The Biometric Man

About a half a year ago I started to notice that I was more tired and sore than ever.  I’m talking really tired and really sore.  So tired that I would sleep 9 hours and still feel like a nap in the afternoon.  I was waking up so sore some days that it was hard to walk.

The strange thing is I wasn’t doing anything differently.  I was working out like I had always been and I was eating a good diet of mainly nutritious, whole foods.

Something was up.

I was way too young to be feeling like this.

I ended up reaching out to a friend who is a naturopathic doctor.  We ran a bunch of blood tests and found that I had high inflammatory markers.  Some very high.

She told me the inflammation was likely due to over training or some missing elements in my nutrition.  She suggested adding some supplements to my diet, as well as changing and tracking my nutrition and training.  Along with this she suggested that I start wearing a biometric tracking device.

The nutrition and training changes made sense, but a biometric device?  I was skeptical.  See, I have this very pricey GPS watch and I know from experience that it isn’t always accurate.  It has a step counter that I’ve checked by literally counting my steps and it’s never quite right.  I’ve even googled “How accurate are step counters” and apparently they can be off as much as 10% to 30% on steps and calories.  That’s not exactly confidence inspiring accuracy, so I had doubts about the quality of data that this device could actually collect.

But I needed to do something.  I wasn’t ready to roll over and accept my tired and sore state.  I wanted to keep an active lifestyle well into my later years, and I was ready to do anything to fix this problem.

So I ordered one.

When it arrived I charged it up and installed the app on my phone.  It works by distilling a bunch of data into two key metrics, 1) how hard is your body working through the day and 2) how recovered are you.  You wear it 24/7 and it gives you regular feedback in the app as it analyzes this data.

The reports at first didn’t really mean much to me.  I’d wake up one day and it would say I’m 68% recovered, and the next I would be 92% recovered, but I could feel that 24% difference.

Then, it happened.

About a month after starting to wear this tracker, I got a pretty nasty GI bug.  I started feeling sick overnight and spent most of the next day between the toilet and the bathroom.

The day after that my recovery score was the lowest I had seen since I started wearing the device.  From all the data it had collected it knew that something was off.

Then, it happened again.

A month later, after a very long span of drinking zero alcohol, I found myself having a few cocktails.  It was nothing excessive, but the next morning I felt like crap.  Of course, ta-da, another super low recovery score.  Despite the fact that I had slept, the alcohol made an impact and the device noticed.

My skepticism was breaking down, I could see that at the very least this thing was able to pick up the extremes.

Another month passes and I have a bit of dental surgery that is serious enough to put me out for the day.  The device again recognizes that something has happened and my body was struggling to recover.

But I still wasn’t totally sold.

Sure, it could pick up major discrepancies in my stress and recovery, but what about something less intense?

The opportunity came to test something less serious when I got a bit of a cold.  You know like when you feel symptoms but can still go about your day?  These are the days when there’s a fine line between pushing yourself enough and pushing a bit too hard.

Great, a perfect test.

I woke up with symptoms and watched the tracking data throughout the day.  I had planned on doing a short, low intensity rowing workout in the early afternoon.  When it got to workout time I noticed I had already stressed my body to a level that I usually got by the end of a regular day.

I sat down on the rowing machine anyways.  The old me would have pushed through it, but after a few pulls I thought to myself:

“Nope, I’m going to pay for this tomorrow.”

I stood up and abandoned ship, something I never would have done before.

The rest of the day went by as normal, but when I checked my calorie burn at bedtime and I had burned 40% more calories that day than usual.  Despite feeling only some mild symptoms, my body was still working hard to recover.

The next day I had a middle of the road recovery score and a few cold symptoms still, but I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I had pushed it and done that workout.

So, I’m Totally Sold On Biometric Devices.

Before I tried this device, my sore and tired symptoms had me worried that I’d have to drastically change my level of activity.  I thought age was catching up and I’d have no choice but to start to slow down.

Then I strapped this thing on.

Having a better understanding of what’s going on with my body gives me the confidence and ability to manage how hard I push myself.  My “strategy” before was to push hard all the time and sometimes suffer because of it.  Clearly that wasn’t working well.  Following my biometric data and pushing accordingly is much more efficient.

If you’re active and want to maximize the efficiency of your activity, I’d definitely consider trying one of these puppies out.  I got a WHOOP, which is a wrist band, but there are other options out there and I’m sure they will only get better and better.

Here’s to a few more years of pushing just hard enough.