With the advent of power meters that don't cost the price of your left kidney, smart trainers that can calculate watts to a comprehensive degree, and cyclists’ motivation to continually get faster and ride for longer, even Joe Ever-rider and Jane Cafe-racer have become more data-savvy — most people know their FTP, what watts/kilo means, why it's essential, and have a general idea of how to improve both.
With the improvements in how we measure and understand effort on the bike, most riders still measure recovery by feel. Yes, metrics like ATL (acute training load) and CTL (chronic training load) correlate to fatigue and fitness, but both are weighted averages that don't directly measure or quantify what is happening inside your body. Neither metric factors in if you had a stressful week at work or a new puppy kept you up all night—both of which can affect your training.
WHOOP is a sleek, unobtrusive 24/7 heart-rate monitor that offers actionable insights based not only on your training, sleep, and recovery but also on the stressors that come with everyday life. Founded in 2012, WHOOP was initially developed as a tool for professional athletes. Two of the early adopters were Lebron James and Michale Phelps, and it's still utilized by the likes of Alex Howes, Lachlan Morton, Lawson Craddock, and the rest of the EF Education-Nippo World Tour team.
While WHOOP is far from the only activity tracker to offer around-the-clock heart-rate data and information on sleep stages, the WHOOP Strap 3.0 records between 50-100Mb of information 24/7, or about 100 readings per second, every second you're wearing the device. For reference, most other activity trackers that offer 24/7 heart-rate data will take readings anywhere from once a minute, to once every half an hour.
Designed to be worn all the time, WHOOP offers bands, hooks and clasps in a wide variety of color pallets to switch up your look. We've got our eye on the new black and white splatter strap and the oil slick hook and clasp. The battery lasts about five days, and the charging pack slides over the device while it’s on your wrist, so you won’t have any gaps in your data.
The third generation strap is Bluetooth Low-Energy equipped, so you can maintain a connection with the companion app on your phone while also broadcasting live HR data to your head unit or indoor training app like Zwift or TrainerRoad.
On The Pulse
Over the course of your day, WHOOP quantifies your HR data by using a Strain Score from 0-21, which not only accounts for your pre-work trainer session but also when your heart rate spiked just before the start of that big presentation you've been working on for months. The built-in gyroscope and accelerometer in the band can automatically detect when you start moving and go to sleep, so there is no need to press play—though the app does allow you to start and stop activities manually, so you can track GPS and push activities to Strava too.
Of course, strain is only part of the equation; recovery is of equal importance to your fitness and overall health. The WHOOP Strap 3.0 uses patented algorithms to track, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep, and respiratory rate to develop your recovery score and sleep score. Each of these metrics is influenced by factors like exercise, stress, caffeine, alcohol intake, diet—a host of other factors beyond just your time on the bike and what time you went to bed. With the WHOOP Journal in the app, you can log whether or not you followed a plant-based diet, how many coffees or beers you drank, whether or not you felt equipped to take on the day, and to see what effect your lifestyle choices had on your sleep and recovery.
With the strap measuring your heart rate, HRV, and respiratory rate as you sleep, when you wake up in the morning, it will also tell you not only how long you slept but the amount of time spent in light, REM, and SWS (slow wave, deep sleep) as well. Plus, the number of times you woke up throughout the night.
WHOOP can also track your respiratory rate as you sleep, which serves as a decent indicator of whether or not you're about to get sick. When you're healthy, even if you're exhausted and not recovering well, your respiratory rate will remain in a consistent range. If there is a drastic jump, it usually means something is out of equilibrium, and it's a good idea to prioritize rest and maybe to stock up on tissues.
When it comes to accuracy as a sleep tracker, the WHOOP Strap 3.0 has been tested against polysomnography by the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences and was within one beat-per-minute and respiration-per-minute of the lab equipment used adhering a clinical sleep study—which is to say, it’s very accurate.
While the WHOOP app—available via both mobile and desktop device—will allow you to dive deep into your heart-rate data, the platform also presents data in an easily digestible format.
It takes a few weeks of wearing the strap to amass enough data that the algorithm can establish your baselines in order to provide recommendations personalized to your training load and help you walk that razor-thin line between optimal strain and overtraining.
When you open the Strain Coach in the app, it will show you how much strain you can accumulate to ensure that your training is productive without under or overreaching based on your recovery from the previous night.
The Sleep Coach, on the other hand, provides nightly recommendations on when you should go to bed to facilitate the best possible recovery, taking into account sleep and wake times based on your performance goals, recent strain and recovery. Provided you've been wearing WHOOP long enough to establish baselines, the app will know your Sleep Latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep), and recommend what time you should hit the sack in order to achieve the rest required to peak, perform, or just get by.
The app, available for both iOS and Android, allows you to set up a weekly performance schedule, so you can ensure you’re peaking for Zwift Racing League's Tuesday events or for your Sunday morning hell ride. They’ll even send you a push notification to make sure you don't get overly sucked into Netflix and miss your bedtime because you were binge watching Riverdale.
While your daily strain, recovery, and sleep scores offer a sneak peek into what's happening inside your body, WHOOP also generates Weekly and Monthly Performance Assessments detailing the overall balance of your strain, recovery, and sleep, and quantifies that against WHOOP Journal entries related to alcohol, stress, travel and several other possibilities.
A WHOOP subscription costs as little as $18 per month when you pre-pay for an 18-month subscription. Best part is, the WHOOP Strap 3.0 is included for free when you sign up.
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