I have been on a bit of a gadget buying spree lately. Among the things I have picked up is something called a Whoop strap. Odd name for sure, but an interesting little device. Basically, you wear it on your wrist, and it measures your heart rate, the activities you perform, and sleep. From these and a few other indicators the app can determine your recovery, sleep needs, and ability to absorb fitness.
The reason I picked one up was to measure my sleep a bit more effectively. I wanted to know how much rest I was getting, and if I needed more. When you start to load up the hours getting ready for an Ironman, recovery is critical. I had heard some chatter about the Whoop strap from some athletes, and I decided to give it a go.
The actual Whoop strap is free, but you must commit to a subscription period. I went for the shorter plan of 6 months thinking if it works well, I will renew.
After wearing it for almost a month, I have a pretty good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. My original intent was something to track sleep, and this does a great job of that. It determines my wake up very accurately and gives a good breakdown on things such as hear rate variability and breathing rates. The app also isolates the types of sleep you have such as light or deep and how consistent you are with amount and bedtimes. Knowing this and the amount of quality I am getting has encouraged me to get to sleep earlier and at more consistent times. When I started wearing the strap, I was averaging just over 6 hours a night, but now I am getting closer to 8, a big difference.
Manual activity tracking works well, but I find it a little cumbersome because you have to do it through the app on your phone. The strap does autosense activities, but it has missed several sessions I put in. I believe the sensor looks for a period of elevated heart rate, and those are then processed as an activity such as running or cycling. Having the activities tracked is important when you are measuring recovery, so making sure they are in there is important.
The basis of the device is your heart rate. Being able to measure that is probably the most important thing for the product to do. In my side-by-side testing with a Garmin chest strap, I found the Whoop to be off by as much as 20 bpm during a workout. This is significant in my opinion. I also had issues swimming with the device. The heart rate was not read, and the strap seemed to have issues connecting to my phone afterwards. For resting periods though such as while you are sleeping, the heart rate measurements seem more accurate.
The software does a nice job of daily, weekly, and monthly analysis of strain and sleep. It keeps you on track for recovery and may help you to tailor your workouts alongside what your body can absorb. We have to know our limits, but sometimes the signals our body sends are very subtle. I say it a lot, “Everyday can’t be a new record”. More important though is that although we can build every day, it must be done the right way. Pushing yourself too far can set you back more than the gains you might think you are getting.
Would I recommend the Whoop strap? If you want to track your sleep, yes. There are other options out there, but this does a good job and provides some really nice analytics. If you are looking for something closer to a fitness tracker, I think there are better alternatives. It is important to use the right tool for the right job. This is meant to track strain and recovery not count steps or give you pace splits for a run. If you think your are overtraining, or want to prevent that, you may want to give this a look.