this thing's incredible

This App Gave Me My No-Nonsense Trainer, Micaela

Photo: Lauren Ro

For someone who likes to exercise, I’m pretty lazy. Unless there’s an external force compelling me to work out — an upcoming half marathon, a HIIT class with a draconian cancelation policy — I’m not going to do it. That’s why I’ve long fantasized about having a personal trainer to keep me on track while pushing me to the next level of my fitness journey. I worked with one years ago on a free trial basis for a couple of weeks when I first joined Equinox and loved the one-on-one coaching, the form checks, and the built-in discipline, but with a single session costing over $100, it was financially untenable to continue.

So when a publicist offered me a free six-month trial on a new, $149-per-month app called Future that pairs you with a personal trainer, I was intrigued by the idea of having someone other than myself whipping me into shape — without having to go to a gym. (And as I’m about to lay out, I like the app so much that after my six-month trial runs out in January, I will be re-upping and personally paying the $149 a month.)

To start, after answering a detailed questionnaire about my fitness history and goals, I was given my recommended coach, Micaela G. (There are hundreds of trainers to choose from.) Her profile included all my priorities — general strength training, weight loss, nutrition (she’s a certified nutrition coach), and prenatal and postpartum care (I’d just had my second child) — with a coaching style described as “motivating,” “supportive,” and “even keeled”: everything I wanted (and needed) as a mom of two desperate to feel like herself again. I also just loved the vibe she exuded in her headshot: friendly and confident, plus she had really nice hair. We set up a 15-minute video call to chat and develop a training plan together and, in a few days, I was pressing play on the program that Micaela created just for me.

If you want to give it a try, Future is offering Strategist readers 50 percent off for the first three months using the link above.

Our plan comprises a 30-to-40-minute-long workout on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with a shorter yoga/mobility flow and walks on the off days. Each workout consists of pre-recorded video demonstrations of each move with both automated voiceover instructions and a personal voice message and guidance from Micaela. Because I’m currently focusing on strength training, I do a mix of different variations of squats, lunges, core floor exercises, shoulder presses, bench presses, and other upper-body exercises using a combination of dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and my own body weight. Each workout includes a light warmup and cooldown as well.

My dashboard on the Future app.

I’d say I’m familiar with 80 percent of the moves, but if there’s something new — like the Turkish half-get-up with a ten-pound dumbbell that came up the other day (so hard and awkward!) — all I need to do is watch the video demo, which plays the entire cycle. There’s also the option to record your form to send to your trainer if you want extra coaching, but I have yet to try that feature yet because I’m frankly a little embarrassed, but the next time those half-get-ups come up, I’m going to. Future recommends pairing an Apple Watch with the app to get the most out of your one-on-one coaching with your trainer, because it allows them to see your stats — namely heart rate and calorie burn in my case — and whether you’re pushing yourself (or not). (When I first signed up in July, Future let me rent an Apple Watch, but now you have to purchase one on your own.)

I was barely ten weeks postpartum when I signed up, but I was raring to go. Micaela and I agreed that we would ease into it with shorter, low-impact workouts, and after my first week, I felt great, challenged but not pushed beyond my limits. (The most stressful part was trying to complete a workout before the baby woke up from his nap.) If anything felt off, or too difficult, all I had to do was let Micaela know through the app’s messaging function and she would make adjustments. (At the end of each workout, you and your trainer get a little summary of your heart-rate zones and calories burned, and you’re also prompted to give feedback and rate how difficult you found it.) Three times a week felt more than doable, especially since I was on maternity leave, and the off-day walks were much-needed motivation to get out of the house with the baby, even if it was just a 30-minute stroll around the neighborhood. I loved getting morning reminders from Micaela to get my workouts in, and then after, her “Great job” and “Way to push” messages always boosted my confidence.

I started using Future in mid-July and didn’t miss a single workout until the end of October (the whole family got sick with RSV and I had to take a break for a couple of weeks). As of this writing, I’ve completed 85 workouts, burned 15,000 calories, and logged 3,300 minutes, according to the app. I’ve also lost 11 pounds without changing my diet (I’m breastfeeding so that helps burn extra calories). Most importantly, I feel strong.

This never would have happened without Micaela or the flexibility of the app. In addition to being a kick-ass coach and motivator, she is absolutely my accountability partner. She’s also a consummate professional who is super-knowledgeable about how to maximize results with the equipment, time, and energy levels I’m working with, crucial for a working mom of two with only so many hours in the day. Micaela helps me get to the next level of training by ratcheting up the intensity of the workouts each week by increasing weight load and varying up the moves to ensure that I’m getting an efficient, full-body workout each week. I can always tell her what I need or want and she’ll adjust my workouts accordingly.

And the app just makes it so easy. Instead of setting up my laptop and scrolling through pages of workouts trying to decide what strikes my fancy — or, worse, having to leave my house for a gym — everything is neatly laid out on my phone. As soon as I get my gear together, I’m ready to go. And if I have to miss or move a workout, rescheduling is as simple as sending a quick message to Micaela.

If it weren’t for Micaela and her daily encouragement and check-ins, there’s no way that I could have completed three workouts (plus walks and stretches) every week for 15 weeks straight. I was on maternity leave for 11 out of those 15 weeks, but even now that I’ve been back at work for two-plus months and would much rather veg out in front of the TV after the kids go to bed, Micaela motivates to get my workouts in, no matter how tired I am. It’s her friendly, familiar, but no-bullshit way of keeping me on task that I just love. I don’t want to let her down (not that she would ever make me feel bad about missing a day) but it’s also super-satisfying to look at the app’s tracker and see all of the days I worked out colored in green. Micaela believes that the best workout is one that you stick to — and thanks to her and Future, I’m doing just that.

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This App Gave Me My No-Nonsense Trainer, Micaela