WHOOP: A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO FITNESS
So What Has 30 Days on the Whoop Shown Me?
by Oscar Parada
I've been a fitness junkie for over 15 years now. My fitness adventures have taken me from learning how to run 1 mile without throwing up (I really did throw up after my first, non-stop, mile rule) to working out in LA Fitness to anything else that I could find under our sun. But the Kool-Aid that I've been drinking, and have been drinking for the past 5 years, has been none other than CrossFit. With all the great benefits that come with doing CrossFit there is a very dark side to it. No...I'm not talking about how some people see CrossFit as a cult (it kinda is if you really think about it). I'm talking about the Money Pit that has become the world of CrossFit. Just Google the phrase "crossfit gear" and you're presented with countless links from anything from footware to apparel to wrist wraps to hand gloves that prevent your hands from ripping. Heck, there's even skincare for athletes (w.o.d.welder comes to mind)!
Even technology has managed to stampede it's way in to bite a piece of the fitness cheese. Below are just a FEW of the tech products that are currently out there for us to throw our money at:
So I'm sure you know by now that I have invested in, or thrown my money at, the WHOOP Strap 2.0. Now I'm no super athlete. I'm not training for the Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii. At the same time I wasn't looking to see how many steps I can walk in a day. That just doesn't cut it for someone like me. You could walk 100,000 steps but where is the intensity?!? I was looking for something that would tell me why I'm so tired on some days and on other days I felt that I gave it my 110%. I wanted to find a way to optimize my fitness game and after months of research...I had decided that the WHOOP was my finalist.
So what is WHOOP?
The WHOOP is a lightweight (less than an ounce) and waterproof band that can be worn on either arm. It's meant to be worn 24 hours and I can tell you that there are times in where I forget that I even have it on. This is NOT a step counter or an activity tracker. This small looking sensor, which has an accelerometer, measures what WHOOP calls Day Strain, Recovery, and it auto-detects sleep (oh yeah...how cool is that).
Below are screen shots from the WHOOP Android app displaying my Daily Strain. For those of you who are noticing...yes! I am at the box THAT early in the morning. For me, it's the best way to get your day moving.
Now I'm not going to be getting into all of the technical stuff regarding the algorithm that goes into calculating your daily strain. For that, you can go to the WHOOP main site in where they give you a TON of information regarding HRV measurements, heart rate, and so much more. What I can say is that this little guy has really opened my eyes as to how HARD I've gone on my workouts. From the screen shot above...10/3 was by far the hardest day I've trained. You can see that I have the option to specify the type of workouts that I do. This app does allow you to chose from a large list of activities but if there's something that your doing, let's sky diving, that's not on that list then you can select other as an option and then enter specific information as to what you did. Keep in mind that the Android app version does not allow you to enter any kind of input regarding your workout as compared to the Apple app. That information you can enter it when you log onto your WHOOP account (I'll get into that in a moment).
You see that each activity has been specifically categorized with the strain calculated, the time during which I was doing each activity, and how many calories where burned during the entire day. We can even take my strain data a little further by diving even deeper for each activity to see specific information as to your Avg HR vs your Max HR, the calories you burned during that activity, and how long you were at it.
The Day Strain is an measure for understanding how your body is responding to the demands of daily life and NOT just your workouts.
Now the next piece of information that the WHOOP records, and which has been pretty much an eye opener for me, is my Recovery. This information is calculated mostly by how much sleep I got that night, my resting heart rate (RHR), and my heart rate variability (HRV). Now I can be the first to tell you that I am not one who gets a lot of sleep. I've known that for over a decade. On average, I get anywhere from 4 - 5 hours of sleep. BUT...when you actually see this data presented in front of you it really makes you realize the value that is sleep. Now the company states that the device automatically measures the heart rate variability of a person as well as their resting heart rate every night and came up with a very easy to see approach to get a great understanding of how well my body will respond to either a high or low strain for the day.
