iFit: A Fitness Program Even Geeks Will Love

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Living a geeky lifestyle isn’t well known for going hand-in-hand with also being a fitness nut, but that doesn’t mean the two can’t go together. Recently I was approached by the folks at iFit to check out their subscription service, smart phone application, and fitness tracker device combination and the results of my trial run of the iFit program are as follows.

What Is iFit?

Getting fit is more than just exercise; you must have the right balance of diet and sleep as well (Image from iFit.com)

The iFit program is more than just a fitness tracking device or an exercise program; it is more of a foundation for getting healthy. What do I mean by that? A lot of people will go on a diet or start an exercise or training program to lose weight or prepare for an upcoming race but health is more than just exercising and watching what you eat. iFit gets that, which is why their subscription service covers all the bases for you:

  • Fitness Trainers: iFit trainers design unique workouts from which you can choose, view and use right for the app or website
  • Dietitians: Video recipes are available that help keep you properly fueled but give you something enjoyable to eat all at the same time
  • Sleep Experts: Get sleep advice and tips from sleep experts right from the app/service and track your sleep quantity and quality from the iFit wearable device
  • Equipment: iFit gives you automatic fitness tracking when used with one of their fitness trackers and is even built into a wide variety of professional gym machines and equipment
  • Automatic Fitness Goals & Tracking: This is the most important aspect of the service as it makes staying on a healthy course dirt simple

I think the folks over at iFit do a great job of explaining what they are all about and why they do what they do:

“We’re a tight-knit team of fitness enthusiasts who have a nerdy obsession for technology and an undying love for health and fitness. We believe combining the two can make a difference… a BIG difference. One that could change the world. That’s why we’re diligently dedicated to creating products that inspire and motivate you to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and ultimately change the way you live every day.”

Getting Started With iFit

My testing of the iFit subscription service started with the iFit Axis HR fitness tracker/wearable they sent me.

The Axis HR fitness tracker is sleek and unassuming so you can comfortably wear it everywhere you go (Image from iFit.com)

I’m no stranger to fitness trackers and wearables. I’ve used several over the years and wear an Apple Watch every day and night to track my exercise and sleep. So charging up the Axis HR and pairing it with the iFit Coach smart phone app (for both iOS and Android) was very straightforward. The Axis HR has 3 optical sensors that are used to monitor specific pulse points on your wrist so it can track your heart rate data all day and all night long. The Axis HR also has a feature that automatically detects when you are exercising so you don’t even have to manually start and stop the workout tracking feature unless you want to. The Axis HR has a curved OLED touchscreen and can be worn pretty much anywhere you go (designed to be water-resistant). The Axis HR also allows you to input caloric intake with just a few taps of the touch sensitive screen and as I mentioned earlier it automatically tracks your sleep.

The next step in my trial of the service was the subscription service itself. I was given an activation code which unlocked a free month of the service. The free iOS app (iFit Coach) has In-App-Purchase or subscription that is called iFit Premium for $14.99 a month. You can use the Axis HR fitness tracker (if you purchase it separately) and the free iFit Coach app without subscribing to the service and it will track your activity (steps and exercise), present you with goals (exercise, calories burned/consumed, steps taken per day and sleep), all without having to subscribe to the service. But the real power behind iFit are the benefits you get with the full subscription.

The Benefits of an iFit Premium Subscription

Even though you can take advantage of quite a few features just by using the free iFit Coach app, in order to truly unlock the full potential of iFit you need a subscription and here are just the main features you get with that subscription:

  • Get a daily personalized nutrition plan including recipes and target calorie goals for each major meal
  • Explore a wide variety of video workouts programs to avoid doing the same exercises over and over (Kickboxing, Vinyasa Yoga, Ultimate Abs, cycling workouts and more)
  • Receive personalized coaching (optional) or choose your own daily workouts
  • Receive a free wearable device when you sign up
If you are going to exercise then you have to fuel your body and it might as well taste great and iFit gives you a lot of meal ideas (Image from iFit.com)

