Rate Your Recovery
with Kristen Holmes
07 Dec, 2021
As the VP of Performance Science at WHOOP, Kristen explains how data surrounding sleep, nutrition, periods and more can be used and applied to shifting our everyday habits in order to improve our athletic performance.
Athlete: Kristen Holmes
“Rate Your Recovery”
Kristen: Sleep is a skill. Recovery is a skill. Building strain appropriately is a skill. These are skills that we have to develop. Just like we are trying to develop our math skills and our reading skills and our writing skills and our relationship skills, like love is a skill.
These are all skills that we actually need to develop and we shouldn't be afraid of having some objective feedback on how we're doing with those skills. Right. From my standpoint, I just want to know what questions to ask. I want to know where I stand and then I can take the right action.
Stef: Today's guest is Kristen Holmes, former member of the US National Field Hockey team, former field hockey coach at Princeton and now VP of Performance Science kristen is part of WHOOP'snewly announced women's performance collective; a group of athletes, experts, and thought leaders partnering with WHOOP to diversify research and unlock human performance Holmes is also a VIS expert at the Voice in Sport platform where she will be hosting sessions for our community of girls and women in sport.
In her time coaching at Princeton, Kristen was noted one of the most successful Ivy league coaches in history: winning 12 league titles in 13 seasons and winning the first national championship for an Ivy league school. After playing and coaching at elite levels, she has shifted gears and now serves as a Performance Scientist at WHOOP, a wearable technology company that helps athletes to track their daily rates, recovery, and other factors that make up for the quality of a player's performance.
In this episode, Kristen walks us through the shifts in her career and what led her to go from player to coach, to performance scientist. As she recaps her playing and coaching experience, she offers insight and advice on common traits she sees in young athletes and how we can simplify the student athlete lifestyle.
We also dive into some of the data that she has been leading at WHOOP and how we can track our bodies to make some changes for the better, including the very important and often forgotten... sleep.
Kristen, thank you so much for joining us at the Voice in Sport podcast. Welcome.
You're a very successful figure in the world of sports, but specifically field hockey as sports has been the center of your personal professional life.
So we're going kind break down what that journey was for you and how you then transitioned into field of sport performance and science. So let's start with just your earliest memories of sport. What was the first sport you participated in and how did you eventually find your group into field hockey?
Kristen: Yeah, I was really into basketball at a young age. I had the great fortune of living just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. And that was kind of at the Pat Summit's reign as one of the most successful female coaches or really any coach out there. So I kind of had a first row seat to, you know, her athletes and, and watching her on the sideline.
So I, I guess I would say that she was really probably my earliest inspiration. I mean, I guess I was six years old at the time and I think just watching her and those athletes compete really gave me my own personal kind of north star. You know what I wanted to be as, as an athlete and what I, who I aspire to be as an athlete.
And I think somewhere in the recesses of my brain, you know, just the, the idea of being a coach always really appealed to me and being a mentor to young women and, and the way that coach summit was. So, yeah, that was kind of my early, my early exposure. And then my family moved to France actually.
And I really got into skiing and soccer and you know, developed a love for both of those sports however you can compete, when you're 9, 10, 11, 12 years old at soccer, you know, I was playing whatever I could during that time.
And my family moved back to the states and that's when I was introduced to field hockey. And I was kind of juggling feel like in soccer there for a while. And then I resigned to the fact that I just was fully in love with field hockey and, and wanted to kind of drop soccer. So yeah, just really started focusing on field hockey and basketball.
I feel hockey was really at the front and center for, most of my high school. And and of course going into college.
Stef: Well, how did you avoid burnout with so many sports like that? A lot of young girls feel pressure to pick one. It sounds like you were doing multiple and then you went on to make it a Team USA and field hockey. So how did you just sort of take that pressure off yourself in the early years of competitive sports and avoid burnout?
Kristen: Yeah, I mean, I think for me, like sports has always like. An incredible outlet. I had the great fortune of just being a part of awesome teams , and really incredible coaches. So I think for me, it never felt like work. It was always this wonderful escape. I felt really privileged to, to have a part in.
And, know, I had kind of in, in a lot of ways, , a little bit of a tough home life. So I think getting, away was really healthy for me actually. And provided a, I think a really important outlet.
Stef: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and how did you decide on the university of Did you always know you wanted to participate in college athletics or was there a moment there in high school where you weren't quite sure?
Kristen: I definitely always knew I wanted to play at the highest level possible. I always was hopeful that I could, play at the collegiate level and, you know, it became clear, I guess, sophomore, junior year, I started to get recruited . Early in my junior year started getting, you know, a lot of attention from coaches and you know, certainly I was in the Northeast, so a lot of the Ivy league schools and then started getting his interest in BU and then I guess my name got out there a bit more and, was being recruited for both field hockey and basketball.
So, you know, had opportunities in power five schools for both of those sports But I think for me, it was kind of deciding, am I going to go, you know, Ivy league, or am I going to go kind of big 10? And at the time Ivy league sports for field hockey, they weren't really developed or are a part of kind of that Olympic pipeline.
So there was no one in Ivy league. And none of those women had gone on to play on the national team. So they didn't have any national team athletes. So for me, that seemed a little scary considering not only do I want to play in college, but I also had desire to play on the national team.
you know, for me, I was trying to balance okay. An academic experience, but also a place where my talents can be nurtured and in such a way where I could have a chance to play in the national team. So the university of Iowa intrigued me.
I'd never really been out in the Midwest. And when I visited, I was just really blown away with just how the emphasis, on. Male sports, but the female sports in really, almost equal emphasis on female sports. And I'd never really seen that before. You know, we had a separate women's and men's athletic department and our women's athletic department was, headed up by Dr. Christine Grant, who Steph I know, you know, very well the history of Dr. Christine Grant, but, you know, I had a chance on my recruiting visit visits to sit down with her for over an hour. And I just remember saying to myself, gosh, if I can just breathe this woman there, you know, even just for a bit of time during my four years, I will be so much better off for it.
And just the values that she had , and how that trickled down into the, the athletic department. I think I probably wasn't fully aware of what was going on, but it resonated enough that, , I was like, wow, this is a really special place. And something, I want to be a part of.
So that's what really inspired me to, to go to the university of Iowa is just that, connection, I think, to the female athlete and doctor Grant's work all the work that she had done to bring gender, equity, title line, you know, to, to the forefront. I was just super inspired.
Stef: Well, it definitely rubbed off. Cause now look at the incredible work you have been doing, not just as a coach, but also in your new role, so that's pretty inspiring. You know, I think a lot of the young women who listened to our podcast are currently in college, they're collegiate athletes themselves, and they often find it to balance everything.
So what advice would you say to the girls today that are in it in order to sort of approach this idea and concept of sacrifices, because it does feel like often you're sacrificing either your personal life or something else when you're a collegiate athlete. So what advice would you give to the girls today?
Kristen: Yeah, sometimes I feel like the recruiting part, you know, having been a coach and, having spoken to. thousands of young women who are going through the process of deciding whether or not they want to play in college and what level they want to play at, you know, if they have that choice.
I think what happens with burnout , and I think this is isn't just unique to, athletes, but I, you know, I see this in healthcare and I see this with tactical athletes. When the cost starts to outweigh the reward or your perception of reward, that Delta is, what we call burnout.
