Tag me in, Coach!

My primary fitness activity is running, but as a guy who played football and rugby in college, and for many years as an adult, I also understand the importance of other types of exercise in order to support a healthy lifestyle.

At this time in my life, it is not a priority to pack up my gear, head to a gym, and dedicate an hour or more of my time to workouts at a facility since it is already tough to carve out an hour to hit the road for a good run. I am also a very competitive person and tend to do more than planned when I have people around that I can compete with — so working out alone suits me just fine.

I’ve been focusing on bodyweight exercises as a mechanism to add some crosstraining to my life and have found that you can achieve results with nothing more than your own body, shoes, and shorts.

The Fitbit Versa comes preloaded with Fitbit Coach and three free bodyweight exercise options. Short videos on your phone, or animations on your Versa, will show you the proper form of each exercise. These free exercises include the 7-minute workout, 10-minute Abs, and Treasure Chest. These are great options for basic workouts and may satisfy some people.

However, I want more workout options, so I decided to take a closer look at the $ 40 annual Fitbit Coach service. You may also want to check out Sean Endicott’s take on Fitbit Coach at Windows Central. Disclaimer: Fitbit provided a promo code in order to test out Fitbit Coach.

Premium Membership Costs

I live in a town of about 50,000 people where gym costs run from $ 10 to $ 30 per month, but know that those of you living in a major city see even higher monthly fees. While these facilities may offer equipment, pools, saunas, and other amenities, Fitbit Coach Premium offers an alternative for those who don’t want to travel to a gym.

The cost for Fitbit Coach Premium is $ 7.99 monthly or $ 39.99 for a year (works out to just $ 3.33 per month). If you pay for the yearly plan, you essentially get seven months for free over what you would pay on a monthly basis.

Initial Setup

After subscribing to a monthly or yearly plan, the next step is to establish your profile and specify your initial preferences on Fitbit Coach. Enter your name, date of birth, unit of measure, height, weight (this can be synced automatically if you have a Fitbit Aria scale, and gender.

You have two options available for a trainer, Lea or Adrian. There are introductory videos and bios for each of these two trainers. I currently am training with Lea, but you can also switch as you desire while using Fitbit Coach.

Privacy options are present asking if you wish to share your weight data or session history with friends.

The beauty of these exercise programs is that you don’t need much equipment, if any. Just you, a chair, and some serious motivation.

Session preferences include subtitle toggle, text tips displayed during a session, audio cue toggle for reps, audio mixing toggle between tips and Fitbit Radio, and default video quality of SD or HD.

You can also select text and email settings for notifications. Notifications are present for the ideal time for upcoming sessions, activity progress updates, bonus content, and promotional content.

While you should connect your Fitbit account by default to make sure your Fitbit Versa is set up to work with the Fitbit Coach app, you can also connect your Facebook account to share your status with family and friends. On an iPhone, you can also have your data synced to Apple Health and on an Android phone your data can sync to Google Fit.

After all of your preferences are set up, it’s time to get started with some exercise. The first thing Fitbit Coach will prompt you to complete is a fit test. This is a seven-minute test consisting of six exercises with a survey after to help Fitbit Coach establish your baseline and make recommendations for the next exercises you may perform. The six exercises include high knees, pushups, bodyweight squats, back plank, pike presses, and bicycle kicks.

Equipment for Participation

The majority of the workouts in Fitbit Coach are bodyweight workouts so all you need is yourself, comfortable clothes to exercise in, and some available space to move. You may need a chair or stairs to use as props, but there is no equipment needed to complete these bodyweight workouts.

If you want to participate in stair or running workouts, then you will need to find place with lots of stairs or a treadmill.

Workout Options

‘Workouts’ appears as the second tab, or screen, on the Fitbit Coach website, and on the smartphone app. The website has dropdown options for muscle focus, difficulty level, and length. Muscle focus includes arms & shoulders, core, chest, legs, back, cardio, and total body. Difficulty level options include easy, medium, and hard. Length options include 10 minutes or less, 11 to 15 minutes, 16 to 20 minutes, 21 to 30 minutes, and 31 minutes and up. In total, 58 total workouts are shown on the website.

We are focused on the Fitbit Versa here, so what is present on the smartphone app that then syncs as favorites to the watch app are more relevant to this discussion. In the smartphone app, workouts are organized in five categories; bodyweight, outdoor walks, stair workouts, outdoor runs, and treadmill. There are 58 bodyweight workouts available, seven outdoor walks, 15 stair workouts, 12 outdoor runs, and 20 treadmill workouts.

