Our VP of Performance Kristen Holmes and Director of Analytics Emily Capodilupo team up once again to take a deep dive into another of our defining metrics.
Kristen and Emily explain exactly what WHOOP recovery is, how itâs calculated, and why heart rate variability is such a huge factor in determining it. From there they discuss the relationship between strain and recovery and how to use it to optimize your training, as well as external factors that impact your recovery. They also share several tips for what you can do to improve your recovery on a daily basis.
When it comes to recovery, thereâs nobody more qualified than Kristen and Emily to help you get the most out of your WHOOP data.
3:13 – Definition of WHOOP Recovery.Â âItâs a measure of your bodyâs readiness to respond to a training stimulus,â Emily says, âhow ready your body is to take on strain.â Each morning itâs displayed as a percentage from 0-100, either red, yellow or green.
4:23 – An All-Encompassing Metric.Â What you do when youâre not working out often has a bigger impact on next-day recovery than yourÂ strainÂ from the previous day. âItâs also how did you eat, how did you sleep, what kind of stressors are you dealing with, emotional and physical,â Emily explains. âWeâre creating this holistic measure of how ready your body is to adapt.â
5:39 – Whatâs Used to Calculate Recovery?Â âItâs 3 things. PrimarilyÂ HRV (heart rate variability),Â resting heart rate, both taken during sleep, and thenÂ sleep performance, a WHOOP score that measures duration sufficiency–of the sleep that you needed, how much did you get?â
UPDATE:Â Recovery now factors in respiratory rateÂ as well.
6:25 – Why HRV Matters Most.Â âThe algorithm’s biggest input is heart rate variability. The information provided by resting heart rate and sleep is most of the time redundant to the information provided by HRV.â
7:51 – Individualized to You.Â âIn the calibration period over your first 4 days where we gray out recovery weâre trying to get an estimate of what your maximum capacity looks like.â HRV is a highly personalized metric that doesnât compare well to others. âMost peopleâs average recovery is somewhere in the 60s,â Emily adds. âWhat really matters is day to day where you are on that scale and trying to move your baselines in the direction of greater fitness.â
12:26 – Validation Study.Â âIn theÂ Â that we did in 2016 with a relatively large data set there was a strong positive correlation between WHOOP recovery and some of the things they track in baseball,â Kristen notes, âlike exit-bat velocity and fastball velocity.â Emily adds, âItâs pretty clear from analysis like that that HRV is not all by itself a useful metric, it needs context, and the recovery score provides that context.â
14:59 – Relationship Between Strain and Recovery.Â Why does a rest day not always improve recovery? âFor many of us, there are so many other factors [beyond strain from workouts]. Itâs such a small percentage of the day,â Emily says, âsomething that you do 5% of the day isn’t going to be the only thing that reflects in a metric that is a summary of the whole day. âŠ If you define a rest day as âthe day I skipped my workoutâ youâre thinking about it wrong.â
18:18 – Active Recovery.Â âIf the goal of your rest day is to boost recovery, then you actually have to take actions towards that, itâs not merely the inaction of not going to the gym,â Emily says. Kristen adds âWhen you are struggling to rebound from the various stressors and stimuli that youâre putting on your body, you have to actively recover.â
19:53 – 100% Sleep, Recovery Not Green?Â Sleep performance is a measure of duration, but Emily points out that âit doesnât explicitly measure the quality of the sleep [other metrics show that]. You want to make sure that sleep across the board is as good as possible. Sometimes you can also be more than one sleep away from recovery, the amount of accumulated recovery you need can be greater than what can be repaid in a single night.â Additionally, sleep is just one of many pieces that contribute to recovery.
22:01 – Feel Great, Low Recovery?Â âSometimes our bodies are really, really good at compensating,â Emily notes. âThe moments when the recovery score surprises you are when itâs most valuable.â
26:07 – Mental Aspect of Recovery.Â âIf youâre emotionally run down we donât allocate the necessary resources to rebuilding. For all of the training inputs that youâre doing you donât get the proper fitness gains.â
28:38 – Training Adaptation.Â Check out the White Paper:Â Using Recovery and Strain to Unlock Your Potential.
31:00 – Improving Recovery.Â âThere are a lot of things we can do during the day to optimize the regeneration process,â Kristen says.
31:27 – Auto-Regulation.Â âSetting your system up to work efficiently and optimally,â Kristen explains. âItâs food timing, exposure to light, and sleep-wake timing.â
32:09 – Training when Red.Â âRecovery is not a prescription every day,â Emily says. âDonât think about it from the perspective of âWHOOP told me Iâm red I shouldnât train,â but instead âI need to be green on Saturday, how do I make that happen?ââ
33:01 – Factors that Inhibit Performance & Recovery.Â Alcohol, poorÂ sleep consistency, and bad diet, to name a few. âIf you have the information, itâs just a matter of making all these little micro-choices throughout the day,â Kristen says.
34:09 – Self Experimentation.Â âYou can play around with âoh, I heard this adviceâŠâ what does that do to my WHOOP recovery?â Emily gives examples of how to use the data to help refine what you works for you.
37:26 – 3 Things to Boost Next-Day Recovery.Â âSleep consistency, hydration, and diet.â
38:26 –Â Circadian Rhythm.Â âEvery cell in our bodies has a circadian rhythm. Thatâs your 24-hour rhythm, and it exists in every single cell.â Emily uses an analogy of how when we eat unusual foods at unexpected times itâs like having a big task youâre not prepared for dumped on you at work–in both cases, itâs hard to handle. You (and your body) can do things more efficiently when you know whatâs coming. âThe less regulated you are, the more random your recovery is going to feel.â
40:57 – Light Exposure.Â âCue your body that itâs time to release all the hormones that itâs time to be awake,â Kristen says.
42:05 – Babies Have Regimented Schedules, why do we give that up as we get older? âWe think we grow out of that, but weâre actually still the same species,â Emily points out. âIf you can make yourself do that, youâre going to get the same benefits that infants do.â
45:09 – Itâs a Guide, Not a Prescription.Â âRecovery is meant to be used in conjunction with your own understanding of what your goals are. When youâre red, you donât need to stay in bed,â Emily says. Kristen adds, âIf youâre green every single day for a month, youâre not making fitness gains.â
47:25 – Canât Always Be Green. âif weâve never trained in these red conditions, how can we expect to perform in them?â Emily notes, âIf Iâm red every so often that can actually be a really good sign, it can mean I had this tough stimulus in a period of functional overreaching.â