I mentioned it in my Five Things email 2 weeks ago about how I just started using a Whoop strap along with my training and since I started it I have received many questions about it. What is Whoop? What does it tell you? And the ever-popular, should I get one? It is very easy to get caught up in gimmicks and I think it is my job as a strength and conditioning coach to recommend or not recommend products to my athletes. So I started testing it and here is where I stand.
Now before I go any further I should first say what a Whoop strap is. Whoop is very different from your typical fitness watch or other wearable technology. Whoop is not a GPS nor does it tell you the time. Whoop is strictly a monitor your sleep, heart rate variability (HRV), and what they call your strain (more on that later). The most important of these being your HRV. HRV, or heart rate variability, is a reflection of the health of your nervous system. HRV is a measurement of the variation of time intervals between heartbeats. HRV can be a predictor of strokes or heart attacks, influences sleep, and can be used to monitor overtraining in athletes. I won’t dive into the weeds too much with HRV as it is a very very complicated subject but I encourage those that are interested to check out www.thereadystate.com/blog/heartratevariability for more information. Besides HRV, Whoop also grades your sleep. This is something I am very interested in. I can track my sleep patterns and by getting asleep and recovery scores I can use that to dictate how hard I will put in today’s workout or if I do poorly on a workout I can use that sleep score as a way to see why I did poorly. And finally, it gives you a “strain” score. Strain is a measurement between 0 and 21 that measures the total cardiovascular load experienced for a day. What I like about Whoop is that it uses all three scores to give you recommendations throughout the day, week, and even month to help reach your fitness potential. It gives you an idea about when to rest and when to give an all-out effort. By looking at my sleep and recovery score I can match my strain on that day. Again, if I slept poorly last night I know that too much cardiovascular strain would not be recommended on that day as that could lead to an injury. What I like about Whoop is it spends the first week calibrating itself to you. It doesn’t give you recommendations until about a week in. This tells me that it is measuring and tailoring to me and not some generic fitness model created in a lab. Whoop offers me a ton of training data that I can use to help me reach my fitness goals.
Now with that said, the big question on most people’s minds is, Should I buy one? Here are the pros of having one. Like I said you can track your HRV, you can track your sleep and you can track your recovery. By tracking these you can have an idea of the best way to perform that day. If you are a competitive athlete these are all quality metrics to track. I am encouraging all my competitive people to purchase one and track these metrics and I can as well when they join our team. The reason for this is when I am programming for them I can not only look at their times on Sugarwod but also compare them to actual data to see if we need to set a de-load week or increase our training output to help the get to the next level. So if you are very competitive I would say this tool is very valuable. With that said this, like anything else, is a tool and you shouldn’t become reliant on that tool. You should still listen to your body, you should still push your limits when needed and not let some wearable piece of technology dictate how hard you go today. Many world records were set without this tool so do not become a slave to the technology. If you are an everyday athlete who is working out to remain fit and are not all that competitive I would say this is not the tool for you. Even though your Apple Watch or Samsung Watch is not as accurate they provide similar data without having to pay the monthly subscription fee. If you choose to not use wearable technology, you will be fine without it. In many cases, this is data just to have data. In the end, it’s what you do with the data that dictates your health and not the other way around. If you are not competitive I would not suggest any wearable technology and let your body do the talking. If you feel like crap, take a day off. If you feel great come in and throw down as hard as you can. That will dictate your fitness level, not some watch or wearable tech.
Now I am a nerd when it comes to my profession. I love finding new and inventive ways that I can help my athletes grow both in and out of the gym. Wearable technology is the latest craze and it is helpful in some ways but I do believe it creates slaves to the technology in some circles. Whoop is no different. You have to decide what kind of athlete you are. Are you someone who is always looking for any edge on the competition, then this strap will be a useful tool for you, as long as you actually use the data and not just have it. If you are an athlete who is just looking to be fit for life then spending $30 every month may be overrated. Either way, this tool is a tool and in the end, it’s you who dictates your training, not some piece of technology.