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Unofficial Review: WHOOP Fitness Tracker

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Often lost in the shuffle of physical fitness is the concept of proper recovery. We spend time in the gym lifting or doing cardio work, grinding away trying to hit new personal records or lose a few pounds. We try to eat right. But how many of us actually care about our recovery, specifically sleep, and the quality of it?

Athletic recovery is one of the primary focuses of the WHOOP strap, one of the many fitness trackers now available to consumers. The WHOOP, in particular, is a favorite of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and several others on the PGA Tour. While my golfing abilities will never match those of Rory or JT, I invested in a WHOOP strap near the beginning of 2020 and have had just over a month to put it through its paces as a 24/7 fitness tracker.

NOT JUST ANOTHER TRACKER

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I’ve used a wearable fitness tracker or pedometer in some form for almost five years now, but I’ve never found them to be very useful in my day-to-day life. As an early riser, the driving factor for the purchases of my most recent straps (the Xiaomi Mi Band and the Xiaomi Mi Band 2) was their ability to be used as a soundless, vibration alarm clock so as to not wake my wife. While the Mi Band 2 is capable of heart rate monitoring, I have never used the feature for any meaningful purpose.

The WHOOP strap is different in that while it collects heart rate data, it does so much more frequently than other fitness trackers, around 100 times per second. The metrics and recommendations the app creates are based around these measurements. WHOOP specifically looks at resting heart rate, heart rate variability and sleep. From those metrics it determines a bunch of statistics, such as daily strain, calories burned, sleep need, sleep efficiency, and an overall recovery status. 

Another major thing setting WHOOP aside from other trackers is its pricing model. While the band is “free,” month-to-month subscriptions start at $30, and the initial commitment is for six months. There are plenty of referral codes available online for a free first month, but you are looking at a minimum $150 investment. Once the six month period is up, longer memberships that drive the cost down to as low $18 per month are available if you’re so inclined. If you don’t have an active membership the app doesn’t collect data, essentially turning the WHOOP device into a fancy, but useless, strap on your wrist.

WHAT IT DOES

WHOOP draws its conclusions about you largely through its monitoring of your heart rate and heart variability (HRV). HRV measures the time between heart beats. As you wear your strap, the WHOOP algorithm adapts to your individual performance to give you accurate insights into how much strain your workouts are causing, how recovered you are, and how you are sleeping.

The WHOOP can automatically detect workouts or increased activity through increases in your heart rate. You can also tell the app to start logging an activity, or enter your activity after completion if desired. It does not appear that these entries make differences in the logging of your statistics, but rather provide the ability to go back in time and see how strenuous a particular workout was.whoop.gif.7cd6fe9e3eb53fb3f7fc367f35d8389b.gif

If you have a set workout schedule, you can tell the app what days you need to perform your best. Each evening the app will tell you when you should be in bed to perform up to your standards the next day.

Upon waking the application will ask you some questions about the previous night’s sleep, including how you feel after waking up, whether you drank before bed, etc. WHOOP uses this information to find trends in how your sleep and recovery is affected by external factors.

THE GOOD

  • I have found the recovery metrics to be pretty accurate. Generally, when I feel good upon waking, the app corroborates how I feel.
  • The app is easy to use and navigate (I’m an Android user).
  • The algorithm for calories burned seems to be fairly accurate based upon my experiences with food logging and weight loss.
  • The strap is charged while you are wearing it through the use of an external battery pack. This allows the WHOOP to truly have 24/7 insight into your heart rate.
  • The band is fully waterproof and I’ve had no issues while showering with the band. The battery pack is not waterproof, however.

THE BAD

  • Battery life. For a tracker that provides no screen or any other features, the battery lasts less than five days.
  • It would be nice to have a small display for the current time. Right now, I’m continuing to wear my Mi Band 2 just for the watch.
  • The charging pack does not hold a charge. The pack is only meant to transfer power to the band, and not store it. It goes dead after less than a day, so you must remember to charge the pack on the day you want to also charge the watch. This was majorly disappointing.
  • The strap took about two weeks to get used to, and it still bothers me if I wear it on my right wrist. It actually rubbed a small spot raw on my left wrist after about two weeks of continuous wear.

FINAL THOUGHTS

After four months, WHOOP claims that on average its members reduce their resting heart rate by 4.4 beats per minute, experience 60 percent fewer injuries and consume alcohol 79 percent less often before bed.

