Ohlsen Optimizes His Recovery with the New pliability-WHOOP Integration
The 2023 CrossFit season doesn’t start heating up until February, but nine years of experience on the circuit has drilled into Noah Ohlsen the importance of recovering and recharging between seasons. How does an elite CrossFit athlete approach the offseason? What does he measure to ensure he’s on track for another year of record hunts and podium finishes? Ohlsen’s WHOOP and pliability data from late August 2022 offers us some clues.
RECOVERY: WITH MOBILITY VS. WITHOUT
Your WHOOP recovery score uses biometrics such as heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and sleep performance to quantify your body’s adaptation to stress and readiness to take on a new day. While a useful metric for anyone, the score is especially valuable for high-level athletes like Ohlsen who put their bodies through the ringer day after day, month after month, and season after season
As the graphs above show, even with similar strain and sleep scores, Ohlsen’s recovery can vary significantly from one day to the next. A key contributor to that fluctuation? Mobility work–which, for Ohlsen, is synonymous with pliability. “Multiple times a week, I’m using pliability, usually to recover from a full day of training,” he says.
On high strain days with no pliability routines, Ohlsen saw below average sleep performance (67%) and relatively low next-day recovery scores (34%). On high strain days with the addition of pliability routines, he saw the same sleep performance (67%), but markedly improved next-day recovery scores (67%).
Noah attributes those results to the physically restorative benefits of mobility work, as well as the calming effects of breathing, stretching, and tuning into his body.
SLEEP: WITH MOBILITY VS. WITHOUT
Sleep, as reported by WHOOP, is far more nuanced than your number of hours slept; it also encompasses your sleep stage breakdown, wake events, efficiency, and respiratory rate. As crucial as sleep is during championship season, it’s just as vital in the offseason, when athletes like Ohlsen are preparing to build on all the work they put in the season prior.
While Ohlsen’s total sleep increased by 13 minutes from days he didn’t do pliability to days that he did, his restorative sleep–which includes REM and deep sleep–showed an even bigger leap: 26% on no-pliability days versus 41% on pliability days. That’s a 15% increase in restorative sleep, the majority coming from a spike in slow wave (or deep) sleep, during which his body was restoring its muscular, cellular, and skeletal systems.
One reason Ohlsen may have achieved higher recovery scores despite the same sleep performance is his increased sleep quality. Because pliability taps into mobility, breathwork, and mindfulness, it can be helpful in downregulating your system before bedtime and priming your body for more restorative sleep.
Ohlsen’s experience supports that theory. He says, “Doing pliability right before getting in bed allows me to clear my mind, relax my body, calm my breath, and get into a much more relaxed state.”
THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT OF MOBILITY
As with all components of a training plan, mobility has a cumulative effect. When Ohlsen is consistent with his pliability practice, not only does his immediate recovery score improve; he’s also able to build upon those green recovery scores to yield even better recovery throughout the week.
The graph above illustrates the benefits of regular mobility work. Without pliability, Ohlsen’s recovery hovers in the yellow range, indicating that his body is in maintenance mode, neither requiring serious recovery nor demonstrating complete recovery. When he incorporates pliability routines, his recovery enters green territory, signaling that his body has bounced back and is ready to perform. And as he strings together consecutive days with pliability, Ohlsen’s recovery score continues to climb, ultimately peaking at 81%.
The importance of consistency has not been lost on Ohlsen. Referencing one of his best mobility streaks ever, he says, “When I was living in Georgia last season, I was staying by myself, and every night without fail, I’d do a pliability routine with the lights off literally right before I got in bed.” The effects were undeniable: Ohlsen relaxed harder, slept better, and recovered quicker–all things he’ll keep in mind as he ramps up for his 2023 campaign.
Whether you’re a CrossFit specialist, an endurance athlete, or an active parent, mobility–a person’s capacity for movement–matters. Measuring your mobility is the most effective way to understand your unique movement patterns and pinpoint areas to work on. Ohlsen utilizes pliability’s three-minute mobility test, as well as the personalized exercise plan he gets afterward, to ensure that his range of motion is trending in the right direction.
The screenshots above reveal that Ohlsen’s mobility score increased by six points between December 2021 and September 2022. Of all his joints, his hip mobility improved the most, while his right shoulder was flagged as needing improvement. By periodically retesting his mobility, Ohlsen is able to identify imbalances that he might otherwise miss, and orient his training accordingly.
“I’ve always had relatively good mobility,” Ohlsen says. “But as I’ve started to get a bit older–I’m 31 now–I’m incorporating pliability even more to keep myself from stiffening up. I know I need to spend more time making sure that everything stays nice and limber.”
WHOOP x pliability
Now that WHOOP and pliability have joined forces, current pliability users have the option to connect their WHOOP devices to their pliability accounts. Doing so will sync their WHOOP recovery scores and share suggested pliability routines based on day strain, recovery score, and resting heart rate.
If you’re not yet a WHOOP member, you can check it out here to get 30 days free.