Culture

Welcome to WHOOP

Tanja Erath shares her first impressions of the digital fitness and health coach

May 13, 2022

When you’re an athlete, there’s no shortage of data to compile, analyze, and share. But managing all of this can be so time consuming and inconvenient that many of us skip it.

Until this season, Tanja Erath used a few different devices to track and log her data, but she still only had part of the story. She could only guess at how much restful sleep she was getting, how hard she was pushing her body in her sessions, and how her menstrual cycle affected her training and nutrition.

When Tanja first unboxed her WHOOP 4.0, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “I’d heard about WHOOP but I never looked into it,” Tanja says. “I liked the style. Every time I saw it in pictures, I thought, ‘Oh this looks cool,’ but it wasn't something that I thought I needed.”

Before she started to use WHOOP, she had a patchwork approach to calculating her heart rate variability and it was a cumbersome process. “I used to measure my HRV every morning, but I used my watch for five minutes and I put on my heart rate strap. It was just an effort to do it whereas now it’s automatic. It’s really nice to have that data that I’d used previously but now in a really easy set up.”

A higher HRV indicates a greater level of recovery, whereas a lower HRV suggests fatigue or sickness. “It’s a good measurement to tell you when you need recovery or when you’re about to get sick,” explains Tanja. “That’s a tool to use because sometimes you think maybe I’m tired due to overtraining or maybe something is bothering my body and I should have the rest. Having that extra tool helps you to adapt your training and take earlier actions to not get sick.”

"It’s good if you want to use the data to professionalize and improve your training."

Tanja Erath

The German rider was further impressed when she learned about WHOOP sleep tracking. “I know that I’m a bad sleeper and that I can improve my sleeping,” she says. “I was really looking forward to looking deeper into my sleep, into my awake time, and how long it takes me to fall asleep. Sometimes I think you can be fooled. I think, ‘Oh, it took me ages to fall asleep’ and in the end it was only 10 minutes. You get worried ahead of races that you didn’t sleep enough, but sometimes you’re just being nervous and thinking too much about it.” Seeing the amount of sleep she actually gets in black and white has been helpful. Tanja now believes that sometimes she actually gets more sleep than she had realized. This brings her peace of mind to know that her body is able to rest and recover to a better degree than she expected.

Since Tanja started tracking her sleep data, she has noticed patterns in what helps and what hurts her sleep. This knowledge empowers her to make decisions that will improve her rest. “Before I would just watch some Netflix or something to fall asleep, and from the data I realized it doesn’t really help me to sleep well so I just listen to a podcast instead. Then it’s already dark and I’m going to fall asleep faster and I’m going to sleep longer and I’m going to be more recovered. It’s really helped me to increase my sleep.”

After working as a nurse and completing medical school, it’s not surprising that Tanja has a deep interest in health and the human body. “From a medical point of view, I was interested in the data. Looking into it with my coach, we use the 30-day average and the 180-day average baseline trends. It’s really nice because you can see what training does to your body and what recovery does to your body.”

“Now after two training camps and also racing with WHOOP, I can tell so much more about the impact cycling has on my body,” she says. “You can really see when you’re getting tired, you can see when you’re getting recovered. You can really see a pattern. It’s good if you want to use the data to professionalize and improve your training.”

Tanja is happy to have the option to track her menstrual cycle with WHOOP. The app asks for your birth control type, if any, the dates of your last period and how many days your cycle typically lasts. It then predicts the dates for your future periods and can always be adjusted if and when your cycle changes. Menstrual cycle coaching lets you know when your body may need additional rest due to your cycle or if your body is primed for intense sessions.

“There are always bits of small info like what phase of your cycle you are in and what’s typical for it and what you should look into in terms of training and recovery,” Tanja explains. “Everyday I look at my WHOOP because of the sleep and I have a reminder of what phase of my cycle I’m in.”

This information helps Tanja make informed decisions about nutrition. “The week before I have my period, I’m usually craving sugar because blood sugar tends to be low then,” she says. “I used to get worried that I was getting weak and that was causing me to crave sugar, but now I have this reminder that it’s just because it’s the last few days before my period so it’s normal. Then I have porridge in the morning because I’m going to need more carbs and I don’t skip carbs in the evenings. This will lower my cravings so it stabilizes my calorie intake and my weight so I really like that.”

“It’s a good measurement to tell you when you need recovery or when you’re about to get sick.”

Tanja Erath

Tanja generally prefers to not wear anything on her wrist so at first she wasn’t sure how much she would actually wear her WHOOP. She gave it a month and quickly discovered the ease and comfort of collecting so much data. She also appreciates how straightforward it was to share the data with her coach thanks to the app. Even now, she continues to discover new features on the app. Most recently, she noticed that the app lets her observe her heart rate over the course of the day simply by turning her phone sideways, providing her with an even better 24/7 view of her health.

Given Tanja’s training and racing schedule, plus her medical background, she knows a thing or two about the importance of data. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started wearing my WHOOP,” she says. “It’s proven to be a useful tool to help with my training and recovery.”

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