I’ve been using an Oura ring on and off for quite a while now—I’ve had it for a year and a half, though I admit that I’ve been a very sporadic user. Or I *was* a sporadic user, I should say. I’ve been wearing it steadily for a few months now, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that once I got used to having it on and using the app, it’s become a very useful / accurate measurement for me. And beyond the athletic, it’s been nifty for things like period tracking or sensing when I’m getting sick! However, it is potentially a bit more finicky than some of the other wearables out there, though I would argue it’s also a lot more convenient. Oura is an interesting one, because unlike many of the wearables that are popular right now, it’s not really marketed hard towards athletes. But I actually feel like it was a really good complement to my normal GPS watch and other fitness trackers.
Quick note: You may remember a few months ago, I did this post about wearables in general, with a few notes around the basics of using them and how worthwhile I found them in general. TL;DR before we get into the Oura specifics: If you’re not going to look at the information or actually act on said information (i.e if it tells you that your sleep is $hit any night you have more than 1 drink, are you actually going to cut back on drinking?) then any wearable isn’t worth it. If you’re actually going to take the information it gives you and use it to make (reasonable, thoughtful) changes, then it might just be the thing you need to actually start seeing positive changes happen. But it doesn’t magically solve the problems in your life for you. And it also shouldn’t be used in place of simply tuning in to your own body and thinking ‘how do I actually feel today?’ These devices aren’t perfect, and you shouldn’t distance yourself so much from your own feelings that you can’t tell if you’re tired unless you check an app.
OK, now that that’s cleared up, on with the Oura ring specifics!
The overall look + feel
It does take a bit to get used to wearing a very chunky ring, I have to admit. But at the same time, compared to watches or other wearables, it is the easiest to keep on for days at a time without really noticing it. I opted for the silver because that’s the color of most of my everyday jewelry (read: wedding ring and earrings) but if you wear a lot of gold, they do have a gold option. (And a black one, but I don’t love that finish if you’re a woman trying to blend it with the rest of your regular jewelry.)
I really like it as an all-day everyday wearable because it’s pretty damn subtle. I find watches and any wrist-based wearable to be annoying from both a fashion perspective and from a typing on a laptop perspective, and I *really* struggle with a wrist-based tracker that is in the same area my running watch needs to occupy. So, the ring is certainly the most elegant solution. And TBH, most people don’t even notice I’m wearing it. (Men would have this even easier, as it looks *just* like a plain wedding band that most men would wear. If I didn’t love my wedding ring, I would honestly swap it for an Oura ring and just wear that.)
It’s pretty comfortable as well, just like any normal chunky ring. The only downside is that at night, you can see the glow under it when it’s measuring, but it doesn’t light up the room or anything. I would just maybe take it off if I was having an intimate candlelit dinner and didn’t want to light up at the table.
It’s pretty easy to get started with the app, but there is one thing to note. If you’re an athlete, be honest about your objective if you want your readiness score to be smart. I messed this up, and it’s part of the reason I stopped using it for a while. When I revisited it, after a week of utter frustration, I realized my mistake. When you set the app up, you choose your goal. I had set it to ‘energy and productivity,’ because in my mind, I already have my athletic performance/training dialed, and I didn’t really need it to tell me anything about training. I was going to run that day’s mileage regardless.
While that still makes sense to me, it quickly became apparent that this was a dumb thing to tell the app I wanted, because pretty much every morning, I was greeted with a message that I really needed to chill the F out if I wanted to feel energetic and productive. Well, every day except for Tuesday, when it would tell me that my lack of movement on Monday (rest day) had turned me into a lump.
I switched it to ‘athletic performance’ as my focus, and lo and behold, I’m ready for almost every day, and by Monday morning, it’s suggesting I need a day to recover. It’s eerily synced to my training ebbs and flows, as it should be.
This is partially a case of imposter syndrome (‘I’m not a pro athlete’) rearing its ugly head, but it’s also the exact opposite (‘I already know what to do as an athlete, I need help as a human’). As cyclocross coach Adam Myerson once admonished me when I was debating signing up for ultra-beginner level in a MTB race, ‘Molly, you are not a beginner.’ Lesson learned: If you have goals in sport, you should set your Oura ring to improving athletic performance.