So as you can see from the screen shot below...my recovery was at 63% based on the amount of sleep I got the night before and the strain I had the day before. In case you were wondering, I got just under 5 hours of sleep and my strain for the day before was registered in at 14.5. This meant that I could have a pretty hard strain during my workouts and my body should be able to withstand the load.
I'm still trying to understand how the WHOOP measures my recovery because there are some days in where I feel that I got a good amount of sleep yet my recovery is clocked in around 50% and there are other days in where I felt like I could use another 2 hours of sleep but yet the WHOOP tells me that I am primed for a kick ass day. Again, this is something that I'm still trying to wrap my head around but so far I am getting a good grasp regarding my recovery data.
The last piece of information that the WHOOP tracks is sleep. This is the data that I am most interested in because I know sleep is one of those things that I know for a fact that I do not get a lot of. The WHOOP takes into account the following metrics:
Time in Bed - total amount of time that you have dedicated to sleep
Hours of Sleep - the amount of actual sleep
Number of Disturbances - small moments in where your sleep was interrupted but you do not remember them at all
Latency - this is known as the amount of time it takes for you to actually fall asleep
Sleep Cycle - not going to get into too much of this metric but apparently there are 4 stages in the sleep progress
So based off of the screen shot below I got just under 5 hours of sleep. I also had one disturbance during that night, which is indicated by the sudden spike in my HR around 2:15 AM and it took me less than 5 minutes to fall asleep. This is information that I never thought could be recorded and it's awesome!
To the Cloud!!!
Now this information is no good if you can see it one something other than your phone. Thankfully this information gets sent to the WHOOP's cloud and you can access that information via the web interface. All the information that is captured is displayed for you in a very easy to understand way. The thing I love is that, just like in the app, you can drill down even further to see your recorded activities for that day.
This screen shows you your heart rate and resting heart rate throughout the day. You can change the time span from 1 day to 6 months.
Snapshot of an Activity
You can drill down to one particular activity and see what your max hear rate is and how it compares to your heart rate from last week. It also tells you what percentage of your max heart rate you were locked it. Giving you a sense of how hard you brought it.
Snapshot of My Strain over a 2 Week Period
If you notice the week of Sunday, Sept. 24, how I had little to almost no strain. That's because I was recovering from a kidney stone episode and it was because of that stupid stone that I was not able to work out. Amazing the comparison to the week prior and after right?!?!
Snapshot of your Sleep
The data taken from your phone is transformed into this graph that really dives into detail how great, or not great, your sleep really was.
So with all this awesome stuff that the WHOOP captures...is it worth the big investment?
I personally think so. Again, I'm no super athlete but this information has definitely opened my eyes as to how my body responds to stress. I can honestly say that on mornings in where I feel that I was not at my 100% I take a look at my readings and I can see, and now understand, why I was dogging it through my workouts (mostly because I was not getting enough sleep).
I also love how you never have to take this thing off to charge. The rechargeable battery pack easily slips onto the sensor and you can take a shower and even go swimming with it on. You do get about a day to a day and a half of battery life before you have to slip the battery pack. One thing I am worried about, and I feel as though it's just a matter of time, is when I misplace (which has happened) or lose the battery pack. If that happens you would have to go to WHOOP and purchase a new one. Not sure if shelling out extra for an extra pack would be a good idea but for now I've been pretty good as to where I store it.
Should you buy it?!?! Some people will say 'No'. They will start talking about how there are other better alternatives for half the price...and they are probably right. They'll even say that this is not for the casual athlete. What's considered a casual athlete? I do CrossFit, run, and at times swim. That's a TON more than what most people do but am I still considered a 'casual athlete'? For what this little thing captures and what if gives you...I think it's worth it. Especially for someone like me who really values health and fitness and doesn't give a $h!t if I hit 10,000 steps.
Let us know what you think below. Do you see it as worth an investment?
Does Nike and TomTom have a watch that can keep track?
This person does.