One of the ways to ensure that cost isn't outweigh the reward is having a very clear understanding of what the reward is to you and staying connected to that. You know, I, I think being a student athlete and really doing anything hard in, life, and I think being a student athlete has many challenges as you pointed out.
But I think really staying connected to the reasons why you played in the first place and, the outlets that the inner collegiate experience kind of provides for you to fulfill your values, I think is something to stay really connected to.
And writing down your values and, taking stock and your behaviors just being aware of alignments and misalignments I think is really important. And I don't know how much, you know, that's talked about, but I think as young women, we need to know ourselves, we need to understand the things we care about and we need to evaluate our behaviors and ensure that, the things that we say we care about and that we value and that we can feel in our heart, that our behaviors are matching that.
Like, you know, do you want to be a good student? Like, you know, it's some of that might feel like a little bit of a sacrifice, but I think if you can stay connected again to the things that you care about. I think that that, that will really drive. I think the, the behaviors that, lead you to a place where, you know, you're feeling like life as a sacrifice.
Stef: just mean, it's everything Princeton. So (TRANSCRIPTION ) ERROR
Kristen: Yeah, I, always loved coaching. Like I always loved and maybe just teaching in general, like I was so into, you know, the technical and tactical aspects of my sport and.
You know, get into coaching actually. Oh gosh. I think I was literally still in college and I would, coach camps in the summer and you know, and I had, spare three or four days and I loved it. I loved it so much. And I had the benefit of just having the most sensational mentors as coaches you know, on the U S team and then on my college teams, both in field hockey and basketball.
So I, I just was around. these folks who are so passionate about their craft and we're so good at transferring information. And yeah, it just really inspired me to want to have the same kind of impact that they had on me. You know, if I could have the same impact on, the individuals I was coaching, I just felt like that would be so rewarding.
So, yeah. I was still actually actively playing while I was coaching. And in fact I was actually one of the years I was coaching on for Princeton. I was actually on the U S team as well. It was kind of a funny story, but I was a couple of years in to coaching at Princeton. And I was actually an assistant coach for the U S national team, and we had a really young team. Anyway, I ended up coming out of retirement and playing that year on the U S team. So I was a little bit older at the time than all my teammates. It was such a fun year, but yeah, I was always really, really interested in coaching and really felt like that was my, kind of my calling.
And after college I immediately took a job. I played in England for a little bit and, we had the world cup for the U S team, which was amazing. And then I was kind of playing on the U S national team, doing some master's work in, psychology.
And then also I was the first assistant coach at university of Iowa. So my Alma mater, so they were really generous to let me go to school and play the national team at the same time. And I did that for a few years and Decided to start my own business. I started a national camp and clinic and coaching business, which I just dissolved a few years ago, I guess when I joined five years ago now.
Basically, I had 75 coaches that I sub contracted and we basically would go, get venues at different locations across the country. We'd go to that venue. So you'd bring this world-class staff to a location in the U S that didn't have access to that type of coaching, and the whole idea was to try to grow the game and, and get young players access to the best coaches and players in the country. So they could be role models and really inspire the young women. Then also do coaching education in these cities and states that maybe didn't have as developed programming.
Decided to launch that and was simultaneously coaching on the U S team and still playing. And then that's when Princeton called and I interviewed for the head coaching position there, and then spent 13 years as the head coach at Princeton.
And yeah, that's my, I guess big life moment was was leading the Princeton.
Stef: appearances and you claimed 12 Ivy league titles, so that is incredible. And you must have done some amazing things there. (transcription error)
So all of the girls that are listening right now, I want to ask this question, cause I know they're all probably wondering from your perspective as a coach, you know, and also player, what do you think makes a great athlete successful in college?
Kristen: It's such a good question.
You know, honestly, I've had the great fortune of coaching Olympians and really elite players and this. Like a unique answer, but I would say the one thing that just sticks in my brain is that they weren't self-conscious. They just, they were so passionate about their own life pursuits that it didn't seem like they were worried about what other people think. they weren't seeking approval, I guess, you know, they kind of knew in their heart what it is that they wanted to get out of life and they just went for it, you know, and they're just kind of all in.
So kind of the student athletes that really made the biggest impact on me, they were just all in. And, and it didn't mean they were all in, on field hockey. That was a part of who they are, but they were just all in on life. And I think that ability to kind of say yes, and really mean it, , and just go all in. I just feel like that takes so much courage and I just really admired. I think the athletes that had that courage of their own conviction and could stand by it in the face of other distractions
Stef: Amazing. I love that. And I feel like you can feel that right away from, from women in college who are, whether it's through the extracurriculars they're doing or through the field and how they stepped onto the field, each practice and each game. So all of that's something you notice as a coach. And I think it also then translates into life after sports.
Kristen: I think we kind of live now in a society where there's always a camera on or someone's always watching. I think the thing that I really noticed is that, wasn't the driver, you know. It wasn't about pleasing a parent, it wasn't about pleasing a friend. It was really this internal drive that they were tapping into. I just thought that was so obvious to me, And I think really when I kind of look at what these women have been able to achieve, there isn't that anxiety.
Like, I didn't feel like they had the anxiety that comes from seeking approval. I think they're just enabled them to be this happier and fully present and more authentic in their interactions,
Stef: I love that. Well, I want to mention that you studied at university of Iowa. You graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in French and anthropology. So that has nothing to do with what you're doing now. Just want to say to the girls that are listening right now you know, You know, that's what you studied in your undergraduate, right? Yep.
And now you are the VP of performance at WHOOP so I just want to talk about sort of that transition and that discovery from, getting your undergraduate in political science, French anthropology, to moving to your master's in psychology and sport performance. And then ultimately going on to what you're doing now, getting your PhD in physiology and psychology researching resilience.
It's really incredible how you have moved throughout your studies while also being a coach to all of these young female activates for, 13 years at Princeton, but you did make a decision sort of through all of those studies, as you really started to dive deep into understanding the body and how it works and with the mind and body connection, and you made the decision to leave coaching after 13 years and, moved to WHOOP. So. Tell us a little bit about that journey of how the studies in these different programs then led you to a decision of, leaving coaching and going a different route wearable sport technology.
Kristen: Well I've always been pretty. Curious. And I'll lead off by saying that it's okay to change your mind. I think again, if we kind of go back the principle of just really thinking about, okay, how do I actually want to be spending my time? Like, what do I love thinking about what are the things that really interests me?
And when I was in school, we had some constraints with practice time, so that definitely impacted my major in some ways I probably would have gone biology, but it just wasn't feasible given all the other stuff I was doing, but I really loved political science. I traveled a fair amount growing up and was really interested in different cultures, how they made decisions. And their, different types of government, different ways of leading people. So yeah, it was kind of really interested in that and it definitely, you know, anthropology was really exciting to me. But you know, once I get into coaching, I realized very, very quickly that, this project of being a head coach, had way more to do than just the technical and tactical elements of a sport.
I was a good coach, like a tactician good technician. I did everything credentialing to make sure I was one of the best in not just the country, but in the world as, as a coach. But at the same time I realized that there's the psychology and the physiology that if I didn't pay attention to, I wouldn't be doing kind of the journey justice.
