Wearable devices or “fitness trackers” have led to an unprecedented boom in the health and wellness space. For the first time, every single person for a few hundred bucks (or less) can get access to completely individualized data on everything from their sleep, to recovery, to exercise.
These devices have the potential to help you permanently improve your habits so you feel better, perform better, and yes, look better than you have ever before.
There’s a reason why I emphasized the word potential, though. Just because you have a wearable device doesn’t mean you know how to use it to make changes. At first glance, the wearable has an overwhelming amount of stats and uses. So how do you cut through the clutter to make using your wearable practical?
At Own It Coaching, this is exactly what we help our busy clients do. After all, we’re inundated with information in the health and wellness space. Many programs try to solve this by telling you what to think. Everything is scripted out. However, the more sustainable solution is teaching you how to think so you can cut through the clutter and do what works for you. No matter what changes in your life or how your goals change, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to adapt. Today I want to let you into this process to teach you how to think about health and wellness and get the most out of a wearable device.
We use these strategies to help everyone from Fortune 500 executives to professional athletes bring their top inspiration and invigoration to their company, workplace, or team. In fact, we’ve teamed up with WHOOP to do exactly this.
The One Metric That Matters: HRV
First of all, as tempting as it may be, you do NOT need to worry about every little statistic. Every major wearable brand tracks something called heart rate variability, or HRV. To simplify what’s relatively complex scientifically, HRV is an indicator of how efficiently your heart changes speeds (variability).
A high HRV score signals that your heart responds efficiently, making it the simplest indicator of overall recovery. By high HRV, we mean compared to yourself and your baseline, as everybody will be different.
Over time you can see your spectrum of HRV scores to gain a deeper understanding of how well you’re recovered.
Now, there are many other uses, but we’re concerned with the HRV score pulled from your sleep, which is what your wearable shows you. So each morning when you wake up and check your wearable, look at the HRV score, and know everything you need to in one number.
Think of HRV as a The Language of Recovery
HRV is like the language that communicates how well your body adapts to stress and strain. Like any language, it’s made up of countless complexities. In this case, it’s all the infinite factors that cause our body stress and force our body to adapt.
Our body doesn’t understand the difference between mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual stress: it reads it all as stress and it all shows up through the language of HRV.
By knowing this language, we become more aware of our body’s nuanced changes.
Your HRV Score Gives You Awareness
If you have a low HRV in the morning, then whatever you did yesterday (or the previous few days) didn’t allow you to recover properly.
Now, this isn’t “good” or “bad.” It’s a signal.
Sometimes you will know immediately why this is the case. If you trained extra hard the day before, you’ll come to expect a dip in HRV. A wearable device is also the easiest way to prove to yourself that having more than a drink or two will wreck any hope of proper recovery.
Sometimes the score will tell you that you took things too far. If you like to push yourself and train harder, HRV can reel you in from overtraining.
Other times, the culprit won’t be obvious. And you’ll have to dig into some of our coaching strategies (which we’re getting to next) to simple steps for positive changes.
Regardless of the extent to which you’ve built awareness around the problem, the changes in HRV then allow you to take a concrete, simple action. Now, you can make informed, personalized decisions about your health. At Own It Coaching, we use what we call “The 8 Controllables” as the framework for making change.
Make a Change With The 8 Controllables
You’ve heard it a million times: “Control what you can control.” On a wearable device, there’s a lot you can’t control and even less that seems obvious you can take action on. Once you’ve built awareness that you’re not in an optimal recovery state, it’s time to figure out what you can change.
Everything that you can actually change can be split into one of 8 controllables:
- Stress Management
- Immune Function
To make a change, think of the 8 controllable as a checklist. Could nutrition be your problem? Sleep? Is your mindset off and you’re just complaining about everything in the office and that’s leading to stress? Remember, the HRV score doesn’t distinguish. To your body, it’s all stress. Whether you ran five miles, fought with your spouse, or sat in intense meetings all day, they all have similar stress responses, and your HRV will adjust accordingly depending on how well you handle those stressors.
Going through them, if you didn’t have an idea of where you can improve, you can spot your weaknesses. You may realize that perhaps you didn’t drink enough water or that you didn’t leave your desk all day to move.
With the HRV data, you can now make adjustments that allow you to build capacity for those stressors. Next time you’re in an intense meeting, you can know to hydrate more, or plan on taking a nap, or a number of interventions to offset the stress
Easy Action Steps For Each Controllable
In our coaching system, we then have frameworks for each one of the controllables. Let’s say you think you were dehydrated yesterday, and that’s what threw off your HRV. One of our frameworks for people in this situation is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Another is to increase your electrolyte intake by adding a pinch of salt to your water in the morning.
If nutrition is the controllable you’re aiming to improve, start with our “VPC Rule.” Eat your veggies first, then your protein, then your carbs. One, this makes sure you prioritize the vegetables and protein. Second, eating the protein before the carbohydrates will help keep your blood sugar steady.
For all of the controllables, we have an array of simple action steps.
Now You Have a Simple Framework
Like a good scientist, we’re using the data from the wearable to make one change at a time. Over the course of months, you can completely reengineer your habits. You’ll be sleeping better, eating healthier, feeling alert more of the day, and increasing your output. Not to mention, you’ll just feel happier because you’re not perpetually hopeless to your life stressors. Perhaps most powerfully, you’ll now feel empowered to know how to handle whatever stresses life throws at you.
And it all starts with a simple framework, stemming from your wearable device.
HRV → Awareness → The 8 Controllables → Make One Change
When you repeat the process, you’ll be amazed by the changes you’ll see in yourself.
Recent research shows what we already know at Own It: that doing this with a coach makes it even more effective. Proper, wearable-informed coaching helps guide you on what changes you should be making and provides accountability so you actually do it.
Justin Roethlingshoefer has 15+ years of experience in sports performance, sport science, health, nutrition, and the fitness field. He has worked as a head strength coach in the NCAA, NHL, AHL, and runs private camps for professional athletes. He has written three best-selling books on mindset, body development, and fitness. The founder of Own It, a personalized coaching service that transforms athlete performance data into actionable insights and sustainable habit change, Justin is the pioneer of ‘The 8 Controllables,’ a system that helps athletes realize how to live and compete at peak performance.
By Justin Roethlingshoefer, Founder ofOwn ItCoaching