More than a decade ago, I flipped an ATV in the Kalahari desert in South Africa. It landed on me, breaking six ribs and my wrist and completely shattering my left arm’s humerus. Emergency care in rural South Africa wasn’t the best, and over the course of the following five years, I needed three follow-up surgeries before the arm healed. I spent years in a sling, and that lengthy immobilization led to muscle atrophy, diminished strength and an overwhelming amount of pain when I finally started moving it again.
After years of disuse, my left arm couldn’t function during daily life. Toting a large bag of groceries was a literal pain. I couldn’t lift a cast-iron skillet. I didn’t have the range of motion to use the arm while showering. I shied away from physical activities and the weight piled on during that time. I ballooned up to 270 pounds, and when none of my jeans fit I found myself only donning sweatpants. The self-loathing was hyper-real.
I started with bicycling around New York City, which helped slough off a chunk of the weight, but I wasn’t really getting stronger, particularly on the left side of my body. I also had no real muscle mass to speak of. While I was never much of a gym-goer, I knew I needed to do something different.
Enter Future and its personal training app.
Future is bridging the gap between generic workout apps and one-on-one personal training, at an affordable cost. An individual trainer can run you upwards of $100 per session. Future, on the other hand, is $199 for a whole month (buy a year up front and it drops to $149 per month), with unlimited access to your individual coach and unlimited workouts all tailored to your body and fitness goals. Plus, you can opt for bodyweight-only workouts or to train at home with whatever gear you may have.
Future Personal Training App: What We Think
In short, I adore the Future app experience. After two years using the platform, I’ve completed more than 300 workouts — a total of 10,200 minutes of moving. In that span, I’ve burned more than 95,000 calories, decreased my body fat by six percent, dropped below 200 pounds for the first time since high school and increased my muscle mass by 10 percent. But best of all, I regained the use of my left arm and subsequently got my life back to normal for the first time since the ATV accident.
I credit a lot of my success to the usability of the service itself, along with my coach, Manny Reyes. While the price is at premium levels and integration isn’t as fluid across every digital device, I still feel this is one app that’s sure to be a mainstay in my daily life for years to come.
You get completely personalized training.
Onboarding through Future’s app isn’t terribly time consuming, and it’s very thoughtful. A series of questions aim to assess your current level of activity and exercise as well as your fitness goals and preferred style of instruction. Once this questionnaire is complete, the app guides you to an offering of available trainers and coaches. Some queries are incredibly granular, such as whether you prefer a drill sergeant or a hand-holding type of coach.
I went with someone in the middle — the aforementioned Reyes, a senior performance coach. With seven years of personal training under his belt, a host of certifications (NASM-PT, USAW Level 2, CrossFit Level 2, and more) and a past as a former Olympic weightlifting coach, I got a good feeling from his credentials. After your coach selection, there’s a FaceTime meeting to get acquainted — where Reyes and I bonded further. We’re both in our forties, both prefer CrossFit and MetCon-style workouts and he’s had a serious injury (to his back). “Like you, I’ve gone through the pain and I know what it takes to come back, but I also know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Reyes states.
He asked a ton of questions about my arm, what I could and couldn’t do — I told him I hadn’t been able to complete a push-up since before the accident—and he came up with a program that had me doing a mixture of yoga and mobility stretches to help loosen everything up combined with bodyweight training to get my body used to some strength and resistance.
Having started with Future mid-pandemic, I wanted to focus on at-home training. So, I snagged a workout mat, some adjustable dumbbells and resistance bands to curate my personal home gym. You can add equipment at any point through a menu on the Future app, so whenever something new showed up, I’d log it and Reyes would incorporate it for the following workouts.
Starting small and light, Reyes quickly got my body moving in ways it hadn’t in years, and I spent the first two months huffing and puffing through four 30–40-minute workouts per week. The app guides you through everything, whether it’s a timed move or a set of reps, and you get a video of the move that plays on a loop so you can study it whenever you’re not sure on the proper form.
Reyes also adds voice cues to various moves, letting me know to, say, ensure my knees have a slight bend if I’m doing a staggered dumbbell Romanian deadlift, or to fully lock out my elbows during Arnold presses. There’s also an option to film yourself performing the movements to send to your coach as a check-in, which can be helpful for novice athletes or when a particular exercise is new to your program.
Smartwatch integration allows for a heap of data analyzation for more optimized workouts.
To get the most out of Future, you need a smartwatch. This allows your biometric data to be monitored and analyzed, which helps your coach better understand and track your progress. Access to these metrics can also help ensure you’re training in the right zones at certain intervals (more on that in a second).
“I can see your heart rate in relation to the workouts you’re doing,” Reyes says. “I’m correlating those to your effort when it comes to lifting. I know you won’t be at your max heart rate during a deadlift, but I can see whether you’re exerting enough during the move.”
Reyes states there are special algorithms that Future employs that use your heart rate data to determine other factors of your workout, too. With conditioning moves like running, the app can get data from your watch about your distance, time and splits to help improve your training.
