This isn’t a Craigslist personal ad, or a plea for someone to beat me into shape (I have one already, though sometimes I think he despairs of me!)
What I’m looking for is a handy bit of technology that can come with me to the gym and help keep me on track and motivated by recording what I do, telling me where I’m improving, suggesting ways to improve where I’m losing ground and – for those long hours on the elliptical – keep me entertained.
There are a new generation of small tablet devices coming on the market. Better battery life and performance than my rather lackluster Samsung Q1U. Some running Windows 7, others running embedded operating systems such as Android. Hopefully they will spur the development of niche variations (though an important factor for a Gym Buddy would be resilience ... perhaps Panasonic need another model in their ToughBook range!)
The other thing we’ll need is folks like Life Fitness, Nautilus, Precor etc to be happy to agree a standard for two way communications between equipment and Gym Buddies and accessories like Polar heart monitors and pedometers etc need to get in on the game as well. Something like ANT or another low cost, low power radio and a simple pairing mechanism is all that’s needed.
Once paired the Gym Buddy can share your personal details (weight, age, gender) and required program parameters with the device and during the exercise record your performance (both from the machine but also accessories such as your pedometer or heart rate monitor).
While you’re exercising your Gym Buddy could keep you entertained – don’t forget it’s a fully fledged computing device. Your music (tempo synchronized to your exercise routine of course) or a video (both could be sourced via a service like Zune Pass so there’s always a mix of fresh and familiar content). Email, an RSS reader, the Web, New York Times or an eBook reader or simple mind games so you can multi-task… exercise your brain at the same time as your body. As long as they have simple on-screen controls (or voice command assuming you’re not huffing and puffing too much) – much like an in-car GPS or the Origami / Centrafuse type of interface. If you have wifi and a VoIP client I guess you could even take calls… but is that socially acceptable (fine if you’re working out at home of course)
Sure, there’s a lot of equipment in a gym that doesn’t have a brain in it that can talk wirelessly to the Gym Buddy but a Tag or a QR code on the device to identify it and a camera on the Gym Buddy and we’re all set… wave the camera at the Leg Curl machine, load up the suggested weight, watch the technique video and then record reps and sets (or confirm you hit the suggested goals).
Some exercise you won’t want to lug even a rugged ultra portable with you so the ability to sync devices (eg Polar FT80 Heart Rate Monitor watch, S1 pedometer or G1 GPS) back to the Gym Buddy when you finish would be a must. It could even create opportunities for new devices – swim lap timers etc. that can communicate wirelessly to the Gym Buddy.
For gyms and personal trainers there’s a business model here – they would be able to deliver personalized programs that their clients subscribe to. By getting better information about exercise and eating habits etc they would be able to further optimize those programs and add more value.
All this data needs to go somewhere… luckily with services like Health Vault it’s now possible to upload and store your exercise history just in case you drop a 20Lb weight on your Gym Buddy for suggesting just one more set of sit-ups and one less frosty beverage after your workout.
On a small scale I’ve been doing this for a while. My pedometer records steps to Health Vault, and I record my Elliptical sessions via Twitter to GtFtr.com but these are all discrete systems and require me to keep motivated.
Isn’t that a pretty important job for a Gym Buddy…. (oh, and if anyone is developing something like this and wants a willing victim to try it out please get in touch!)
Meantime… can someone tell me why my pedometer has a battery? Surely these things could be self winding from the kinetic motion I generate during the day?!