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The Whoop Strap 3.0 is the personal trainer you need for 2021

(CNN) —  

With the start of a new year, it’s an opportune time to leave behind all the negative energy from 2020 and start anew with healthy habits. Working out and getting your body more fit is always one of the most popular resolutions, in fact, last year 50% of U.S. adults wanted to exercise more as a New Year’s resolution according to a You.gov poll.

But everyone knows it’s one thing to say you’re going to work out more and it’s another thing to actually stay committed to your physical health. If you need a little help staying disciplined, fitness trackers like the Whoop Strap 3.0 might be your key to success.

There are plenty of fitness trackers and gadgets on the market from Fitbits, Apple Watches and a whole litany of other smart watches. However, the Whoop Strap has quickly emerged as one of the most in-depth and data-driven options. We were intrigued by Whoop’s growing popularity, so we got our hands on one and tested it out for over three months. After countless Peloton rides, pull-ups, hikes and rock climbing sessions, the Whoop Strap has proven to be an immensely helpful and informative fitness guide.

The who, what and how:

Who this is for: If you want to maximize your workouts or just want an incredible amount of insight into your sleep and how your body reacts to day-to-day habits, the Whoop Strap is the fitness tracker for you.

What you need to know: The Whoop Strap has a subscription model with a standard rate of $30 per month, but you can lower your average monthly cost to as low as $18 if you purchase longer memberships up front. With that subscription you get a deep dive into the data of your body, but the Whoop Strap is definitely a fitness strap, not a smartwatch. It doesn’t have a screen or any other bells and whistles, providing you with clear insights into your health.

How this compares: Unlike the Apple Watch or even a Fitbit, the Whoop Strap doesn’t connect you to your phone. As a physical strap, it’s equipped with the bare minimum, but the sensors inside provide an extremely in-depth view of your health. It’s unique strain, recovery and sleep system makes the Whoop Strap one of, if not the most, informative fitness trackers on the market.

What is the Whoop Strap?

Whoop Strap 3.0
Whoop Strap 3.0
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Simply, the Whoop Strap is designed as a 24/7 fitness tracker. It constantly tracks and assesses key body measurements like heart rate, respiratory rate, sleep and so much more to help you live a healthier lifestyle.

The Whoop itself is comprised of three main parts: the strap, the clasp and a small rectangle that contains all the sensors. It’s packed with a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope and a PPG-heart rate sensor, and can also measure capacitive touch and temperature. These sensors measure how you move, along with all kinds of readings from your heart to capture hundreds of data points per second to accurately measure your body.

So what exactly does the Whoop Strap measure with all this fancy tech inside? The short answer is a lot. To explain it more thoroughly, you’ll have to know the way Whoop presents your information first.

Opening the Whoop’s mobile app (available on Android and iOS) displays your data in three basic sections: strain, recovery and sleep.

  • Strain measures how much physical activity you’ve put your body through each day and gives you a score between 0 and 21.
  • Recovery shows you how ready your body is to take on more physical activity.
  • Sleep shows how much time you actually spent asleep (spoiler: it’s a lot less than you’d think) and the overall quality of your sleep.
Whoop Strap 3.0 strain, recovery, sleep
Whoop Strap 3.0 strain, recovery, sleep
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Each of these core sections is derived from a number of measurements. Those include resting heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, sleep and calories burned among others. By dividing the data into three sections, Whoop gives you a digestible look into how your body is doing. The app doesn’t just leave you with the data either – through daily question prompts on habits like caffeine or alcohol consumption, hydration and stress levels —- it combines responses with data to deliver tips to boost your scores and live a healthier life. You can even add new questions to your daily list if you’re trying new things such as a keto diet, cryotherapy and blue-light blocking glasses among many others so you can see how these factors affect your health.

Last fall, professional golfer Scott Stallings was prompted to take a Covid-19 test after he saw suspicious data from his Whoop. He pulled out of a PGA Tour and wound up testing positive. Although the Whoop Strap alone can’t diagnose Covid-19, and isn’t an FDA-approved medical device, Whoop has since published a peer-reviewed study claiming its strap can help identify some early warning signs of Covid-19.

