Would you mind sharing what sleep tracker you use? I use my wrist based Garmin Fenix, and have all the issues mentioned above with wrist based monitoring, so I’m looking for a better solution.
Sleep Cycle. It’s not perfect and I don’t anchor on the exact score, but it matches my mental assessment for how I slept.
If its 95% or more, I slept well.
If its 85-95%, I slept decently.
If its <85%, I didn’t sleep great.
If its in the 70% range, I slept really badly and feel awful.
I just purchased WHOOP and a year plan a few weeks ago and still formulating my perspective. I bought it for a few reasons.
First, I have a past history issues with fatigue and over-training, and I am hoping that the science behind HRV, and their way of combining HRV, RHR, and sleep data to determine stress and readiness would help guide me a bit. I’ve learned the hard way that TrainingPeaks PMC (ACL, CTL, and TSB) meaning mean absolutely nothing to me in context of whether I should be training hard or not, recovering, etc. I have had my PMC say that I am totally fresh, when I felt like a was hit by a freight train, and I’ve had it tell me I was way over stressed, yet I felt strong. I have learned to listen to my body first and foremost over any app, chart, or set of numbers, and so far WHOOP appears to be tacking how I “feel” in terms of readiness…so maybe HRV and RHR are sound indicators of what’s going on with our bodies. It’s not bunk science for sure. There are legit physiological reasons why are HR varies more or less, and some of this certainly has to do with exercise activity and stress.
Second, I have a history of insomnia or not sticking to a regular sleep schedule. My typical routine is to get 6-7 hours of sleep, wake up feeling exhausted, work, get home and take a long nap, then train. So my sleep is fragmented throughout the day. If anything WHOOP has forced me to pay more attention to and be diligent of my sleep schedule, has brought back my good habit of reading an actual, physical book before bed, less screen time, and laying off the alcohol or coffee late in the day before bed.
A few things I like about the product and service so far, or just general observations:
A lot of apps provide tons of data and charts galore, etc, but do next to nothing in actually converting that data into action; TP, WKO4, Golden Cheetah are perfect examples. All the pretty charts look cool and it’s easy to get enamored by the sheer mass of data, but in itself it is useless without prescriptive advice. I like how WOOP provides some coaching and tips on how regulate your day, sleep schedule, exercise volume, rest, etc ; contrary to one person’s experience above, I therefore find WHOOP to be very low on the exposure to detailed data…this is coming from a guy (me) who uses WKO4 and creates my own custom charts to track performance.
I was worried about the accuracy of the HR data, but I did some side by side and real time comparisons while riding, using WHOOP and Wahoo HR monitor. Average HR tracks very close. There seems to be more variation in the WHOOP data, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I often wonder of the Wahoo HR monitor (or other cycling HR sensors) or training apps so some normalization of HR data, so perhaps WHOOP is tracking at a more granular level given that it needs to track HRV, not just BPM? So when you watching your BPM on your training app using a sensor like Wahoo and your BPM is like 140BPM, exactly, for 1 minute straight, you have to wonder if this is actually accurate. We are not robots. I’m inclined to think that WHOOP is the more accurate device. Just my hypothesis at this point…more accurate, or more prone to external interference.
If you are worried about accuracy still, check out this comprehensive study on optic or Photoplethysmography based HR sensors, among others, suggesting they are relatively accurate provided, when on the wrist, the wrist isn’t moving a lot. The article also goes into a lot of details on how they work, how newer technology uses both green and infrared light to increase accuracy based on skin pigment, etc. It’s an interesting read for sure.
This is also an interesting study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491979/
“Devices reported the lowest error for cycling and the highest for walking. Device error was higher for males, greater body mass index, darker skin tone, and walking. Six of the devices achieved a median error for HR below 5% during cycling. No device achieved an error in EE below 20 percent. The Apple Watch achieved the lowest overall error in both HR and EE, while the Samsung Gear S2 reported the highest. In conclusion, most wrist-worn devices adequately measure HR in laboratory-based activities, but poorly estimate EE, suggesting caution in the use of EE measurements as part of health improvement programs.”
