Whoop is the human performance company that aim to unlock your potential through algorithm driven data.

I would like to preface this review with a little background. I've never been great at the recovery aspect of training. Training 5 times a week has never combined well with being something of a night owl. Add to this that I now have a 2 year old son at home and the variability of sleeping pattern that this all but guarantees isn't even totally within my control. Carrying a slightly hungover feeling in to work each day, and the reasonable assumption that my training isn't likely to be as effective as it could be, had me drawn to Whoop and a more in-depth approach to performance and recovery. Perhaps a better understanding of my habits could give me something actionable. Was I truly doing all I could do to increase my daily performance?

For this review I wore the Whoop 4.0 tracker on my wrist for a full 3 months, mounted on the Onyx SuperKnit band. Whoop do offer an extensive range of colours and printed patterns, if you are looking to make a little more of a statement, but I have always been a black on black on slate black type. The band is a low-profile, micro-filament yarn with a soft backing. Perhaps the highest praise I can award is that I am wearing it as a write this, having never once removed it (even in pools and showers), and I have never once felt it a burden or irritation.

The Whoop 4.0 tracker sets itself apart from most wearables in the market in that it does not track steps, measure elevated climbs, or bombard you with notifications. In fact, the device notably omits any LCD display. Staying clear of any smartphone-like characteristics, a haptic alarm is the only feature that could be described as a notification, and one I'd have to describe as favourable to the shrill and unforgiving chime of my smartphone alarm. I have mine set for a steady 6am daily wake up, and I certainly wake in a better mood being stirred by a gentle haptic tremor moving through my left wrist.

Physically, the tracker is a small black rectangle with an easy-to-use clasp, and smooth, rounded edges that make it both comfortable to wear and easy to clip on and off. In addition to the SuperKnit band, there is a Whoop Body range available that allows the tracker to be worn in all manner of clothing items, from T-shirts to boxers and sports bras, should you wish to keep a clear wrist. The device is packaged with a small external battery pack, that charges via usb-c and affixes to the device, allowing an estimated battery life of 5 days, which seemed to be about right in my case.

Software is where the Whoop 4.0 really gets to shine. An intuitive application pairs effortlessly to your device with a quick tap of the tracker to pair, and so begins the process of learning about your physiology. A real-time health monitor displays readings of your heartrate, resting heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen levels, respiratory rate, and importantly, your heart rate variability. Every aspect of the apps tracking is backed up by written information, why you would want to know, and importantly, how to act on and improve the results.

As someone who primarily resistance trains, with a couple of intense cardio sessions scattered throughout my weekly routine, it was interesting to see a breakdown of my sleep, recovery and strain represented each day. Colour coded graphics display the effectiveness of your rest, with sleep performance data available to let you know exactly how hard you should push each day in conjunction with your recovery quality. Colour coded for clarity, I quickly found that my established routine was a pattern or red and yellows, and if I wanted to aim for "performance", I needed to find a way to squeeze a couple of extra hours rest. The "gamification" of my health choices, encouraged me to forgo a late-night movie in favour of squeezing one more hour in. Rinsing and repeating until I gradually found the strain and recovery measurements aligning day to day.

After two weeks of setting my targets back and forth between "perform" and "peak', I noticed a huge increase in my overall energy levels. I was approaching gym with not just a sense of duty and determination, but some actual appetite for the activity. Something that has been lost to me as a casualty of being a working dad who does the morning day-care drop offs after some very late nights. You can also set your alarm just to "get by", from time to time. We can't all live optimally all of the time, but in conjunction with more consistent recovery, I felt that the difficult nights became less costly.

Inside the gym, you do need to be a little hands-on with the app to guarantee accuracy. It allows you to manually input and save workouts, making resistance training easier to track. It can be a little fiddly if you are forced to chop and change your exercises mid-workout, but I found it worthwhile to maintain accuracy. A huge range of activities can be tracked, and despite the absence of the odd individual strength exercise, I felt I was able to record accurately.  As is the case with most wearables, I felt that it was most indisputably accurate during cardio sessions, but I saw a notable difference in hugely fatiguing strength days incorporating heavy squats and deadlifts, in comparison to something like an arms and back workout, which rang true.

Around halfway into my time with the device, the health monitor picked up elevated skin temperatures, and effectively predicted illness on two occasions prior to my feeling symptoms. As a result, I was able to respond by increasing rest time to minimise the duration of being out of action.

Integrated into the software are some excellent informative community features, such as breathing exercises from renowned Neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman, health podcasts and guidance on how to optimise sleep or increase dopamine production. As an overall health package, the Whoop app really is for those serious about improvement. More recently, the application has introduced Whoop Coach, using the power of OpenAI GPT -4. Introduced around halfway through my usage period. Integration of AI removes any doubt when it comes to reading data, as you can now just ask away.  I found myself asking "why did I feel weaker today?", "how do I improve my heartrate variability?" and several other questions that allowed it to consult a much larger personal data pool to advise and guide me on what steps to take. Each enquiry was answered with something that I could either work on, or perhaps just better understand as part of my own physiology. It is the closest thing I have experienced to having my own digital personal trainer.

After 3 months with Whoop, I have seen some concrete changes. I have a better understanding of the balance between training and performance, and have seen benefits in both my work, my training, and crucially my overall mindset. I can quantify the consequences of alcohol. I know the impact of too many late nights on my next day's training. Preparing myself for high intensity workouts is purposeful and has allowed me to increase my cardio fitness to a level I haven't reached since becoming a parent.

Priced at £27 per month with no individual charge for the device itself, Whoop is a premium product. I once read that this is a device for the seasoned athlete, but the inclusion of the AI powered coaching has made Whoop 4.0 a device that is accessible to anyone who wants to make significant change to their health and know exactly how to keep it that way.

Ian Westcott