Can AI be Your Personal Trainer?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Large Language Models (LLM), Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT)… these topics are all the rage right now. While these technologies have been seeping into our lives for a while, they are just starting to take a front seat with our interactions. You might not even realize how many things you use that integrate some form of AI; it was all mostly happening in the background. The leap to directly interacting with AI forces us to recognize the role it has in our lives. Increasingly you will come to find using AI unavoidable, and that might be a good thing. AI lends us a helping hand with all sorts of tasks that we could otherwise do, but it would simply take much more time and effort. In this post I am going to cover why AI would be a good personal trainer, and maybe even a great personal trainer.
The What of a Personal Trainer
The core function of a personal trainer is to build workouts. At least, that is the most obvious deliverable we would expect. However, you would also expect that they will adapt your workout to your progress and capabilities. Otherwise, you could just download a workout plan and skip hiring a personal trainer altogether. We are all unique in our capabilities, and thus, need unique guidance as we evolve in our fitness journey. That means we expect personal trainers to build workouts specific to our needs. How do personal trainers do this? They spent the time learning all the techniques and knowledge necessary to guide us in our fitness journey. We rely on them for this fact, and trust that they keep up with the latest and greatest methods to continue us on our path toward the enviable goal of staying fit.
Just like we rely on the auto mechanic or tax accountants to have a knowledge set that we do not. We expect the personal trainer to have a knowledge set we don’t possess either. When someone chooses a vocation to specialize in, that we either don’t have the time or interest to do so ourselves, we pay them to apply their knowledge. It’s not that we couldn’t learn what it takes, it’s just that we don’t have the time or desire ourselves. And that’s fine.
What does this have to do with AI you might ask. AI is great at specialized knowledge, just like a personal trainer. You can train AI on all the fitness data and equations that your personal trainer would use. You may be surprised to find that some, but not all, personal trainers use equations to determine what your abilities are. They apply these equations when building your next workout. AI loves equations and can use large sets of data to perform these calculations with surprising accuracy. AI is completely capable of delivering custom workouts designed specifically for where you are in your fitness journey. It can detect a plateau (slowing of progress) and adapt your workout to push you to new personal bests. I’m not going to bore you with the Brzycki, Epley, or Lombardi formulas. That’s what we pay personal trainers for. All I’m pointing out is that equations and data are the bread and butter of AI, or ketogenic fat bombs of AI if you prefer.
The “What” of personal training has already been accomplished by AI. Case in point is Fitbod (https://fitbod.me). In my pursuit to find a workout aid that would meet my needs I tested out several fitness apps with varying levels of complexity and features. My wants were simple, a system to guide and track my workouts. What I found in Fitbod was an impressive implementation of AI that builds completely customized workouts curated to my exact needs. Muscle recovery, progress monitoring, and a full gamut of interesting workouts were unexpected bonuses. Plus, all the workouts are built only using the equipment you have on hand. It far exceeded my expectations. Even better, I can sequester a workout at 2AM without so much as a whimper of complaint. The Fitbod App is always happy to wake up and build my workout. No working around your personal trainer’s schedule, it’s literally in your pocket.
The Why of a Personal Trainer
We’ve covered the “What” of personal training, but there must be more. Now I’m going to cover the “Why” of personal training. When using navigation on a trip, you are obviously focused on the next turn you need to make. If the navigation never showed you the entire journey and the destination it would be difficult to stay confident as the miles add up. The next skill that we look for in a personal trainer is the “Why” of personal training. Someone who can tie our current workout to the goals that we are trying to achieve. Otherwise, what are we going through all this effort for? Personal trainers will tell you why you are doing the workouts. What’s the specific goal in this workout, what is going to be the reward after you recover, and how this is going to build towards the outcome you planned.
This is where LLMs and GPT come into play. LLMs and GPT can articulate what’s going on in a way that is understandable. We don’t speak in data and algorithms, but GPT and LLMs can translate for us. A layer of GPT over the AI outputs would give us the “Why” in the same way a personal trainer would tell us why we are doing certain exercises, weights, and reps. GPT could make total sense of a workout and give us the information we need to understand what we are aiming for. Whether plateau busting, core strengthening, flexibility enhancing, or endurance building we could follow along with the AI personal trainer just like we were listening to a human personal trainer. The main difference is we would pull them out of our pocket at our convenience and read the synopsis of the workout. Even better would be the integration a text-to-speech module. Ever thought you could have Richard Simmons or Morgan Freeman tell you what today’s workout is designed to accomplish, you certainly could.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a personal training app that can accomplish this yet. GPT is just busting on to the scene, but it is quickly finding its way into many aspects of life. So, I anticipate we will see this evolution from AI showing up very soon. As an example, I submitted the following prompt to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and you can see its ready for the job with some prompt engineering and the correct data to build from.
So now you have your “What” to do and the “Why” of doing it. So, what else does a personal trainer offer?
