I smiled at a screenshot of Amanda Barnhart’s Whoop summary yesterday–I’m BACK, she quipped, with a strain level of nearly 19.5 (if I remember correctly?) on a scale from 0.0-21.0, and green Recovery and Sleep percentages (which I don’t remember). Green is good, of course, so she was celebrating capacity for incredibly high strain AND good sleep, recovery. You go girl.
First awareness: these things actually meant something to me, amidst my earliest learning days with Whoop. I startled at the strain number, because I cannot imagine my own body’s sensations at that level. And the immediate ‘turnaround’ with Recovery and Sleep feels impressive to me too. I’ve had a couple green-Recovery days, a couple yellow, and one red, with the red being directly after my highest exertion day. How does one get Green Recovery after such high exertion? Hmmm…
This surprise also reminds me that it’s good for me to equilibrate as me, my body, incomparable to the elite athletes that post their stats for CrossFit community consumption. Another surprise is that I don’t have any ambitions or drives to push myself beyond what feels good, which means the external stats of others don’t register as significant for my own fitness journey. I’m startled. I was surprised. But it didn’t lodge anywhere as significant for me. PROGRESS, which anyone who has journeyed with me can confirm.
Still, the Strain measurement offers me a good reminder of the ‘new pool’ in which I find myself amidst Whoop measurements/metrics. The levels of strain that my body requires for good health are considered ‘light’ for those who are aiming to be ‘the fittest.’ [CrossFit has an arc of "illness" into "health" into "fitness" in which regular gym-members would most likely land in the "health" categories, with Rx and more competitive athletes heading into the "fitness" category. I'm clearly a healthy-woman, 'top of my class' even, but fitness as a master's athlete is not something I necessarily need to push into, in CrossFit terms.] The Whoop metrics that are "normal" for me are not "light" for me, to be clear. They signify a good attention to strength-training, cardio, and metcon workouts of the day. A LOT for American standards these days, and a good steady diet of movement for me. But I experience them as not-light. They are leading me to much better health. I’m good with all that.
Still...It’s been fun to experiment with Strain, exploring lighter days and heavier days for me, feeling the rhythm of light-light-heavy that seems to create a good sensibility for me. Knowing I was going to the Hocking Hills for two days of nothing but hikes, naps, hot-tubs, and good food/wine, I pushed my Strain to the highest I’d done so far, the Sunday morning before I left. The day’s WOD was a good long-ish one–row 800m, 100 box jump overs, and 50 front squats–with a strain measurement of 9-something, as I recall, 23 minutes (I think?). That’s been a pretty typical day for me, strain between 7.5 and 9 or 10.
What kinds of activities pushed the strain higher? What did it feel like to keep at a cardio or strength-training spell, watching and learning?
To find out, I basically stayed at movement in the things I’m focusing on–a 10 min EMOM of strict pull-ups 1/min, thinner green band at the gym. Strain edged up, but not significantly. Rowing a mile at a slightly slower pace, but still moderate-to-pushing pace edged it up more.
The rest of the day was errands to pick up lunch/snacks for our time away, and then a drive over to the inn (Glen Laurel). I noticed I was weary!! On a trip that I would normally drive the whole way, I invited Brian to drive the second hour of it. My body was spent, my focus less than alert after a while. Significant strain.
Moving from that level of activity into two days of off-plan eating was probably not as wise as I could have been. Or kind to my body. I awoke with a 27% Recovery, in the red, which was both the previous day’s exertion AND the bottle of wine Brian and I enjoyed over the hot-tub afternoon into a 6-course meal.
The “journal” function that arises when Sleep is processing each morning is a good accountability metric for me. You can set up to 30 or 40 questions (I think) for it to ask you, everything from macros to supplements taken to sense of purpose or sense of stress to “dog/cat in the bed with you” and more. I chose about 30 of the questions, to start with, so each morning, as the algorithms are working on the biometric data, I respond to the yes/no questions, with some asking for amounts or times during the day–working from home, video calls, etc. The accountability factor is that it’s a place where I keep an explicit account of carbs, fats, protein, fish-oil, alcohol. I’ve noticed that this morning’s response-practice now arises in my awareness when I am offered things off-plan or alcohol out of habit. Nice to have another field in the clean-eating fire-wall I sometimes need in my home.
The biggest thing I notice so far, overall? The Whoop metrics (and play, because that it is what it is for me) are giving me additional guidance amidst my highly-psychological and mental challenges that so often limit me in my body, my love of movement. Instead of focusing solely on the dread I may feel in any given moment, or inherited fear of [whatever it might be that day], I have an outside metric that can free me to try new things, to push myself a bit more than I thought I could/should, explore my own sensations of higher heart-rate/intensity more calmly and within reason of health, perhaps even edges of fitness. I don’t have any substantial outside goals (beyond the 10 strict-pull-ups in 10 minutes by the end of the year), but I realize Whoop is helping me deepen my own practice within the gym, within what we’re already doing. I’m really enjoying that, without any sense of judgment or failure etc. This Strain-Recovery-Sleep learning curve is providing a balanced, encouraging voice to my overly-developed body-fears of old.
And I’ve not even progressed past the Baseline measurements that apparently solidify at 30 days! So the learning will continue…