The heart rate zone training is easy to see at a glance on your smartwatch, too. With increased emphasis on Zone training, which is defined as the your metabolic output, you can ensure you’re getting the most from your workouts by simply peeking at your wrist.
As a bonus, the watch functions as a remote for the Future app. You can tap to advance to the next move after a set, adjust your reps or training load by twisting the watch’s crown, and can even flag movements that are problematic or painful with a few simple pushes on the watch face.
If you have a smart scale, Future can benefit from that, too. “I can see your smart scale weight,” Reyes says. “And if you send me the rest of your measurements, I can get your lean muscle mass and use that as a baseline, if you’re trying to add 10 pounds of muscle.”
The app focuses on functional fitness, particularly when rehabbing after an injury.
My initial fitness goals were to lose weight, increase muscle mass and be able to complete a push-up with my mangled arm. Reyes tailored my program accordingly, pulling from thousands of moves in the Future database and drilling into ones that would most help me regain strength in the arm.
He quickly launched me into farmer’s carries, suitcase carries and bottom-up kettlebell overhead presses to help build muscle. A lot of side-lying arm sweeps, scapula push-ups, preacher stretches, crossbody lat stretches and bent-over YTW moves helped to increase my range of motion while also functioning as rehab for my left shoulder.
Reyes’s program worked like a charm. It took about six months, but I finally graduated from knee push-ups to being able to complete a few regular repetitions. While the workouts haven’t gotten too easy, still, I’m now up to 15 reps before my left arm starts shaking and shuddering, which is a monumental leap forward considering my starting point.
All this growth and progress in training also translated well to everyday life. I could do things I hadn’t done in a decade like pick up a heavy pan or open large, heavy garage doors. I attribute this to the app’s and Reyes’s ability to understand the benefits of bodyweight workouts, which go to show that progress in muscularity doesn’t need ample amounts of weight plates to prosper.
There’s a ton of accountability and communication throughout your fitness journey.
The stream of communication in the app is constant and vital, particularly for accountability. If Reyes sees I’ve missed a day or two of workouts due to a heavy workload or other life commitments, he’ll fire over a comical gif accompanied by some nudging words to get me moving again.
“It’s easy to miss a workout or two,” Reyes says, “But a missed workout doesn’t mean your week is shot. I’m here to give you solutions to help fit fitness into your lifestyle. When you travel, we change the workouts for you. You may need more bodyweight moves that week, or to bring resistance bands if you’re using a hotel gym with limited equipment. A lot of people fall out of fitness habits because their environment changes, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We can make it work.”
And that’s precisely what makes Future so successful — it adapts to your lifestyle to ensure you’re consistently doing the work. I travel a fair amount and Reyes always works around where I’ll be and what I’ll have access to. If I’m in a hotel gym, he’ll toss on some cardio machines, or if we know the hotel has a TRX system, he’ll add some moves that utilize that machine. If he sees that I’m too slammed to even get to the gym while on the road, he swaps a scheduled strength training workout for a stretching and mobility circuit that I can do without equipment on the floor of the hotel room.
Part of the stream of communication is a fair amount of lifestyle and nutrition chatting, too. Reyes will message me to see if I’m getting enough hydration after a particularly challenging workout week, or check in to see how much protein I’m ingesting — a requisite to see an increase in muscle mass. He shares snaps of what he’s eating and will pass along recipes he’s been trying out.
We’ll also share various articles about longevity trends, like cold plunges or keto diets and discuss various merits. It’s authentic — you clearly can tell he cares about what I’m doing, how I’m doing and that we’re on track to success.
A nutritional component could set the app over the edge.
Per Reyes, Future coaches can’t recommend specific nutritional components, meal plans or really advise on what to eat much beyond general nutrition advice. “You see trainers giving out very specific nutritional plans, and that’s not great,” he says. “That should really come from a licensed dietician or a doctor who is very attuned to you personally.” When you think about, this makes a ton of sense … but it doesn’t necessarily make things easier.
Since abs are made in the kitchen, as the adage goes, it would be a huge win if Future had nutritional coaching and was able to help guide you through your meals and foods, too. Perhaps that’ll be a downfield addition for the company — one I would very much welcome.
Apple iPad and TV users may be better off with another service.
While the iPhone app is quite robust and thoughtful, from a user experience, I often find myself wishing there was an iPad or Apple TV component so I can see everything on a (physically) larger scale. I sometimes screen share from my iPhone to my Apple TV, but it can be a little laggy and glitchy. It’d be great to have a dedicated, larger version of the workouts that I could play directly from the TV (or an iPad) itself.
Future Personal Training App: Alternatives
While having a nutrition-based component would elevate the overall experience with Future, I still feel the content is worthwhile. With that said, though, it’s tough to ignore the other available apps out there offering similar experiences at lower membership prices. MyFitnessPal, for example, is a great tool for monitoring your daily intake, while apps like Strava, Zwift, Strong and others can be more attuned to specific workout styles, albeit without the personal training layer of expertise. The main thing with these apps, though, is you need to stay diligent, and with Future’s personal training aspect, I feel the accountability is more approachable.