You don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading a book about it. You have to get on and start pedaling. The same is true of fitness technology: To learn it, you have to use it.

That’s why I recommend you become a fit-tech guinea pig—experimenting on yourself to see what works. Fitness technology offers motivational tools that can do the following:

  • Provide detailed data about health and fitness.
  • Show progress and improvements.
  • Help keep your clients on the path to success.

You’re already using technology in your daily business operations, so adding apps and devices to your teaching and training does not require a huge leap. Fit tech also enables you to interact with clients in ways that create opportunities for new services and revenue streams to help your business succeed. Bringing your clients and their training into this high-tech fitness world has to begin with you.

Making Yourself a Test Subject

If your clients haven’t already asked you about fitness technology, it’s only a matter of time before they do. As a fit-tech guinea pig, you’ll be prepared, because you’ll have already run the maze of apps and devices that help people get healthier.

As the saying goes, “Walk the walk . . . talk the talk.” Sign up for sites, check out devices, download apps, and talk with your clients about your fit-tech experiences. Share your data—results, trends, improvements and failures. Show how fit tech can be used strategically to track activity and measure success. When you divide the often-overwhelming topic of technology into areas that are meaningful to you personally, you make fit tech seem less daunting. You inspire people to have confidence in you—and in themselves.

Becoming a fit-tech guinea pig gets your clients thinking about their own visions, goals and involvement. When these people see you using devices and apps, you become the ignition switch that gets them thinking, “If Ann can use it so easily and see results, then I can too.”

Learning the Tools of the Trade

The marketplace of fit-tech gadgets is fast-moving and constantly changing. As a guinea pig, you’ll learn firsthand what is out there, what is trending, what people are curious about and what they have access to. That knowledge lets you speak intelligently about the topic.

Ultimately, you can reduce your clients’ fears and barriers by showing that fit tech is just a tool for collecting and analyzing data—nothing more and nothing less. The technology is not nearly as fragile as it appears, and people are more tech-savvy than they realize.

Focus on how the device or app generally works, what it will measure and how to interpret the resulting data. Knowing the basics helps you shorten the learning curve for everyone. Essentially, you figure out when to embrace fit tech and when to avoid it.

Using the devices and apps also provides a crash course on the shortcomings of these tools. You will uncover questions about compatibility, data sharing and the need for multiple devices. Knowing these issues now will save time later, especially as you start to include fit tech in classes or small-group sessions.

You’ll soon discover the reality of fit-tech fatigue. Analyzing data can be tiresome, and having a constant reminder on your wrist can lead to digital mutiny. Currently, over half of U.S. consumers quit using their fit-tech devices at some point, and about one-third stop within 6 months of purchase (Ledger
McCaffrey 2014). Testing the technology yourself will give you clues on coaching interventions to eliminate fit-tech burnout.

Experimenting also demonstrates that wearing a wristband does not guarantee you will lose weight and get into phenomenal shape. Luckily, this also demonstrates your value to your clients: With all the technology in the world, they still need solid coaching to modify their behavior and achieve their goals.

You Know Yourself Best

Beyond figuring out how devices work, you need to be a fit-tech guinea pig because you know yourself better than anyone else knows you. You know what you should weigh, how you should feel, how much you should eat and how much you are moving.

This gives you wonderful insight into the accuracy of the technology, because you’re using yourself to validate the data collected. It also helps you figure out which features and data are most important and which ones have the greatest impact. Ultimately, you’ll be able to judge which devices and apps are worth the hype that’s been spread about them.

As you experiment, you learn how to analyze data and interpret charts; that is, you learn how to recognize the details but not get lost in them. The most significant lesson on the learning curve will be to understand how to save time by watching trends (day-to-day or week-to-week variations and links between numbers). For example, are you more active on weekdays or weekends? More active when you get more sleep the previous day? How about when you share your workout time with friends?

Analyzing your own numbers is the best way to learn fit tech. The better you are at analyzing the data, the better you will be at seeing the benefits of fit tech and where it belongs in your health and fitness philosophy. In addition, you may even find that you can create a new value-added consultation service as a data analyst.

You Know Your Clients

As a guinea pig, you’ll be thinking about how your experiences apply to the people you train. Your clients want tangible progress. Learning to analyze fit-tech data helps you meet this need—tracking numbers and showing measurable changes that build reinforcement.