I’ve used the Oura app and HRV4Training in recent months and they read pretty similarly, so I’d say in terms of HRV, it’s quite accurate. It’s pretty good at recording workout activity as well, and it’s usually correct about what I’m doing. It doesn’t catch my strength training or my morning yoga routine though, which is surprising as they’re both a lot of movement. It’s pretty spot on with running, and it’s nice to have for walks since I don’t wear any other tracker when we’re out walking and I do like knowing how much we do!
Period tracking is compelling, as is the general use of body temp readings to predict if you’re getting sick. Honestly, I was amazed when I woke up one day last month feeling crappy only to check it and have it tell me that I was definitely sick thanks to a very elevated temperature reading overnight. It also uses your temperature to gauge where you are in your cycle, and it was actually fascinating to realize that my temp does stay elevated for half the month, then drops for two weeks pretty much like clockwork. If you’ve listened to me chat about this with Dr. Stacy Sims on the podcast, you know I have an IUD and don’t have a real period bleed most months, so it’s been impossible for me to track my cycle until now, so this is A Big Deal.
As I said at the top of this—any wearable is only as good as the data you’re putting into it. I admit I still fall a bit short of this and don’t use tags as much as I should, but it’s great to be able to look back and correlate things like crappy sleep and drinking, or really heavy training weeks and how smoked I am. It’s a nice way to see how my training is trending, but more important, it’s great to really see how eating late impacts my sleep, or things like that. Sure, we usually *know* that to some extent, but seeing it in black and white makes it more real, and makes me more likely to make smart choices.
Now, I don’t really use it to tweak my training, particularly not on the daily. In fact, most wearable experts, even the ones who work for the places, will point out that it’s not meant to dissuade you from doing your workout if you work with a coach and the idea is to be doing the second long run of the weekend a teensy bit tired. (For me, most Sundays, my readiness score is a little low and it suggests taking it easier, but that’s the point of my training—the Sunday long run is supposed to be a bit of a push, and then we’re onto a recovery day on Monday.) So you do need to take the readiness with a grain of salt and use it intelligently.
I assume most people reading there are using a training plan or have a coach—if you’re just training recreationally, then this might actually be a good tool, but if you have a goal that you’re working towards, I’d say stay the training course…. with a caveat that if you’re seeing tanked scores for several days and you feel like crap, talk to your coach! The training plan may need some adjusting. And for me, I did use it to alter my training when it told me I was getting sick, but that was mainly because I also felt like I was sick and unable to train—still, the Oura ring was helpful there because I was able to check in to see when my fever was done and when my HRV was trending positively again. It was actually spookily accurate in terms of how it told me I was feeling versus how I actually felt in that case!
A few quick tips for picking and using your Oura ring:
The fit kit is SO important
You don’t just order your ring size, Oura sends you a fit kit of all the size options. Take this VERY seriously. Wear the different sizes all day, overnight, even for multiple days, to figure out the size you need. I took this a little too casually, and the end result is that I have a ring that fits… but not on the finger I had wanted to wear it on. (I was hoping to have it on my middle finger on my right hand, instead, it’s on my middle finger on my left hand since it’s slightly smaller—not ideal, since it’s right against my wedding ring and I don’t wear other jewelry so it feels like a bit much.)
Set up your charger in the bathroom
This is a great tip from my friend Hannah—put your charger in the bathroom so that when you’re showering (or even just washing your hands vigorously!), you can pop it on the charger for a few minutes. It doesn’t take much to keep the ring charged, and it’s better to not have it on when your hands are wet in order to avoid pruny-ness. It also guarantees you never get to bedtime only to realize that it’s not charged enough to make it through the night.
Dry your hands with care
I cannot stress this enough, your skin under the ring will get pruny if you don’t take time to dry underneath it and let your skin breath. This is why using your shower time to charge it is a smart idea, but even when drying your hands after washing, make sure to shift the ring up and dry that area.
Pick one or two metrics to track
I get really excited about gear like this but abandon it when I’m busy or it stops being new and shiny. I know this about myself, and I’m betting a lot of you are just like me in this regard. So, pick very, very few things to focus on. For me, it’s tagging any night I have a drink, and making sure that my workouts are accurately reflected. That’s it. Eventually, I’d like to tag things like travel, but I find that it’s better for me to focus on just the one thing rather than trying to put my life story in there.
OK, want to try out an Oura ring? It’s pricey but I do think if you’re looking for a good wearable, this is a great option. I paid full price for mine, and I don’t have any affiliate skin in the game here… but if you want to get $50 off, you can use my referral link (it’s the one that all Oura users have in the app, not even a sexy affiliate one!).