My discovery of the Future Fitness app is a pandemic cliche: In lockdown I had stopped moving. According to my watch, the trips to and from the kitchen to prepare an endless stream of snacks for my zoom-schooling children added up to just a few hundred steps a day. I felt bad — caged, anxious, simultaneously stuck and out of control. After months of casting about for something to do, I discovered Future.
The app pairs you with a personal trainer who sets up workouts for you based on your preferences and then checks in regularly to see how it’s going. It was exactly what I was looking for.
I had long ago given up on gym memberships. I hate treadmills and ellipticals, and while I liked the idea of lifting heavy things, weight machines either baffled and intimidated me. I harbored a not-so-secret fantasy of working with a personal trainer who could shape me like clay, but in addition to being prohibitively expensive, that required a lot of coordinating and hurrying to appointments. So I cobbled together a routine of HIIT classes, runs in the park, and the occasional spin or yoga class.
And then the pandemic closed all my beloved local gyms and the runs in the park meant swerving to avoid the other anxious New Yorkers trying to run off their terror. Besides, I wasn’t a 5-day-a-week runner; I was a variety-is-the-spice-of-life exerciser.
Lockdown taught me that in addition to needing to move my body, I also needed to find something that wouldn’t go away again if conditions suddenly changed, something I could do anywhere at any time. That ruled out the very expensive stationary bicycle I was eyeing late at night (and which we did not have space for). I tried some Youtube workouts but I felt really goofy doing them and they moved at their own pace. If I fell behind or out of sync, I was lost. I never quite got the sweaty workout I was looking for.
I went in search of something else and I settled on the Future Fitness App.
How does the Future Fitness App work?
Once you have downloaded the app (which is available for IOS and Android), you answer a series of questions about your fitness level, and your goals and special needs (are you injured or pregnant? Do you travel frequently?). It asks if you have other priorities (nutrition coaching, spending time outdoors), and about your previous experiences with working out. It asks you a series of questions about what you’re looking for in a trainer, and then pairs you with one of the dozens of Future trainers. I was paired with Alyssa.
The first thing we did was set up a Facetime call. Alyssa asked me lots of questions about what I liked and didn’t like and what I wanted to do. She was low key and friendly but also clearly knew how to design a workout. I knew I was in good hands. She would craft workouts I could do at home in my living room that would be a combination of strength and HIIT moves. (I had a few sets of light and medium weights that we’d be using.) She peppered in some yoga and balance work when I told her I wanted to try that too. We said we would aim for four workouts a week at first.
The app is straightforward and easy to use. Alyssa loaded in the workouts a week at a time. They are usually somewhere between 25 and 45 minutes long. They are a series of videos of trainers completing the moves (in my case a wide variety of squats, lunges, presses and a plank based exercises) and the duration, reps, and rest periods are all programmed. You just press play and follow the screen. Alyssa would record special instructions for anything tricky, and I could pause and re-start or jump back or ahead if I needed to. After I finished the workout, I could rate it and leave specific feedback for Alyssa.
I’ve been doing these workouts on my phone with Alyssa for two and a half years now. I don’t always hit four times a week but I have been remarkably consistent. I upgraded to heavier weights and I’ve got a few kettlebells as well.
The workouts give me the variety I crave. Having Alyssa check in with me several times a week and crafting these routines specifically for me keeps me accountable. I’ve also learned a lot about strength training — I’ve been to a few hotel gyms in the last few years and while I’m not yet doing bench presses, I can find a rack of weights and handily do my workouts without being afraid I’m going to hurt myself or someone else.
I sincerely hope that there are no more lockdowns in my future but I’m not afraid anymore that something unexpected will trap or derail me. I can do these workouts anywhere, with almost any equipment, and I will get stronger, more flexible, and fitter.
How much does Future Fitness coaching cost?
Membership is $149 a month, which is pricey for a fitness app, but cheap for personal training (and frankly cheaper than a month’s worth of group classes in New York City and most other big cities). Whether it is “worth” it is a question of how well you can motivate yourself without a coach or trainer and whether you can program a variety of different exercises for yourself. Some people are great at this; I am not. When I think about the cost per session, it feels very worth it to me.
Do I need a smart watch?
Technically you do not, but they are extremely handy (no pun intended). They’ll record your heartrate, giving you and your trainer a good picture of your level of exertion. You can pause and advance your workout on the watch, which is more immediate than doing it in the app on your phone. Future is compatible with Apple Watch Series 3 and newer (though they highly recommend an SE model or better); Google Pixel Watch; Samsung Galaxy Watch 4; Samsung Galaxy Watch 5; and Montblanc Summit 3.
Do I need other equipment?
Your Future coach can design workouts that don’t use any equipment at all. A yoga mat is a great surface for working on and I have several different sets of handheld weights now, which I use for strength training. If you have a gym membership or a home gym, for example, they could design something using a wide range of equipment.
Who is Future Fitness good for?
Like personal training in general, Future Fitness is good for almost anyone. Beginners can get expert introduction to different workouts. Someone coming back from an injury or recovering postpartum can have workouts crafted specifically for them. More advanced athletes can work with coaches who specialize in much more specific training areas, like skiing or triathlons.
The Pros and Cons:
The Future Fitness App offers personal training in the convenience of your home or anywhere. A trainer will send you a wide variety of custom-tailored workouts, coach you through the moves, and then check in with you to see how you’re doing. You can set goals, talk about nutrition and other elements of training, and get a steady stream of encouragement. If you don’t like your trainer or just want something different, you can switch easily to someone new.
At $149 a month, this isn’t cheap. And it’s not quite the same level of instruction as having someone standing physically in a room with you.
The Final Verdict
While using the Future Fitness App, I’ve learned how to exercise effectively at home and while traveling and gained considerable strength and flexibility. Pandemic lockdown may be over, but I’m never going back to my old workout routines.
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