Digitizing The Personal Trainer

runner with watch and smartphone

It happens like clockwork at the beginning of every year: Consumers feeling bad about the previous eight weeks of overeating and indolence repent and join a gym. Gym memberships spike nationally as the well-intentioned resolve that this will be the year they get in shape.

But despite everyone’s best intentions in January, by February most people have settled back into their old routine — and more than 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions have been dashed. 

As for why so many people fail, the answers vary. Some set goals that are too challenging and become discouraged, some have goals that are too vague and some are insufficiently committed. But Akshay Ahooja, founder of Trainiac, said the major overriding reason most people fail is that fitness isn’t actually an easy goal to pursue or stay committed to. Most people aren’t experts and simply walking into the gym and taking a go at the elliptical isn’t going to get them to their goals. Plus, because it is a solitary pursuit, it is easy to fall away from. Fitness over time is about setting and keeping a routine — an activity the vast majority of people are going to need help with, he said. 

“The most effective and well-known way to get into a long-term routine is to work one-on-one with an expert,” Ahooja noted

Ahooja learned this from personal experience when he decided to get in shape for his wedding and retained the services of a personal trainer. That worked extremely well — for as long as he worked with said trainer. Once he was married and dropped the relationship, his fitness routine disappeared along with it.  

Thus the concept for Trainiac was born — an iPhone app-enabled marketplace that allows consumers to work one-on-one with a personal trainer, digitally. That trainer then helps the customer create and maintain fitness goals and plans over the long term.  

The personal touch, Ahooja noted, was not necessarily part of the original design — Trainiac experimented on filling out that function with artificial intelligence (AI) and bots, as a few other fitness apps in the field have done.  What Trainiac came back to over and over, Ahooja said, is that while both things can perhaps buttress the service the app offers, at base the human-to-human interaction between the trainer and the customer is key to driving a successful outcome. A human being can ignore a bot or an automated message reminding them its time to go the gym. Another human being is somewhat harder to ignore. 

“There is this assumption out there that if you give trainers technology it will all work out, or if you replace that trainer with AI it will all work out,” Ahooja said. “For a client to really build a long term habit of fitness, it’s not about just throwing more and more options at them. It’s all about helping them build out something that works for their lifestyle and their own personal struggle.”

This is why, he said, Trainiac invests heavily in training its trainers from being in-person-only fitness coaches to digital online fitness guides capable of working with clients across a variety of platforms. That is boosted on the back end by integrations with Apple Health, Nike+, Strava more than 50 other training apps so that customers and trainers can easily share data about workouts and fitness products.  

The goal, according to Ahooja, is to become central to all part of the client’s fitness life by making it easy for them to connect to the trainer in their pocket across a variety of needs.

The service for consumers costs $80 a month. Trainers on the platform are contractors paid based on how long their clients stay with the platform and how well they stick to their fitness goals.  

And as for the firm, its New Year’s goal is about growing up and out. Though Trainiac doesn’t disclose much in the way of specific figures, it does report having about 50 trainers on the platform and says its customer base has grown 600 percent year on year. With $2.2 million in new funding snapped up as 2019 ended, the plan for 2020 will be to grow the small fitness FinTech into a larger player in an increasingly popular field.


New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.