Vir­tu­ally per­fect: the in­vis­i­ble trainer

Hav­ing a coach in cy­berspace doesn’t mean you can take it easy, finds Fiona Rus­sell

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Wellbeing -

It’s only Wed­nes­day, but al­ready you’ve skipped two days of a train­ing sched­ule for a forth­com­ing 10k race. On Mon­day you ex­cused your­self with a slight snif­fle. To­day no one is watch­ing you, so who cares?

By Fri­day you’ve man­aged one short jog, but then an omi­nous email pops into your in­box. It is tagged: “Train­ing feed­back.” It asks, sim­ply: “In marks out of 10, how do you rate your progress this week?” Gulp.

You write back: “A dis­mal one out of 10.” The prompt re­ply is firm, but car­ing. “Let’s talk about it and find out why the pro­gramme is not work­ing for you.”

Wel­come to the 21st-cen­tury train­ing com­pan­ion: your vir­tual coach. Just like a real-time per­sonal trainer (PT), an on­line coach dis­cusses per­sonal goals, tai­lors ex­er­cise sched­ules and of­fers ad­vice to clients of all abil­i­ties. In­stead of face-to­face guid­ance, how­ever, the vir­tual trainer gives feed­back via emails and texts.

While crit­ics say that it is im­pos­si­ble to ef­fec­tively train clients with­out meet­ing them, on­line coaches of­fer a valu­able com­pro­mise when it comes to train­ing. First, they are a cost-ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive to the av­er­age £30 per hour charged by PTs. Sec­ond, they rep­re­sent a more flexible and less in­tim­i­dat­ing op­tion than at­tend­ing a run­ning club or gym class, es­pe­cially if your work takes up much of your time or makes it dif­fi­cult for you to com­mit to reg­u­lar ses­sions.

And, just be­cause your coach is in cy­berspace, it doesn’t mean he won’t be keep­ing tabs on you. The mere thought of the next feed­back email should have you rac­ing to put on your sports kit.

Here are six coach­ing web­sites to check out.

TrainS­mart (www. trains­mart.com) 5/5

What: on­line train­ing web­site for run­ners, cy­clists and swim­mers, launched at the end of last year. Of­fers both com­puter-gen­er­ated per­son­alised train­ing pro­grammes and highly qual­i­fied hu­man coaches via email, texts and com­puter mes­sag­ing. For all abil­i­ties, from novice to elite. Cost: an av­er­age of £100 for a year, in­clud­ing train­ing pro­grammes spe­cific to two races and a to­tal of three weeks’ on­line coach­ing. What: one-to-one run­ning train­ing, ideal for novice 10k jog­gers and marathon run­ners alike. A team of ex­pe­ri­enced coaches is led by Richard Holt, a UK Ath­let­ics-qual­i­fied coach and for­mer com­pet­i­tive hur­dler. It in­cludes weekly pro­gramme up­dates and feed­back via email, as well as video anal­y­sis of tech­nique. Cost: £70 a year or £25 a quar­ter.

Mo­men­tum Sports (www.mo­men­tum sports.co.uk) 4/5 Sci­en­tific Coach­ing (www.sci­en­tific­coach­ing.com) 3/5

What: on­line one-to-one cy­cling and triathlon coach­ing from Dr Auriel For­rester, a sports sci­en­tist and se­nior cy­cling coach. Also, CD pro­grammes for in­door cy­cle train­ing ses­sions. Cost: pack­ages from £90 for a one-off train­ing plan and three months of feed­back, to the year-long Plat­inum for £1,250 which pro­vides fort­nightly re­views, up to 12 hours of one-to-one coach­ing and four as­sess­ments.

My­iCoach (www.my­icoach. com, US) 5/5

What: coach­ing in a range of sports, from run­ning and cy­cling to fig­ure skat­ing. Cost: from $60 (about £30) per month for a range of tai­lored pro­grammes plus up to three emails a week from your as­signed coach.

Car­dio Coach (www. car­dio­coach.com, US) 4/5

What: per­sonal train­ing at its cheap­est. Sim­ply hav­ing a coach voiceover down­loaded on to your MP3 player ap­pears to be enough to mo­ti­vate some ex­er­cis­ers. Car­dio Coach of­fers guided work­outs of at least 30 min­utes, in­clud­ing a warm up, hill and sprint chal­lenges and a cool down, and can be used while on a tread­mill, step ma­chine or in­door bike. Also see www.itrain.com and www.au­di­ble.co.uk for other fit­ness au­dios. Cost: from £3.47 per down­load.

Your­self Fit­ness (www.your­self­fit­ness. com, US) 3/5

What: Maya, your com­put­er­sim­u­lated per­sonal trainer, mo­ti­vates you through var­i­ous fit­ness “games”, such as a lower-body work­out. Works via a com­puter or PlayS­ta­tion games con­sole. The work­out games be­come pro­gres­sively harder the more ef­fort you put in. Cost: from $29.99 (about £15).

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