was a huge supply-chain issue that meant the strap would take at least 3-4 months to arrive. I considered cancelling, but then decided it was even better as a Christmas present. Which arrived January 14th. Day One then, or Week One, in a blogging series of what I’m learning in this Whoop journey.

The best things take time, and this journey’s pacing is no different. It takes at least a week for the device to begin calibrating to your own systems. And this 7-day period is only the first step in the 30-day calibration toward baseline, whatever that is. So it’s too soon to know much for certain. But it’s also the best time to bring new eyes to the journey’s start, to even get inside the terms and meanings of the categories Whoop uses.

The categories of perception in Whoop include Strain, Recovery, and Sleep. The overview screen shows the current measurements of all of them, as well as a link to your Whoop journal, the hours of sleep the night before, and the current strain accumulated, your recovery percentage, heart rate, and calories burned so far. The bottom of that screen shows the battery-charge of your device and whether it is ‘caught up’ to the current time.

I got interested in this most likely because I got an Apple Watch last year for my birthday. With that, I found myself beginning to pay attention to the minutes of movement, the active calories, the number of calories expended in a day, and “closing the circles” of movement, exercise, and breaks from sedentary-ness. Of course, I set the ‘norms’ insanely low so I could achieve and “succeed” each day. I know what my own psychology requires! 

I hadn’t been much of a ‘tracker’ before, but I began to realize how it helped me become conscious of my own rather sedentary work–computer-oriented, mostly–and the needs of my body to move. I have grown happier and happier in my capacity for movement, the opportunities I now afford myself to move. I simply feel better and better in my own skin, even as I age into my fifties, even as I experience slight discomforts/strains from the amount of movement I enjoy. I’m learning to keep moving, regardless of any strains I might have overly-feared as “wrong” somehow. Having other perspectives on my body’s capacity and movement has really helped counter my over-active psychology and inherited body-fears, in other words.

Enter Whoop. As I get more and more curious about fitness and health, beyond what I have been told my entire life–some by a physician father, some by a maven/intellectualizing husband who presumes he knows about fitness because he’s read studies in the news–I am curious to learn more about my body’s capacity, capacities. I am curious to learn how my mind has limited my physicality, I guess you could say.

The first thing I think will feed this curiosity is the Strain Coach. The algorithms Whoop uses to calculate strain amidst sleep performance and recovery give you a goal each day “for optimal training.” So, today’s Strain Coach recommendation for me says, “Based upon your 55% Recovery, 7.2 to 15.2 Day Strain will balance exertion and recovery for optimal training today.” I like the sense of having a range, a goal, for how to be in my skin today.

I also felt a confidence and assurance yesterday, based upon the device’s advice (for good or ill). Yesterday’s Recovery was 88%, in the green (not yellow of today). I noticed that I went into the Saturday morning workout with a sense of ‘ready to push myself a bit’ inside. And the 30 min AMRAP was just perfect for me. Strain of the morning showed 10.1, and while I was active with a ramble with Brian, the bulk of the day was restful, ending with 11.9 strain. I was weary, needed more water than I usually notice. And I slept hard. I wasn’t afraid of having overdone it, nor of any of the aches/pains I noticed from having pushed myself.

And this morning, I admit I was surprised with the 55% recovery, and what does that mean? The Strain Coach gives the range, so there’s a sense of “I could push myself like yesterday” OR “I could stay in optimal training with a long walk, and the movement around the house I know is coming for this week–cleaning, food prep, etc.” So…my felt sense is for less strain than yesterday, less of a workout than yesterday. Yet a range of movement to aim for, in these new terms. Good balance of "device-advice" and "body-felt-sense." Cool.

Another good input seems to be the Journal prompts in the morning. You can set up your Whoop journal to ask you prompts for behavior categories, including food intake, supplements, sleep matters (Is there a dog or cat in the bed with you? made me laugh), alcohol consumption, work at home, video calls' extent, etc. So each morning this week, I've answered the questions, using the macros tracked to input the data into the Whoop calculations. I'll be curious what I learn over time, but for now, I know it will keep me more conscious about precisely how many days/week I enjoy a drink or two with Brian. That has waxed and waned over the pandemic, increased isolation with Delta and Omicron waves of Covid, and increased Church stress for him, therefore for us both. I've been really enjoying dry-January AND I recognize how our foodie-craft-cocktail explorations have been missed too. I love this about us, and I struggle to keep it as conscious as possible. Whoop journaling will help in this, methinks.