So I really started thinking about this concept of developing a performance education to kind of run in parallel to all the other things that we were doing in our program related to just. You know, the core competencies of being a great hockey player, you know, and I kind of, in addition to the technical and tactical kind of KPIs, I started layering in, the physiology and the psychology.
And in order to do that effectively, I needed to go off and gain a more formal education around these various components you know, psychological and physiological. So I could really kind of blend together some programming that, that made a whole lot of sense and was really driving these young women really develop a framework on kind of how to think about the decisions in their life and, and how these physiological and psychological factors were really impacting their ability to achieve the things that they wanted to in their life.
So the things that they say are important to them, well, you know, if we're not sleeping properly and not eating and hydrating or under fueling or not thinking about our core psychological needs in a kind of intentional way over the course of the day and building a framework around that, we're just going to be kind of guessing at whether or not we're going to be able to have the energy and the appropriate levels of energy to do the things in our life that we want to. So I really started grounding the education to ensure that my athletes understood unequivocally, you know, what these physiological and psychological drivers are.
And some of the things we started quantifying in our environment where, GPS, so really trying to understand the load that was being put on their body, the external load that's being put on their body. We started looking at heart rates so we could better understand the internal load that was being put on their body during training, and then, you know, outside the two hours of training.
Okay. There's the other 22 hours, you know, so started thinking about, okay, well, what does sleep look like in our environment? We know this is an enormous competitive advantage and you know, my student athletes certainly weren't getting enough... What kind of levers can we pull to kind of help the student athletes better understand what kind of sleep they're getting.
So we got a Fitbit technology so they started tracking that. And then I started kind of building kind of the WHOOP toppling or at the time, I guess back in 2014 when I realized that there really wasn't this 24/7 solution that kind of pulled in everything that we needed.
I raised a whole bunch of money and hired some folks at the PhD program, computational biology and statistics, machine learning, and kind of put together this whole team. And we started building some algorithms to better understand sleep and better understand readiness and kind of understand hydration levels and some of the mental components that we were tracking and kind of pulled it all into a little app.
So my athletes had some visibility on how they were trending across some of these, Physiological and psychological needs. That kind of technology was running alongside this performance education and kind of quantifying various aspects of it. , I started really going down that rabbit hole and I guess toward the backend of my time at Princeton, I ended up meeting the CEO and founder of WHOOP.
I was giving a presentation at Princeton and one of the investors was Listening in on the presentation I was giving. And he was like, "Oh my gosh, have you met Will Ahmed. You guys are building something very similar." And I was like, no. And he's like, oh, you know, he made the introduction.
And anyway, I went to New York and I met Will. And then I headed up the Boston and spent a couple of days up there and kind of fell in love with everything that they were trying to do. And they were way further along. They had hardware. They were, you know, just had this incredible team of 30 folks or so.
And yeah, just decided to kind of follow that passion and work on developing, this technology. So hopefully I could have the ability to kind of impact.
Stef: Oh, it's so inspiring. I love the kind of curiosity that has led you to creating some of this really kind of the backbone of some of the work that's still incorporated into WHOOP, which is really, really inspiring to see, like you were there trying to serve the athletes the best that you possibly could as a coach, then it led you to like a whole nother aspect of your life and your career, which is, which is pretty cool. So when you talk about performance education, what were the pillars of that performance education now, you know, having more years, five years at whoop looking back and thinking about these young girls today in college, what do you wish that they all experience or are educated on during those times of collegiate athletics?
Kristen: Yeah, I think when we look at some of the statistics around mental health issues, at the collegiate level , I think 30 to 40% have to do with insufficient sleep. So really understanding, I think it's tough, right? College isn't really set up to enable, good sleep.
And it's a shame because you could get so much more out of your college experience. If you're just a little bit more intentional about ensuring that you're getting enough sleep and some level of quality and some level of consistency, and those are kind of the three pillars of sleep, as you know, is, is sufficiency.
Or am I spending enough time in bed? Am I getting enough quality restorative sleep? And is my sleep relatively stable in terms of my sleep wake time, those are kind of the three things to think about. And I would say that I wish, during my years, and, and certainly, the years that I was coaching, I wished that was like clearer and that universities did more to enable that.
So yeah, I think that there needs to be more sleep education at the college level. And I think two policies that like there should never be a library open for 24 hours like that, that is just complete insanity, you know? And, you know, feeding Coca-Cola and, and cookies at 10:30 PM.
You know, and these are things that happened at the campus I was on and I couldn't believe it. And the freshman orientation that went until 2:30 in the morning, I was like, what is happening here? I mean, I took, you know, this wasn't popular, but I basically said to my freshmen, we had a game the next day and I was like, I can't put you on the field.
You know, if you're going to bed at 2:30 in the morning, you know, it's just not safe. Right. There's too much data, to say that that's just not safe. And so, I said, no pressure, you know, you can do it, but just know that I can't put you on the field tomorrow. And they opted out they went to bed at 11 o'clock.
And obviously we all got in trouble, but we just ask for forgiveness afterwards. But the fact that those things happen still on college campuses is just, a bit criminal in, in a lot of ways. So, yeah. I'm obviously very passionate about sleep and wish that, you know, young women understood them more.
Cause it affects your hormonal levels, it has just this incredible downstream impact, you know, that affects your cognitive abilities, , your ability to kind of perceive events, your emotional regulation. I mean, all of these things are profoundly impacted by the quality and quantity and, sufficiency and consistency of, of your sleep.
So yeah, that would be my one wish.
Stef: Amazing. Well, as an entrepreneur and mom and former athlete, I can tell you that sleep is also something that I need to pay a bit more attention to. And now it's so important. Well, let's talk about your transition then from, from really coaching to whoop, you know, let's first start with your title. Cause I think it's pretty awesome. But what does a performance scientist at a sport tech company do.
Kristen: Yeah, so broadly performance scientist is really trying to use scientific principles related to psychology and or physiology to drive decision-making. And so it's using kind of those principles and objective data, you know, to better understand how to, modulate training load, for example, or maybe change sleep habits or, you know, modify nutrition protocols or better understand hydration.
So there's lots of different avenues you can go. But I think broadly speaking, it's really about, putting some scientific understanding using the, the principles that we know exist around psychology and physiology and, and really trying to use those principles and apply them, kind of in real world settings to impact performance .
Well, and how to girls in college right now that are interested in, you know, maybe being in your shoes one day, think about their current studies or their first few jobs out of school.
Kristen: Yeah. I mean anything like neuroscience, I mean, understanding the brain, I think is always a great place to start you know, exercise physiology.
But I will say one thing that I think for, for psychology, I think one without the other you're, you're missing big pieces of context, right? Like I think if we're just looking at just studying physiology and not really taking into account some of the principles related to psychology, we're going to be missing kind of a big piece of the puzzle for just, you know, looking at psychology and not physiology.
And I think that's really honestly, like if I have one kind of thing that I've done at WHOOP that I'm maybe the most proud of is really getting out into the world, this concept that we need to have physiological data when we're doing psychological research, right.
If we're doing psychological research and we don't understand how much sleep someone's getting, for example, and we're trying to study emotions, like we're just, we're. Just a huge piece of the puzzle. So, you know, all the research that we're obviously doing we've got this wonderful data collection method in, in the WHOOP device, or we're getting this beautiful 24/7 physiological data across these really important biomarkers.
