Monday, January 20, 2003

Men's Health Personal Training Site

I recently signed up, as a lark and I was in a workout rut, for Men's Health magazine computerized personal trainer on their website, which is actually a rebranded version of genesant's health gym portal (also available as's It was actually interesting, and I wanted to write a review about it before other people bothered. Alas, epinions doesn't allow you to add websites for review if they haven't made them available.

The idea of the site is that all these advanced exercise scientists automated their knowledge to give you as many benefits of a personal weight trainer as possible. Supposedly there isn't that much tailoring that needs to be for most people that it couldn't be automated. The site also lets you enter your workouts so you can track your progress -- something that too many people do not do, and thus don't know whether they are advancing or not -- and the system will rotate exercises to keep you from boredom, and suggest the amount of weight to use based on how the previous workout went. There are also animated gifs and complete descriptions of the exercises so you keep good form, the other thing a personal trainer should do. All for around 7 bucks a month, way cheaper than a live human. You'd get everything but the guy breathing down your neck in the gym, and with the sorry state of personal trainer certification, it would be better than many people are getting at 60 bucks an hour.

After inputting some stats like height, weight, inches left and right, etc., you get to choose from a couple of workout tracks. Their main track has all the tracking and rotating. You enter how many days you have to work out, whether you want to focus on getting lean or strong (those are the choices) and how much you currently lift in some areas, and it starts making a workout for you. Unfortunatly, you do not really get to choose the actual exercises, so in my example it selected some things my gym does not have the machines for. When you enter the results of a workout, you can say that you did a different exercise than the one listed, but this change is not remembered for the next workout, it expects you to do the originally selected one again. So it won't suggest what weights to use, and it won't keep track of the cycling, and you have little idea whether your substitutions works well within the schedule. You can select to do schedules only with dumbells or barbells, but if you do have access to some machines, that would be a waste.

You can start a track that is completly customized, but it is customized by yourself, so you loose all the knowledge about personal training this system was supposed to give you. The custom track will also not suggest new weights, nor suggest rotations. You do still get the graphs, the places to store the results from your weigh-ins and measurements, the stuff people should be keeping track of to see if what they are doing is working, but usually don't.

It is a bit of a bait-n-switch to have it be branded as a Men's Health magazine site, because it actually does not follow Men's Health latest ideas of training, and you can't easily select a track that would be a version of their latest workout scheduling notions or exercises. It would have been great if there had been the track for the current year long plan (they start a new one every year) and their strength coaches knowledge would have been automated and included so that a guy wouldn't have to fill in the blanks the magazine didn't, thus enhancing the relationship between the magazine and the website. It seems like such a simple step, instead you get the feeling that somebody outsourced without really thinking through how it would reflect on the original brand.

So in the end, I wanted the easily communicated knowledge of a personal trainer, but what I ended up with was something inappropriate for me, or an expensive electronic worldwidewebbed log. I did not finish the free trial.