I’ve been talking about my WHOOP for years now, sharing recovery and training stats in my story, showing off my 100% sleep scores, and talking about how I’ve incorporated it into my workouts, hikes, health goals, and concussion healing. But what is the WHOOP 4.0, how does it work, and how can you put it to work for you? Let’s dig in.
What is WHOOP?
WHOOP is a fitness and health wearable.It’s a stylish and comfortable band worn above your wrist that tracks a variety of health metrics 24/7, using those metrics to provide you with three key points of data every single day: Strain, Recovery, and Sleep.
Strain: The combined impact of physical stress (workouts, walking, errands, parenting, housework, etc.) and psychological stress on your cardiovascular system. The higher your Strain, the more stress your body (specifically, your heart) is under. WHOOP proprietary strain formula goes from 1 – 21.
Recovery: Based on metrics like sleep, resting heart rate, heart rate variability (see below), and respiratory rate, Recovery shows you how ready your body is to perform, and when you need to slow it down or rest. Recovery is categorized by green (all systems go!), yellow (in the health zone, but don’t overdo it), and red (pay attention—time to rest).
Sleep: WHOOP measures your sleep cycle, debt, and quality, and helps you optimize sleep times, wake times, and recovery. It scores your sleep performance (up to 100%) every night, and measures time in bed, sleep disturbances, and “efficiency” (how much sleep you actually got, versus how much time you spent in bed).
WHOOP arrives at this data by using sophisticated sensors that track your body stats 24/7, collecting data 100 times a second! It happens automatically, and organizes that data into a ton of insights you can easily access through the app to identify trends, progress, and areas of opportunity.
How I use WHOOP
WHOOP has been the go-to for high-performing athletes for years, but you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit. Here’s how WHOOP can easily support your generally healthy lifestyle, and help you set smart goals, and reach them faster.
Sleep: Lots of wearables track sleep, but the interface on WHOOP is the clearest and most comprehensive. It measures sleep consistency, which is one of the biggest factors in improving sleep quality, and I’ve found it the most accurate for timing your sleep (and not counting Netflix or reading in bed as “sleep”). The insights you’ll gain here alone will have an impact on every area of your health and happiness—if you’re sleeping better, everything is easier, including your workouts, managing stress, your mood, and staying active. Bonus: Because you charge the WHOOP right on your arm, you’ll never have to sacrifice a night’s worth of data because your battery is low. (And it gets up to five days to a charge.)
Recovery: “My sleep score is 100%, but my Recovery is in the red. What’s going on?” Your Recovery score factors in so much more than sleep, and can show you exactly how psychological stress, physical activity and exercise, and illness or injury is impacting you in previously invisible ways. Stress is huge in terms of how it affects your health, and WHOOP has helped me identify some of the most stressful events in my normal life (like packing for a trip—who knew?), and taught me how to better manage them. It’s also been my lifeline when trying to manage concussion symptoms, helps me know sooner when I’m fighting off illness and when I’m recovered enough to resume normal activities, and pinpoints when my body is more run down than I may have realized, so I can build in more rest.
Intra-workout statistics:WHOOP is the ONLY wearable that easily and accurately tracks my heart rate during workouts and activities. (I have a chest strap heart rate monitor too, which is considered the gold standard for accuracy—but it’s nowhere near as easy to use as WHOOP, and WHOOP is remarkably accurate in comparison.) This means when I ruck, weightlift, hike, walk the dog, or drag the sled, I can see how hard my heart is working in the moment, easily practice “zone 2 training” to build my aerobic base, and let the “Strain Coach” feature guide me through the activity in alignment with that day’s recovery. This is GOLD even if you’re not an athlete, and no other wearable I own does this for me accurately and easily.