You know, that, that not just are telling us what's happening physiologically, but are also, proxy measures for, for things like resilience. You know, heart rate variability is one of the markers that we track. And it's a measure of your, kind of your autonomic nervous system robustness.
Very simply as a kind of a way to know , how well you're adapting to external stress. You know, so kind of a high heart rate variability is you're adapting well to external stress, a low heart rate variability relative to your own baseline means that, you know, you're probably struggling to adapt functionally to life stress.
So it's just an awesome marker to kind of get a sense of how you're coping with life's demands. So anyway, we've got these incredible markers that we can use in our scientific research to better understand this relationship between the psychology and the physiology. So really the work that I do is around understanding kind of this interplay between the psychology and the physiology and you know, what's really happening in these kinds of higher stress, higher stakes environments.
I think it's so important to look at both and, you know, WHOOP's mission is to unlock human performance. And I love that sort of the underbelly of that are those two sides, psychology and physiology. So let's talk about, let's talk about the details of the tech and the science behind WHOOP. You have three pillars at WHOOP: sleep, recovery, strain. So can you touch on all three of them just at a really high level, for sure. If somebody had never even heard, wait, what are these three things again? What are the three pillars of WHOOP?
Strain which is basically a summary statistic of your cardiovascular load.
How hard your heart is working. So imagine, you have a full day of class. And then you're, you're hustling to a game. And then you have, your friend's birthday party, and then finally you collapse in your bed, you know, at 10 o'clock at night, you're probably gonna end up with a really high strain.
You put a lot of load on your body, which is going to translate into this kind of summary metric we call strain. And it's on a scale of zero to twenty-one. So as you're going throughout the day, and you're going from, you know, your classes to your game, to your birthday party you're building strain incrementally, and you can actually watch it build.
So that's a strain metric. And then recovery, I kind of referenced when I was talking about heart rate variability. That is one of the inputs into our recovery algorithm. And at a high level, would recovery tells you how your body is adapting to external stress, and it's really kind of a measure of your capacity.
How much capacity do you have to take on mental, physical, and emotional load that day? And it's bucketed into kind of three tiers of kind of when you're really primed to adapt to your environment. You're in the green, when you are you know, Trudging along and doing pretty well, but your body's noticing that you're taking on some load you'll end up kind of in that yellow range.
Upper bounds of yellow means that, Hey, you know, business as usual, your body's just noticing some that you're putting on load, but that's a good thing. You know, that's how you get fitter and stronger, so yellow isn't bad. But that's kind of the way to think about it. You know, lower end of kind of the yellow means that you're, You know, struggling a little bit and maybe you want to prioritize some recovery.
And then red means you're really not adapting to external stress in a functional way. And red is kind of a signal. All right, let's take it easy. Let's really go back to the behaviors that I know are going to kind of help me you know, be my best version, which is, you know, just drinking a lot of water, eating some really clean food, get into bed at a decent hour, spending a good eight hours in bed and winding down appropriately managing stress practically throughout the day.
You know, getting in the sunshine in the morning and blocking that light, toward the end of the day around bedtime. So those are just some of the things that really impact your capacity next day. And then finally sleep is the third pillar and we stage your sleep and I think what's important about kind of all of the sleep details is.
You want to be spending, about 40% of the total time and bed in deeper stages of sleep and WHOOP sleep, basically stages your sleep. So you can kind of see how much time you're spending awake and how much time you're spending in these deeper stages of sleep. So what's good about that and it's, there's no reason to stress about it.
It just gives you information, right? Cause if you're not spending enough time in these deeper stages of sleep,that means you're not getting the physical and mental restoration that you really need in order to kind of tackle the next day with as much energy you know, physical, mental, and emotional energy as, as you can.
So kind of having a sense of that is really important. And that's actually one of the cool features is we're actually taking into account your menstrual cycle because believe it or not, when you're, pre-menstrual, you actually need more time in bed. And WHOOP kindof coaches you without you having to do anything, it's just gonna add on how much time you need to spend in bed when you're in this phase.
So you can kind of recover optimally and really do the best thing for your body during that timeframe, which is to spend a little bit more time.
Stef: I love it. Well, I thank you for breaking down the three pillars, because I think it's really important andI'd love to go kind of a little deeper in some of the more recent studies that you have done most recently with Stacy Sims, which I think is just some incredible work that directly impacts women, and how we think about our bodies and our recovery, our sleep, and our strain throughout our daily lives. So let's go through the three pillars sort of breaking down, what specifically does this mean for women and for female athletes? Let's start with sleep since we just sort of ended on that one, we'll go backwards. How important I think, you know, when you're, when you finish this research on the menstrual cycle, I really great to know.
We need to have more sleep more time than bed during that pre menstrual phase, but there's four phases in your menstrual cycle. So can we kind of go through the four phases and break down, what specifically did you learn in that study and how it relates back in particular.
Kristen: Yep. So, I mean, I guess at a high level that the menstrual cycle is broken down into two phases.
The first phase is that Flexeril phase, which starts in the first day of menstruation and ends kind of 11 to 27 days later with ovulation, which is kind of releasing the egg. So this does not apply to women who are taking a hormonal birth control. The luteal phase completes the cycle, you know, running from ovulation to kind of just before menstruation begins.
And these cycles continue kind of one after another, as long as they're not interrupted by pregnancy menopause or health issues. Obviously our group is probably not thinking about a lot of that stuff, so I can just buzz through that. And we're not really talking about any of those things here.
What's really important as it relates to menstrual cycle and sleep, and what we found with some of our research, is that while the menstrual cycle is, is mostly about reproduction, it definitely spans all of our systems, including our circadian rhythm which is, our kind of internal system that regulates the sleep wake cycle.
And then also sleep architecture, which is what I kind of just referenced is kind of the fancy term for the stages of sleep. So during our pre-menstrual week and I, I kind of flew through this really quickly, but it's basically the end of the luteal phase right before menstruation begins.
This is actually, you know, pretty well known that we have lower quality sleep during this time. And we spend more time awake than we do during the rest of the cycle. So what we do in the WHOOP app is we know that you're in this time of the month because we can track it.
So basically you just kind of tell us when you have your period and when you don't. And then we can actually based on what's happening with your heart rate variability and resting heart rate, and this was another study that we did, we can actually end your temperature. We can actually predict when you're going to have your period, which is kind of cool.
So we kind of take all of this intelligence and this machine learning and basically we, we transform those data and we can basically tell you how much more time you need to be spending in bed you know, based on kind of the trends. So so it's really kind of a cool just coaching feature that takes, you know, your own female physiology into, into account.
Stef: Oh, it's incredible. I mean, I wish I would've had that when I was younger. And when I was an athlete, I always feel like there's like that dreaded moment of like, okay, wait, when am I going to have my period this game day? And I just feel like a lot of what we're trying to do at Voice in Sport is also just flip the script a bit about like, your period can be your super power. It can be something that it can be a tool. But you do need to know your body. And so knowing your body is listening to it. It's so cool. What was the most surprising fact that came out of the research that you and Stacy Sims did?
Kristen: Well, we were literally just talking last night, we have this study it's called sport technologies. This is a different study, that's in progress. It's 700, actually 800 female collegiate student athletes took part in the study. And it's, it's called Sport Technology, Heath and Performance Enhancement (SHAPE), every good study has to have an acronym. And basically, we're kind of using WHOOP to better understand female athlete, physiology and recovery. And there's lots of, you know, we took a lot of surveying throughout the study. So we've got all this like really cool context.
