Discover more from XO, MU by Melissa Urban
XOMU: Does your fitness wearable data make you anxious?
How to use your WHOOP, Fitbit, Oura, or Apple Watch without the stress
Every morning as part of my normal routine, I look at all of my WHOOP data: my recovery percentage, my overnight stats (HRV, resting heart rate, respiratory rate), and my sleep. WHOOP gives me a ton of information, yet the numbers on my screen don’t make or break my day or give me anxiety—although I could see how they might, if I hadn’t taken the time to clarify what they mean for me and to me.
If you’re interested in using a health or fitness wearable like WHOOP but wondering how to use the data effectively and without anxiety, I’ve got you. Let’s talk about how to shift your mindset around the feedback your wearable is giving you, and start putting the data to work for you, not against you.
Don’t miss a word of my fitness and health reviews! Join today for just $6 a month
Reframe the data
Before I go outside in the morning, I look at the current temperature and the weather to come. I do this to help me prepare for the day—do I need to wear a light jacket or a heavy one? Should I bring an umbrella? Is it going to warm up dramatically during the day? This is important information, but it doesn’t affect how I feel about myself or the day. It’s just data.
If it looks warm outside, but I check the temp and realize it’s much colder than I thought, I don’t take that personally—I just adjust my plan. If I wake up feeling really cold but realize it’s actually pretty warm outside, I also take that information as just another data point, and make adjustments. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m chilly, though.
This is also how I think about my WHOOP data. It’s not personal, in that it’s not dictating how I should feel. It’s just a metric to help me plan my day. WHOOP takes my “temperature” and predicts my body’s capacity to take on strain. It’s no different than checking the weather, and it’s certainly not a judgment about my worth or value.
Employ a pause
I look at my data in the morning because it helps me plan for the rest of my day—the workout I may or may not do in the coming hour, how early I plan to go to bed that night, the things I say “yes” to during my work day. But I don’t roll over and look at WHOOP right away.
The first thing I do is leave my phone untouched on the nightstand and roll into the bathroom to brush my teeth and take my cold shower. This gives me the opportunity to assess how I feel independent of what my WHOOP band says. Did I wake up feeling run down or energetic? Is this a tough mental health day or am I feeling optimistic and capable? How do I think I slept—was it restful and relaxed or did I feel like I tossed and turned all night? Do I think I’m ready for the gym or do I just need to go for a walk?
THEN, I look at my WHOOP data. Sometimes it matches; the morning I wrote this, I slept way later than usual and woke up feeling like death, and sure enough, WHOOP did a deep dive overnight into the Red. Sometimes, it surprises me—I don’t feel great, but WHOOP says my nervous system is well balanced and ready for Strain; or I feel great, but WHOOP is telling me to chill out. Regardless, I’ve first settled on how I’m feeling, and will use that in conjunction with the data to help me plan my day.
Trust the data, but trust yourself too
I’ve already written about what I do when WHOOP’s data doesn’t match how I feel. Here, though, I want to emphasize that I trust myself to know what my body needs. I see people feeling anxious around WHOOP’s data in three different cases.
WHOOP tells me I’m in the Green, but I don’t feel good
I’ve had plenty of days where I wake up feeling rough—physically tired, mentally drained, sore, and/or stressed, but WHOOP says I’m in the Green and primed for Strain. It can feel like WHOOP is pressuring you to work hard and be super active, and that can make you feel guilty and anxious. Let’s reframe this.
When I feel like poop but WHOOP has me in the Green or high Yellow, it’s not pressuring me, it’s reassuring me. “Hey girl, I know you don’t feel great and have some stuff going on, but your body is taking really good care of you right now. Your nervous system is feeling strong and balanced.”
I don’t force myself to run a marathon or do a hard workout. There will be other Green days where I do feel up for pushing myself, and I’ll take full advantage of those. Today, I allow myself to be reassured that my body is in better shape than it feels, and given everything else I have going on, I let that be the win.
WHOOP tells me I’m in the Red, even though I feel good
This happens often when I’m traveling—I’ll wake up excited to hit the gym before my big day of media, speaking, and events, but WHOOP gives me a big red flag.
It would be easy for me to feel discouraged or anxious, or abandon my morning routine and excitement for the day given the data… but I don’t. I thank WHOOP for giving me a loving heads-up that my body is struggling to keep up, and I plan with it, not against it. I still go to the gym, but make my workout much easier. I navigate my events, but make sure I eat enough. I don’t take myself out for dinner (even though it would be fun), I order DoorDash to my hotel and get to bed early. And I plan for a few relaxing days at home after my travels are over to help me catch up.
WHOOP tells me I’m in the Red, and I feel awful
I’m in the middle of a cycle right now where Greens are basically non-existent, my average HRV has dropped from the high 70’s to the low 50’s, and I’m in the Red more than I have ever been. I’ve been traveling for book tours and events and going through some personal stress, and it’s obviously catching up.
I could let this chip away at my self-confidence or my sense of worth, or worse, let it dictate my mood or day. But I don’t, because it’s just data. I know I’ve put my body through a lot this fall and winter. I can see and feel that it’s struggling to keep up. I knew I had to get through the last of my events in early December—and that once I did, I’d have some specific recovery practices I’d have to enforce to restore my health. Right now that means fewer gym sessions, more rest, and less socializing, because my work commitments aren’t ramping down just yet.
Seeing Reds and low Yellows every morning still doesn’t make me anxious. If anything, it reminds me to be even more gentle with myself. My body needs space, time, and grace right now—not forced workouts, forced socializing, or forced positivity. I’m in a recovery mindset right now, and grateful to WHOOP’s journal for helping me see which practices are helping (hyperbaric chamber, cold showers, early bedtime) and which are hurting (traveling even for fun, eating late at night).
Develop a healthy relationship with the data
In some contexts, like if you have a history of disordered eating or exercise patterns, the data could drive you to an unhealthy place—and that’s exactly the opposite of what I want your WHOOP to do for you. If you ever get to a place where you feel like the data isn’t serving your mental health, take a break. Keep wearing the WHOOP, but move the app off your home screen, delete the iPhone widget, and stop consulting it for a while. Tune into your body to see how you feel and what feels good, and when you’re ready (perhaps after talking with your therapist), return to the data in a way that serves you best.
WHOOP is such a powerful tool for your health and fitness goals, and with these mindset shifts, you’ll be able to make the most of the data without letting it affect your mood or mental health
XO, MU by Melissa Urban is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.