Health & Fitness | January 6, 2022 11:11 am

Review: Future Forgoes Face-to-Face for Virtual Personal Training

The end product? A sweet, streamlined fitness ecosystem that will work well for a lot of people

Review: Future Forgoes Face-to-Face for Virtual Personal Training

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If the past two years have made anything certain in the fitness industry, it’s that the old model of “gym or bust” is dead and gone. Between the rise of COVID and it’s ensuing isolation-induced demand for alternative methods and the ever-growing sector of wellness that’s co-opted tech, food, fashion and more into the multi-billion dollar endeavor, the act of working out is fundamentally different than it ever has been.

I’m fine with the shift away from the gym, as I’ve never been an iron-pumping kind of guy anyway. But as someone who likes to stay in shape and finds exercise a fairly compelling therapy for the mess of stressors brought on by everyday life, I am always looking for a better way to get my body moving. I’ve scoured 20-year-old running manuals for the perfect half-marathon training plan, spent hours on YouTube trying to figure out why a handstand pushup is still far beyond my grasp (weak delts), and I’ve certainly cycled through the library of fitness apps.

Enter Future. I tested the recent fitness entrant’s programming for a month. The ecosystem, part personal trainer and part workout app, offers a slightly different take on the exercise-at-home movement. Parts of the set-up are great. It’s not totally equivalent to it’s in-person counterpart, but there’s no question about it, Future Fitness offers a streamlined, digitized take on personal training — and it might just work for you.

How Exactly Does Future Work?

Future is a digital personal training ecosystem — in application, this means Future offers a variety of services for its monthly charge of $150 (roughly $5 a day). The main component of what you get is the Future app, which sports a massive library of hundreds of recorded exercises, a text/call function and a personalized template that includes your weekly workout plan along with various metrics. In this regard, it’s much like other fitness apps, but there’s a lot more under the hood. Future provides you with a coach to help guide you, provide weekly exercise plans, as well as nutrition advice, encouragement. To get the most out of your workouts, they’ve also integrated Apple Watches — you can pair your own, or Future will provide a loaner — to collect data on your performance and help keep the workouts running smoothly.

Future doesn’t just have you dive into a cookie cutter lift. It requires you to answer a battery of questions about your fitness level, experience and preferences. You’re then invited to choose a “coach,” your own personal trainer who devises a weekly schedule for you and walks you through workouts. There are dozens to choose from, ranging from NFL strength trainers to certified yogis, all with niche expertise to help you hit those benchmarks. A consultation is then in order, in which you and your coach pick each other’s brain on the best way to get the most out of Future.

After your meeting, it’s off to the races. For me, an avid runner with no gym membership and a desire to pack on some muscle while keeping up my 30 miles a week, this resulted in five workouts a week, ranging from an eight-mile run to a 24 minute push workout with my lone 20lb. kettlebell. For someone with an Equinox hookup, or that fella that has two workouts a week in him, max, it’s surely a different story. Your training is calculated to match whatever goals you have in mind.

Future

What We Like:

  • Unlimited Customization: Coaches, frequency, time of day, even equipment: Future can be fully tailored to your lifestyle with very little effort. Sumo squat not feeling so good on those creaky knees? You can ask your trainer to tweak your workouts with an alternative quad blaster. Likewise, if a busy work week or holiday travel means you need to cut back, no sweat, or if you decide you can handle that extra mile, that’s an option, too. You set the rules for your fitness journey.
  • Anytime, Anywhere: The beauty of Future is in its versatility; not only are your workouts fully customizable, but when and where are you do them is, too. In that regard, it’s perfect for the fitness junkie who doesn’t have time to get to the cross-fit club. With Future, a lunch-break sweat sesh or late-night recovery run becomes doable, and with dedicated instructions from your coach, you get that one-on-one direction without the half-hour time-slot.
  • Drop And Give Me … Your Best: Although it’s certainly changing, there’s no denying a history of toxicity and shaming in the fitness community that make starting up near impossible. Future’s coaches are quality professionals who work with you to meet your goals, even if that just means one or two workouts a week.
  • Is All This Fitness Stuff For Me: Maybe you’re a long-time exerciser looking to taking things up a notch, or maybe your fitness journey started yesterday after watching a guy on YouTube throw some weights around and thinking, “I could do that.” A straight dive into a personal trainer can be a daunting and expensive splash, where as Future offers a more manageable platform and price for a similar level of personal attention.

What We Don’t:

As with all things, there are some drawbacks to training with Future. The first and most immediate complaint is one that’s unfortunately also the least fixable. As everyone from Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder to the American Psychology Association will tell you, consistency is the key for productive exercise, and despite their greater efforts — my trainer was gracious enough to encourage me to “get back after it” when I inevitably missed a strength workout — I certainly found it easier to blow off a push notification than I would have for an in-person, pre-scheduled visit to the gym.

There’s also the matter of what technology can’t convey. A form tweak is easily addressed in-person, but not so much via app. That’s not to say there isn’t a mechanism in place — Future allows you to record yourself and shot off videos to your coach — but, much the realization of how much is lost via that Zoom call with the company, the lack of real time feedback and answers can feel frustrating for a service that bills itself as your virtual personal trainer.

Future

Should You Get Future?

Short answer: If you know what you’re in for, then absolutely. Future is not going to be the same experience as an in-person trainer, and for someone who is looking solely for some good old fashion in-person connection and encouragement, Future might not fill that void. However, the whole conceit is perfectly calculated for on-the-go types who don’t have the time to get into the gym and want to keep workouts short and sweet but desire some informed direction, curation and support. It’s also a great resource for the first-timer, especially a self conscious one, who might need some extra help in the general workout department. And especially now, with so much uncertainty about the future of gyms, work equipment supply issues, and heck, some considerable worry in face-to-face encounters, it might be just the thing to help you stay sane.