And there's a couple of different components of the study that we're looking at. You know, one is to kind of understand the relationship between what our female athletes are eating and how that might be impacting their energy levels and how that might be impacting recovery. So their capacity again, to take on strain and have the energy to kind of take on load and just how they're recovering from all the demands in their life.
And then also looking at their sleep architecture as well. So seeing what relationships between the food that they're eating and the composition of their food and how that might be influencing kind of the biometrics set for tracking. And then the second piece to that is, is really looking at the menstrual cycle and how that might layered on top of everything.
I just said how that might be impacting all of those biomarkers. So one of the things that we just out of the gates is actually like half of the women in our study are not on birth control. And that was shocking to me. Cause I remember, you know, when I think there's kind of like this movement and I have no opinion.
I'm just saying, a lot of the, the female physiologists who are deep inside this research based on the research they're doing are starting to now kind of recognize that, you know, your period, isn't this thing to suppress that it's natural and it's a signal of your health, right?
Like it's a really important signal to understand. Okay. My healthy. Right. Because the first thing your doctor will ask you is the last year about your period, right? Like, is it regular? What is your blood look like? Are you cramping a lot, right? A lot of the symptoms associated with PMS when you're experiencing them is actually a sign that you might be off in a certain area.
You might not be eating the right kind of foods. You know, cause those symptoms are not you know, they're, they're not it's not a foregone conclusion that you should be having. PMs, right? Like, it's, it's a lot to do with kind of how your body is responding and reacting to a lot of the inputs, right.
The sleep, you know, how's how much are you sleeping? How much are you hydrating? Are you drinking alcohol? You know, are you managing relationships? Like all of these things have an impact on our hormones, right? And yeah, that was really an interesting finding that I do think there's this kind of shift in the conversation.
Just a movement in general that there needs to be more research than pipeline that's focused specifically on female physiology, but I think the second piece of that is there's way more conversation, education centered around encouraging athletes and coaches, support staff to really have more open conversations, about female physiology and psychology and training and recovery nutrition.
So I kind of love to see that just these conversations are happening and to kind of see it manifest in kind of how the choices, I think these two methods are making around, you know, do I have, you know, do I take a birth control or, or, you know, do I not? And again, it's everyone's choice and everyone needs to make their own choice, but you know, that was really interesting.
Stef: Yeah, I think the, the idea of not suppressing and then the idea of also being in tune with your body, listening, and then don't just take some one person's opinion, and think that you have to do a certain way. So I do think that there are multiple ways to be in a successful athlete. And I love that this conversation is shifting more to the hands of the girls themselves to find out what works for them.
Kristen: That's exactly right. And I think for all the women listening, and I know Stacy Sims is on your platform, Dr. Stacy Sims, but you know, for all our young women out there she's written a tremendous book called Roar, (r-o-a-r) , and she does tons of education on Instagram again, pick and choose the people you follow. Cause there's some really good folks out there doing a lot of great education on these various platforms. And Stacy's definitely one of them just have so much respect for her, but you know, just tips on. If you do have, you know, PMS, for example, what are the causes, and I think Steph you make a great point. It'sreally understanding your body. Like there's so much variability between, you know, all of us, right. And it's, it's understanding what works for you and really paying attention to how you're reacting, responding to training at different times of the month.
And that's another aspect that we're studying is really understanding you know, how to, how to think about recovery and what does that mean for how much load you can put on your body, you know, during these different phases of your cycle. And, and that's kind of a work in progress, but we're hoping to release something around Thanksgiving around that.
But yeah, I think there's, there's so much opportunity there.
Stef: I love that. Well, that's a big reason why we're partnering, right? We need to have more conversations around these topics and, you know, girls can meet with amazing experts like yourself and Stacy on the platform, and really start having conversations, it's so important.
Ask questions, get to know these topics, educate yourself and we're trying to create a safe space for these young girls to do it. So I hope that anyone listening today will join conversations on the platform.
Brooke: Thank you for listening to the Voice in Sport podcast. My name is Brooke Rodi, VIS creator and the producer of this week's episode. I run cross country and track and field at the Universityof Southern California while tracking my sleep, daily strain, and calories burned with my WHOOP band. If you enjoy hearing from Kristen Holmes and want the opportunity to talk to her more in depth, go to voiceinsport.com to sign up for aVISplan and sign up for one of her upcoming sessions.
As a WHOOP user myself, the partnership between WHOOP and Voice in Sport is a great first step in prioritizing women's health through a wearable device and providing services to young girls in sport. Go to voiceinsport.com/whoop to learn more about the partnership and follow us on Instagram @Voiceinsport
Now let's get back to the episode.
Stef: You mentioned recovery as something you guys are working on, but you know, I think that potentially you look at these stats when you're wearing the WHOOP band, I'm wearing mine right now, and you see that you're in the red and you know, maybe your strain is high. Athletes are not the best at the day off. So can we talk about , when it says you're in the red for recovery and there's so much power in taking a day off, we know that we hear this from the pro athletes all the time, but how do you, how do you take those metrics, and really make a conscious decision to take a day off.
And what if that doesn't align with like your team's training plan?
Kristen: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's tough in a team setting and that's where we worked with a ton of teams though, who really do take those are using those data to really determine volume and intensity on an individual level. And I think if you had the luxury of, choosing schools that are actually having these conversations around, you know, menstrual cycle and understanding, that your capacity is going to different across the month and, and understanding what that looks like and then also kind of taking into account, your capacity to take on load because there's life happens, right?
And sometimes the external stress on your body becomes a lot. And sometimes you just need to take a break. And, and that can be just, you know, a day of just lower volume and intensity. Right. And what's, I think important to note is that, you know, one day in the red is not necessarily something you need to action.
It's really just, you know, a couple of days where, gosh, your body's just not adapting to external load. And, and not just training load, you know, this is just light flowed, right? It's the 24 hours of the day. Not just what's happening in training that you need to kind of consider. And that really is what WHOOP is measuring is, is kind of this 24 hours.
But I think it's just like a signal, you know, it's just to kind of stop and evaluate all right, what behaviors are serving me? You know, what behaviors might be preventing me from adapting to stress in a functional way. And I think that's really what I was trying to develop at Princeton was just, okay, , what are the actual things that we need to be thinking about?
Okay. It's hydration. So if we think about it from recovery behavior, sleep behavior and training behavior, if we kind of think about those three buckets and recovery, you've got kind of stress, stress management, all right. Am I going throughout the day? And am I incorporating breathwork and many like moments of mindfulness where I'm, you know, kind of buffering, you know, acute stress with like mini moments of rest, like that should be in everyone's practice.
Right. That's really core. How am I eating? You know, am I under fueling? Am I over fueling? You know, what does that actually look like? Am I eating nutrient dense foods? Or am I putting junk in my body? That's the other piece of the recovery. And then you know, the third piece is really hydration. So, so important, right?
That we're taking enough water on. And then the sleep bucket, you know, we talked a little bit about already, but that's non-negotiable right. We got to figure out how to get that. Right. And then the third piece is the training behavior. So all of those are kind of the physiological things that we need to be thinking about and then on the psychological side.
