Let’s talk about recovery!! We as runners all know just how important it is to our running. Without proper recovery, we risk the chance of injury, we feel fatigued, we can’t run long runs or speed workouts to the best of our ability, and so many other issues that arise. But, how do we really recover properly? How do we know if we are getting enough rest, getting enough sleep, or overtraining or overworking ourselves, and when should we back off?
Many runners are really, really good at listening to their bodies. I don’t think I am one of them. My wife, Vanessa (@runderfulness on IG), would also tell you that she is also not very good at listening to her body. So, we decided to explore other training tools, specifically, two pieces of wearable technologies that claim to give data and greater insight into our recovery process. Disclaimer: Neither of these devices were sent to us; we bought them ourselves to try out. Enter the Garmin Body Battery found on my Garmin running watch and other Garmin devices and the WHOOP Band 4.0. I have worn my Garmin watch / device 24/7 for about the past month to try to see if it made a difference and if I learned anything new about myself and my recovery (particularly my stress and sleep). Vanessa invested in a new WHOOP Band (which uses a subscription model – more on that later) and she has worn hers 24/7 for the past month and used it to measure her sleep, strain, and recovery. So, after a month, have we learned much? Is our recovery better? And would we recommend it to runners? Let’s go!
Jon – Garmin device and the Garmin Body Battery
I don’t know about many of you, but I actually had no idea that there was a Body Battery function on my Garmin Forerunner 245 until about 1 year ago. But even then, I never used it. Mainly because in order to get an accurate reading, you need to wear the Garmin device 24/7. What it does is it measures your sleep and quality of sleep, then your body battery is (hopefully) recharged to roughly 100. Throughout the day then, the Garmin will measure your HRV (heart rate variability) and then your body battery will decrease throughout the day. There’s even a really cool graph that you can look at throughout the day that tells you how many stressful moments you have had and how that is depleting your body battery. I would say that routinely, my body battery has recharged to about 85-90% after a night of about 6 hours of sleep (even though I would say that I most likely need more) and then if my day is pretty routine, like an early morning run, a day of teaching, cooking up dinner, playing with my daughter, and then bedtime – yes that is pretty much all I do – then my body battery is depleted to about 15-20% by the end of the day. Would I say that it is pretty accurate and representative to how I felt on those days? Yeah, I would. If I felt tired, it seemed to correlate to a low number on my body battery and I also found it to be useful to check in after say a stressful drive to work to see if my stress levels and consequently my body battery had depleted by a lot.
Things I Liked:
I would say the most positive thing about using a Garmin device for these metrics is that many runners may already have a Garmin. So there is no need to perhaps go out and buy a whole new device. Since it is already there and those Garmin users probably already use Garmin Connect (the app that puts all the data together) then all you need to do to take advantage of this feature is to wear your Garmin, especially to sleep.
Another positive that came from this was the fact that I was just more aware of how important something like sleep is to recovery. I mean, sure this is something we all SHOULD know but just having it right in front of me in a measurable number seemed to help keep me accountable to getting rest to “recharge” my battery.
Things I Didn’t Like:
Even though I did get used to wearing my Forerunner watch 24/7, I still couldn’t get used to sleeping with it on. It felt bulky and just a bit uncomfortable, especially on those first few nights. Finding a time to charge the watch also was a bit of a pain as I normally would charge it over night while I slept, but because I was wearing it, I found myself with a nearly dead Garmin on at least two runs. I did receive a wonderful present for Father’s Day, a Garmin Vivosmart 5 which is a much slimmer Garmin device that still provides me with the Body Battery metric and this is much more comfortable to wear 24/7 and also has a longer battery life. The only caveat is that I now wear two devices when I run – the Forerunner to measure my paces and intervals and the Vivosmart to measure my Body Battery and sleep – as some of the metrics are not transferable between two devices.
Vanessa – WHOOP Band 4.0
Vanessa has been wearing the WHOOP Band 4.0 for about a month and it works very similarly to the Garmin device and Body Battery in that it collects data about your sleep length and quality, then uses your HRV to measure what they call Strain. The band though is much more simple – there is no screen and it is essentially a tracker that attaches to a nylon band. All of your data then needs to be read and analyzed on the app itself. That being said though, Vanessa and I agreed that the WHOOP Band was much more low-key, stylish, and cool looking.
Vanessa needed to wear the WHOOP for about 3 weeks 24/7 before it would have enough data for a baseline and during that time she found that she liked seeing her sleep quality and metrics and also liked having Sleep Coaching that was provided on the app. It would tell her that based on her strain that day, it was recommended that she get this many hours of sleep. Additionally, Vanessa found that the measurement of strain (which on WHOOP is a scale with a maximum of 21.0) was quite accurate and on particularly tough runs, her strain would measure to about 19.0 or 20.0.
Things Vanessa Liked:
The WHOOP Band 4.0 is a simple device that provided great sleep metrics and provided an amazing and easy to follow app. It was comfortable to wear 24/7 and Vanessa never complained about wearing it to sleep (we did round off the corners of the band with some sharp scissors). It presented the data in a very clear manner and is very athlete and runner focused. It could tell Vanessa how rested she “should” feel at the beginning of the day and then how much strain she put on her body during a run in a mostly accurate manner.
While you can not check in on your body status throughout the day (as it does not provide a metric that changes based on your stress throughout the day) it does provide highly accurate data after sleep and after runs. And in terms of charging the device, Vanessa really appreciated the wireless charger that comes with the WHOOP as it simply slides on top of the device and allows charging without ever having to take off the band.
Things Vanessa Didn’t Like:
The major negative about WHOOP in our opinions is the fact that it requires a subscription to use their device and service. The device is technically provided at no cost along with a band to wear the tracker, but the subscription can run $40 / month if you pay monthly and then that cost goes down if you pay a higher amount up front.
Would We Recommend?
Okay, so that was a lot of words about two devices that are essentially supposed to tell you when to sleep! So, do we recommend these devices? We do but with some caveats. Obviously the biggest hurdles to both of these is cost. If taking on another subscription is just too much for you then the WHOOP is most certainly not for you. Conversely, while not needing a subscription, if sleeping with your Garmin watch or device and wearing it 24/7 sounds like the most uncomfortable thing ever, then the Garmin Body Battery won’t do you much good. But, if you are a data nerd and like looking at as many metrics as you can get your hands on, then either one of these devices can provide accurate and interesting data about your sleep, stress / strain, and recovery. If you also find that you need a bit more feedback regarding your sleep and health metrics (like heart rate and stress levels) as well as even some hard and concrete data to hopefully encourage you to prioritize sleep and recovery, then perhaps these devices are right up your alley.