With the large amounts of personal data that Whoop collects, you might be wondering how all of this information is stored. The good news is that it’s extremely serious about keeping your data private. You can dive into the brand’s privacy policy here, but the big thing to know is Whoop, in its own words, will “never monetize our members’ personal data by distributing it to other parties, period.” Additionally the brand utilizes a secured cloud infrastructure to keep all your information safe.

This is important because the Whoop Strap is a more data- and fitness-oriented option than your traditional smart watch, since its main focus is on information. It cuts down on the bells and whistles, even to the point where it doesn’t have a screen. That means no notifications, no texts and no, not even a clock. Similar to the Amazon Halo, its only focus is your health.

Unlike other fitness trackers, pricing for the Whoop Strap is a monthly subscription. You pay $30 per month for access to all the data the strap gives you and for the Whoop itself. Or, if you want to pay up front, you can get the strap and a 12-month membership for $288 (which would be like paying $24 per month) or an 18-month membership for $324 (like paying $18 per month). Not only do you get the data with this membership, but Whoop has made it a priority to build out the community so you can interact with other Whoop users around the world. Within the app you can join teams, which bunch together people who live in the same area, play the same sport or fall into the same age group. You can also create your own teams so you can challenge and compete against your friends.

The subscription format is a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re piling it on to your other monthly payments. However, it does provide a super low cost of entry compared to other fitness trackers. For just $30 you can get your strap and start tracking, however, the base $30 subscription does require a six month commitment. At the end of your first six months, it’s easy to cancel your membership, and you get to keep the physical strap just in case you want to rejoin and get your data again at a later date. Plus, if you just want some extra health insights when you’re training for a big event like a marathon, you could subscribe for a few months to help you get in shape.

Design

Whoop Strap 3.0
Whoop Strap 3.0
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

The Whoop Strap 3.0 has a sleek, minimalistic design that keeps a low profile on your wrist. The components feel high-quality and durable, and for the most part wearing the strap was super comfortable. During the first week or two we experienced a few moments where the strap felt uncomfortable, and even woke up in the middle of the night once or twice to take it off, but after a short adjustment period we fine-tuned the tightness of the strap to make it comfortable.

While we primarily used the standard black strap and clasp, there are tons of different strap options to pick from, with replacement bands hovering around $25 each. There are even specific bands that dry faster for swimmers, arm sleeves and a seemingly endless amount of color options.

The strap has been quite resilient throughout our testing, and really only has a few scratches on the metal clasp —- even though we’ve been putting it through the wringer by rock climbing and accidentally banging it on countless door frames and counters. You might call it clumsy, but we call it testing to the max.

The Whoop Strap is waterproof, which we tested by taking multiple showers with it on. It held up perfectly, however, the standard cloth strap takes a while to dry, so we preferred taking it off before a shower. It’s important to note that while the Whoop Strap is waterproof, the attachable battery that charges it is not, so make sure to double check it’s not on your wrist before you jump into the pool.

Let’s discuss the battery. It’s essentially the charger for the Whoop and is designed as a small power bank that attaches to the top of the strap. It’s a little bulky on the wrist, but not annoyingly so. You’ll need to leave it on your wrist for about an hour and half to fully charge the strap. However, with that charge you get 5 full days of tracking. Keeping it charged isn’t a pain at all, in fact, we only had it die twice in the months of testing. And it only takes about 2 hours to charge the battery pack.

A personal trainer right on your wrist

Whoop Strap 3.0
Whoop Strap 3.0
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

When using the Whoop Strap, we found ourselves more motivated and informed on how our body reacts to not only different kinds of workouts, but other important variables in our life like stress, alcohol consumption, hydration and sleep.

We absolutely loved all the insights the Whoop Strap gave us, it felt like there was a personal trainer who knew everything about us right on our phone. During our testing period, we’d wake up and pop open the app to answer a few questions about the day before, check out our recovery score and dive right into the data.

The first thing we looked at was always the sleep score. Before the Whoop Strap, we knew that getting enough sleep was important, but seeing an actual score and judging it against how we felt each day really opened our eyes to just how critical a good night’s sleep is. The app clearly presents you with how many hours of sleep you need to recover fully versus how much sleep you actually get as a percentage. Personally, we started out rarely scoring above 70% but now, a couple months down the line we’re constantly getting 90% or more of our needed sleep.

