Whoop is a fitness wearable (not a GPS watch) that’s all about recovery. This product is designed exclusively to give runners insights into their everyday habits and how they’re affecting training. This is the training companion that has no clue how far you ran (and it doesn’t care) but what it does know is how your body reacted to that day’s effort.
Three pillars of training
Whoop is based on three pillars of training: sleep, strain and recovery. Sleep is monitored through the strap and can tell you everything about your night’s rest from your stages of sleep to quality of sleep to how to improve it. One cycle is measured from the moment you wake up to the moment you wake up again the following day, as opposed to a 24-hour clock.
A product expert at Whoop says that their sleep tracker is the best wearable on the market. “We studied this sleep tracker against a PSG (polysomnography) in a lab. Our stages of sleep and our ability to detect the start and end of sleep are the best on the market. The strap detects the exact same stages of sleep as the PSG [the gold standard of sleep testing]. This comes from accurately measuring heart rate and pulse rate.”
Heart rate monitor
The heart rate is monitored through the wearer’s wrist, rather than their chest, making it possible to have the strap on at all times. While historically heart rate readings have been most accurate through a wearable chest strap, Whoop says their wrist-based monitor produces similar results. Whoop uses a PPG-based measurement (which stands for photoplethysmography) over an ECG, which is more accurate. PPG measures arterial volume (the blood flow to and from your arm), whereas ECG is a measurement based on the electrical activity of your heart. Both are commonly used to measure heart rate but Whoop feels that PPG is better for a product worn on the wrist.
A runner’s strain measurement is a function of their work and subsequent recovery. The workload is measured through heart rate and the recovery is measured through sleep and HRV.
Whoop looks at recovery partly through heart rate variability (HRV). HVR is the time between your heart beats, which is a marker of your body’s ability to self-regulate. Your body has a rest-and-relaxation zone and an action zone. HRV allows your body to switch effectively between each system. One thing that can negatively effect HRV is alcohol, which can significantly decrease a runner’s recovery score.
Strain is then determined via the 0 to 21 Borg Scale.
Why Whoop over another GPS watch?
Whoop was initially developed in 2015 with elite athletes in mind. It was never meant to be a smart watch – it was always focused on learning more about the wearer’s body and optimizing performance through improved recovery. Whoop says they’re different for several key reasons: “We measure more things, more often and more accurately. We don’t have lights, we don’t vibrate, we don’t buzz. We don’t deliver text messages. This is all about recovery.”
Things to keep in mind
As runners wear their Whoop for longer, it’ll get to know them and their habits better, which will provide them with more accurate insights into their health. After four days, the Whoop should have an idea of your daily activity levels and assess your strain accordingly. After one month of wear, the strap will recalibrate and provide you with a monthly performance assessment, which will give insights into your training, and show where you’re recovering well and where you could improve.
The recovery rings (which are colour-coded based on how well you’ve recovered) only appear on day four. They function like traffic lights: green means you’re in the clear to work out, yellow means you should proceed with caution and consider slowing down that day and red means that you probably could use an extra recovery day.
This is a subscription-based service. For $30 per month, runners have access to the strap and everything the app has to offer. This strap is for the runner who wants to get every bit of potential out of their body. While the data can be a little overwhelming at first, some of the insights can lead to quick fixes which will make for huge training improvements long term. A full review of the Whoop strap is coming later this month.