My Trial Run of iFit

The iFit subscription program has so many features there was no way I was going to be able to try them all out. So I decided to just use the service in a way that suited my needs best. So here is how I used iFit over the 1-month period. I wore the Axis HR fitness tracker every day in addition to my Apple Watch (the Apple Watch on my left wrist and the Axis HR on the right). As I went through the day, I kept track of my caloric intake using the touchscreen on the Axis HR. When it was time for a workout, I used both my Apple Watch and the Axis HR to track my calories burned and my heart rate. The overall activity levels and heart rates matched very closely between these two devices (within a couple of percent) and that is saying a lot about the accuracy of the Axis HR, as the Apple Watch has been shown to be of a similar accuracy to professional medical devices.

During my month of use I was traveling over 50% of the time. I found that tracking calories with the Axis HR was much easier than with an iPhone app or my Apple Watch since I was able to directly inputs calories via the Axis HR touchscreen. Hotel gyms are also notoriously busy in the mornings, so when I found them to be standing room only I would go back to my hotel room and do a workout from the iFit app. The variety of workouts you can choose from were great… the app would present you with a handful of options (enough for a variety but not so many that it took you a lot of time to choose one). While I’m on the topic of workouts, there are a huge number of workout options available on the iFit website when you have a subscription. When I wasn’t traveling I would print out an indoor cycling workout and use it on the indoor road bike trainer at my work gym and it gave me a great cycling workout in the middle of the week to breakup the week of workouts. I would also use the my Apple TV at home with the iPhone mirroring feature to project the workout video and do workouts with my wife at home. Deep down she appreciated doing these workouts with me even though at the time I was getting some nasty looks (those workouts are hard).

The major feature I didn’t try out was the recipes feature. I was traveling so much during the month that I was trying out the service so it wasn’t feasible for me to try to cook my own meals when I was barely at home that month. With diet and nutrition being such an important aspect of staying fit, I am glad to see that nutrition was a significant feature of the service.

Pros:

  • Large variety of workouts
  • Easy to use dashboard in the smart phone app
  • Service covers all the heath basics (diet/nutrition, exercise, steps taken, sleep)
  • Easy to use and accurate fitness tracker (Axis HR)
  • This is worth mentioning again because it is so important: the service integrates nutrition and sleep (both of which are essential if you want to really get fit)
  • Integrates with a large number of professional gym equipment manufacturers

Cons:

  • No Apple Watch integration (I had to wear a 2nd fitness tracker)
  • Not all workouts and tips (like blog posts recipes) are available within the smart phone app, so you have to go to the iFit website

Verdict

Over the last decade or more I have tried a lot of diet and exercise programs (strength training, specialized diets, cycling fitness programs, etc…). The vast majority of the programs I have tried are things that I would categorize as short-term, very focused programs. I see the iFit subscription service as something very different. Because iFit covers all the bases and it does it in such a way that you are able to inject a wide variety of both nutrition and exercise options into your weekly routine, I would categorize this as more of a lifestyle choice instead of fitness program. Anyone can follow a short-term diet or exercise program for a few weeks or a few months, but if you want to make a substantial change, you need to these things over a timeframe of years. The iFit subscription service makes integrating and tracking all aspects of heath and fitness very easy and it does it with enough variety (with new nutritional and exercise content) that it never gets repetitive or boring. At first glance $14.99 a month seems pretty expensive, but when you compare that to other professional coaching services it is a bargain. My wife is currently paying for one such service and it is a service that works for her, but it is also much more expensive than iFit. For the average person who is serious about getting in shape and staying fit over the long haul the iFit subscription service provides a lot of bang for the buck and it does it in a way that makes it easy to stick with.

Disclaimer: The folks at iFit provided me with an Axis HR and a free month of the service for the purpose of this review.

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