I don’t understand the “calories” category yet, particularly as I’ve been tracking my intake, macros, with the FatSecret app, which I’ve learned to integrate alongside the InBody scans’ measurements–BMR of 1700’s. The numbers differ so far. How do these accountings align, differ, agree? Right now, I wake up with “calories” measured at 500-600. What does that mean? Sleeping, my body burns that many calories? Could be. I dunno yet. It will be interesting to see as the 30-day baseline forms. 

Enough for today. A long bundled walk beckons.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

On the Cusp of Remembering...again

 I have felt on the cusp of remembering something I already learned, but is easy to forget so then needs to be learned again. I have an internalized conversation about food, relaxation, community, even communion. It began before I can remember, and so it is what feels most natural to me. And yet I’ve come to learn again and again something else that simply takes more time to remember, and then to remember that I already know it. I have an internalized voice about moderation that eventually can (though not always will) send me into this cycle of (mis)remembering. 

Philosophers love this kind of obfuscation, but I hope you will simply bear with me. A more personal angle here...

All this shows up in my household most often because my beloved husband eats vastly differently than I do (now). I am the one who has changed the calculus, and sometimes it hits pockets of grief for him, sometimes challenges best-practices I now know for myself. For example, he loves to get a loaf of challah for Friday nights, the Jewish egg bread blessed, dipped with salt, and eaten with a blessing in gratitude for a day of rest. We’re not Jewish, but we love bread and love the practice of Shabbat that Jewish wisdom has brought into the world. When I’m in my on-plan eating streams, I smile and am glad for his way of honoring Friday night, but I toast my own almond-flour bread. During the holidays, Friday nights became a day of challah-communion, as I would have a slice or two. And I love the feeling of sharing in that communion with the man I love. All things in moderation, as we say, and carbs & communion went together for this season.

Except I’m just now remembering how edgy I get inside, and how the cycles of craving begin, with just a weekly challah-communion meal. It takes about 4 days of 100% on-plan eating afterward to be free once again of the craving cycles. Which is made more difficult because that choice so easily leads to the next “small bite of whatever,” which leads to the next one…and then I’m back into a 75% on-plan eating pattern, which gets harder and harder because the cravings begin to convince me I am depriving myself of something instead of creating food-freedom for my body and mind.

I love this communal-communion side of myself, to be clear. I’m really good at connecting with people, even feeling into their emotional weather(s) so to be a companionable presence. My way of holding this kind of interconnection with B, early on, is such a part of our life over the years. Our romantic reconnection, now over 20 years ago, was all about foodie-celebration and theological explorations, drenched in good wine and new love. It wasn’t until after I had finished my dissertation in grad school, while he was finishing up his own masters’ degree, that I realized I cannot keep eating like this. I cannot eat like he does. I was so focused on my dissertation that I gained well over 30 pounds upon getting married! I came to call this time in my life, with respect to food, married eating. I had learned early on to be thankful for meals crafted for me–B was often the chef of our home, and still is. I was conditioned to try to eat everything I was given. Voila! Married eating, and 30 lbs more than my body needed.

Fast forward to today, when both Brian and I now realize we are much happier when each of us is happy in his/her own streams of exploration. It challenges the sense of commonality sometimes–I’m doing my thing, he’s doing his–but I am happier and steadier inside, which means also with him. He’s lived with his melancholy for so long that these last years have been disorienting for him. “Maybe I’m simply happy now?” he mused to me at one point. He’s not quite accustomed to being content, but he smiles a whole lot more these days, and we laugh a lot more together. I’m now (also) in love with how I can feel in my own skin, which requires a whole lot more movement and intention than he requires in his. We find our way, as ever...

But post-holidays, and every once in a while especially when I’m overworking and underplaying, I can begin to forget what I so deeply know. I can prioritize his moods, or project my own moods onto him, and lean into food or booze to unwind. I can yearn for the communion I know with him, enjoying a challah slice on a Friday night. I can forget that communion with him doesn’t require food, for me, and more and moreso, for him. Old patterns over a couple decades of shared life can be hard to change, evolve, stretch… I can forget that clean-eating is not actually about being stringent or uncompromising, but about breathing into a peace of mind that comes when I’m not craving anything. 

