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Podcast No. 71: WHOOP Members Fighting COVID-19

By Will Ahmed

Podcast No. 71: WHOOP Members Fighting COVID-19

This week, we’re highlighting how WHOOP members are fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

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We’ve put together a compilation of interviews with people from across the country who’ve either been inflicted with COVID-19, or are working on the front lines to keep everyone safe. They’ve all had very different experiences, but there is one common thread among them: Each member is discovering how their WHOOP data can help them better navigate these uncertain times.

WHOOP Members Fighting COVID-19 Podcast Show Notes:

0:37 - Collecting Interviews. “We’ve gotten to interview a number of different WHOOP members fighting COVID-19. What does that mean? We’re looking at individuals on the front lines. We’re looking at people working at grocery stores. We have 3 different WHOOP members who actually got COVID-19. We talk about all their WHOOP data and what changed before, during, and after COVID-19.” 1:10 - WHOOP Research on Coronavirus. Will details our efforts to learn more about COVID-19 and why we are working with Cleveland Clinic and Central Queensland University in Australia to study respiratory rate’s link to coronavirus.   2:25 - Steve Viola, Safety Officer of the Ryan Larkin Field Hospital at Columbia University. Steve served in the Navy for 30 years, including 28 years as a Navy SEAL and 26 years as a combat medic. He is a nationally-registered paramedic and is the president of the Special Operations Medicine Association. 3:40 - The Hospital. “This field hospital is helping the hospital system to relieve some of that pressure. They turned their lounges, cafeterias, ORs, all into COVID beds. They stopped doing hospital stuff and it was just taking in a whole bunch of folks and putting them in beds. We are here to relieve that system and allow them to get back to doing hospital stuff.” The facility is staffed by military veterans. 4:08 - At War with Coronavirus. “It’s fundamentally the same [as war], it’s just nobody is shooting at you here and you’ve got plenty of oxygen.” 6:57 - Building a Field Hospital. “We set up a hospital and manned it in less than a week.” You can watch time-lapse footage as workers transformed the 92,000 square-foot indoor sports facility here. 9:48 - WHOOP on the Front Lines. “[WHOOP was] very gracious to give us a bunch [of straps] to the healthcare providers to hand them out. It’s showing some marked improvement in a lot of people’s recovery time and ability to be cogent at work and allow them to be optimal performers even though we’re pushing them really hard.” Steve notes that WHOOP helped him lose 25 pounds when he started wearing it last year. 11:30 - Using the WHOOP Journal. “I could see how I was losing weight … what I ate, what I didn’t like. It’s cool, I love it.”   13:45 - Scott Brown, Front Line Worker. Scott is a registered dietitian and works at a grocery store in the Kansas City area. He has seen a significant change in his WHOOP data across strain, recovery, and calories while working during the pandemic. 15:55 - Spiking Strain. “My strain is at an all-time high. Before I was between a 14 and a 17 [strain] on those higher days. Now, my average is 18.2 or 18.4. Yesterday, I had a day that was a 19.6. The day before, I had a 20.6. From a WHOOP standpoint, my day strains are much, much higher.” Scott notes that he isn’t training nearly as much since his gym is closed, and Will attributes the significantly higher strain to an increase in stress Scott is experiencing working on the front lines. 18:42 - Calories Burned. Scott’s caloric burn has gone up significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, from a daily average of 2,600-3,500 to 3,800-4,700. “There’s been a couple of days where I’ve broken 5,000, and that’s without exercising, from the massive amount of activity that I’ve picked up at work. That’s one of the coolest things to see, to see how much more energy I’m expending when I am working compared to before.” 