Fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, and there are few apps that are tailored specifically to the needs of individual users. After all, everyone has different exercise interests, goals, time, and patience — not to mention, everyone has a different “starting point” when it comes to how fit they are or what they’re able to accomplish.
A new startup called Sessions is seeking to provide a more personalized approach to fitness, by connecting users with individual trainers who work with them to set realistic long-term goals and follow up to see how things went day-to-day. By finding out more about a user — including fitness goals, relative starting level of fitness, schedule, exercise interests, etc. — the health coach can work to develop a personalized program for each person.
That is, rather than having users attempt to fit a program into their lives, a Sessions health coach builds realistic, achievable goals around a user’s lifestyle and then gradually refine that over time. The end goal isn’t a short-term change in someone’s relative level of fitness, but a sustainable change in behavior that they can carry forward over time.
As someone who has struggled with his own fitness for a long, long time, I decided to try it out for myself. The onboarding process included me filling out a detailed initial survey providing general health and fitness information — what I hoped to accomplish, what types of exercise I enjoy, what my day-to-day schedule is like, what has worked in the past, what hasn’t, etc.
That was followed by a consultation with my personalized health coach, Glennis, who further talked through my goals and expectations and created a schedule of exercises to perform over the next week. Once that week is complete, things get re-evaluated for the next week on Sunday, which is considered a user’s “anchor day.” On that day, coach and client review the progress of the previous week and plan for the following week, adding new or longer sessions over the coming days.
The coach also keeps track of your progress during the week, texting or emailing users to nudge them to complete workouts or asking them how it went afterward. All communications actually get fed into your Sessions timeline, so you can keep track of your communications along with workouts all in one place.
In addition to having workouts tracked within the Sessions site, users can connect their calendars to get reminders there. They can also connect activity trackers and apps like Fitbit and Runkeeper to provide another layer of activity data to the system and improve the feedback that they get.
For me, the opening fitness regimen was just about scheduling a couple of runs over the course of the week and then augmenting them with a light home strength training session during an off-day. My coach followed up each day a workout was scheduled to see how it went and then marked them completed.
Users also do follow-up phone calls with their health coaches to reevaluate things over time. Depending on how much they’re paying per month. Users can pay between $69 or $199 per month, depending on the level of contact they require with their coach.
While it’s early days — Week 1! — I have pretty high hopes for the program to enact some actual change in my activity level. I’m not exactly self-motivated, but having someone on the other end to nudge me to work out will likely get me off the couch more often.
Sessions was founded in 2012 by Nick Crocker and Ben Hartney, who had both attended the University of Queensland in Australia. Crocker previously co-founded We Are Hunted, and was a product manager for Boxee in New York. The startup was incubated out of Rock Health, and has raised less than $1 million from SV Angel, Collaborative Fund, Blackbird and Joshua Kushner.