There are a lot of devices out there that are meant to improve our quality of life. Often, that means something telling us what to do and when to do it. As I thought about who the Whoop strap is for, I believe it comes down to those who can benefit from the digital nudge, and that is not everyone.
I’ve put reminders on Instagram to tell me when to close the app after a while, but often I ignore them. My Apple screen time warning tells me every Sunday how much time I spent on my phone, and on which apps. Usually I ignore those too.
And most recently—at least several times per week, the Whoop app reminds me to go to bed early if I want to be at peak performance the following day, or to review my sleep from the previous night, or that I appear to be more tired than usual and should rest. Guess what. I often ignore those notifications too.
It’s not your fault, Whoop. You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to; guiding me along a path of improved athletic performance. The problem though, is that I am just a regular guy with a full-time schedule, a house, a dog and wife to care for, and like so many others, a lot of stuff that trips someone up on their path.
I describe myself as an active person. In the summer, I mountain bike around four times per week and run or do some sort of resistance training on top of that. And though I believe I’m fit and active, I am not necessarily who the Whoop strap is made for or whom it works best for. First though, let’s go into what the Whoop is.
What’s a Whoop?
The Whoop strap is a device about the size of a watch that can be worn in a few places on the body, but the wrist seems to be the most popular. The Whoop strap monitors resting and active heart rate and heart rate variability, skin temperature, and blood oxygen levels. The device and app are centered on giving the wearer a better idea of their recovery with the Strain Monitor.
This is ideal for those who regularly compete in athletic events, but Whoop says the device is for much more, and can give people their optimal amount of sleep time, wake them up after an optimal night’s sleep, tell them how many calories they’ve burned in a day, or record a workout to monitor heart rate and calories burned.
This is a broad description of the main features, but it gets deeper since you can pinpoint your heart rate and learn what your perfect workout is on any given day. My favorite feature has probably been sleep monitoring and within a few minutes of waking up, you can find out how much you slept and the quality of sleep down to REM, deep sleep, and light sleep.
I started wearing the Whoop in the middle of August as the company approached me about a review. Excited as I was to learn about something that has gained quite a bit of buzz, my fitness goals have been a bit aimless this year. I didn’t have any races on the calendar and my goals were simply to stay fit enough for some mountain bike trips and backcountry rides. Still, I was excited about what the Whoop could teach me about my body that I didn’t know.
First came sleep. The first morning after wearing it, I thumbed through my sleep data, learning that I don’t really get as much REM and deep sleep as I assumed — typically three to four hours a night, followed by the same amount of light sleep. It also tells the wearer how many times per hour they woke up and what their respiratory rate is through the night.
Whoop asks a lot of questions about you during the app setup. Do you have a cat in the room while sleeping, are you on a certain diet, do you use alcohol or marijuana regularly, etc? Considering these factors can all affect sleep quality, and that sleep is the most important thing one can do to aid recovery, it shouldn’t be surprising.
Sleep analysis is readily available every morning after waking up. I enjoy reviewing the info, but got annoyed answering the diary notes about diet/alcohol/spending time outside/etc every morning, though answers can be saved and the diary can be turned off. There were also times when I knew I was awake at night and the Whoop assumed I was in some stage of sleep giving me the impression that I slept more than I did.
Whoop asked me about my favorite sports upon setup and it always had a good sense of when I rode without having to manually record the ride, however that can be done too. It did get some workouts mixed up, like if I went for a run and it assumed it was a ride. The analyses for the workouts are pretty concise and show the calories burned, the average and max heart rate, and the duration.
The numbers and graphs can be exciting early on but the novelty wears off after a bit and I became dismissive of the data and alerts after some time. Life gets in the way of a lot of things and I usually swiped the notifications off my screen when it told me I could use more sleep or to plan to go to bed soon for peak performance when it was only 6 or 7 p.m. Much of the Whoop’s success with every individual will likely depend on their goals and stages of behavior change depending on their goals. The Whoop does a great job, if you’re relying on the data.
But there is also following a good ol’ fashioned training plans with built-in rest days. These may not be cheap and depending on the level of personalization or the need for a coach, they really aren’t cheap. But I’ve followed a general periodized training program sans computers with built-in rest periods and achieved my weekend-warrior goals on major races.
Outside of the app
For something that needs to be worn all day, the Whoop is comfortable and mostly unnoticeable. The strap can get a little sweaty, but it vents well and dries quickly. Changing the strap—necessary after a while, can take more time than one would assume.
Whoop says the battery can last up to five days. It might be able to. On average, I’ve been charging it every three to four days though. Charging is done through an external charger which also needs to be charged by USB-C. This makes it possible to charge the Whoop while wearing it, but it can feel circular charging one thing to charge another.
One way it surely saves battery life is by skipping a display altogether. There are some smart watches out there that offer similar sleep and fitness tracking features and more, but they usually require more frequent charging. I occasionally got questions why I was wearing two watches—my classic Casio and the Whoop, which obviously isn’t a watch, but I didn’t mind wearing it. As wearables have become more common, it’s easy to assume what the Whoop is.
Lastly, let’s go over pricing. I’ve had a media sample of the Whoop and haven’t had to pay, but the subscription model would be a deterrent for me and one reason to consider a smart watch, even with a larger upfront cost.
Whoop gives people three options for purchasing, all without paying for the unit itself:
- A 24 month membership for $20/month. Whoop asks for this with one $480 payment to start.
- An annual membership for $25/month. Whoop asks for this with one $300 payment to start.
- Or, an actual $30 monthly membership with a 12 month minimum. Still, this works out to $360 per year.
The costs are obviously not cheap but at least there are options for those who would rather pay a pricier upfront cost or a cheaper monthly cost.
I’ve really enjoyed using the Whoop strap. I like to know how many calories I’ve burned in a workout or on a given day (my average expenditure was about ~2,000 on an inactive day versus 3-4,000 after a mountain bike ride), and the Whoop is a useful tool for those who need reminders to rest or want to optimize their recovery.
That said, there are of course ways to train and recover without the Whoop and I believe much of the practicality and impact of the Whoop will depend on the individual’s goals and stage of motivation. But for people who may not be as accustomed to training or who don’t understand how crucial sleep is for recovery and how crucial recovery is for performance gains, the Whoop makes it easier to understand. And for those who regularly compete—like several times per year — they should find it an easy tool and assistant to incorporate into their training.
- Price: $20-30 per month
- Buy from whoop.com.
- Makes fitness tracking fun, easy
- So much info about your body
- Comfortable to wear anywhere
- Decent battery life
Pros and cons of the Whoop 4.0 Strap
- Buyers choose either a large upfront cost and renewal, or a higher monthly cost
- Reminders, journals can be annoying
- Sleep data isn’t always accurate