I despise treadmills and will never personally use these workouts while I also have limited access to a stadium or other long sets of stairs for stair workouts. I am primarily interested in using Fitbit Coach for bodyweight workouts, and as you can see the overwhelming majority of workouts are focused on bodyweight routines.

The bodyweight workouts are each given unique names and an image associated with that workout. The thumbnail shows the time needed to complete the workout and an estimated calorie burn value. This calorie value will vary by your actual measured heart rate and other data associated with your performance.

Tap on a workout to view a statement about its intent and a list of the exercises and time for each exercise. Tap on an exercise to view a short video, with audio, showing you the proper form for completing the exercise. I encourage you to tap the star icon on workouts you like as that will save them to your favorites list for easy access in the future.

There are a vast number of exercises contained within all of these workouts, including jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, inchworms, squats, lunges, planks, dead bugs, Superman swimmers, and much more. The workouts are a great way to add variety to your fitness program while also being able to focus on areas of your body that need work.

Program Options

The other option for using Fitbit Coach is to choose programs. The four programs are set up to mix in workouts in order to help you find a program that matches your goals and available time to work out. The exercises are the same as present in the workouts, but with workouts, you have to try them and manage your own mix and match of workouts.

The programs include Get Moving (one session a week for 10-20 minutes each), Get Strong (three sessions a week for 20-40 minutes each), Get Lean (four sessions a week for 30-50 minutes each), and Daily Dose (six sessions a week for 10-15 minutes each). Since I am in half marathon training mode while also trying to lose weight I am currently enrolled in the Daily Dose program since it requires less time than the Get Strong or Get Lean programs and running three to four times a week is already pushing the limits of my available time.

Dashboard

The first screen on the smartphone app and on the website contains your dashboard. As you complete various workouts and programs, Fitbit will adapt and then start providing you with suggested workouts, workouts if you need to take a break, workouts to increase your cardio, and more. These suggestions appear on the Dashboard, below your most recent workout that appears at the top of the page.

In the Fitbit Versa watch app, personalized workouts are synced to the watch as you continue to use Fitbit Coach for your training.

Given all of the bodyweight exercises that are provided by Fitbit Coach, I personally think it is easily worth the $ 39.99 yearly fee. After a year of regular use, you may have selected workouts memorized and no longer need the coach, but it is highly likely that Fitbit will continue to improve the service so stay tuned for next year.

Fitbit Coach Alternatives

One aspect that makes Fitbit Coach a compelling product compared to selecting individual coaching apps from app stores is the workouts and programs that vary the exercises over a period of time. Also Fitbit Coach is closely tied in with Fitbit wearables so that your activity is synced with the workout program. Many other apps are only available on smartphones or have limited wearable options.

There are competitors to Fitbit Coach with most available on iOS and Android. Some popular options include Pear, Skimble Workout Trainer, Nike Training Club, and Aaptiv.

There are hundreds of workouts in Pear and the Pear+ membership is available for $ 5.99 per month or $ 39.99 per year. If you do not subscribe, then three workouts will be selected for you to access and use for free.

Skimble Workout Trainer contains thousands of workouts with 2,000+ exercises. More than 100 training programs from certified personal trainers are available with a Pro+ membership. Membership is $ 6.99 per month or $ 59.99 per year. Similar to Pear, free users get access to three workouts.

Nike Training Club is a smartphone app that has more than 160 workouts. Nike has options ranging from bodyweight to full machine workouts with both professional trainers and celebrity athletes providing workout assistance. NTC is free so before you jump into purchasing any coaching program you should at least investigate this option.

Aaptiv is a smartphone only fitness program that offers access to classes in outdoor walking and running, indoor cycling, elliptical, treadmill, stair climber, rowing, strength training, stretching, meditation and yoga. There are more than 150 classes each month. Programs for various levels of running races, 5K to full marathon, are also provided. Aaptiv is available for $ 14.99 per month or $ 99.99 per year with a free 30-day trial option.

Other wearables, such as those from Garmin and Polar, have smart coaching options that are focused primarily on improving your performance in running. Apple does not have any official coaching solutions for the Apple Watch. Samsung Health functions like Apple Health and tracks the exercises and activity you perform, but does not have a native coaching aspect. Samsung Health does have a better system than Apple for directing you to partners for specific workouts and exercises.

Do you Coach?

If you’re a regular Fitbit user, have you signed up for Coach? What’s your experience been like? Let us know in the comments below!

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