I consider myself a pretty active person. I played sports competitively growing up, and as an adult, I work out five days a week (and try to avoid taking the subway—and Lyfts—when I can).
I’ve never tried a fitness tracker because, to be honest, I didn’t think I needed one. I go to the gym enough, I thought. I don’t need a bulky bracelet to guilt me into getting my heart rate up.
But then I was given the opportunity to try out Whoop, a fancy fitness-tracking device that’s basically the Rolls-Royce of wearable tech. How fancy are we talking? Does the name LeBron James ring any bells? Yeah, he’s used it. It used to retail for $500, but the company just announced that it's shifting to a subscription model where you pay $30 a month with an upfront commitment of six months. Between the still not cheap price and the apparent focus on extremely high-performing athletes, I’ll admit that I, a normal person who exercises for fun and sanity-maintaining reasons, was a bit skeptical about what it could do for me.
Whoop is the first product engineered to “unlock human performance” by monitoring heart rate variability (HRV). It quantifies the strain put on the body each day, provides detailed sleep tracking each night and tells you how recovered you are the next morning. By understanding the balance of your strain, sleep and recovery, you can supposedly reprogram your body to reach higher levels of performance. To be totally honest, I wasn't sure I needed to reach higher levels of performance and the phrase "reprogram your body" freaked me out a little—kind of mind-control-y sci-fi, no?
After wearing it for about three weeks I can honestly say that, you guys, it’s so damn cool.
It looks like a lot of other fitness trackers, but it doesn’t display any information on the bracelet itself. That was fine for me, since I’ve never used another tracker, but I can imagine it would be a bit inconvenient if you’re used to being able to glance down at your wrist to check your heart rate or miles walked. Instead, you can find out all you want to know (and more) via an accompanying app. I often forgot I was wearing it, and it stayed put during a variety of workouts, from HIIT and rowing classes to boxing sessions.
It was a bit tricky to get used to all of the stats available, but once I acquainted myself with what everything meant, I was able to learn a lot about how my body is functioning and why.
One of my favorite things to track was my sleep. I initially thought it was kind of weird that a fitness tracker focused so much on sleep, but when you think about it, the quality of your sleep hugely impacts your performance. Each morning I looked at how long I was in bed, how long I was asleep and how many disturbances I had, along with how many sleep cycles I went through and how long, to the minute, I spent in each phase of sleep (light, deep and REM). I’m proud to announce that, per Whoop, I’m a very productive sleeper. (Pause for applause.)
Based on my sleep productivity and recovery, I also learned that, to my slight surprise, I could definitely be working a little harder in the gym. Once I figured that out, I upped my intensity a little and realized that Whoop was totally right. Instead of reaching for 15-pound dumbbells, I'm trying out 17.5s and I'm making a concerted effort not to slack off when instructors aren't looking. I also realized that for me, the whole "reach higher levels of performance" thing isn't entirely applicable. I'm not sure my overall level of fitness has improved (or will improve) drastically based on my Whoop stats, but I can definitely see the value in quantifying how my body is working for my own edification.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed by it, even more so because it no longer costs a lump sum of $500. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re at all interested in the inner workings of your body (and want to be able to brag about how much REM sleep you get), you might want to consider it.