The new Whoop strap is a sport’s physiologist on your wrist
The Whoop is, in essence, a heart rate monitor (HRM) you wear 24/7. Big whoopee, you say. Yes, HRMs are as common as bums these days, but the Whoop is different and immensely more powerful than the vast majority of today’s HRMs, thanks primarily to the smart software that interfaces through an app on your mobile.
In short, the Whoop takes the immense amount of heart-rate data collected over days, weeks and months and helps you tune your training and your daily routine to maximise performance and increase cardiovascular fitness.
How the Whoop Helps Guide Your Fitness
A lot of information can be extrapolated by knowing your heart rate 24/7. The Whoop can establish the pattern of your resting heart rate (RHR). It can evaluate sleep quality and quantity (with some input from you) by auto detecting when you nod off and wake up. Of course, it can gauge cardiovascular training load during exercise and consequent calorie burn. And thanks to heart rate variation (HRV) – the indiscernible variations in the time between heat beats – it can measure the efficacy of your recovery and to a degree your well-being. Put all this together, and the Whoop can chart your training load, your sleep patterns and the recovery time needed before training again, ideally guiding you to optimum training and increased fitness.
Why the Whoop?
Traditionally, optimising training load was part science and part intuition. Athletes and their coaches used periodisation and taper, rest days, variance of training loads, and their gut instinct to achieve a positive gradient in cardiovascular fitness. Whoop attempts to replace this with hard data. It pushes the collected HR data (processed in the cloud) through some clever algorithms giving you the trackable metrics of Recovery, Strain and Sleep delivered as scores.
Setting up the Whoop
The Whoop is simple to set up but understanding Whoop’s interface and how to maximise your routine to increase fitness is the challenging part, at least it was for me. The idea is to engage in enough demanding training to cause a load on the cardiovascular system, then give yourself the nutrients and rest to maximise the recover from that load.
The Whoop uses your personal metrics – age, gender, weight etc – and the length of your workout plus your heart rate during exercise to find a “Strain” score. Like a “Suffer” score on Strava, the Whoop quantifies how hard you worked your heart.
It then applies a Strain Score to the whole day, presumably using your sleep metrics and your HRV to establish your recovery score. By manipulating these scores (training harder, sleeping more) you can guide your training to peak performance on race day.
Does the Whoop suit you?
The Whoop would be best suited to serious distance athletes, like runners or triathletes but can be used by just about everyone into fitness because its biggest advantage is it makes you accountable. It’s 24/7, so like Santa, it sees when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake, and it knows when you train and how hard. So the Whoop becomes like a silent trainer, watching, sometimes disapprovingly as you negate sleep and binge for one more episode at 11.45 pm.
What’s it cost and is it worth it?
Whoop is essentially a subscription service with the strap thrown in for free. There’s are a few options but it works out pretty cheaply for what it offers. And its power doesn’t come from one workout, but the data gathered over a considerable time. The longer you use it, the better you will understand your body. With information, comes power. Find out more here