Suzanna McGee is a former Miss Natural Olympia bodybuilding champion, now competitive tennis player, raw vegan athlete, author, speaker, plant-based nutrition coach, and performance and injury prevention specialist with more than 25 years of experience.
Suzanna, out of Venice Beach, California, is the very first regular contributor to
TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS, being with us since our premier issue in January of 2014.
Why Everybody Needs an Oura Ring
By Suzanna McGee
Have you heard of the Oura ring?
Imagine that you could predict that you are getting COVID19 or another disease about 2-3 days before it hits you. If you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast, imagine that can predict that today is the day to push hard or vice versa, today is a day to take off from your training even though you planned a 10-mile run or all afternoon of tennis.
Today I am going to write about such a tool that is small, elegant, and extremely powerful. It tells you that today, you are or you are not your best, physically, emotionally, and mentally, so you can act accordingly.
It’s one of the many popular fitness wearables, and it’s called Oura ring. After many years using a FitBit, I switched to this Oura ring one year ago. It felt like going from a Honda Civic Si (which I loooove) to a Porsche.
In my core, I am a nerd, and I love data and statistics and to evaluate and correlate things to improve myself, and eventually, my clients whom I train in physical fitness and wellbeing.
The COVID19 is the most pressing issue right now, so I am going to mention it, but it could be any other disease, such flu, or a cold, or anything that makes your body subpar.
I have been participating in a 3-month health study that was made for doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners working daily with COVID patients. The data in the study are hopeful, and there is a strong suggestion that the ring signals several days ahead that disease is attacking the body, and that the body is fighting it.
Let’s look into what the Oura ring does…
During the night sleep, the Oura ring reads different stats that are valuable in predicting your body’s state. Among others, it collects your temperature changes from the baseline, heart rate, respiratory rate, and sleep stages (REM, deep, light, and awake time). But the most valuable thing is heart rate variability.
Athletes use heart rate variability to base their training intensity on it or schedule a rest day. Business people can plan intense days full of productivity and important decisions, or lighter, more relaxing days. Fitness enthusiasts get a green light to go strong or take it easy instead.
In other words, everybody should monitor their heart rate variability.
Why You Need to Know Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Heart rate variability is so important that I will give you a little longer explanation because, in my experience, not everyone is familiar with it.
A healthy heart does not beat like a precise metronome with the same intervals. Actually, it changes its rhythm with each beat. This regular variation in milliseconds between the beats is known as your heart rate variability (HRV).
Some conditions increase the variation (you get a high HRV), some others cause the intervals between the beats to stay more constant (you get a low HRV). We are often unaware of these subtle variations, but they reflect your heart’s ability to respond to different situations.
The HRV can react to stress or illness before your resting heart rate does, and this makes it one of the most powerful signals of your body. It can provide useful signs about your stress levels, recovery status, and general wellbeing. You may wonder: how so?
HRV is associated with your autonomic nervous system and the balance between the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) branch and the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) branch.
By balancing these two forces, your nervous system helps to respond to daily stressors and regulate some of your body’s essential systems, including heart rate, respiration, and digestion.
Generally, a high HRV means that you are in good recovery and good general fitness—or, in a state rest-and-digest. A low HRV is associated with fight-and-flight, stress, illness, and overtraining.
The Oura ring measures your HRV every night while you sleep. It shows your daily variations and long term changes.
For me, the HRV is the most crucial measure that I inspect every morning when I wake up. It informs me if I have recovered well from my training and if I am ready to train hard again or if I should take it easy today.
Just because of this HRV functionality, everybody should be wearing this Oura ring. But now, let’s go back and look at:
How Oura ring monitors sickness
When you get sick, your immune system deploys many strategies to help you to heal. All this requires a lot of energy, and it often shows up as a strain in your body. You can see it in the increase in your body temperature, heart activity, increased respiration and changed sleep and activity patterns. If you feel like you are getting sick, keep an eye on these values and compare them to your normal baseline.
The first one is an increase in Body Temperature
When the immune system powers up to fight infections, your body raises the inflammatory responses. It literally does what it sounds — it “flames” (heats) your body up. You can even get a fever. Normal body temperature typically changes about 1.8 F (or 1 C) between its highest and lowest points each day. Anything outside this range signals that something challenging is happening in your body. You can see the trends in the Oura app.
Next important marker is Increase in Respiratory Rate
If a respiratory infection or cough challenge your system, you will see an elevated respiration rate in your Oura app. A typical respiratory rate for healthy adults is 12-20 breaths per minute. Illness may cause your rate to remain relatively high for some time after the actual symptoms disappeared.
Another marker is the Increase in Heart Rate and Decrease in Heart Rate Variability
As your body fights an illness, it engages your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system. This increases your resting heart rate and decreases your heart rate variability.
And one more marker is Changes in Sleep or Activity
If an illness challenges your body, the body wants to prioritize rest, and you will spend more time in bed. Your body will prioritize deep sleep, which is the most physically restorative sleep stage. You may also engage in much lower amounts of activity. The Oura app shows the trends and deviations.
Now you can see that in these COVID times, getting the warning for upcoming illness is invaluable. You can act proactively—visit your doctor before it gets worse. You can self-isolate and start taking all the precautions, such as increasing the intake of liposomal vitamin C, vitamin A and D, zinc, and possibly melatonin before sleep to help your immune system to fight the invader. Also, start taking better care of yourself by stressing less (which also means not watching the TV news), taking hot baths, and steam breathing treatments.
Oura Ring for Athletes
The Oura ring is a fantastic tool for these pandemic times. And when we get back to our ordinary lives, it will help you to design your workouts, workloads, and wellbeing. You can train more often or harder when you see that you are recovering well from the training. You will be able to change your habits to optimize your recovery because you will see the data on the screen every morning. And you will learn a lot about yourself and your physiology, which is priceless in any situation, whether you are a competitive athlete or a fitness and health nut.
The Oura ring looks like a regular ring.
No one would guess its powers.
And it’s beautiful, too.
You can shower, sleep, and exercise with it.
The battery charge lasts over a week.
It is easy to charge by putting it on a special ring holder.
The synchronization with the app is done in seconds when you look at your data.
They make it in two different styles and three different colors.
You may be thinking now, rightly so, that you NEED that ring. If you want to read and learn more, visit their website www.ouraring.com and find yourself one. I believe you will love it as much as I do.
PS: I do not have any affiliate relations or compensations from Oura ring company. I (evidently) love it, and I think that every athlete would benefit tremendously.
You can reach Suzanna on LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her latest book: "The Athlete's Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle"