Future Fit’s future of fitness – part three
What will personal training look like in the near future? Paul Swainson offers his ideas – what do you think?
It’s January 4th, 2020. Today is the day Sandra embarks on her New Year resolution to get fit, lose fat and be healthy (some things will never change…)
Sandra opens her eyes at 7.42am, gently prompted by her smart natural light alarm clock. That’s the optimum time for her today to ensure she feels refreshed and ready for the day. How do we know? The clock senses what phase of sleep she’s in thanks to the comfortable mask she’s wearing which monitors her brain activity, eye movement and heart rate.
She checks what’s planned for breakfast using the recipe her trainer Tom sent to the smart screen on her fridge the evening before via his client management app. She takes a photo of the meal which automatically calculates the exact nutritional breakdown and transmits it to Tom. Once Sandra’s finished she presses the ‘meal complete’ button on the screen as well as rating it for taste and how it makes her feel, which gives Tom useful feedback for his nutrition advice.
It’s the same process for lunch and snacks throughout the day, with automated reminders to Sandra’s phone or computer to eat and drink at the times Tom has scheduled based on her needs. However as Sandra doesn’t ‘check in’ within 2 hours after the scheduled lunchtime, another automatic prompt appears on her screen to check everything’s okay and, if she hasn’t been able to eat yet, suggest she has one of the handy pre-prepared snacks Tom has ensured she has available every day.
The nutritional advice Tom provides is guided by the results of the DNA test he asked Sandra to do, which indicates how she is likely to respond to certain foods. A similar test informs Tom’s exercise prescription, as someone’s genetic profile can also influence which types of training are likely to be most effective.
Depending on results and progress, later in her programme Tom will introduce an ingestible tracker. Sandra will swallow a pill every couple of days which is able to monitor her meal-timing, calorie and macronutrient intake accurately. So whilst she still sticks to the plan set by Tom, she doesn’t have to worry about logging every meal and snack. In the early stages though, actively providing feedback helps her to become aware of her nutritional habits, and establish a routine.
By the end of her working day, the discreet activity tracking device on Sandra’s trainer shoelaces has been doing its job (no need for smart work shoes – this is 2020 so of course it’s the norm now for everyone, even office staff, to wear suitable leisure clothes to allow them to be physically active throughout the day). Sandra can see she’s close to the steps target Tom has set but knows she’ll need to compensate for the slight energy expenditure shortfall by jogging to the gym rather than walking, mindful that Tom will be able to see her stats. Being accountable is a huge motivator.
As Sandra enters the gym, the client app on her phone shares her location with the other members of ‘Red Team’ – a group of 8 of Tom’s clients with similar abilities and goals who he has allocated together to support and motivate each other. 3 of them give a virtual thumbs up almost immediately, one asking for an update on how the session goes afterwards.
Having already done detailed fitness testing with Sandra the previous week, Tom has been tweaking the first training session of the programme he’s planned, dialling down the intensity and volume, and shortening it by 15 minutes due to Sandra being quite fatigued.
He knows this because all the data generated during the day; sleep quality, heart rate, movement, stress levels, nutrition, hydration and more has been recorded and sent to his tablet from the sensors Sandra wears or has inside her body. On there he can see graphs and analytics of Sandra’s status and progress.
Informed feedback and coaching
Tom shows Sandra a screenshot showing how her overall movement has been reducing over the week and corresponds with the fact she has not been getting as much sleep as would be ideal. He advises Sandra to get to bed half an hour earlier for the next week to see how she feels and following the session sets up a reminder to be sent to her phone to prompt her to switch off all electronic screens and start to wind down an hour before sleep time each night.
After an engaging, fun workout combining traditional resistance training with simple game-based exercises on the gym’s 3D arcade-style interactive flooring and walls, Sandra’s heart rate data is once again automatically transmitted to her profile in Tom’s client management app so he can begin to track her progress. Her performance in the session - weights, sets, reps, etc, is also logged automatically and digitally using wrist and ankle sensors, and the software calculates what Sandra’s targets for next time should be based on the overload parameters Tom has set.