And so how we're managing those kinds of three things, and obviously in the recovery bucket, we have three more things. So it's really six things on the physiological side that we have to kind of ask questions about. So if I'm in the red, I ask, okay, how am I doing with these things?
Okay. What am I behaviors look like there? And then I also look at the psychological side, right? . And this goes back to the very first thing that we started to talk about in terms of, do my behaviors align with what I say I care about,? Do I have an outlet for the things that I care about?
You know, if faith is really important to me and I'm at a school that doesn't have a place for me to worship, like that's going to wear on me after a while. Right. And that's just one example, but you want to have an outlet for the things that you say you really care about and that's, you know, kind of the purpose bucket.
And then there's efficacy. Do I have the skills and resources to do what is asked of me? Right. Like life gets hard really quick. If we are continuously asked to do things where we don't feel like we have the competency to respond, right. So if I'm, you know, say you know, playing a new position, I was a right wing and now I'm a left back and I just, I am so anxious because I'm not a good enough defender to really play this position well... you have to ask for help. Right? Like when we feel like we don't have the skills and resources to meet life's demands, we have to ask for help. And that's kind of the second bucket is the self-efficacy right.
So purpose, self-efficacy and then the final bucket on the psychological side in terms of core psychological needs is, do I feel like I have autonomy and control. You know, I think for a lot of us, we recognize really quickly that feeling like we have some control is really important.
That's actually, for me, one of the most important things in terms of whether or not I feel like psychologically in a good place. And I see this in my data when I feel like I don't have control and I have low, low efficacy, it doesn't manifest in my data pretty strongly. So, I'm always like asking for help when I need it.
And I'm really trying to figure out ways to structure my life so I can have a little bit more, more control over my schedule cause that's really important to me. So anyway, those are the six, things to be thinking about on the physiological and psychological side. So when you're in the red or you feel low energy, you know, let's say you don't have a WHOOP and you just feel like you're lagging, look at those six things and, and then just commit to doing those things to the best of your ability for as long as you can.
And, and, and you'll write the ship..
Stef: I love it. It's such great advice. Like let's put some structure on all of this because sometimes it can become overwhelming, just the amount of data that's out there. It's like to be used as a tool. Yeah. And it's to be used as power, but then if you become overwhelmed, I think mentally by tracking it, or by feeling like someone is watching , I think it can have negative effects on your mental health. So how have you thought about that , for young girls so that they take in this technology and the data that comes with it and they use it for good and they don't , allow it to get to a bad place of like, of damaging their mental health.
Kristen: Yeah. I mean, I think, again, it's just, it's just like a, it's just another data point, right? Like another way to just know if you're on track. I think for me, how it's helpful is I know if my behaviors are serving me, it's gonna manifest in the data. If they aren't, then it will also manifest in the data.
And it just gives me like an objective place to go. And for me, it's really empowering, right? And maybe for someone else, that's not going to feel empowering. But Jim Loehr I had the opportunity to interview him. He's a famous sports psychologist. And, you know, he said it's facing the truth in some ways, and I think like facing the truth, ultimately as painful as it can be in the short term is the right long-term path. And I, and I think in some ways like data helps us face the truth that helps us ask more pointed questions. So we're not just floating the breeze unaware of like what's happening, right?
If I have low energy and I'm able to look at my objective sleep data, and I recognize that, "Oh, I'm spending eight hours in bed, but shoot only 10% of that eight hours, I'm spending a deeper stages of sleep. Holy cow, I have 30 disturbances. I'm spending four hours awake", like, okay. That's really good insight that I can then use to ask someone, "Hey, I need help here."
This is not normal. This is not good. There's a reason why I wake up feeling like crap. It's because I'm sleeping like crap. And I need help. Sleep is a skill. Recovery is a skill. Building strain appropriately is a skill. These are skills that we have to develop. Just like we are trying to develop our math skills and like our reading skills and our writing skills and our, you know relationship skills, like love is a skill.
These are all skills that we actually need to develop and we shouldn't be afraid of having some objective feedback on how we're doing with those skills. Right. From my standpoint, I just want to know what questions to ask. I want to know where I stand and then I can take the right action.
Stef: Well, let's talk about that scenario that you just painted. Okay. What if you are kind of seeing that you're consistently getting interrupted in your sleep. What are some tips that have helped other female athletes improve or optimize their sleep, and how do you sort of differentiate the psychological versus the physiological? Cause there's three components of both.
Kristen: There sure is sure is. Yep. And I've seen it all. So just to kind of start off, you want to try to have some sort of environment that's going to enable good sleep. Right? So the gold standard, you want to have a cold room. You want to have a dark room and you want a quiet room. Okay. So that's the first kind of box to check.
The other thing related to kind of pre-bed is you want to make sure that you're not having a ton of artificial light right before when you're trying to go to bed. So, you know, put the blue light blocking glasses on, they're fashionable, you can get them on Amazon. You know, put the dimmers on your phone and on your laptops, so you're not getting bathed in blue light because your brain is so sensitive to light. . And when it, goes through your retina and basically that goes to the super charismatic nucleus, which is the little thing in your brain that basically tells you if, if it's time to be alert or if it's time to be sleepy.
And when you're bathing yourself in light, of course it's going to tell your body it's time to be alert, right? So it gets all of that signal. Signaling goes to kind of every cell on your body and tells us it's time to be alert. So that could be one of the reasons why you might have difficulty sleeping, or even if you fall asleep, you end up with really fragmented sleep experience.
Okay. Which is the one that I described in the example where up a ton. And I see that. So within a couple of hours of bed, really dim the lights in your, in your environment to the degree that you can and you know, really control that light. Similarly, when you wake up in the morning, you want to try to get natural light within 20 minutes of waking up, if you can. And you know, really bathe yourself in that natural light. Put on all the lights in the house. Again, you want to tell your body and all the clocks of your body, that it's time to be awake. And this is really important because , once you, do that in the morning, that will actually inform whether or not you're able to feel sleepy when you need to feel sleepy at night.
If you don't ever tell your clock in the morning that it's time to be awake, your body clock, that is, it's not going to know when it needs to feel sleepy at night. So those two behaviors are really important. So your sleep hygiene, and now we're kind of getting into these circadian behaviors of light viewing which is kind of the other piece.
I think the other thing that we've seen in the research is that if you're viewing light, between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM , you will not release serotonin the next day.
And I paused there because that is really, really important for people to recognize that if you are looking at your phone for an extended period of time in the middle of the night, and you're getting that light in your eyes, it actually blunts the release of serotonin the next day. And serotonin is obviously that little molecule that helps us feel happy, right?
So for not releasing that happy molecule, You know, during the day that's when we start feeling like, kind of down about life, right? So light behavior, how we're interacting with light is really, really core to sleep. And it actually starts, , kind of the moment we wake up is really when we need to start thinking about our light behavior. And then the other kind of thing, I'd point out isthat is really important for a healthy sleep and kind of staying asleep and reducing the amount of time we're spending awake is making sure that we're mitigating stress throughout the day.
And we do this with kind of what I call these mini moments of rest. So after a stressor, so let's say you just finished a class, it could have been a great class. You loved it, but your body doesn't know the difference, right? Like stress is kind of stress. So after a class, for example, you want to do some breathing as you're walking to your next class.
