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April's Real Great Fitness Experiment: Online Personal Training

Posted Apr 01 2009 11:57pm
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Have you ever looked at all the health and fitness information out there and just thrown your hands up in the air and said, "Please, for the love of little green apples, somebody figure it out for me! Just tell me what to do and I'll do it! I just can't think about this stuff anymore!!" And truly, what with the state of Zac Efron's ear wax and whether or not Twilight's Robert Pattinson showers, aren't there better things to think about?

Enter a personal trainer. Ideally, these smart folks can not only give you solid health and fitness advice but they can tailor it to your specific needs. But alas not all of us are "Real Housewives" (although I'm pretty sure my housewifery is as real as it gets) and can afford to hire our own Jillian Michaels to kick our butts. Which is where online personal training comes in. You sign up with a trainer over the Internet. You get a workout tailored to your needs and they get the ease of managing their clients over the 'net. But does it work?

There are a few questions I get asked over and over again on this website and right after "Does X brand diet pill work?" (answer: I don't know, I don't take diet pills), one of the most common is "What about online personal training?"

Women's Health magazine has heard your cries and, coincidentally, for this month is offering one month free of their new online personal training program. Fit Coach will give you as much or as little hand-holding as you desire. You get daily menus, personalized based on your answers to a few questions, and complete with calories and macronutrient breakdowns. They'll even print you out a shopping list. They will also custom design you a workout based on your age, gender, weight, reported fitness level and your performance on a push-up test - complete with sets, reps, the whole works.

What I Like (So Far)
The plan is as rigid as you want it to be. You can swap or delete foods on the menus and change out exercises or even exercise plans if it's not working. You can even choose to sign up for just exercise advice or just nutrition advice. For your part, they expect you to report in every day and log what you ate and how you worked out (easy peasy if you stick to their plans) . They also set one day a week for you to weigh in and take your measurements which then display in neat little progress charts all based on your goals.

Another nice feature is that they have entirely different plans for different goals. You can specify whether you'd like to lose weight (and even that is broken down into low-carb "speedy" and higher-carb "mood boosting" plans), get stronger, train for a specific sport, or just maintain. The workouts are also broken down by your goals so you can make them as beginner or as tough as you'd like.

There are other features on the website like chat rooms and bulletin boards and daily health tips that I will check out but don't plan on using very often. (My whole life is like one long daily health tip thank you very much.) But it's nice to know those features are available.

What I Don't Like (So Far)
The website's not super intuitive. It took a bit of poking around after I signed up to figure out what was where. And while I can't confirm this yet, I get the feeling that I'm still really dealing with just a computer program and not a real person. I have to say that I'm dubious about the quality of "training" I will receive, although the quantity certainly seems sufficient.

How To Play Along At Home
To sign up, head over to the Fit Coach website, and enter in your basic info. Be warned: you do have to provide a credit card number, even for the free trial. You get the first 30 days free and then they bill your card $45 for the next three months (about the same as Weight Watcher's online program if I remember correctly) if you don't remember to cancel. For myself, I already set up an alert on my google calendar AND a reminder to be sent to me via e-mail to cancel on day 29.

I'm excited to see how this all works out. I've never had a personal trainer in real life so this is as much control as I've ever given someone else over my food & fitness. And I think it might be a good thing to give up some of the control. Besides, the plans that they gave me seemed quite sensible with a calorie count well in the healthy and doable range and workouts that will be well-rounded and still a bit challenging. Some of the Gym Buddies have also agreed to do this with me and seeing as we all have very different goals, it will be interesting to see if the program is succesful for all of us.

So, who's in with me?

PS> Two things I learned from my little joke yesterday: 1) You all know me way too well! I think SeaBreeze pretty much spoke for everyone when she said "You're too OCD for this to have been real." Sigh. She's right of course. 2) But perhaps hedonism could be it's own Experiment at some point. I meant it entirely as a joke but some of you pointed out that it might actually be a good idea. Chilerocks astutely observed, "I thought you were going to say you were going to eat anything your kids eat and not get on a scale or write down anything about any workouts all month- just do what feels good- that'd be a good experiment." I'll think about it:)
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