Using Data to Improve Health & Optimize Performance—with Kristen Holmes of WHOOP – EP115

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Are you in a position to perform at your very best? The desire to optimize performance is not exclusive to elite athletes. In fact, we’d all like to reach our potential—on the field and off. Measuring resting heartrate, HRV and sleep performance helps us understand what’s going on with our bodies and how prepared we are to perform. So, what is the best way to leverage data to achieve peak performance and improve our overall health?




Kristen Holmes is the Vice President of Performance Optimization at WHOOP, a data and analytics company empowering users to perform at a higher level through a deeper understanding of their bodies. The WHOOP wearable gives feedback around strain, recovery and sleep, allowing users to course correct as necessary and put themselves in the best possible position to perform. In her role as VP, Kristen works with tactical, professional and NCAA athletes and teams to optimize their use of the WHOOP system and understand how to best action the data. She is also a former member of US National Field Hockey Team and one of most successful coaches in Ivy League history, winning 12 league titles in 13 seasons as Head Coach of the Princeton University Field Hockey Team.

Today, Kristen joins us to explain what differentiates WHOOP from its competitors like the Oura Ring and Apple Watch, describing how athletes use the WHOOP recovery score to drive healthy training adaptations. She walks us through the research around the impact of access to data, discussing how it can improve the duration and quality of sleep as well as physical performance. Kristen also offers insight into who might benefit most from WHOOP, from elite athletes to third-shift workers to individuals in high-risk jobs. Listen in to understand how breath work influences your nervous system and learn how a gratitude practice—in combination with quality sleep and nutrition—can improve recovery and optimize performance!

Topics Covered

[0:59] How Kristen discovered WHOOP

  • Coaching, teaching performance optimization at Princeton
  • Use metrics to help athlete course correct + peak for event
  • Building platform similar to WHOOP, introduced to Will
[5:13] The fundamentals of WHOOP

  • Use data analytics to give user feedback
  • Measures cardio load (strain, recovery + sleep)
  • Green and blue light tracks data 24/7
[9:05] What differentiates WHOOP from its competitors

  • Recovery algorithm measures HRV during last episode of sleep
  • Train algorithm with WHOOP data, run validation concurrently
  • 99% accuracy in identifying time awake vs. asleep
[14:46] How to read the WHOOP recovery score

  • Green = prime to perform
  • Yellow = cautious of volume + intensity
  • Red = under-recovered
[17:18] How athletes use the WHOOP recovery score

  • Use #s to drive healthy training adaptation
  • Add recovery modalities (i.e.: nap, water, etc.)
[19:17] The research re: the impact of access to data

  • Get more sleep (7:51 vs. 6:14), perform 27% better
  • Improved duration + efficiency of sleep, duration + intensity of exercise
[23:41] The data WHOOP would like to add moving forward

  • Meal timing, content and quality
  • Impact of nutrition on sleep
[26:01] The skepticism around the ability to measure deep sleep

  • Research indicates WHOOP at least 76% accurate
[27:38] Kristen’s insight on how to use WHOOP

  • Focus on improving sleep (foundational level)
  • Understand impact of daystrain on heart
  • Choose community feature to share with coach
[31:39] Who are the primary users of WHOOP

  • Elite athletes + military
  • Moving into corporate space
  • Opportunity in high-risk jobs, night shift workers
[35:47] Why sleep medication is not a good long-term solution

  • Improves duration but quality of sleep compromised
  • Doesn’t address root cause (manage stress during day)
[41:00] How breath work impacts your WHOOP data

  • Effective intervention to manage strain, improve sleep
  • Immediate impact on nervous system
[43:25] The different versions of WHOOP

  • Consumer platform ($30/month for data, feedback)
  • Elite license includes on-site training + education
[48:29] The physical components of WHOOP

  • One-size strap with hardware
  • Different colors, styles of bands
[52:13] Kristen’s tips on improving HRV and recovery scores

  • Gratitude practice and alignment with values
  • Deep nasal breathing (45 seconds)
  • Water and nutrient-rich foods

Learn More About Kristen Holmes


WHOOP on Twitter

WHOOP on Instagram

Kristen on LinkedIn


Oura Ring

Apple Watch

Air Force Research Laboratory

Australian Institute of Sport

WHOOP Study with Korey Stringer Institute

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