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Podcast No. 26: Understanding Strain, with Kristen Holmes and Emily Capodilupo

June 5, 2019

Today’s episode is all about strain.

By Will Ahmed

Listen, review, subscribe.

Vice President of Performance Kristen Holmes and Director of Analytics Emily Capodilupo break down everything you want to know about the WHOOP strain metric. They talk about where it came from, how it works, what it measures exactly, as well as all the things that cause strain beyond exercise.

Kristen and Emily also discuss how to balance strain with recovery in relation to what your training goals are, and explore some new features that will help you do just that.

I’d like to thank them both for coming on the show and sharing their insight–when it comes to understanding how to make the most of WHOOP data, there’s nobody better.

Show Notes:

3:27 – Where WHOOP Strain Came From. “We originally were inspired by the Borg Scale [of perceived exertion, 6-20]. We added 21 to put our own little stamp on it,” Emily says.

4:39 – What Does it Measure? “It specifically measures cardiovascular load,” Emily explains. “It does not measure muscular skeletal load. You might do a lot of squats and work your glutes really hard…” but that won’t cause high strain if it doesn’t also get your heart rate going.

5:05 – How is it Individualized? “If you and I both got a 15, we both worked relatively equally hard within our capacity, but if we’re at different fitness levels we could’ve objectively done very different things,” Emily states. The reverse is also true–if two people do identical workouts, it will cause less strain on the one who is more fit.

6:32 – Why WHOOP Doesn’t Count Steps. “Steps are a very limited metric. Strain is sport agnostic,” Emily says.

7:49 – What Causes Strain (besides exercise)? “It’s also things that are stressful,” Emily explains. “All the little things in life add up in ways that you might not realize.”

9:03 – Day Strain vs Workout Strain. “If you have a big event later on in the day, it might be wise to take action to mitigate your day strain.” Kristen shares some tips for how to do that.

12:15 – Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure. A soccer team on WHOOP tried to taper before NCAA championships, but found the players didn’t actually reduce their overall strain because of their social activities. After monitoring their day strain, a year later they got it right and won the national championship.

13:25 – Strain is Logarithmic, Not Linear. Individual workout strains don’t add up to your day strain, which falls in line with users’ level of perceived exertion. “It actually is easier to go from a 10-mile run to an 11-mile run than it is to go from a 1-mile run to a 2-mile run,” Emily says. “The longer you go, the harder you go, the harder it becomes to build strain.”

16:25 – Using Strain to Help Train. Do you want to maintain, restore, or functionally overreach? “This is my capacity today [your recovery], what’s my physiological intent? And that dictates what type of strain you want to put on your body,” Kristen explains. Our Weekly Performance Assessment helps guide you.

17:45 – Balancing Strain & Recovery. “We want to make sure we’re not telling people ‘Oh you’re red, stay in bed,’” Emily says. She describes some active recovery tactics.

21:59 – New Strain Coach available with Strap 3.0. “It’s a live, real-time feature that’ll help you train in the moment, not just understand trends.” Emily says. “I think for folks who don’t have the resources to have a personal coach, that’s the gap that WHOOP is filling,” Kristen adds.

26:12 – WHOOP Live. “You’re literally seeing fatigue happen in real time,” Emily states. “As a long-time coach, overlaying physiological data onto video has always been kind of a pipe dream,” Kristen notes, “and to make it a reality is super cool.”


LEARN MORE: How Does WHOOP Strain Work?


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.