Overall, then I like WHOO so far. Honestly, with my job I have to use my brain and intellect so much and make so many effing decisions, at the end of the day, sometimes I just want someone, or some thing to tell me what to do. In the context of sleep, recovery, etc, WHOOP does just that. So if anything, its a major success in light of the placebo effect!
I’ve not heard of Whoop before, so visited their website. They look like their core customer is the elite athlete, and not the weekend warrior type or mere fitness seeker. Is that fair?
Can their software be used with a Garmin watch? I’m not sure I need another wrist band…
They used to be just for elite athletes, pro cyclists, NFL, etc, and it was all team based. So an entire team would be using it, and their coaches would monitor their data, etc. It’s also a way for coaches to keep tabs on their athletes, ensure they are getting enough sleep and not partying al night! LOL. But last year, or the year before that (can’t recall) they opened up their product to the general public, which is a big deal. From what I can tell, no one has a system as sophisticated as what they are offering, based on what it is intended to do, their unique programming, etc. So now they offer their services for $30 a month, which I still think is $15 higher than the normal app cost a month, plus you have to get the wrist monitor. So basically you can get a year of six month membership that includes the strap/sensor and their app, plus website portal. Their software and app cannot be used with a Garmin Watch. The app/software, their algorithms, etc, and hardware are all proprietary. I asked them if they planned on letting apps like TrainingPeaks sync so that my sleep, HRV, and RHR data can show on my TrainingPeaks metrics…perhaps in the future.
I find that of the two apps, I get more value from Sleep Cycle than HRV4Training.
The data from sleep cycle helps me change my behavior. I see how crap my sleep is if I drink too much beer, or if I get too stressed from work. And it tracks sleep time, Which reminds me to go to bed early. Plus it tells me if I’ve been snoring, so I know I need to make more effort to sleep on my side. Very helpful.
This article…the launch for general public availablity: https://www.wired.com/story/whoop-wearable-subscription/
“That’s what Boston-based Whoop has been doing in the three years since it first launched: targeting elite athletes and Fortune 500 CEOs (both are part of its marketing) with its sensor-filled, nylon activity tracker and analytics platform. Whoop’s been charging professional and collegiate sports teams anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per player for access to the company’s in-depth stats tracking, and the company boasts NFL and NBA teams as clients. Regular people who want to try the band and analyze their performance can do so for a $500 fee. Now, Whoops is turning that model on its head.”
Thanks all! It looks similar to what the Firstbeat widget in the Fenix5 watch does. I’ll try that and see how it goes.
Excellent post. I have been using it for almost a year. I’d add that I switched to a bicep strap about 3 weeks ago and my accuracy improved quite a bit. I had a lot of bad data coming from wrist use.
One more note on this after talking to WHOOP. For cyclists, the recommendation is that you get the bicep strap and wear the unit there vs. the wrist. So I have subsequently started using it on my bicep – out bicep just under the shoulder. This works better for me anyway, because I can’t stand having anything attached to my wriest - watches, jewelry , etc. On the bicep, I can just leave it there and ignore it. Seems to work fine sleeping as well. In addition, WHOOP said that tattoos should not impact the functionality of the device. This was a concern for me because both of my arms are 100% inked with a lot of deep color, shading, detail, etc. This makes sense, given the demographics of their athletic base. You have tons of guys in the NFL and NBA using the product, with darker skin, so tats should not be an issue.
I’m trying to figure out how to implement Whoop Recovery and HRV into my training plan compliance. I’ve only been tracking it for ~4 weeks now (via Whoop) and it seems to correlate with feeling and/or ability. I.e. maybe I’m not feeling it, but was still able to do the work because HRV and recovery were supportive; or feeling smashed/tired and HRV and recovery were moderate or weak, and I complied with the planned prescribed ride and HR during the workout is noticeably elevated.
