Human vs. AI…
Okay so maybe it isn’t that intense - but it is a concept I invite you to think about!
Since those handy dandy smartphones of ours have become less phone and more … well … literally everything else … people have added “at home gym” to the list of how they use their “phones.”
Then the pandemic hit (remember that) … and even gym lovers were forced to find alternative ways to drip sweat without sucking on each other’s air during the middle of a global shut down - so naturally? Fitness apps thrived. Peloton? I mean HELLO! So big they were able to open a brick and mortar once the world reopened.
Even in today’s - back to our new normal - working at a gym with 100s of check-ins a day I have come to the realization that a lot of Gym Lovers have adopted using apps to design and drive their in gym workout. Not to mention, a lot of people who never used gyms at all now have the confidence to step foot into a gym for the first time because they have guidance on what even the heck to do once they are in there.
So. I’ma take a hot sec to shout out - I do not hate apps.
In fact I love that they kept so many humans active during lockdown and are continuing to inspire and motivate people to keep moving.
Okay…now that’s out there - as a certified personal trainer who wants to see everyone living their best most effective and happy fitness life - I would be remiss if I didn’t address what you AREN’T getting with fitness apps in hopes of educating you so you can keep working out forever and ever without injury or 4 month period stretches of lack of motivation!
Pros : Apps are accessible ways to keep you moving pretty much anywhere and they are cheap/free.
Cons: Buckle Up. I’m gonna hit 4 major fallbacks.
THEY’RE INJURY PRONE
The number one BIGGEST issue with apps, in my opinion, is that they do not prevent you from injury the way a coach does.
This issue is actually what prompted me to even write on this topic. - I was talking with a client about how she has been using an app and loving it (Yay!). I asked her what she was working that day and she said “Deadlifts! I just love it the next day when my back hurts and I know I did a heavy lift!.” (Not. Yay.)
This is a perfect example of how an app often does not guide and protect you with the most basic of form principles - YOU SHOULD NEVER FEEL DEADLIFTS IN THE SMALL OF YOUR BACK - that shiz is hella dangerous and can lead to injuries that will not just take you out for weeks, but will often recur throughout your lifetime.
AND even if an app is giving you basic form cues - a lot of us don’t have the experience and/or mind-body connection to know when we are doing these correctly and when we are putting ourselves in danger. I see improper form every time I walk through the main floor of our gym, and I’m worried about your bodies ya’ll!
LOVE that apps got you working out, but I would hate to hear that they took you out of a workout because of a preventable 6 month injury that not just lost you 6 months of fitnessing but also threw you so far off of your routine you don’t come back.
The other serious stinker - You can train for a loooong time with improper form before you wreck serious havoc on your muscles, ligaments, joints, skeleton…and the longer you train incorrectly, the longer the correction process takes. Which means some serious (but vitally important) backtracking on your gains.
WHAT CAN PERSONAL TRAINERS / FITNESS COACHES DO?
They keep a close - EDUCATED - eye on your movement patterns to make sure you are using correct form to not only avoid injury but also target the proper muscles. When you are out of alignment they can use verbal and physical cues to help guide you into proper alignment. Eventually, after working with professionals for some time you start to develop more bodily awareness and are able to feel for yourself when your form is off.
The best part? Not only do they keep you on track to your goals, but keep you working safely and effectively so you can continue with fitness your entire life!
THEY DO NOT PERSONALIZE OR CATER WORKOUTS FOR YOU!
One of the BIGGEST benefits of working with Personal Trainer and even in group fitness settings is that the coach is able to assess in real time what movements, weights, types of workouts, duration and frequency work best to help you reach your specific goals!
An app doesn’t know YOU and it doesn't care about you!
And it certainly doesn’t know how to scale an exercise back and offer modifications if it notices synergistic dominance (when the muscle that should be activating is not firing right so another body part swoops in and takes over) and incorrect movement patterns, or even if the workout your doing is in line with your specific goals.
So what? So what!? That means that not only are you not training your targeted muscle - you are also incorrectly training your body into unhealthy movement patterns that over time can cause muscle weakness/atrophy, knots/abrasions, and even worse injuries.
On the other side of the same coin - if you are beasting what you are doing - the app doesn’t know to ask you to intensify - To add weight, add speed, increase reps, etc. This is where I see a lot of app based clients plateau and not reach their goals because they do not know how to properly progressive overload!
WHAT CAN PERSONAL TRAINERS / FITNESS COACHES DO?
They can assess in real time where you need modifications and intensifications to uniquely cater your workouts to your specific goals. They will create unique workouts that target muscles in different planes of motion and keep them constantly adapting. They provide fresh workouts so you aren’t doing the same 5 moves 5 days a week, and they choose them based on your unique needs for your unique goals!
APPS DON’T CARE IF YOU DON’T SHOW UP!
Here is another big one where a robot just can’t take the place of another living, breathing, empathetic human (yet…).
When you miss a workout - maybe your app has a tracker that will notify you and maybe even cause a sense of guilt - but it won’t create a connection with you that gets you to ACTUALLY get started.
If we lose motivation when we are using an app - it is up to us to turn it on and light a fire under our butts.
I don’t know about you…but personally, this is my number one hurdle!
I, for one, have also experienced first hand being in a solid flow of workouts and feeling good when all of a sudden … LIFE KICKS IN! I am overworked and tired, I am on my period, I am out of town and traveling, I am insert life thing here! The thought of getting back into my workout routine is not just daunting - it is downright impossible to self motivate…unless I sign up for a class or book a PT.
WHAT CAN PERSONAL TRAINERS / FITNESS COACHES DO?
It is a big part of our job to help you help yourself stay consistent and accountable! Not only is it much harder to bail on a person than an app - Personal Trainers will reach out to you directly and help you reschedule. A good teacher may do the same thing or at the very least - we look so forward to seeing you in class - we will notice and say something when we haven’t seen you in a bit. Not to mention, the more of a human community we can build around our workouts the more we can rely on being excited to see and connect with our gym friends for days we truly feel unmotivated.
And also? A lot of time it costs us well earned dollars to cancel last minute … which brings me to my 4th and final way apps are failing us…
WHEN WE PAY WE PAY ATTENTION!
For a lot of people one of the most enticing reasons to lean into an app is because it is free…or cheap. Again - this is a great way to get started…but on top of all the things I have listed above - I have seen time and again that when we invest in ourselves - we show up for ourselves.
*** Quick lil personal anecdote ***
I have visited the same yoga studio on and off through classpass and drop-ins for 10 years. I finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for a membership. It wasn’t the cheapest, but dang, I used that puppy 4-5 times a week. I was gonna get the most bang for my well earned buck - I’ll tell ya what! Not only did that save me money in the long run - I was also the most consistent I had ever been with my yoga practice and I looked and felt AMAZING!
About 10 months ago they made a mistake with my membership and started charging me $0 a month (side note - I did try to fix this and they gave me a wink and a cheeky “I’ll definitely look into this.”). At first I was thrilled. FREE fitness walking distance from my house, that I know I can come to 4-5 times a week?!?! This is literally a dream!
Can I tell you how many times I have used that free membership in the last 10 months? Maybe twice in the first month. NO. JOKE.
The second I stopped investing my own dollars into it the stakes dropped and back I slipped into the - “I’ll go tomorrow” pattern.
I still have the free membership - but the only yoga I go to now is now at a studio I pay for because I book in advance and it charges me if I cancel.
This may not be something we all need for motivation - but I share because after working with hundreds of students and clients I have seen over and over that consistency and results happen when we are paying to show up.
So there it is: my 4 hot takes on why apps can eat it!
Just kidding - again if they are working for you and you are happy and showing up and safe - I LOVE THIS!
But if any of this resonated with you - I humbly encourage usin the app as a stepping stone to the rest of your fitness journey. Now that you’re inspired and moving - keep it going! Try a class or sign up for a session with a trainer with these things in mind to feel - in real time - the difference fitnessing with a real person makes!
No matter what - as always - I am cheering you on and believe wholeheartedly in you!