These days, there are numerous options available in the market for fitness trackers. Many of them are reasonably priced and offer features like heart-rate monitoring and step counting. However, if you’re interested in obtaining more comprehensive information about your overall health and fitness, you will likely come across WHOOP, a tracker that is highly regarded by professional athletes in the MLB and NFL, as well as the CrossFit community.
With data tracking capabilities that include continuous monitoring of heart rate, sleep, recovery, and more, WHOOP, along with its accompanying app, arguably provides the most thorough analysis of your health data that is accessible to the average exerciser.
Until recently, the tracker had a price tag of $500. However, last month, the company revised their pricing strategy and now offers the tracker through a membership plan. Customers can subscribe for $30 per month for a minimum of 6 months to receive a strap and access to the app, where all collected data is analyzed and presented.
As a health writer and part-time trainer, I became curious about the insights into my fitness and training schedule that WHOOP might provide. Although I already follow a well-designed workout routine, I wondered if WHOOP’s data could assist me in strategically selecting my intense training days, enabling me to achieve personal records on days when my body was ready for peak performance and taking it easy on days when recovery was a priority. In the pursuit of journalistic integrity, I decided to put it to the test. Here’s what I uncovered.
There are numerous advantages to using WHOOP.
Resting Heart Rate and Heart-Rate Variability Tracking
WHOOP automatically monitors your resting heart rate (RHR) and heart-rate variability (HRV).
RHR is essentially the number of heartbeats per minute when you are completely relaxed, and it is typically used as a general indicator of overall health. Lower RHRs are usually associated with higher fitness levels and better cardiovascular health. (And for your information, Americans have the highest resting heart rates. Yikes!)
HRV measures the time interval between heartbeats and is often utilized by exercise physiologists to assist athletes in planning their training schedules. Higher HRVs are typically linked to better fitness and overall health. An increase in HRV from your baseline generally implies that you are ready to tackle a challenging workout. Conversely, a decrease in HRV may indicate that it’s a good idea to take a rest day.
Ideally, you want to observe your RHR decreasing and your HRV increasing as you engage in workouts and allow for recovery. In WHOOP’s app, you can actually track these changes over time. On days when your RHR is low and your HRV is high, the app recommends pushing yourself harder during training, as this signifies that your body is ready to perform at its best.
After following the app’s suggestions regarding the timing of higher-intensity training sessions, I did discover that I had a higher probability of experiencing an exceptional exercise session. (
Though numerous trackers keep record of your heart rate during workouts, I discovered that WHOOP was more precise than other ones I’ve experimented with. When I cross-verified my heart rate manually, I consistently arrived at the same number that the band was measuring, and I encountered no complications with perspiration or movement affecting the sensor reading. I believe it’s secure to assert that you can exert maximum effort in any workout, and the band will consistently and accurately measure your heart rate.
WHOOP utilizes all the accumulated heart-rate data to calculate a “strain” score for the day, which is essentially a gauge of how vigorously you exerted yourself on a scale from 1 to 21.
The application also provides an estimate of the number of calories you burn over the course of the day based on your height, weight, and heart rate. While this might not be entirely precise since everyone’s metabolism varies slightly, it serves as a great guideline for anyone curious about the appropriate amount of fuel they should be consuming to support their workouts, lose weight, or maintain their current physique.
It can also assist you in quantifying the impact of healthy lifestyle choices such as walking to work, opting to bike instead of using public transportation, or choosing to take the stairs. You’ll be able to observe exactly how many additional calories you burn when you engage in these activities, as well as how they may influence your recovery between workouts.
I discovered that my bike commute resulted in roughly half the strain of my gym sessions, and this undoubtedly attributed to my overall energy expenditure for the day.
Monitoring Sleep and Recovery
We understand that sleep and recovery are integral components of fitness. This implies getting sufficient sleep and allocating rest days when necessary. WHOOP analyzes your strain score and other data to not only inform you about the amount of sleep you need each night based on your activity level during the day, but also assesses the quality of your sleep and offers recommendations on how intensely you should exert yourself based on your sleep. (Heads up: Here’s what you need to know about the connection between sleep and exercise.)