Sleep was one of our favorite things to look at because there are so many little details that you can jump into. Within the Whoop app, you can look at not only your last night of tracked sleep, but also how it compares against the previous six nights. If you look at your most recent data, you’ll find information such as time in bed, number of disturbances, respiratory rate and more, all compared to your overall averages. It also gives you little insights, such as telling you that your body spent more time in REM than normal, which might indicate you’re trying to make up for a lack of sleep from previous nights.

While digging into sleep was fun and informative, the number we paid the most attention to was the recovery score. It’s a nice signal to how you should approach your day, and what you can expect from and push your body to do when you work out. Recovery is also shown as a percentage, measuring elements like resting heart rate, heart rate variability and more. The higher the percentage, the more your body has recovered, which means the more exercise and strain it’s ready for. If you’re interested in how Whoop calculates these recovery scores, you can check out a more detailed explanation of its process here.

Whoop Strap 3.0 data
Whoop Strap 3.0 data
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Recovery is a retroactive measurement so it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what kind of things promoted high recovery scores for us. Obviously lots of sleep was important, but initially we thought it would be as simple as sleep a lot and you’ll be 100% recovered all the time. That was definitely not the case. We noticed that drinking alcohol played a huge part in the recovery score, as did stress, anxiety and hydration levels.

While it took some experimenting to find what caused high recovery scores, strain was straightforward to measure and understand. The more you work out and exert yourself, the higher the score will be. The strain score measures how your body reacts to physical activity, so even if you did the exact same workout as someone else, your scores would be different. Strain is measured for both individual workouts as well as an overall score for the day.

You’ll get a number between 0 and 21 depending on how active you were, however, that scale is not linear. The higher the score is, the harder it is to keep pushing that number up, meaning it’s a lot easier to go from a three to a four than going from a 15 to a 16. For example, going up and down the five flights of stairs in our apartment building to do the laundry might push our score from a three to a four, but if it was already at 15, we might need to go for a 20 minute run to get it much higher.

The Whoop Strap primarily measures aerobic workouts, which means the strain numbers change depending on what kind of physical activity you do. Hopping on the Peloton bike for 30 minutes oftentimes yielded higher scores than rock climbing at a gym for hours on end. You’ll get the highest strain scores if you primarily do aerobic workouts, however, if you like anaerobic exercises you can still use the strain score as a benchmark to see how much you exerted yourself. For example, even though the scores when we went climbing would typically be lower, we figured out that anything less than 10 meant it was probably too relaxed of a session.

Working out with the Whoop Strap on was a breeze, and after the first few days of getting used to it, we barely noticed it on our wrist. Plus, you can start a workout on the Whoop app and broadcast your heart rate to exercise devices such as a Peloton bike or a Mirror, giving you a more informed workout. But if you do forget to start a workout before you start your session, Whoop automatically notices it and will log it for you. And if it detects the wrong workout type or an incorrect length, you have the option go back and edit it.

Monthly Performance Assessment
Monthly Performance Assessment
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

The daily cycles of the Whoop helped us hone in on good habits, but the most informative pieces of the Whoop Strap experience by far were the monthly performance assessments, which are accessible through the app. These take your data over an entire month and compare it to your previous history as well as other Whoop users.

It’s a comprehensive, multi-page health report that dives deep into your data so you can reflect and make adjustments for the future. This is a great way to see how your body has done on a large scale of time, and can be used to track how you react to things like different diets, exercise regimes and more.

The bottom line

The way strain, recovery and sleep work together is at the core of the Whoop Strap 3.0. With all this information, we were easily able to tailor our days, workouts and habits based on the data of the Whoop Strap. All of this added up to making it feel like we had a dedicated personal trainer accessible at any time of the day.

The data was extremely informative and genuinely helped us live life in a healthier, happier way. Although we don’t love the monthly membership format since there’s already enough bills to pay, we’d gladly drop some of our other expenses to invest that money in our health.

So whether you want to kick some annoying habits, workout more or just pay more attention to your health, the Whoop Strap provides an unparalleled amount of data that can help you stay true to those resolutions and get fit in 2021.

The Whoop Strap 3.0 is available now for $30 per month (with a required six-month commitment), $288 for a 12-month membership or $324 for an 18-month membership.

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