In the final moments before the Biohacker Summit 2017 in Helsinki, we had a quick chat with personal trainer, biohacker, speaker and performance coach Ben Greenfield about how and why he uses the Oura ring. He has written extensively on the Oura ring on his site: bengreenfieldfitness.com so if there’s something more you’d like to know be sure to check out his site.
Why do you track your sleep, activity and readiness stats?
I track them because I want to know what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to the workouts that I choose, the supplements that I take, the type of diet that I eat… and anything that I do to improve my body and my brain.
I want to know what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to the workouts that I choose, the supplements that I take, the type of diet that I eat…
For example, if I want to sleep better and I take something like NyQuil, a popular antihistamine for sleep, I can sleep through the night. But when I use my Oura ring to check on my deep sleep, for example, taking an antihistamine before bed completely destroys my deep sleep levels. And although I’ve slept through the night I wouldn’t know that I’ve lost on all that deep sleep if I wasn’t informed about it by the data from something like the ring.
Or I can determine how soon before a bedtime a hard workout keeps my body temperature high enough to where it’s elevated based on the Oura ring data. And if I really want to take things to the next level I could, for example, correlate the relationship between something like body temperature and deep sleep using the Oura Cloud dashboard screen. I could find out that if I exercise sooner than 3 hours before bedtime – and I’ve found this out by the way – my deep sleep suffers and that it’s likely related to the fact that my body temperature and my heart rate variability through the night both suffer, as measured by the Oura ring. The body temperature goes up, which it shouldn’t during the night, and my heart rate variability goes down.
Those are just some simple examples of metrics that I personally pay attention to. In addition, I like to look at my daily activity simply because it’s kind of like a pat on the back or a Pavlovian response when I see that I’ve reached my goal for the day.
What choices or changes have you made based on the data the Oura ring gives you?
I track my Readiness Score. Based on my Oura Readiness Score, I can choose to do yoga or an easy walk in the sunshine that day, rather than a hard-charging CrossFit workout or a high-intensity interval training workout.
In terms of long-term data trends and changes that I’ve made to my routine… One thing that I’ve found is that the Oura ring will track my respiratory rate and my resting heart rate. What I’ve found is that when I pay attention to deep breathing patterns and deep belly breathing during the day rather than shallow chest breathing, I can see direct correlation between a drop in my respiratory rate, when I’m looking at the trends on Oura, and a drop in my heart rate accompanied by an increase in my heart rate variability and an increase in my sleep efficiency.
That tells me that the engagement of better breathing patterns is a very smart move that I should prioritize.
What made you choose Oura as a tracking device?
Frankly, two things. The extremely high accuracy of the sleep data. And the ability to turn off the signal from the Oura so that I’m not bombarding my body with a Wi-Fi signal or a Bluetooth signal which most other self-quantification devices generate every 1–3 seconds.
What should people remember when analyzing their data?
The main thing is not to get too obsessed with the data. There’s actually a very good new book, called Unplugged about this. I would rather glance quickly at my data and get the minimum effective dose of data and the most benefit from the data I can in a short period of time. Rather than spend, say, 15 minutes pouring over my dashboard each day… Minutes that could be better spend with family or cooling down after a workout or getting a little bit of a more quality workout in or playing my guitar.
The main thing is not to get too obsessed with the data
You need to be careful to strike a balance between glancing at the data and having it briefly inform you in a very time-efficient manner and obsessing and pouring over the data in a way that almost strips you away from enjoying the other aspects of having a balanced life.
The final thing I’d recommend when you’re analyzing your data is to get an objective viewpoint of your data. That’s what many of my clients do. They give me access to their dashboard or they take a quick screenshot and upload it to their Instagram account that they share with me. And I’m able to look at it and give them recommendations on trends they might not otherwise have identified. So using a coach or a trainer to help look at your data is something I would recommend that you do.
Check out what Ben had to say at the Biohacker Summit 2017:
If you’re interested in tracking your sleep and you don’t yet have the tools for it, have a look at the Oura ring in the Oura Shop. If you have an Oura ring, have a look at our Sleep FAQ for more answers or dig deep into your data in the Oura Cloud Beta.