WHOOP: 2 Years Later
Updated: Oct 21
My introduction to Whoop came from my previous employer. For many, 2020 was a stressful, confusing, and hard-fought year full of battles both personally and professionally. The company had a people first culture and passionate about health and wellness. After a rough year, in 2021, they wanted to give back and gave all 80 employees the opportunity to try a 6-month paid subscription to Whoop.
It was great timing, as I was continuing to battle with digestive health issues and trying to get my health back. I wanted to get a better understanding of my body’s overall health, and it seemed like Whoop could provide the insights I was looking for. I immediately created a healthy obsession with the data. From sleep, recovery, and the key metrics such as HRV, respiratory rate, resting heart rate and even skin temperature.
Over 800 recoveries later, I’m still using the Whoop strap daily!
5 unexpected takeaways after using the device for over 2 years:
1. Wake Events
I average 17 wake events a night or about 2 per hour according to Whoop, which can account for an hour or more of lost sleep a night. I always knew I woke up frequently in the night whether I had to flip over, use the toilet, too hot, or other factors. Whoop helped put this into perspective with how much sleep can be lost with these disturbances. If you’re not able to fall back asleep, this will increase your wake time as well.
If you need a little guidance in identifying your sleep disruptors, see my previous post.
It may be obvious that alcohol affects sleep in a negative way, but even having one drink before bed can disrupt the whole sleep process. When I have a couple drinks, my heart rate variability decreases significantly, which you generally want to be higher. Drinking also impacts my resting heart rate by 10 points or higher, which all together puts me at a lower recovery score on Whoop.
While Whoop hasn’t taught me what I already didn’t know about sleep and alcohol, it is shocking to the key metrics and low recovery stores. For all my red recoveries logged on Zwift, it has been because of alcohol or illness. I have noticed that if I have a couple of drinks during the day, and stay properly hydrated, my scores aren’t impacted as harshly versus drinking a couple hours before bed.
3. Working Out with a Low Recovery Score
Whoop measures recovery with a percentage and labels it as a green, yellow, or red recovery. Green means your body is primed for strain, and red means rest, or a light activity is encouraged. I always like seeing what my recovery score is every day, and green is always the goal, but I’ve had terrible feeling workouts on a green day and great workouts on a yellow day.
Your recovery versus how you feel won’t always correlate. Whoop is a great tool in identifying trends, and then taking actions to create positive habits, but it’s also important to not let it dictate every decision. I’ll pay attention to my scores and how it may impact my work out that day, but ultimately, I go off how I feel. There are also days where recovery and how I feel during a workout line up, and I’ll go back to the app and say to myself, “That makes sense.”
One of my favorite things about Whoop is having access to weekly, monthly, and 6-month trends related to sleep, strain, and recovery. When glossing over the trend view for the first time, it can be overwhelming and a lot to unpack, but they’ve done a decent job at keeping it as visual and as digestible as they can.
I tend to gravitate towards the overall restorative sleep, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability data for the weekly and monthly assessments. If my sleep performance was worse compared to a previous month, it’s easy to go back to certain days where I had poor sleep to try and identify potential disruptors that might be creating a downward trend.
For HRV and RHR trends, it was interesting to see the differences in my harder training months. When I had more intense and consistent training months my HRV always trended higher, and my RHR lower. It’s been a good motivator to stay consistent with exercise.
I have one 1% recovery on my Whoop and that was when I got COVID for the first time. About 3 days prior, I had noticed my respiratory was trending higher than normal despite feeling okay. At its worse, my respiratory rate was almost 1 point higher than normal, which is significant. This peak increase was the night before I started experiencing symptoms.
Sudden or drastic increases in metrics made me realize it might be something worth looking into. For any elevated metrics, I usually give a few days to see if it goes back to near my baseline before digging deeper into what might be happening. While I know Whoop isn’t a medical device nor diagnostic, it’s good to have a tool in my back pocket that might be signaling something is off.
Do you have a Whoop strap? What has surprised you most about your own trend views?