What I’m noticing doesn’t correlate is the intensity of the TR prescribed ride (SSB mid V2) and the recovery/HRV that morning. I.e. there have been days were recovery and HRV are good, but the intensity of the ride doesn’t take my stress score very high and HR is noticeably controlled and low for the workout. Then there are days where the HRV and recovery are more moderate or weak, and I have a high intensity or longer ride planned. Similar result, I get through it buy HR is elevated and I feel absolutely smashed afterwards.
Now I’m thinking of potentially following the prescribed recovery/HRV indications from the Whoop app. I.e. on moderate recovery days, doing rides that are more Endurance/Tempo level efforts (i.e. Wednesday rides), and on good recovery days doing the Sweet Spot and upwards level efforts (i.e. Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday rides) and bad recovery days doing nothing to a short recovery ride.
Anybody have experience following a TR plan with this type of approach employing Whoop recovery/HRV recommended strain levels? I.e. it seems like a TR ride’s IF and duration could be correlated to the Recovery measure from Whoop…?
You could try that. I guess the question is what do you want to be the master of your plan? WHOOP or the TR Plan? Each will change the purpose of the other. For example, I use my TrainingPeaks plan as my master. But I use WHOOP as a sort of safety net or way of avoiding extremes, which can lead to chronic fatigue issues and compromised performance. So, if I am going along fine on my TP plan and I feel moderately recovered each day, yet WHOOP is telling me that I am severely stressed 3 days in a row because of whatever reason (the workouts, poor sleep, elevated RHR, decreased HRV, combination of these, etc), then I might be inclined to make an improptu change to my TP plan, insert a rest day into my week, focus on a better night’s sleep, etc.
Alternatively, if you use WHOOP as your master, then this means you are going to have to modify your training plan almost on a daily or weekly basis. This could get tedious, but it’s also an interesting experiment. I’d like to see if some sort of equilibrium is achieved to the point to where your TR plan and WHOOP begin to synchronize, but I doubt it. We are not machines and there are a lot of factors that go into our recovery, stress, etc. For example, you could be really stressed due to non-athletic, emotional or work reasons, and that may impact your HRV and RHR. You legs might feel strong but your body is telling you that as a system, it’s not an optimal time to hit it hard. Being able to train had is not just a matter of your legs feeling recovered and strong. Again, we are not machines but complex systems. You have to decide.
Overall, I wouldn’t expect WHOOP and your training plan to converge and be totally consistent. Personally, I’d stick to your TR plan, but use WHOOP as the safety net. If you are in the red in WHOOP for a few days, take a rest. If you find yourself frequently in the red with WHOOP, then consider modifying your TR plan to lower volume or a more polarized plan.
One other comment is in light of SweetSpot workouts. By definition, they are going to be middle of the road efforts. They aren’t easy Zone 1-2, but also not super-threshold HIIT. They have the ability to trigger the stress response in your body without HIIT or stringing along several 3-5 hour rides. That could potentially be creating a lot of gray area in your HRV and RHR WHOOP data. WHOOP is asking, hmmmm, is this a HIIT or easy aerobic workout? It’s neither. It’s not a lower effort aerobic ride, yet it’s triggering the stress response, and if you are doing this several times a week, I’m guessing your HRV and RHR are going to be constantly in the fulcrum of a teeter totter.
hi, if you decide to try this, please update us here on how it goes. I’d be really curious what happens if you use WHOOP data to determine your daily and weekly training load. My issue with doing it is that WHOOP is unable to tell if I am super sore. So one morning i might tell me that I am ready to go 100% with a heavy load, but my legs will be trashed from a hard workout the day before. Some day, the technology may be so advanced, and even internally embedded inside of us, to be able to measure all of the factors that go into training hard, recovering, etc — like some sort of device that can measure the extend of microtears in your muscles, and if you should lay off the training, etc.
I’ve had the same experiences. WHOOP data is great for predicting how I’ll feel generally, but there have definitely been days where my legs were trashed and my recovery was high and I was “ready to take on high strain.” High strain on those days was trying to get up off the couch!
I like WHOOP to quantify the stress from other activities, in addition to cycling. We are avid snowboarders, and budding rock climbers. It’s nice to know what kind of strain those activities put on the body, and loosely translates to TSS.
I don’t think I’d schedule my training around what WHOOP says. I’m still using the TR calendar and adjust as needed for soreness method, which seems to work well. WHOOP is just an additional metric to let me know how I’m feeling in general.
It’s still early days, so hard to say, but I love the concept.
I haven’t had this experience yet. I reportedly recover and sleep very well, even when I only get 6hrs of sleep, but so far I can’t argue with what it has told me.
I am looking forward to this as well, but this weekend I went skiing with my son and although I didn’t start an activity within their app, I was shocked to see it showed very little added strain. Squatting down and supporting a toddler who is learning to ski is seriously hard work! haha.
I’ll keep you posted as things develop, but if you don’t hear from me for a while, by all means, ping me with a reminder!
Toddlers certainly are hard work! Wait until he’s a teen! It’s a different kind of support!
I’ve had similar experience with strain indications from snowboarding. I attribute this to having good cardiovascular fitness from cycling. Skiing/snowboarding just doesn’t tax the system in a consistent way like cycling, given the start/stop nature of the sport. Thus, it’s not terribly taxing.
Looking forward to seeing your WHOOP journey, in addition to others who chime in. I’m finding the platform to be informative, and educational.
As an aside - wrist strap, or bicep band?
I’m using the wrist strap now, but going to purchase the bicep band to see if readings are different. So far, the heart rate is tracking with my HR strap during training, but having another option for placement will be nice.
Wrist works fine with me, but I’ve never had issues with optical HR on my wrist. The Whoop seems to track almost identically to my Forerunner 935, which tracks very closely to a Wahoo TICKR.
@Jonathan, I’m having the same experience using the wrist strap. It tracks very well with my Garmin HR strap when I’m on the bike. My wife bought me a few different straps for Christmas (and the WHOOP), and I have a preference for the elastic bands over the woven ones. Was WHOOP also a holiday gift for you?
Thought I would share my Whoop experience. I’ve been on the fence for the past month, but finally pulled the trigger after deciding it was time to stay on top of sleep and recovery. Got it in the mail yesterday. First impression was that the instructions were pretty limited. The app showed a few pictures on how to put it on your wrist, and that was it. Second impression was that after putting the strap on, the HR readings were grossly sporadic an inaccurate. An evening of making dinner and sitting in a chair watching soccer practice saw my HR go from 45 bpm to 162 bpm. It even used the auto-activity function to record a few activities. I tried adjusting the strap up and down both forearms to no avail. Heart Rate just kept going up and down. I figured I would give a night’s sleep a go of it, and was blown away by how accurate that tracking was. It had my bedtime and wake time exactly where I anticipated, although upon further inspection it said my HR “spiked” many times through the night, sometimes to over 160 bpm. That must have been some wild dream. This continued all morning, up and down, a few activities being recorded while I watched the news and made the kids breakfast. The breaking point for me was when I hopped no TR this morning to do 1:15 of Fang Mountain over-unders, the Whoop Strap never had my HR above 89. I tried contacting customer service, which is a recording that says they are unavailable, and after a few calls, an email, and a text, someone called me back. Her suggestion was to “move the strap up your wrist a bit”. She was obviously just going by the script, but I assured her I have been around a few HR straps before. Ended up asking for a full refund. I have read a few other reviews of folks that went down the replacement path, and I don’t have time for that. I’ll just need to trust the old instinct when it comes to recovery, and try to get my 8 hours of sleep without validation. I like the idea of the Whoop Strap and the HRV, but no sense in looking at data that is so incredibly inaccurate.