Ultimately, like many things in life, success is going to be dependent on the effort put forth. For the first three weeks of wearing the WHOOP, I focused on getting into a set sleep schedule, reading an actual book before bed and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption. I even took some afternoon naps on the weekends if the app said I needed more sleep. I saw some really good results, and I felt great. Unfortunately, last week I came down with a cold and have slipped into bad habits. I’ve had too much to drink and eat, and generally have not been very active. I generally haven’t felt good as a result.

As for the $30/month commitment, if the app provides the initiative to eat a little less, drink less and workout more, it’s totally worth the cost to me. Your mileage may vary.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what WHOOP can do in this brief review, and there are still plenty of other features of the app I have not covered here. Overall, I am very pleased at the information I’m receiving from the strap and app, and I do plan to renew my membership once my initial six month period is over.

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This thing looks awesome! Thank you so much for writing this review for us to read. I have been looking at getting one of these to help me make sure I'm getting enough rest because school, golf, and workouts can take a toll on one!

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Good info, thanks! I first heard of the WHOOP on The GC, actually, on a segment with Scott Stallings .. who swears by it as a big help in his own physical makeover.

For me, though, while a good feature is the sleep monitoring I'm not into adding yet another monthly subscription to my personal overhead; I'd look around for another sleep-dedicated device.

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Good stuff! I considered picking one up last year, but was turned off by the monthly subscription. I ended up using an Oura Ring for awhile when I was tracking sleep regularly, and there’s no doubt that peppery recovery is often slept on (see what I did there?) in the scheme of things. I definitely see why so many pro athletes are using Whoop straps as having that data can really help you get the proper amount of recovery, which should help with performance. Well done on the review!!!

 

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Funny, I have been discussing this and Oura ring with @20xUnited. Thank you for the review! I haven’t been able to justify the costs, yet. But it remains on my radar. 

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@mr.hicksta, @JohnSmalls

Oura ring looks interesting! At this point in my life, a monthly subscription was easier to stomach than $300 upfront, though I see the upside of a no-subscription model past one year. The sleep stuff has been really interesting. A lot of it is common sense, I suppose (less caffeine, alcohol and screen time before bed), but sometimes having the motivation literally strapped to your wrist is a huge help.

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19 hours ago, edingc said:

@mr.hicksta, @JohnSmalls

Oura ring looks interesting! At this point in my life, a monthly subscription was easier to stomach than $300 upfront, though I see the upside of a no-subscription model past one year. The sleep stuff has been really interesting. A lot of it is common sense, I suppose (less caffeine, alcohol and screen time before bed), but sometimes having the motivation literally strapped to your wrist is a huge help.

Totally understand, and I think they both achieve similar goals. Based on what I've seen the Whoop data is a bit more granular, which can definitely be helpful depending on your goals. I wore my Oura for over a year, but recently sold it because I kind of felt like I was becoming a slave to the numbers. The sleep data really did help me develop better habits before bed though, which is a positive!

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Good review! I've been using WHOOP since early December and have to agree with your assessment. The battery life in particular is a bit puzzling, but given the size of the device does make some sense. You have to remember that while it does not have a screen it is powering a heart rate sensor that measures heart rate over 100 times per second, and it is also constantly syncing data to your smartphone via Bluetooth so 5~ days isn't bad IMO. 

There are a number of professional athletes who use WHOOP including a decent stable of professional golfers, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Scott Stallings, and Maria Fassi. Rickie Fowler was also spotted with the wearable at the Sentry Tournament of Champions according to this Golfweek article:

https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/01/01/rory-mcilroy-justin-thomas-wear-whoop/

I've listened to a few different Will Ahmed (the founder of WHOOP) interviews and have also listened to the WHOOP podcast. It's very interesting to hear the company's backstory as well as the stories told by the various athletes who have managed to leverage the device to increase performance.

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16 hours ago, TR1PTIK said:

Good review! I've been using WHOOP since early December and have to agree with your assessment. The battery life in particular is a bit puzzling, but given the size of the device does make some sense. You have to remember that while it does not have a screen it is powering a heart rate sensor that measures heart rate over 100 times per second, and it is also constantly syncing data to your smartphone via Bluetooth so 5~ days isn't bad IMO. 

There are a number of professional athletes who use WHOOP including a decent stable of professional golfers, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Scott Stallings, and Maria Fassi. Rickie Fowler was also spotted with the wearable at the Sentry Tournament of Champions according to this Golfweek article:

https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/01/01/rory-mcilroy-justin-thomas-wear-whoop/

I've listened to a few different Will Ahmed (the founder of WHOOP) interviews and have also listened to the WHOOP podcast. It's very interesting to hear the company's backstory as well as the stories told by the various athletes who have managed to leverage the device to increase performance.

