I'm surprised it took until December 2021 to catch COVID-19, but my luck finally ran out.
It was relatively mild and much like flu, but certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Happily however, COVID landed while reviewing the Whoop 4.0, and we were able to see the whole thing play out in real time, using the new Health Monitor.
Whoop and its user base have been vocal about spotting COVID 19 in the stats, and CEO Will Ahmed recently shared his own, spotting something was up before he felt ill.
That wasn't quite how it played out for me – but this is what COVID-19 looks like in wearable health data...
Day 1 - 2
Alert: Whoop alerted that breathing rate was elevated and the Recovery score plummeted
The start of COVID for me was cloaked in confusion. On the Monday I had my booster vaccine, so I was expecting my stats to go a little wonky. There's a button within the Whoop self-reporting tool to say you've had a vaccination, although that seemed to do nothing to the presentation of my data.
However, a tickly cough appeared on the Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday morning, I wasn’t feeling well at all – with tiredness, the start of a fever and just a deep malaise.
Your Whoop data is analysed during sleep, rather than in real time, and the first morning's data after the cough appeared showed something was up. There was a big jump in RHR (59 bpm up from 49 bpm) and a spike in respiratory rate (15.8 breaths per min up from 13.7) from the previous day.
Had this jump happened with no symptoms it would have been a startling alert – but it was in line with my symptoms. A home test was negative, but I ordered a PCR.
Red alert: Whoop stats showing something was seriously wrong
The Thursday morning was as bad as COVID got for me. Fever, dizziness, extreme tiredness – there was no way I was getting out of bed.
And the Whoop Health Monitor dashboard was a medley of bad colors, as you can see above.
My respiratory rate spiked at 17.6 (up from my average of 13.8) and RHR was a massive 74 bpm.
Blood oxygen wasn't even recorded properly, although rather than an ominous sign of serious COVID, this was a side effect of the sleep tracking barely working. My only conclusion was that my sleep was so restless that Whoop couldn't track it, which was a tad annoying.
Heart rate variability was just 21ms (average is 68ms) and most amusingly, the Recovery score was just 1%, which brought some mirth to an otherwise joyless day.
Finally we got a positive home test, so I strapped in for self-isolation, and rode out the fever.
In the self reporting you can tag COVID-19 symptoms, although again, we never saw an affect of that input.
Friday was a little better, so much so I watched TV, and found had the energy to tidy a pile of clothes in the bedroom that had been annoying me for the past 72 hours.
Respiratory rate was still 17.3 but resting heart rate was down to 64 bpm from Thursday’s peak, which was a reassuring sign the worst was over.
Day 5 - 6
COVID: Recovery scores show the onset of the virus
The weekend saw an improvement, although I was still feeling rotten.
The rest of my family were now into their COVID infection, so there was no more lying in bed watching TV – and instead I held the fort the best I could, while everyone else followed me into the pain zone.
Day 5 was the better day, with unchanged stats and an improved Recovery score of 31%.
However, I felt worse on the Sunday, and the score dutifully dipped to 22% and RHR jumped back up.
Day 6 – 8
Luckily, that was only a brief blip, and day 6 saw a huge recovery – and was the de facto end of the illness.
Whoop was showing a big green 68% recovery score, with breathing rates falling (15.3) and RHR back in the 50s.
Day 8 saw further gains with 88% Recovery and RHR back to normal – and was the first day I tested negative on a rapid test.
Day 9 – 10
Road to recovery: Left: Resting heart rate falling. Center: HRV rising. Right: Recovery scores improving
Now fully recovered but still isolating (at the time the UK had 10 days of isolation after symptoms started), my scores in Whoop had never been better.
My final day of isolation saw a 93% Recovery score and HRV of 106ms, which I’ll probably never see again.
The benefits you can reap by sitting on the sofa for a week and getting a week of 9+ hour sleeps are quite incredible. I highly recommend it.
What did we learn?
Having COVID 19 is not only unpleasant but also exceptionally boring, so the Whoop stats kept me entertained, and seeing a gradual recovery in my key metrics was also reassuring.
It also showed how sensitive the Whoop data and algorithms are, and to see the recovery score rising and falling with my symptoms was reassuring about its overall accuracy.
Sadly, Whoop didn't act as an early warning system for us, as symptoms came on early – but just like COVID, the experience will be different for everyone.
The COVID experience also reinforced one criticism of the Whoop experience from our testing. Despite daily input from us to tell Whoop we had COVID-19 symptoms, this didn't seem to have any effect on our experience. We'd like to see more from this in the ecosystem.
It also shows how useful even consumer wearables can be in tracking illness and recovery – but the idea of true early warning systems might still be some way off.