Right. And basically what that doing is you go from an activated nervous system. To breathing emphasizing your exhale. Okay. So a shorter inhale. Okay. When you inhale you jack your heart rate up, when you exhale, your heart rate goes down. So you want to, you emphasize the exhale, your heart rates going down, right.
And you do, you know, maybe 15 cycles up, where you're breathing in, breathing out, do that 15 times. And now what you've done is you've calmed your nervous system. You've gone from activated to deactivated. Okay. And if you do that in response to stress throughout the day, then it adds up in this beautiful way that allows you the ability to fall asleep easier because you're mitigating this negative stress accumulation.
And then it also enables you to have a less fragmented sleep experience.
Stef: I was literally just doing the breathing while you were, while you were talking, it's the best.I already feel better?
Kristen: I know it is. It's crazy like how effective it is and it's insane that it's so easy, right? Like we're breathing all day long. Right. It's just a matter of like manipulating our breath a little bit more intentionally. And we derive all these physiological benefits. But people don't do it.
Stef: I mean, for these young girls, like you already mentioned it at the beginning of the podcast, but recovery is one of the most important things we have as athletes, right. To perform on the day. And one of the most important metrics that you guys have is that HRV, the heart rate variability, but there is a difference between men and women.
You know, we know that you want to get a higher heart rate, their ability, but why do men have a higher heart rate variability to begin with? And what is the differences that you think of for women in this space, when it comes to also different parts of their cycle? If this is like one of the most important metrics we pay attention to coming from WHOOP can you break it down a little bit? The differences between a men and women?
Kristen: Yeah. So honestly, when it comes to HRV, it's just you against you. To your point, there's a lot of genetic variables like genetics come into play when it, when it comes to heart variability. So is your heart size, right? Generally men have bigger hearts.
They'll have some potentially higher heart rate variability. And for the women listening, I know mentioned this, but the more variability, basically heart rate variability is the measurement of time between heartbeats. Okay. And you want that time between heartbeats to be as variable as possible.
That's an indication that your body is kind of prime to adapt to the environment in a, in a really highly functional way. So the less variability K the less variation between heartbeats means that you're less prime to kind of adapt to your environment. So imagine being slightly so slower to react mentally, physically and emotionally.
So I wouldn't really think about it as a comparison between men and women, for example, I don't think that's relevant. It's more of just , " what is my heart rate variability,". And then is it increasing over time or is it decreasing over time? If it's increasing over time, that means that Engaging in behaviors that are kind of promoting the health of my autonomic nervous system, right?
Because the heart rate variability, while it's a function of the heart, it actually, it kind of originates in the autonomic nervous system and this in a minute or less. But the autonomic nervous system has two branches, has the parasympathetic and the sympathetic branch. And they're both competing to send signals to the heart when you are recovered , When you've slept really well, you're eating well. You're hydrated. You're training appropriately. You know, your relationships are good. You're connecting with loved ones. Your body is going to be responsive to both inputs of the autonomic nervous system. So when you need to activate, you can activate when you need to deactivate, you can deactivate, you can toggle between these states really effectively.
I, your heart is responsive to both branches of the autonomic nervous system. Okay. That means that's a higher heart rate, heart rate variability. If your heart is less responsive to the demands, these inputs from the autonomic nervous system, that means you're not as recovered, right? You're not going to be as capable of responding to, to your environment.
So all of the behaviors that I mentioned, kind of those six buckets are basically contributing to your heart rate variability and whether or not you are prime to adapt, or whether you're not prime to adapt. Hopefully that makes sense. It's kind of a complicated metric. But hopefully I broke that down.
Stef: Yeah. Well, it's, it's super interesting. It's recovery is calculated by your HRV, your HR. Your sleep and your respiratory rate. So it's a combination. It sounds like of a whole bunch of things, which I think just taking a step back for a minute and like, okay, what does all this mean? Like, this is a lot of technical, like really what it means is listening to your body and thinking about the facets outside of just physically training your body in the gym or on the field. It's taking a step back and thinking about how all of this does contribute to your performance, which I think is just really, really great and so important for young athletes to recognize.
I wish I would have recognized it earlier in my career. Knowing your body. And I wonder if this has something to do with your journal feature on like, on why you guys incorporated a journal and sort of, how does that fit into providing the user or the athlete a more accurate take on their bodies.
Kristen: The journal could be really helpful in that dialing in you know, kind of specific behaviors related to what you might be eating, for example, you know, are you eating paleo? Are you intermittent fasting? You know, what are some of these other more specific behaviors related to those six buckets we talked about?
Cause you know, each of those buckets has like a laundry list of all sorts of stuff, right? So the journal allows you to kind of self experiment.I actually wrote an article on kind of how to do a self experiment because you know, you want to make sure that you kind of are controlling for certain things and you can isolate certain variables.
So you kind of have to take a bit of a scientific approach, but but yeah, like once you start like get you once you get your baseline and then you start kind of journaling or incorporating these different behaviors that you want to track, then, you know, at the end of the month, you actually see how the metrics, the objective metric metrics might be influenced by these inputs that you're that you're journaling about.
And it can be, you know, do I take CBD before bed? Am I consuming sugar today? Have I not consumed sugar today? And how does that affect? And I, I use that one because my body is so sensitive to sugar. You know, you can track whether or not you're drinking alcohol and you can see the impact of alcohol on your system.
You know, are you doing meditation? Are you doing mindfulness? So there's all these whole suite of behaviors, right? That we can track that we can then start to tie into how they might be influencing the objective metrics that we track.
Stef: Okay. Yeah. It's fascinating. And it's super important. We are all about journaling too, at Voice in Sport . I mean, just using your voice, if you're not going to talk to anybody, just talk to yourself because that is also just as empowering and also just as important.
One of the areas that we're both passionate about is the importance of impact that sport can have on us, as individualsand as humans. But it honestly can be really, really tough as young girls not to see, you know, their self-worth really being tied up directly to their performance as an athlete.
So can you talk a little bit about, how you have evolved personally when you transitioned, you know, from an athlete to a coach and now to this role with WHOOP and how that might help younger girls who, who are still tying their self-worth to their performance on the field?
Kristen: Yeah, I think it's such a good question.
You know, I think I go back to kind of the, the attributes that I really admired in the athletes. You know, it wasn't necessarily about being successful, but just being really happy in their lives and, and happy with themselves. And, and I think what I started to adopt and what I realized you know, kind of almost, I wish I had recognized this as I was a collegiate athlete.
I think I started to be more aware of this when I was out of college is that, you know, I would allow myself to really go up and down based on, how I perform that day or how I practiced or how I thought my coach thought I practiced, or, you know, did I let my teammates down?
I was kind of coming at it from a very extrinsic vantage point and I think my intention was good. Like, I just don't want to let folks down. I had really high standards and, but I think what I started to disconnect from was, again, one of the questions you asked the beginning is, you know, "oh, gosh, why am I doing this?"
You know, what outlet is this really fulfilling in me? I love the comradery that I derive from being able to be out there in the field with my teammates and I love being able to learn from my coaches, and so I think kind of connecting back to the why you know, is actually really the path to I think the opinion of, of others losing its foothold, you know?