The How of a Personal Trainer
“How” is a very important aspect of personal training. Afterall, if you know what to do and why you are doing it you still need to know how to do it. It’s helpful to have a guide to explain a workout and the proper way to execute. There are many sources to figure out how to do a certain exercise. YouTube has a gluttony of workout tips and tricks. Simply typing in the name of the workout you are interested in will provide you with more content than you would ever need. You will have actual fitness experts, social media celebrities, and random gym goers that happily share what they know about every exercise ever devised. While it seems tedious to look up workouts to find tips and guidance, once you understand proper techniques the motions tend to stay with you. Especially if you are consistent at the gym.
The next best thing I have found is built into the Fitbod App. Every exercise built for you has instructional text and videos to show how to properly execute the lift or exercise. I do have to mention that it is lacking tips and tricks, or “watchouts” but all within the Fitbod App you can get a good understanding of the “How”. You could imagine someday the camera could be used to incorporate real-time feedback on form when working out. This is technically possible but would take significant development and investment before it would be ready for consumer use. In the meantime, a service where you submit videos of yourself completing workouts for review by human personal trainers would be useful. You could be provided feedback and tips, but this likely wouldn’t be real time.
Either way, we can be hopeful that this will be available eventually. Performing lifts properly is important and watching videos can be quite helpful, especially if you have a mirror to watch your form to compare. There is still one more aspect of a personal trainer worth covering, and this one is likely the most intangible and difficult to replicate.
The Nudge of a Personal Trainer
Personal trainers are often granted exceptional access to our lives. The emails, texts, calls, annual or quarterly reviews, and words of encouragement are fundamental to the personal training experience we expect. When you find the personal trainer that just “fits” with you, it’s normally because they have the nudge you are looking for. You feel connected to them, you don’t want to let them down. That is often the difference between binging Netflix and hitting leg day so hard you need the handrail walking out to your car. We even give them coveted space on our calendar, scheduling in advance our time with them and defending it from the encroachments of life. The single most difficult aspect of maintaining fitness is prioritizing it in our day.
It’s far too easy to miss a workout here and there, and before you know it there has been three weeks since you hit the gym. At that point you are in real danger of falling off the fitness wagon, and normally a personal trainer will step in to give you a reminder of why you started this journey in the first place. The personal trainer check-in is one of the most valuable tools in the fitness arsenal. We always long for the day we are “addicted’ to the gym and the thought of missing a workout gives us anxiety. For most people that takes months or years of consistent training. For some reason good habits don’t come nearly as easy. In the time between starting a workout routine and having a gym addiction, the personal trainer can be incredibly useful to keep us on track.
I have not found an AI based solution to nudge us like a personal trainer would, but it could be done. If we look at the system built into the Best Lyfe Membership at Lyfe Gym, you can see many of the pieces needed. With the Lyfe Gym App you can schedule your private fitness room and add it directly to your phone calendar. Once you have the space carved out on your calendar it becomes much easier to defend your gym time from the onslaught of the day. Once you block the time in your calendar you are much more likely to follow through with your trip to the gym. Having private fitness rooms ensures you know what equipment your going to have and how long you get to use it, so no more changing plans last minute when you see the gym is packed. Simply taking the ambiguity out of your day will significantly increase your ability to stick with the plan.
Included with the Best Lyfe Membership is a Fitbod Membership. Fitbod not only builds your workouts it keeps track of your progress. Fitbod automatically generates weekly reports and delivers your year in review. On the days you plan to exercise, Fitbod delivers your workout right to your phone with a notification to remind you of your future visit to the gym. Unlike the apps that hound you with notifications I find myself excited to see what is planned for the day. I look forward to the notification showing up on my phone. The calendar built in to the Fitbod app shows an overview of the workouts you have completed and lets you challenge yourself not a miss a day. The muscle recovery screen in the Fitbod app breaks down your current state of recovery, visualizing the muscle groups and how well you have been training them gives you an added bump of motivation as well. Seeing all your muscle groups fully recovered serves as a stark reminder that you have not been training your body.
As of now you won’t get the sad face and disappointed tone that a real human can deliver, not yet anyway. That might be a job for Deepfake, but that’s an article for another day.
At Lyfe Gym we have built the future of fitness. Providing private fitness rooms, scheduled in the Lyfe Gym App, you can get your workout done in the most efficient way possible. No waiting for equipment or running into the neighbor who wants to talk away your gym time. Then we partnered with Fitbod to give you a full time AI based personal trainer to build workouts, log progress, and celebrate wins. This system is everything you need to accomplish your goals. Between Lyfe Gym and Fitbod you have 24-hour access to a private gym and personal trainer, so no matter how busy your schedule is you can prioritize fitness. The future is bright and with a proper fitness routine you can meet each day with the energy and excitement needed to live your Best Lyfe.
Having AI for a personal trainer is going to be very common in the future and it is already available today.