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A month with Whoop

The bloods came back. That sounds like the start of a Victorian novel, or a crime thriller. But in reality, it was just the result of the second set of bloods I sent to Forth Edge for analysis. Short story: some of the markers showed small improvements, some of the markers actually looked worse. Conclusion: inconclusive.

I’ve been taking a blended supplement to help increase testosterone and, while the blood results didn’t suggest much change, I do feel a bit better in myself. So, I’ll probably stick with them a bit longer (bought three months, might as well use them!).

I’ve also now been wearing a Whoop sensor bracelet for 40 days, so enough time to give some initial impressions. I bought (or perhaps ‘subscribed’ is the right word) it in the hopes of better understanding what my body is doing, how it reacts to training and how I manage recovery, sleep etc. The intention was to perhaps get a bit more ‘intelligent’ about my training.

There’s a ton of stuff and reviews written about Whoop bracelets already, so I won’t duplicate too much of that information. But as I understand it, the sensor you wear on your wrist is essentially monitoring two primary markers – Heart Rate, from which it calculates a ‘strain’ figure for the day (4-5 being a very easy rest day, up to 20 being a full-on smash fest or long endurance ride) and Heart Rate Variability (which I believe it only reads during sleep) to provide an indication of recovery readiness to train. I’m sure I’m over-simplifying, but that’s the gist of it.

The Whoop app also provides insight into your sleep patterns; how much time you spend awake, in light sleep, REM and deep sleep respectively. From that, it can make observations on the ‘quality’ of the sleep you’re getting and how it affects your recovery.

Whoop – the good, bad and ugly

Having used Whoop for over a month now, I feel qualified and ready to offer my own observations:

The Good

I like the data on my sleep, it forces me to actually think about going to bed earlier or trying things to improve the quality of my sleep (drink less alcohol, use Headspace or similar to get to sleep faster). I like how it makes it easy to track certain aspects of my lifestyle such as when I do or don’t have a drink in the evening, and how that affects my body’s ability to recover. Overall, I like how it makes me feel more accountable for being ready to train (and understanding when I shouldn’t).

The Bad

I think there are times when the sensor is wildly inaccurate. Often, I will open the app and call up the sensor to find it thinks I’m doing 80bpm sat at my desk or stood still. I’m not. Eventually it does correct itself, but it makes me wonder what heart rate it thinks I’m running in the 99% of the day I don’t have the app on-screen.

I’ve also seen that it can be inaccurate during exercise, most notably cycling (which is easy to ascertain as I also wear a chest strap usually – my Garmin Edge 820 can’t pair with the Bluetooth Whoop strap). A few times now the Whoop strap has reported a max HR in the 170s when the chest strap (and my own RPE) have suggested much lower figures.

Placement of the strap is important, but even following the provided guidance closely, it seems off quite often.

I think this extends to night-time tracking as well. One night last week I woke up feeling fine but to be told by Whoop my recovery state was only 24% (despite having had an easy day before). I did a hard session that day anyway and recovery the next day was back to 71%. Go figure.

The Ugly

I am not endowed with the biggest, most masculine wrists, and as a result the Whoop Strap looks more like a sizeable watch on my wrist than a slender bracelet. It’s not a particularly attractive design. I kind of wish there was a version that actually had a digital display on it so I could actually wear it as both a sensor and a watch (I usually wear my watch on my left wrist, so it has taken a long time to get used to wearing the Whoop over on the right wrist).

The black strap is already showing signs of sweat marks after a month and a replacement is at least £25, which feels like a lot of money for a little bit of stretchy fabric. I could probably just wear it in the shower (the sensor is waterproof) but then I'd have a wet band on my wrist for hours after while it dries...

Whoop Verdict

I am developing a little bit of a love/hate relationship with my Whoop bracelet. I like the data, I like the accountability. I dislike that I distrust the data on occasion, and I dislike the bulk of the sensor unit and the fact that I can't easily (or cheaply) swap the sweaty band for a fresh one.

I suspect I will keep using it until the end of the season, then maybe take a break and see how much I really miss having it, if at all. We'll see how strong the addiction becomes.

In other news

The 25-mile race I referred to in my last post ended up going okay. Despite some heavy legs from intense training, I still managed to post a course PB by nearly 90 seconds. That said, it’s a course I haven’t ridden since 2017 so I would have been absolutely gutted to have not scored a PB!

I then had a fun two-up 10-mile TT with Raceware Direct owner, Martyn Harris. A bit more practice and we might actually be quicker as a duo than either one of us is solo! (in other words, we weren’t very good!). But we enjoyed ourselves.

And finally, I’ve had a couple of runs on P881, a relatively quick 10-mile course in Hampshire. Unfortunately, neither run got anywhere near last year’s PB of 20:16. Hopefully one more chance to play before the season is over.

My power does seem to be creeping up again. And by creeping I really do mean 2-3 Watts at a time. No major leaps and still well shy of what I was targeting for this year. But at least I set a new 20-minute season's power PB in my last 10-miler and I seemed to have stopped the decline.

And I treated myself to a new front wheel, an Enve 7.8 clincher. I’ll be comparing that to the Enve 8.9 tubular it replaced soon!


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