So this morning, I’m remembering that this thing about moderation is a good principle AND its pitfalls are me misremembering and beginning to forget over a period of weeks. This can ultimately disconnect me from the food-freedom and peace of mind I know comes when I fuel my body well. The signal I need to listen for is when I begin to feel deprived, or like I’m wrestling with good choices in a sense of being deprived. That’s when I’ve forgotten what I know. When I can catch that, and simply breathe through the cravings for the four-five days it will take, I can begin to remember that a bite of something is not worth it for me. It's not about the bite at all, really, but the choice for 3-4 days of cravings.

Freedom comes when there is a lessening of craving and a remembering of how good it feels to be fueled well, have to eat a lot, and celebrate remembering with a nice long walk in the woods, winter sun shining, and the promise of tea with a friend.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Celebratory Day...ReLearning as Ever

Today has been a banner day for me in my fitness-sense of things! Way opened for the InBody scan I do a couple times a year, to check in with maintenance and ratios of fat, muscle, etc. The good news is that the holidays were not as much a down-swing as I thought. I’ve maintained well in the significant things I look for–metabolic rate, hydration, body-fat and muscle-development. And there isn’t really any bad news per se, which is nice. I always treat myself to the Ranking category of the app, which tells you your ranking in your age-group: Top 0.2% in females 45-55 years of age. That’s a good achievement-feeling right there. 

And the workout was overhead squats and hang-power-snatches with some bike-cardio. It felt good. I love the new lifter-shoes my mother-in-law got for me for Christmas. (Not sure whether it’s physiological or psychological, but I feel more confident and steady with the shoes! My way of being a CrossFitter suggests there’s little difference for me between mind/body here anyway. :))

I’m continuing to wrestle inside myself whether I’d like to weigh less, though, by which I mean lower the body-fat percentage. My CrossFit journey began with bodyweight of 208 lbs (I think), and so I’ve maintained the around 20 lbs loss over years now. Yet the bodyfat numbers have increased from their lowest levels amidst intensive-learning focus of Dedication Health.

The continuum is wide between the high-accountability choices I make within an investment-program like that and the lower-accountability choices I hold all by myself, in a home where I am the only one tending to her food-booze intake with measured intentions and greater consciousness. Don’t get me wrong–I enjoyed the holidays. I’ve been sorting out how best to be in my own home with its complicated community norms AND feel as good in my own skin as I know clean-eating offers me. All about balance and celebrations in moderation, as we know, if I struggle to practice consistently in our culture today. Part of my relief and delight at another round of Dedication Health community gatherings.

I’ve gotten curious about my associations with celebration. Why do my husband and I move to celebrate immediately with food or alcohol? Obviously a rhetorical question, as I associate like this because I grew up doing so–candlelight sundaes for diving off the high board when I was 9, pizza-night as a treat for some accomplishment, Chef Boyardee beef ravioli as a special birthday meal choice, etc. (Gross, right? It’s worse…ravioli and Jeno’s pizza rolls baked in the oven…all for me…) But now…Is there a different avenue for me that is truly celebratory yet doesn’t impose onto my own skin and feeling good? Like anything, it simply requires practiced ritual of re-associating…but it does take time and consistent intention. What’s so amusing to me about saying “I’m going to celebrate XYZ! by opening a favorite seltzer!”? Stay tuned as I experiment into new possibilities that I can yet share with my husband (who eats vastly differently than I now do…). Also smiling with a blog-find, which provided the image here: Great post offering 22 ways to celebrate "without alcohol" but clearly some spaces with sugar. But a start...

My goal for the year is also to move into greater upper-body-core strength, aiming for 10 strict pullups in 10  minutes by December 31, 2022. In this sense, the less body-fat means less to pull up over the bar. A portion of the core-strength learning is also a Daily OM course I signed into–a 7 day self-paced thing guided by a yoga-instructor for core-activation, pelvic alignment. Her marketing gig was to relieve lower back pain, which I don’t have, but I was curious about the alignment bit.  And CrossFit path is just a portion of my life, not an endpoint goal for all things. Listening…

I did splurge into some technology and a highly discounted offer for deeper learning for myself. Athletes really into CrossFit use technology to keep track–deep digital listening and analysis–of exertion, recovery, sleep, nutrition etc. For what I’m interested in for myself, all this is totally unnecessary. But I got curious!! So…my Whoop strap finally just shipped, and I can play with what I learn as I go.

So another season of intentional learning begins with a sense of precisely where I am, and what I’ve kept consistent in, what I could experiment with in choices and discipline. A bit at a time, and today, a day of celebration…to be honored with my favorite seltzer? A ramble with my beloved Brian enjoying some non-work time? I wonder…