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How a Fitness Tracker Warned Me I Had COVID Before I Had Any Symptoms

How a Fitness Tracker Warned Me I Had COVID Before I Had Any Symptoms

I began meticulously tracking my health data when I started having sleep issues 5 years ago, shortly after I moved to NYC. A combination of late nights, thin-crust pizza, lox bagels, taxicab horns blaring (every night), too much booze, and other unhealthy choices led to the start of my 4-year health tailspin. 


I had trouble falling and staying asleep for all of the 11 months I lived there. Early on, I decided to start tracking my sleep (through an Apple Watch at first) so I could better understand the impact my choices were having on my health. 


After seeing how activities like exercise, sleep, booze, and food would affect my scores, I became obsessed with using data to try to improve my health.


Since then, I've been able to get information that has allowed me to improve so many areas of my life.


A couple of the non-obvious things I've learned tracking my biomarkers:

  • When I eat too close to bedtime, my sleep score plummets (for me, that means within 3 hours eyes shut).
  • When I'd binge drink (6+ drinks), my heart rate would stay elevated for almost a whole week!
  • When I eat a low-carb diet, I get my best sleep.
  • When I eat a bowl of ice cream before bed, it gives me a sleep score equivalent to having 4 beers (and raises my resting HR).

I understand when someone says they don't want to have a device tracking them at all times, but when it comes to your health, you can use the data combined with how you're feeling to make decisions that will compound over time. 


As of November 2021, I've been wearing WHOOP for about a year. I tried just about every tracker before WHOOP - FitBit, Apple Watch, Polar, Garmin, etc. At $30/mo, it was a tough pill to swallow but I told myself I'd give it a year.


Part of WHOOPs platform is their proprietary algorithm to provide a 'Recovery' score. It basically lets you know how you’re body is doing and your level of ‘readiness’ to take on physical strain that day. 

Good score = Green

OK score = Yellow

Bad score = Red


A mini-milestone in the WHOOP community is to get 7 days in a row in the green... Something I still have yet to accomplish a year into wearing the band (and being the competitive person I am, this eats away at me every week). 



I was sitting at 5 days in a row Monday night, on track to get my first 7 consecutive days "In the green". This was definitely the week it was going to happen. Heading into mid-week, in the middle of my routine, eating well, working out twice a day - this was it.


On Monday, I got a good workout in, did jiu-jitsu for 2 hours, ate my usual nutritious food, and was in bed at 830p determined to get a 6th day in the green. 


When I woke up, I noticed my recovery score was very much in the red. WTF?! My week in the green was completely ruined.


But immediately, I knew something was off. Tracking every day for a year has given me feedback on how my inputs + outputs affect my daily 'readiness'.


I'm so dialed in at this point, seeing an outlier score immediately sent red flags flying. The key indicator was that my respiratory rate had spiked to a level out of normal range. They even tell you that this number shouldn't fluctuate much at all and if it does, it likely means something is seriously wrong. 

 


I then remembered back to an article that WHOOP published last year saying this spike could be an early indication of having COVID. So I used took that information and made the call to get tested ASAP... even without any symptoms. 


90 minutes later I got an email - my test came back positive.


By being attuned to our body, consistently building healthy habits, and keeping tabs on our biomarkers, we can build a healthy baseline and recognize warning signs earlier. When you know your baseline because you are in tune with your body and always working to improve, we can feel comfortable that any deviation is likely a warning shot.


Tracking data is just a way to learn what inputs make me feel better / worse. And it doesn't have to be through a fancy watch, monitor, or fancy ring. It can be as simple as writing down how you're feeling, the time you woke up, what you ate, your weight, etc.


If you can learn about your body and apply just a few things to improve health, workouts, energy, or focus...


Then I think it's worth it. 


-Tim

 

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