Fitness Trainers and Fitness Apps: Strange Bedfellows


First off, you should know that I love technology.

After all, we developed online, cloud-based nutrition and exercise applications for advanced health and fitness professionals including the industry acclaimed “done-4-you” education membership site, ONBOARD 101.

And, for the last three years I’ve been using various fitness apps as well as observing the fitness app market place.  Since most of them are free, or under $5, it’s pretty easy to try a lot of them.

I’ve used everything from the popular MyFitnessPal and DailyBurn to more obscure apps that track things like altitude, barometric pressure and other outdoor metrics.

Apps are Mostly Cool, but…

There’s no question that apps are here to stay.  They are incredibly convenient and provide all kinds of pertinent information like heart rate, blood pressure, location, mileage, temperature, etc.  It’s truly amazing.

But, when it comes to real world fitness, and specifically credible weight-management, almost all fitness apps fail.  Here’s why:

The Usual Suspects

Not surprisingly, a huge target market for many of the “general fitness” and “personal training” apps is consumer-based WEIGHT-LOSS.  And, just like all the other “faulty protocol” programs, their metric for progress and success is pounds-on-the-scale (instead of body-composition).

So, right off the bat, most apps are disqualified from being “credible” for long-term weight-management.

But, that’s not all…

It gets worse.  Most apps that include nutritional guidance default to a “restricted calorie” protocol.  Yes, the same protocol that leads to “yo-yo dieting and ultimate failure resulting from slowed metabolism.

Restricted calorie dieting is the exact opposite of the increased metabolism protocol embraced by all credible health and fitness professionals, athletes, wellness experts and health coaches.

Where Does This Leave You..?

So, as a health and fitness professional this puts YOU in a difficult position.  Especially if a client is already using one of these apps (using default settings) when they first sign-up with you for a training program.

Think about it.

What if your client, unbeknownst to you, is severely under-eating due to the default calorie recommendations put forth by an app.  What if, through the combination of exercise (physical stress) and under-fueling (restricted caloric intake), the client is burning up healthy lean mass?

Yikes..!  We’ve all seen the client who’s losing weight but gaining body-fat like crazy.   It never ends well.

And, remember, under-feeding the body not only cannibalizes lean tissue, but also:

  • agitates the central nervous system
  • compromises the immune system
  • upsets hormonal balances.

The Solution

The saving grace for almost all of the fitness, personal trainer and weight-loss apps is that they allow for “custom settings.”

So, if you have other software or a different way to determine your client’s optimal caloric intake, (ie; BMR plus exercise activities – TDEE) you should override the app settings.

Be Prepared With Information

The down side to making this adjustment is that 100% of the time you’ll need to increase the caloric intake.  And, this can literally freak-out your client who is perfectly happy, and willing, to starve!  

So, be sure to have your succinct “increased metabolism” explanation handy.  If you have an informational handout… all the better.   For ONBOARD 101 admins this is explained in Session One. (video #6)

Turn Lemons into Lemonade!

One of our fitness partners actually had so many clients using apps, that he created a small campaign: “Get Your Numbers” (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Postcards) where he offered:

  • a free body-fat evaluation
  • a BMR calculation
  • individual optimal caloric intake numbers (calories, protein, carbs, fat)
  • an offer to override their fitness apps with the CORRECT NUMBERS!

Within the offer he mentioned how important this was for people using fitness apps for weight-management.  I don’t have the specific numbers, but he tells me it worked “gangbusters!”  Both clients and non-clients came to his studio to “get their numbers.”

That’s just one way to do it.  With a little creative brainstorming you’ll come up with your own ideas.

Here’s the Point…

I don’t dislike apps.  I use certain tracking apps, myself.  But, I despise misinformation.

When it comes to apps and real world, long-term weight-management through increased metabolism measured via body-composition — most apps are deeply flawed.

And, when it comes to the professional fitness environment, every trainer I’ve spoken to takes exception to the fact that so many consumer apps are sending messages to their users proclaiming: “You don’t need a personal trainer.”    

In Summary

Apps are here to stay.  They’re cheap, convenient and easy to use.  People will continue to purchase them despite the useless metrics (pounds-on-the-scale),  miscalculations and faulty protocol (caloric intake) for the “fitness universe.”

So we all need to learn how to co-exist with them.  But, more than co-exist, why not leverage them to your advantage.

  • Ask your clients if they are using an app for nutritional guidance
  • If yes, then ask if you can see the caloric recommendations
  • Offer free body-fat evaluations and provide REAL optimal caloric intake numbers
  • Provide an informational handout on the importance of raised metabolism

Use this to your marketing advantage.  You can actually use apps, and their deficiencies, as a way to demonstrate the difference between cheap technology and a real, hands-on, health & fitness professional.

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