Through the application, you can observe the amount of time you spend lying in bed compared to the actual duration of your sleep, the number of disturbances you experience during the night, the duration of each sleep stage, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to access all this information and gain a deeper understanding of how my sleep impacted my performance. I was surprised to discover that, for me, sleep quality holds significantly more importance than sleep quantity.
The application also indicates your level of “recovery” each day based on your HRV and sleep performance, which aids you in determining the amount of strain you desire to undertake.
Not only does the application keep you informed about your daily data, but it also allows you to examine average trends, which I found extremely valuable. For instance, while I don’t always achieve my recommended amount of sleep each night (I wish I did!), I do average around seven hours. That’s not terrible, and it finally settles the lingering question of whether or not I need to increase my sleep duration.
You can observe your average daily calorie burn, graphs depicting the fluctuation of your RHR and RHV over time, visual representations of the consistency of your sleep schedule, and more.
I adored dedicating time delving into my health data, and seeking out locations where I could enhance.
One of my preferred aspects of WHOOP is that you can wear it and do absolutely nothing else and still have all your information recorded for the day. You can essentially put it on and forget about it, if you desire.
You *have the option to* inform the WHOOP app that you’re about to start a workout or go to bed, but it’s not necessary. It actually determines it on its own based on your heart rate and movement. The band also records up to three days of data without being connected to your phone, so even if you’re offline or taking a break from your phone for a weekend, you can still utilize it.
You also don’t need to remove the strap to charge it, which is a significant improvement. Instead of missing out on data while it charges, all you have to do is slide the rechargeable battery on top of the strap. In my experience, the battery needs to be recharged once every three days, which is not bad compared to other trackers I’ve used.
Lastly, the strap is waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower, in the pool, or anywhere else.
No tracker is perfect for everyone, so here are a few aspects to consider that could be seen as disadvantages of WHOOP.
No Step Tracking
If counting steps is important to you, WHOOP isn’t the right choice. However, continuous heart-rate tracking is also an excellent indicator of your activity throughout the day, so for me, this wasn’t a big deal.
Depending on what you’re seeking in a tracker, you might be disappointed to learn that WHOOP doesn’t have a screen. Some people find this surprising for a higher-priced tracker.
But let’s be honest: You probably have your phone with you most of the time anyway, and the app displays your statistics much more clearly than any smartwatch screen could ever do.
The only time I truly want to see real-time stats from my tracker is during my workouts, so sometimes I’ll keep my phone open and visible so I can check my heart rate.
However, if you’re looking for a combination of a smartwatch and tracker that also allows you to respond to texts, control your headphones, and more, WHOOP probably isn’t the right choice.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a tracker and the other models you’re considering, WHOOP may or may not fit within your budget. If you’re considering a smartwatch with tracking capabilities, then WHOOP is likely within your expected price range. The new membership option definitely makes it more affordable, but $30/month can add up over time.
After using it for three weeks, I’m a supporter of WHOOP. Not only has it helped me determine my training days and adjust my rest days based on data, but it has also provided me with valuable insights into unexpected areas, such as my overall sleep quality and dietary needs. I also had the opportunity to observe how my body was affected by taking a much-needed rest day through improvements in sleep quality and changes in HRV.
Initially, I was skeptical about whether WHOOP was suitable for average fitness enthusiasts rather than just professional athletes.
But my main point was that if you enjoy delving into the intricate details of your health and fitness choices, you’ll probably adore using it.
If you want to be able to assess how effective the changes you’re making to your diet, sleep, recovery, and training actually are, WHOOP is a fantastic way to do that, because you’ll be able to observe how they’re impacting your Resting Heart Rate (RHR), Heart Rate Variability (HRV), sleep patterns, and recovery.
If you experiment with Whole30, for instance, while keeping the rest of your routine unchanged, you can search for indications in your sleep, recovery, and exertion scores to determine whether any changes are occurring in your body. Are you experiencing improved sleep? Exercising with greater intensity? Needing fewer days of rest?
If you try a new exercise class, you can evaluate how much more challenging or easier it was compared to your usual workout. For individuals who prioritize achieving results, being able to see this so concretely is pretty remarkable.
While basic fitness trackers definitely do the job, if you’re seeking a tracker that surpasses expectations, this is the one.