19:34 - Improved Recovery. “One of the things that has surprised me the most is that my recovery has still been north of 65% on most of the days, when in the past it might’ve been a little bit harder for me to recover from some of those more strenuous days. That’s honestly been my favorite thing about being able to apply some of the information to what I’m doing.”   21:42 - Brian Eisenberg, Coronavirus Patient. Brian, a New York City father of 3, was the first known WHOOP member with COVID-19. His data indicated that a rise in respiratory rate may be a precursor to coronavirus symptoms, a trend WHOOP has seen in many other COVID-19 patients. 23:03 - Getting Sick. Two days after being exposed to the virus at his synagogue in early March, Brian came down with symptoms. “About 15 minutes after the initial symptoms, I could barely move, My fever started climbing up.” Brian’s fever hit 103 the next morning. 24:06 - Testing Shortages. “I obviously went to get tested, which was a difficult process, because even with a 103 fever and direct exposure to someone [with the virus], they were basically turning me away from the urgent care I went to. I was there for almost 2 hours, I made them call supervisors and whatnot, I was just really ill. They eventually tested me and I got back the [positive] result 2 days later.” 25:47 - Plummeting Recoveries. On the day Brian was exposed to coronavirus, he woke up with a green recovery. He then had 3 straight yellow recoveries followed by 3 straight red recoveries. “I was at 7%,” Brian said of his first morning with coronavirus symptoms. “The numbers certainly correlated to how I was feeling.” 26:57 - COVID-19 and HRV. Brian’s heart rate variability crashed on the morning of his first full day with coronavirus symptoms. “[Before coronavirus], you were around 120 HRV, which is pretty epic. To put in perspective what a cliff you fell off with COVID, come [day 1 of coronavirus] your HRV was at 35,” Will says. 28:50 - Respiratory Rate. Brian’s respiratory rate jumped from 14 to 18 after being exposed to COVID-19, a major change given that respiratory rate rarely varies significantly.   30:43 - David Frankel, Coronavirus Patient. David, a Boston-area venture capitalist, was exposed to COVID-19 in early March and started showing symptoms a few days later. Like Brian, his WHOOP data cratered as he began showing symptoms. 31:27 - A Wide Spread. “I think that we were all exposed to it at an event on Thursday night the 5th of March. There were more than 20 people who ultimately tested positive, and looking back everyone seemed to show similar symptoms on Sunday the 8th.” 36:21 - The Crash. “Sunday the 8th (the first day of symptoms), was my worst WHOOP score ever. I woke up with 15% [recovery]. But the day before was insanely good.” 37:14 - Accuracy. “It felt, at the very least, that [WHOOP] corroborated how I felt. Very highly.” Will notes that David’s data was less predictive than other COVID-19 patients on WHOOP, but says David’s numbers were highly correlated with his symptoms. 37:36 - Setting Bad Records. David’s resting heart rate was the highest it has ever been on WHOOP the morning he woke up with coronavirus symptoms. His heart rate variability was also the lowest he’s ever recorded on that same day. 39:56 - Avoiding Respiratory Troubles. Unlike other cases on WHOOP, David did not see a meaningful spike in respiratory rate. “There was no time where I felt like I was having respiratory problems at all, and again I would say the WHOOP data correlates well with that.”   41:05 - Peter Machtiger, Coronavirus Patient. Former WHOOP intern and current New York City law student Peter Machtiger came down with COVID-19 in March after his roommates were exposed to the disease. 42:32 - Losing Senses. “I lost my sense of smell, just completely, and taste. That lasted for about 12 to 14 days. … Sometimes you get diminished smell or taste because of congestion during a head cold. I had no congestion at all. It just kind of hit the delete button on sense of smell and taste.” 43:33 - Resting Heart Rate Spike. Peter’s resting heart rate jumped from 45 to 70 with the onset of symptoms. 44:00 - Another Respiratory Rate Jump. Peter’s respiratory rate spiked from 14-15 to 18. “The smoking gun, again, is respiratory rate,” Will notes. 46:54 - Your Questions. Will dives into this week’s mailbag. How can you best track food and diet via the WHOOP Journal? And why do you already have day strain when you wake up?