I neglected to mention in my review that I first learned about the WHOOP through your posts, so my apologies! 

I've gotten used to the battery life. The battery pack not maintaining a charge for longer than a few hours was what was the most puzzling to me, but I suppose to put a second, long-lasting battery in the pack would drive the cost up a bit.

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1 hour ago, edingc said:

I neglected to mention in my review that I first learned about the WHOOP through your posts, so my apologies! 

I've gotten used to the battery life. The battery pack not maintaining a charge for longer than a few hours was what was the most puzzling to me, but I suppose to put a second, long-lasting battery in the pack would drive the cost up a bit.

Lol. Well glad I could help you discover something that you’ve found so useful!

The battery pack thing is definitely weird and frustrating the first few times you go to charge the strap and can’t. I did have a chat with WHOOP Tech Support and they said they recommend letting the strap run down to at least 20% before charging so now I just wait until I reach that point, charge the battery pack and then charge the strap. At 20% the strap is usually still good for about a day or so.

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Thank you for this review, @edingc.

I've been interested in WHOOP, since hearing about it from Scott Stallings in various media platforms. My biggest hangup has been the monthly subscription as it seems that it just tracks recovery functions, but does not monitor or encourage daily activities like a Fitbit or similar device.

Overall, you are correct with your assessment with all wearable fitness technology that the monitoring is a useful tool, but the willingness to do the work is also required to fully see benefits.

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Great review @edingc  I've been interested in this and really only because of seeing so many tour players wearing it.  However, after reading your review and hearing what it costs, it would be hard for me to rationalize paying monthly for something to tell me what I already know...that I don't get enough sleep.  I would like more sleep, but just having something to tell me that I need more sleep, doesn't actually put me in the bed.

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General feedback on sleep tracking devices seems to be that wearables are generally less accurate than a device specifically made for sleep tracking that is set under the pillow or mattress. Great detail @edingc! Definitely providing valuable information that is difficult to pull from the podcasts or quick summary reviews online. 

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1 hour ago, palvord said:

My biggest hangup has been the monthly subscription as it seems that it just tracks recovery functions, but does not monitor or encourage daily activities like a Fitbit or similar device.

WHOOP won't "encourage" you to be active like some wearables will, but it does track all activity throughout the day including workouts without you ever having to do a thing - if you wish. The algorithms they've worked up for this are fairly impressive. They do also have a Strain Coach built into the app which is a useful way to both challenge yourself on days when you're fully recovered, and to help prevent injury on days when your body just needs more time off. It's usefulness as a recovery tool is largely a way for WHOOP to distinguish itself in the marketplace.

15 minutes ago, BMart519 said:

General feedback on sleep tracking devices seems to be that wearables are generally less accurate than a device specifically made for sleep tracking that is set under the pillow or mattress

I could see that being the case for some devices, but not so much for WHOOP. In fact, depending on what specific type of device you're referencing to be placed under the pillow or mattress, I would argue that WHOOP is very accurate - though not perfect by any means - because WHOOP is always tracking your heart rate and also looking at a metric called heart rate variability (HRV). It does still get things wrong from time-to-time, but typically aligns with how well I think I slept and how refreshed I feel to go out and tackle a tough workout, etc. 

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9 minutes ago, TR1PTIK said:

I could see that being the case for some devices, but not so much for WHOOP. In fact, depending on what specific type of device you're referencing to be placed under the pillow or mattress, I would argue that WHOOP is very accurate - though not perfect by any means - because WHOOP is always tracking your heart rate and also looking at a metric called heart rate variability (HRV). It does still get things wrong from time-to-time, but typically aligns with how well I think I slept and how refreshed I feel to go out and tackle a tough workout, etc. 

I only did some basic reading on the topic, but there seemed to be some disconnect with how well HRV ties into REM and the other 2 sleep phases. 

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2 hours ago, TR1PTIK said:

WHOOP won't "encourage" you to be active like some wearables will, but it does track all activity throughout the day including workouts without you ever having to do a thing - if you wish. The algorithms they've worked up for this are fairly impressive. They do also have a Strain Coach built into the app which is a useful way to both challenge yourself on days when you're fully recovered, and to help prevent injury on days when your body just needs more time off. It's usefulness as a recovery tool is largely a way for WHOOP to distinguish itself in the marketplace.

Thanks for that clarification. Makes sense as a differentiation tool for WHOOP.

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Here's a great example of the activity tracking from my morning range session today.

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