I started wearing my Whoop strap on July 1st and have been blogging about my experience. The Whoop strap is a wearable performance monitor that measures your strain (workout intensity), recovery and sleep. Since my Sleep Number bed monitors my sleep, I am most interested in Whoop's ability to measure my recovery and strain.
My last Whoop! Wednesday post focused on recovery and specifically how Whoop uses HRV (heart rate variability) in conjunction with resting heart rate and sleep performance to calculate recovery.
This week I'm diving into how Whoop measures strain or workout intensity.
Intensity is central to CrossFit. It's in our definition: Constantly varied high intensity functional movement. Therefore I thought that my strain would be very high on my CrossFit training days (which are usually Mon/Tue/Wed & Fri with an occasional Saturday. Thursdays and Sunday are my dedicated rest days.)
It takes 3 days of continual wear to unlock the Strain Coach feature. These first 3 days are when Whoop calculates your baseline biometric data and calibrates to your heart and respiratory rates.
On the 4th day of wear you can begin to tell Whoop when you're working out. While Whoop will automatically track your heart rate info when you workout, you can tap into the Strain Coach feature through the app to get more personalized analytics.
My Strain Coach for this day told me based on my recovery I could build to 11.9 strain. Strain is measured from 0 - 21.
My first week of using the Strain Coach I didn't even come close to the recommended strain. I WAS SO SURPRISED! I workout hard and at the end of each session my strain coach asked my for my perceived rate of exertion and it was always in the teens, but my strain value was nowhere near double digits.
The next week I scaled everything so that I could go faster and harder on all of my workouts. I thought for sure my strain would raise. It did, but it wasn't significant.
WHOOP measures strain based on cardiovascular output and time spent in various heart rate zones. The longer you're above 70% of your max heart rate the higher your strain score. Whoop does best when workouts are 15 mins or longer. So for our classic short and intense workouts your strain may not get very high. That doesn't mean you're not working hard and gaining fitness. It just won't be reflected in the strain score, but it will be reflected in your recovery score. More on that later.
What about lifting days? Here's how Whoop handles those training sessions:
If you’re doing a strength-based workout with minimal reps and periods of rest (such as Olympic weightlifting), you will have a lower strain if your heart rate is not elevated for extended periods of time. Many WHOOP members have wondered how their data will reflect a strenuous strength session, so here’s the breakdown:
Since all of our CrossFit workouts, both long and short, and our heavy days place some level of strain on our cardiovascular and neuroendocrine system our bodies must recover from the work. That is where Whoop really shines.
No matter your strain value for a specific workout, your recovery metrics are based on your personal biology (HRV, resting heart rate and respiratory rate) and those will absolutely be affected by the intensity of your workouts and the types of recovery practices you implement (hydration, nutrition, stress management, sleep, etc.).
I have used my recovery values and the Strain Coach feature to guide the intensity of my training sessions. If my recovery value is low, then I will adjust the volume or load of my workout. If my recovery value is high then I know I can set my hair on fire and red line a workout.
Interestingly, I finally achieved a double digit strain value. It was on Saturday when I ran the Godfrey Saunders 5k for social justice. It was the perfect Whoop storm of high heart rate and long workout. Here's what it looked like.
Long runs, long hikes, long bike rides and other long slow distance activities have their place in a well rounded fitness routine and now I have the data to show it.
Don't worry, I will still be setting my hair on fire and red lining all the CrossFit workouts I can. I will just rely on my weekend hikes for my high strain scores.
If you are interested in joining me on a Whoop journey, use my link to get your first month free. If you're already a Whoop user, join our True Spirit Whoop Group with the team code: COMM-AD6416.
Stay tuned for my next Whoop! Wednesday post as I explore the weekly and monthly performance assessments.
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