Health metrics: Want to see how your Whole30, not drinking experiment, cold showers, or “no screens before bed” rule are impacting your body and health? WHOOP tracks your resting heart rate, respiratory rate, and HRV 24/7, and gives you easy to read reports each week and month, so you can track the benefits of your healthy habits. How does adding a walk, getting an extra half-hour of sleep, or not drinking right now affect your health and performance in life? WHOOP can easily show you–which is super motivating, and helps me continue those healthy habits.
Now that you’ve seen how WHOOP can factor into your life regardless of where you’re starting from, here’s put WHOOP to work for YOU.
How to get started with WHOOP
Sign up! Get a free Onyx WHOOP 4.0 band, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a free month with your membership, and start tracking your activity, strain, sleep, and recovery.
Review it daily. I look at the WHOOP app as soon as I get out of bed to see my sleep score, readiness score for the day, and basic metrics like resting heart rate and respiratory rate. In combination with how I feel, my goals, and how the rest of my day looks, I use that data to help me plan my workout, including how hard I go and how much activity and recovery to build into the rest of my day.
Use your journal! One of the best features of WHOOP is their customizable, easy-to-use journal. Every morning, you can tell WHOOP what happened the day before to better connect behaviors with sleep and recovery trends. Their selection of journal prompts is ENDLESS—everything from “shared my bed” to “drank alcohol” to “ate a late meal” and “menstruating.” (My journal entries also include how much stress I’m feeling, if I’m having concussion symptoms, and if I’m feeling sick.) Journaling daily will help you see the impact of healthy habits on your metrics, and spot trends to help you plan better.
Let WHOOP coach you. Strain Coach can help you see how much cardio activity you need for that day to maintain fitness levels, or over-reach to improve fitness levels. You can manually start an activity from your home screen (any activity, from walking to CrossFit to weightlifting or housework), then turn your Strain Coach “on.” Your WHOOP will tell you the ideal amount of Strain you should look to achieve for that activity based on your recovery, and buzz on your wrist when you’ve hit it. This keeps you from overtraining too often, and helps you push it on days when you can handle a little more work.
Give it a month. Use the band consistently for a month before you do a deep-dive into your data trends, as the band needs time to get to know your body and your patterns. You’ll still get valuable data, but the longer you wear it, the more you can compare your own stats and determine your own “baseline.” I wear my WHOOP 24/7; even the charger is 100% waterproof, and it’s very comfortable. Still unsure? Spend a few weeks learning what WHOOP can teach you about your health, fitness, goals, stress, sleep, and more, and if you’re still not convinced, you can return it within the 30-day window for a full refund.
WHOOP is an amazingly effective, easy, and useful tool for helping you achieve your health goals, groove new habits, and see the results of your hard work. Don’t be intimidated by the data! I’ll spend the next few months helping you learn how to review, analyze, and interpret your results, and apply them in the real world. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to let the insights WHOOP provides start to work in your life.
The WHOOP 4.0 band is free, but requires a monthly membership to maintain your data, journal, historical statistics, and connection to the WHOOP community. A subscription gets you access to WHOOP teams, where you can connect with other hikers, CrossFitters, cyclists, and people your age or in your local community. It also comes with a huge library of educational materials like how to train around your monthly cycle, the health effects of sleep, and nutrition for endurance athletics, as well as monthly Q&As with experts on sleep, training, nutrition, recovery, and more. You’ll also get a weekly, monthly, and annual performance report, which summarizes your trends and accomplishments.
Pricing starts at $20 a month if you buy a 24-month membership, $25 a month if you pay for a year up front, or $30 per month with a 12-month commitment. (For context, I’ve been a WHOOP member for over three years and counting—that’s how valuable the data is. And the more data you have, the more effectively you can apply it.)
And then… stay tuned! I’ll spend the next few months walking you through all of the best features of WHOOP, including tips for making the most of your data, deep-dives into each of the three areas of data (Strain, Sleep, and Recovery), and sharing the most interesting and unexpected benefits of WHOOP that I’ve discovered in my own life. Follow me on Instagram @melissau, and happy WHOOP-ing!