In Bustle’s Trial Run, an editor shares her unfiltered opinion as she sweats through the buzziest workouts, visits must-know fitness studios, and puts the latest exercise tools to the test. Here, an inside look at the Future app, a personal trainer-based digital workout platform.
Guided workouts can only push me so far. Whether I’m streaming a 30-minute HIIT run or Yoga With Adriene flow, nothing quite beats the one-on-one motivation that comes from a personal trainer. Honestly, if I’m instructed to sprint on a 10% incline or do a minute of jump squats, this girl is not going to listen. And that’s exactly why I’ve grown to love the Future app, which is basically a personal trainer that lives on your phone and tries to prevent you from cheating in your workouts.
Having a personal trainer via a fitness app isn’t exactly new. But with Future, you actually get unlimited access to a fitness pro that customizes workouts based on your goals — and regularly checks in with you to make sure you’re actually doing them. It’s like your best friend who sends you memes every day, only it’s a trainer and they’re sending you... a nudge to sweat.
One appealing perk of Future is that its workouts encompass all different fitness modalities, so you can turn to it for everything from interval training to yoga stretches, running — you name it. Since it’s completely personalized, it also lets you mix in other workouts; for example, a Barry’s or a boxing session with a friend. Your coach will just input that data into your program and adjust the workouts they give you accordingly.
If you’ve always been intrigued by having a personal trainer or simply want more attention/guidance/accountability in your workout routine, you’ll want to keep reading for my honest review of the Future app.
A Future membership costs $150 a month. While that may seem high compared to the $15-$20 per month average many other fitness apps charge, you have to think of it this way: You’re getting way more than workouts you can stream. Future gives you a personal trainer, week-by-week workout plans, guided workouts, a loaner Apple Watch (if you don’t have one already), and nutrition advice (if you want it). The watch allows your coach to monitor your physical activities and track progress.
After you sign up, you’re paired with three coaches that best fit your fitness level and goals, from which you’ll choose your trainer. You’ll then connect with them over FaceTime to chat through the types of workouts you like and what you’re looking to get from your exercise routine, and they’ll begin crafting your customized sessions from there. The majority of trainers on the app have trained either pro, collegiate, or Olympic athletes and have a degree in exercise science.
From there, your relationship with your coach begins. Each week — usually on Sunday or Monday — you’ll be given your week of workouts, which are crafted specifically for you. And when I say relationship, I really mean it: You’ll be getting messages from your trainer through the app every single day. Mine texted me each morning about the kind of workout she planned for me that day or to ask about my wrist pain, for instance. With the latter scenario, my trainer swapped in core work and equipment-free cardio so I didn’t have to strain my wrist by lifting weights. At one point, I let her know I was going to be out of town for a few days and would scope out the hotel gym, so she was able to give me workouts I could do with the tools I had access to.
The regular communication you get through Future has a reason behind it. The app’s co-founder and CTO Justin Santamaria was a lead engineer at Apple who created the text bubbles you have on your iPhone. The idea is that by having your fitness regimen managed through a text-based platform, you’ll be more likely to stick with your workouts — and, according to the app, the average user doubles their weekly workouts because of this. Besides that, CEO Rishi Mandal came from a personalized concierge app, so he’s essentially bringing that white glove-like service to your exercise routine.
When you’re ready to sweat, you hit start on the day’s workout on the app (though you can preview it first in case you want to know what you’re in for or get all your equipment ready). You’ll first hear a message from your coach that preps you for the exercises ahead as well as any pointers they have.
Everything on the app is extremely clear: You’re shown a video demonstration of the exercise during each move, and an audio recording explains proper form. If you’re ever unsure if you’re doing something correctly, you can send a video through the app to your coach, and, usually, they’ll respond pretty quickly with any adjustments. A timer at the bottom of the screen keeps track of your intervals, and it'll move onto the next move after, say, 30 seconds is up. Or, if you’re instructed to do a certain number of reps, you can hit the “next” button once you finish (you can do this on the app or on your Apple Watch, the latter of which makes things easier). If you’re wearing your watch, you’ll also see your heart rate throughout the workout.
Workouts can either stick to one modality — like all weight training or all stretching — or be a hodgepodge of yoga moves, strength moves, and cardio exercises, for example. They’ll also range in length, so you’ll find 13-minute sessions as well as 45 minutes or more. It’s all up to what your coach determines works for your body on that particular day.
Like most people, I tend to stick to one or two kinds of workouts when I sweat. When I started using Future, it was a couple of months before my wedding, so I (of course) wanted to look like the peak version of myself. For the task, my coach — Lauren Powell, a strength and conditioning specialist who has a master’s in kinesiology — had me doing tons of weight training. Rather than the interval-based running I was used to, my workouts became predominately strength-based. As in: Lots of squats, lunges, rows, and deadlifts, all while holding dumbbells.
As someone whose lower body is perpetually sore (thanks to my regular treadmill habit), it was nice to have a break from running. I quickly learned that weight training easily counts as cardio, too — you don’t have to rely on a traditional piece of cardio equipment to get your heart-pumping dose of exercise. Because... moving from weighted lunges to kettlebell swings to plank taps will have you panting.
The one-on-one relationship with Powell was especially helpful: I’d let her know if my body wasn’t going to be able to handle that particular day’s workout, so she’d swap in a stretch session instead. I also regularly sent her videos of myself doing things like deadlifts and reverse flys to check my form, and she always responded while I was mid-workout.
Future also taught me that weight training is one of the most efficient ways to see results. I saw #gains, as they say. Over the weeks, I started increasing the weights I used, which translated to more sculpted arm and leg and core muscles. One day I looked in the mirror and noticed I was flexing my hamstring. I never even knew that was possible.
I’ve been using Future (along with Peloton and a separate yoga platform) for about five months now, and I have to give the app lots of credit. Lauren pushed me to become stronger than I’ve ever been — I use 20-pound dumbbells now (!!!). I’ve also grown to love weight training, especially on days when going for a run sounds like utter torture.
If you’re someone who’s lacking in the workout motivation department, Future’s coaches will help keep you in line — better than any other fitness app I’ve worked with (and I’ve worked with a lot).