Some clients need a dose of reality: They aren’t losing weight because they aren’t as active as they think they are. In your experiments, you may discover a device (or a way of using a device) that helps clients see whether they are active or sedentary and gives them control so they gain consistency in their lives.

Other clients may constantly battle with overtraining, illness and injury. As you test fit tech, you’ll come to see more clearly how to bring your body and mind in tune—to program rest and recovery into your training plans.

Your testing will reveal which data are most meaningful, allowing you to recommend the best fit tech. When your trials help you find a device, app or data point that meets your clients’ needs, the positive impact on their lives is priceless.

Embracing Fit Tech

Whether you like it or not, fit tech is here to stay. Don’t avoid it because it’s a little awkward, but don’t use it just because it’s there. Dive into the maze, using yourself as the guinea pig. See what you can find that is simple and meaningful, so that you make the best fit-tech recommendations. You just might discover a fit-tech product that will help to unleash your clients’ full potential. It starts with you.

5 Steps to Fit-Tech TestingÔÇ®

To enter the fitness technology maze, treat it the way you would any project. Separate it into ÔÇ¿five key steps:

Step 1: Build a FoundationÔÇ®

  • Create a gap analysis that identifies your needs, goals and standards. ÔÇ®
  • Create an inventory of your current apps and devices (smartphones, wearables and heart ÔÇ¿rate monitors). ÔÇ®
  • Consider your comfort level and learning ability with technology—and, of course, how much ÔÇ¿you can afford. ÔÇ®

Step 2: Look for Must-Have FeaturesÔÇ®

  • Strive for simple, noninvasive devices (for example, some of your clients may feel constrained ÔÇ¿by heart rate monitor chest straps or may simply hate having things wrapped around their wrists). ÔÇ®
  • Start with free apps, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. ÔÇ®
  • Look for apps and devices that are easily accessible, work in real time and provide automatic ÔÇ¿or near-automatic collection of data. ÔÇ®
  • Check on whether devices can connect to multiple apps across multiple platforms simultaneously, with minimal need for additional accessories. ÔÇ®
  • Make sure apps or websites have statistical charts and trend analyses that you can review with clients. ÔÇ®
  • Confirm that the technology performs basic data collection, including daily activity, average and maximum heart rate during exercise, calories burned and calories eaten, body weight and hours of sleep.ÔÇ®
  • Consider advanced features that allow you to note subjective changes such as thoughts, feelings, attitudes, moods and enjoyment. These features enable you to track stress and readiness, and they give you a coaching opportunity to set goals, build motivation and increase compliance.ÔÇ®

Step 3: Weigh the Technical InfrastructureÔÇ®

  • Consider the growth, stability, customer support and reliability of the fit tech you are thinking ÔÇ¿of experimenting with. Is it proven, valid and accurate? Is it constructed with open architecture that allows for new releases and enhancements? Did it get positive reviews and testimonials? Does it sound too good to be true?ÔÇ®

Step 4: Start Your Experiments ÔÇ®

  • Identify the fit-tech tool you want to try, and either borrow it or buy it. Then set up some baseline tests and training parameters. ÔÇ®
  • Train with the technology as much as you can, collecting as much data as possible. The better you are at analyzing the data, the better you will be at creating and quickly updating personalized training plans (a nice additional revenue stream that enables you to serve your clients even when you aren’t physically with them).ÔÇ®
  • Use several devices and apps side by side, to see which ones work best and which ones flunk the test of meeting your clients’ needs. ÔÇ®

Step 5: Get Social ÔÇ®

  • Look for fit-tech apps and devices that link to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, KrowdFitÔäó, Strava, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo. Social media features help you gain motivation from others and build additional accountability.ÔÇ®
  • Use social media to create small groups, extending your business network not only beyond ÔÇ¿your face-to-face time but also beyond your current clientele.ÔÇ®


Ledger, D., & McCaffrey, D. 2014. Inside wearables: How the science of human behavior change offers the secret to long-term engagement. Endeavour Partners.

Patrick Jak, MS

Pat Jak worked for several years in E-Business before changing careers. Now, he is the Director of Metabolic Testing at Todd Durkin's Fitness Quest 10 and Head Coach of the nationally ranked UC San Diego Cycling Team. Pat uses leading edge fitness technology devices and apps to train and coach individuals from all walks of life: from general fitness clients to performance focused athletes. He has been a trainer for over a decade and his workouts have been featured in Bicycling Magazine. Pat holds a masterÔÇÖs degree in exercise science. Certifications: IFPA, USA Cycling.

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