On 3.19.20 I wrote the following email to my family about Whoop. I'm... very into it and you could/should be too. If you are curious, USE MY CODE and we both get a free month.
Dear nuclear family, I've been wearing a Whoop band for a few weeks now and I'm blown away by how smart it is, and more importantly, how much more in-tune I think it's making me with my wellbeing.
Below I've briefly summarized:
1) What it is - the basics
2) How I'm trying to use it with some examples from my first few weeks of use
3) What else am I doing?
Some of these thoughts are based on having also read about the band before buying it and from listening to some of the explainer podcasts that Whoop has published, which I recommend.
1) What is it?
The Whoop is an always on biometric sensor that you wear on your wrist (though you can also wear in other places), that looks like this and comes in a bunch of different colours:
It measures a number of different things throughout the day and night (heart rate, heart rate variability (more on this below) and other vital signs). It doesn't have a display and it doesn't tell the time.
The data that this sensor collects is sent to the Whoop app on your phone (or web) which shows you three key metrics per day:
- Heart Rate Variability (read a lot more about this here)
(Whoop also shows you calories, resting heart rate and a bunch of other thing but these three are the important ones).
Why these metrics...?
Strain is a measure of basically the PRESSURE you put on your system on any given day, so eg. it goes up when you exercise, goes down when you sit at home.
Recovery is a measure of the quality of your sleep and how it will impact you the next day.
HRV is a measure of how balanced your nervous system is. It is literally a measure of the variance in the small time gaps between your heartbeats. Very interesting! Read the article linked above.
A high HRV indicates a balanced nervous system and that's what you are going for always. If you drink alcohol, your body needs to assign workers to your liver and so you become unbalanced, and your HRV goes down. If you get an infection, you body sends white blood cells to fight it and you become unbalanced and HRV goes down. If you have a nice meal, your body needs to digest it so your HRV goes down briefly.
Whoop takes a daily HRV measurement during the deepest part of the sleep cycle (Slow wave sleep). HRV is an extremely good indicator of overall health which is why they focus on it.
Back to recovery: The "recovery" score you get every day (red, yellow, green) is Whoop's way of telling you, based on the sleep you got the night before and your previous strain, how primed you are to perform. Performance doesn't just mean exercise it also means cognitive performance. Just as mum has been saying for years, Whoop believes that sleep is the #1 determinant of recovery and performance. Not just length of sleep but quality of sleep.
So to summarise: by strapping this thing to your wrist 24/7/365 you can learn to track how your body responds to certain stimulants, and you can get a better handle on how to optimize for recovery + performance. It also allows you to learn what might impact your sleep / recovery and thus prevent you from growing your HRV and being in tip top shape.
One mantra the Whoop people have is that we are humans are addicted to the idea that we can "feel" how we are doing. "I feel great!" "I feel so so!" etc. Whoop posits that actually there are constant signals about our wellbeing that we are just unable to hear unless we track them. The Whoop band tries to listen to them and show you them in an app.
2) Real examples from the last few weeks
Here are some real life Whoop readings from the last few weeks just for example:
a) Two weeks of my recovery data. In other words, how my body responded to my previous day's activity and the quality of my sleep. Note that being hungover impacted me MORE than being unwell for two day. As you can see I don't feel great today, hopefully nothing to worry about.
b) This is a sleep report from one night of sleep when I was unwell. As you can see I tried my best to be in bed for almost 15 hours! I got in to bed at 730pm and woke up at 10am. This is the kind of behaviour mum would be encouraging in a sick child. That said, as you can see, the sleep wasn't ideal. Mostly light sleep with a lot of disturbances. Not enough REM / SWS sleep to fully recover, so only got a 65%. That said, clearly I was on the mend.
c) Finally, two week trend data for Strain and HRV...
3) Other steps I'm taking:
I'm seeing in the data how important sleep is to recovery. And how harmful stuff like alcohol is to sleep. In the last few days I've also bought myself an eye-mask to wear in bed as well as blue-light-blocking glasses to wear while I'm looking at a screen after 5pm. This is all basic stuff but hopefully once implemented it will show up in the data.
Bonus 4) What Whoop isn't:
- A step counter
- A distance tracker (I still wear + love my garmin for tracking runs and bike rides)
- The best calorie tracker (probably)