Back home, Sandra is able to see a summary of all the data that’s been tracked, with comments and tips from Tom that he added following the session so she can reflect on it.
The following evening Sandra joins a live group workout streamed over the internet by Tom to his Red Team. All 8 clients watch Tom on their smart TVs via two-way video links from their own homes and can interact with him and each other as if they were in the same room. Their heart rates are all visible on screen so they can participate in some friendly competition, and the workout is recorded so Sandra and the others can repeat it once more later in the week, together as a team but this time without Tom. This works well for Sandra as she can only manage 3 gym visits a week but her programme involves 5 sessions a week in total.
A couple of days later Sandra joins a live webinar hosted by Tom for all his current teams – 5 in total – where he addresses the first of a series of nutrition topics to educate his clients. With 40 people listening and watching there’s plenty of questions and Tom encourages everyone to contribute with their thoughts and suggestions. All teams are also members of a private online group set up within Tom’s app where they can share ideas, progress and encourage each other - not to mention engage in some good-spirited team rivalry. All team members accrue points for every workout completed, training milestone reached, challenge completed and goal achieved. Not only do individuals receive rewards for gaining the most points each week and month, the combined totals make for a motivating inter-team competition.
Sandra feels confident that with such comprehensive support and guidance she will easily be able to stay on track and reach her goals, whilst at the same time learning about her body and what it needs to function optimally. She also benefits from the support network of like-minded team members, and likes the fact she is able to reciprocate to help them; being a valued member of a group is highly empowering.
From Tom’s perspective, he is able to manage and help many more clients and do so much more effectively than he could if he were only able to meet them 2-3 times a week in person and had to rely on emails, text messages and self-reported information, not to mention provide all the motivational support himself.
The packages he sells to his clients include all trackers, sensors, app use, home workout gear, group membership and remote services like the workout streaming and webinars. The in-person training sessions at the gym, although important, are therefore a relatively small part of his offering, which makes intuitive sense. 2-3 gym visits a week can’t compete with what Sandra does in the 95% plus of the rest of the week. It’s changing the rest of her lifestyle to complement the training that will have the most impact on Sandra’s results, which is why the resources now available to trainers are so game-changing. The sessions themselves are also flexible in terms of length so they can be tailored according to what’s appropriate for Sandra at that time, as happened with her first workout. One might be 20 minutes long, another 55 minutes. This doesn’t affect the package price, as Sandra is paying for results, not time with Tom.
Of course most of the technology mentioned above already exists, so there’s no wild predictions about what PTs will have available to them. It’s about how they use it as discussed in part two of this blog. Many of the ideas and concepts are also already in action, but the PT of the future will harness everything and package it together to make a truly 24/7 support and coaching programme possible.
Isn’t this all a bit ‘big brother’?
Perhaps, but then no one is forcing clients to be subjected to this level of support; they would voluntarily opt in to whatever elements they and the trainer agree would work best. And of course micro-management may well be what most clients need anyway, at least initially until they begin to take more control and responsibility for their behaviours.
What we do have to be careful about of course, is the paradox that that the more automated data collection becomes, the less awareness someone may have about their behaviour, and the less responsibility they may take for it. This comes back full circle to the role of the trainer to educate and coach clients effectively to make sure the technology works for them.
The best part?
As mentioned, most of the technology and functionality above is already available, so if you’re a fitness professional looking to get ahead of the game, you can start building a business-model like the one outlined right now! There is some argument over the accuracy of current trackers and sensors, and it is still the major challenge for the manufacturers, but that’s not the key benefit of the tech – the mere fact you are being tracked and monitored has a huge impact on adherence and compliance to new behaviours, so it will still fulfil a primary purpose for you and your clients. In any case accuracy will only get better, and very quickly.
So the future of fitness, is already here…