And then I think when, when the opinion of others kind of lose its foothold, then you know, I think so does the anxiety that comes from seeking approval? So I really started kind of grappling to this concept of emotional self-sufficiency how can I just be more self-sufficient and not, and on an emotional level, and not really rely on performance and outcomes to really determine my state. You know when I started thinking more about my emotional self-sufficiency, it really gave me a platform to kind of hold myself accountable to this idea of really considering my core values and, and really letting that kind of drive my behaviors and my choices, and, you know, Brought me a lot of like internal peace, honestly.
It just allowed me to be more present and I just, wasn't thinking about the past and the future as much. It just really allowed me to kind of focus on now. And you know, as I said earlier, that authenticity and kind of my own interactions. Yeah, that that's kind of been like my journey, I guess, with all that, it's a work in progress always, but ...
Stef: We are all a work in progress.
And I think that is sometimes hard to remember and , keep front of mind. But what we can always do is sort of dig into how we're feeling inside. And I love what you said in one of your blog posts about this emotional self-sufficiency because you said it's a feeling of fundamental inner completeness and stability. And, you know, I think it has nothing to do with the outside world, has nothingto do with your performance on the pitch. And the sooner you realize that true happiness can come from that inner place, the sooner you can realize that in life, the better your life will be. It's not always easy with social media and, , constantly having images or things thrown in front of you that can cause you to think differently. But I just would love your advice on if a girl hasn't quite got to that state yet of beam, what's an exercise they can do to find their core values and just start putting this sort of more on the forefront of, of their day?
Kristen: Yeah. You know, I know the whole idea of like mindfulness and meditation can feel non-specific and, it's hard to be good at it.
You know, for me, it's, it's been a pretty powerful path, but I've been at it for like 20 years. But I would say the place to start is really connecting with your breath and, and just carving out even three minutes or 90 seconds where you're not on your phone and you're not allowing yourself to be distracted.
Like I think the interior work that you're kind of referencing, is it like some quiet and solitude to start to actually be able to connect to your inner voice. And, and I was like, one of those really busy people, you know, I was running away from my inside voice. I didn't want to know what it said or you know, what the thoughts like, but, but once they started connecting to it, then I could actually start to recognize when some of these negative patterns that, you know, kind of were preventing me from being the best version of myself.
But you can't do that in, unless you sit and listen to things that you're saying to yourself, right. Once you start to listen to yourself, you can kind of start to grasp onto the stuff that's working the stuff that isn't right. And start to change those, those pathways.
And then I think the spending time, every day , doing that is so, so important. You know, having some time by yourself, it's really important. And then I think the second piece to that is just journaling is just like this amazing record keeper of kind of the truth, you know, and with a pen and paper, you know, just writing down, like, okay, "what is it that I really care about?"
And, and I think maybe starting, like, what kind of person do I really want to be? And I know it's hard when you're 19 20, 21 to, to think about the end of your life. But, you know, if you think " what would I want on my tombstone is kind of a good exercise."
I remember I did that when I was 25 and, and it had like a really profound impact on me. Cause I had always thought of myself. Bold, fearless, Playmaker, you know, it's all about like sports, but then when you think about an epitaph, it's like, oh, it has nothing to do with anything about my role as an athlete, you know?
And so I think that exercise can actually be maybe a good place to start honestly, is like thinking about the end, you know? And, and how, how is it that you want to be remembered? And kind of setting my life up to enable that and you know, how am I treating others? Like, how am I treating myself?
You know, I think those are, those are questions that I think to really get to a happy, fulfilling, authentic life where you can be present, gosh, you just have to, you have to do some of that.
Stef: I love it. There's a really great phrase that people often say about " it's not what you do or the actions you've taken, but it's how about how you have made people feel."
And I think that that's like so true about sort of the mark you're leaving on the world, but then also for yourself, you know, just like checking in, like, how are you making yourself feel like the things that you're doing each day? So both so important. I want to end on your dissertation right now. You're getting your PhD. You're in this program and you're researching the physiology and the psychology determinants of resilience. And so I just have one question here because I'm sure the dissertation is going to be amazing and probably pretty long, indeed. What is the one thing you are searching for an answer for with this dissertation?
Kristen: Yeah. I mean, the hypothesis is that there are behaviors related to, to light, related to exercise related to sleep wake timing and meal timing. And these are all kind of these circadian factors and the degree that we align those with our natural rhythms really determines human resilience is kind of the hypothesis.
So Really the study aims to prove that hypothesis true. And then hopefully operationalize these concepts in a way that folks can really grasp onto it, understand it, and build it into their lives. Right? Like we, you know, we're already seeing in my first study that, you know, basically sleep consistency predicts resilience.
So, you know, the degree to which you stabilize your sleep, the folks that have stable sleep, wake timing are the folks who are perceived themselves as being the most resilient. Like they score the highest on these resilience scales. So, you know, that's one of the behaviors that we were able to kind of pull out.
And then I'm starting another study with the Stanford, UCLA and Las Palmas, frontline healthcare clinicians and we're kind of running through the same kind of circadian alignment kind of behaviors. And again, trying to see if we can notice relationships between the folks that do them versus the folks that don't do them and, are there any changes in physiology or just feelings of happiness, you know, executive functioning, we're looking at all sorts of different stuff, but but yeah, I mean, the goal is really, is not to just do research for research, but really, you know, be able to operationalize , some of these concepts that potentially feel a little abstract for.
Stef: I love it. Well, I'm so excited to read it when it is published and thank you so much for coming on our podcast, Kristin, we're excited to get you more involved in the Voice in Sport community. We're excited for the, the WHOOP/ VIS partnership we have coming rolling out here in October. I love how we have so much alignment in terms of what we're trying to do for young women in sport.
So it's exciting to see both the physiological side and the psychology side of what you're doing. Not just at WHOOP, but also with your dissertation, with your PhD. So on that note, you know, I'm sure there's so many things you wish you could have told your younger self, but if you could tell the young girls out there in sport today, one piece of advice, what would you give them?
Kristen: Prioritize your sleep.
Stef: I had a feeling you were going to that.
Kristen: I know it's just I have access to, to oceans of, of data. And if you get your sleep right, you know, you have your periods good. Your hormone levels are as stable as they can be. You know, you have the ability to regulate your weight better. Your mental health improves, your capacity to be present and engaged for life improves. Like it's just, and not to mention, like, you know, if you don't sleep, you're, you're going to be more vulnerable to illness and disease, you know, to cancer.
And, you know, it's has such a profound impact on every aspect of your life. And it's a skill, like you have to kind of work at it and Yeah, if I could do one thing in this world, it'd be the, give the gift of like perfect sleep to every human. Because it's that, it's that profound.
This episode was produced by VIS creator, Brooke Rodi a cross country runner at the University of Southern California and edited by VIS creator Shianne Knight, a soccer player at Howard University. Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your journey from elite athlete to record breaking coach and now groundbreaking VP of Performance Science at WHOOP.
Kristen is an example of a woman who has used the skills she learned in sport and applied it to her everyday life outside of sport. Through the Voice In Sport and WHOOP partnership, we will bring the power of female voices and data together through powerful conversations on the Voice In Sport platform and with the technology from WHOOP.
.The partnership will unfold over the next year to empower female athletes through education, content and research. Over the course of the partnership, WHOOP will sponsor 100 collegiate athletes with a WHOOP membership and Voice In Sport membership. Interested athletes will be selected via an application process on the Voice in Sport website with the first 25 being selected this quarter on December 1st,
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