Kingsport YMCA members customize fitness program with MobileFit

Marci Gore • Mar 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM

For those new to working out, stepping foot inside a gym can be intimidating. With so many choices in equipment, weights and machines, it can be a bit overwhelming. You may be asking yourself, "Where do I even start?"

Thanks to some new software, the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA hopes to alleviate these feelings of intimidation for its members.

Designed for and specifically used by YMCAs nationwide, MobileFit technology has been in place at Kingsport’s YMCA since November and has acquired more than 500 users thus far. Members can create a personal profile and customized exercise program that, once created, can be accessed via any personal computer or smart phone with Internet access.

"The great thing about MobileFit is it gets a connection made immediately with one of our wellness staff," said Tyler Ramey, the healthy living director at the Kingsport YMCA. "That way new members are not thrown out into the middle of everything and have no idea what they’re doing."

Through MobileFit, members are assigned a personal wellness coach at the YMCA, with whom they can have ongoing online communications or schedule in-person consultations. Statistics show that 30 percent of new members at exercise facilities don’t continue beyond the first two months. MobileFit is designed to counter this phenomenon.

Ramey said forging a comfortable connection between staff and members is one of the strongest features of MobileFit.

"There is no excuse for somebody feeling intimidated or uncomfortable at the Y. We have an amazing staff — both front desk and wellness staff — that is so helpful. People come in here and if they don’t make a connection right away with someone, research has proven they could be gone in six weeks and no one would notice. MobileFit helps to make and keep that connection. If I know that ‘Mary’ comes in here every day on her lunch break and several days go by and I don’t see her, I’m going to pick up the phone and say, ‘Mary, what’s going on? I’ve not seen you in a while.’ If we don’t make those connections with people, we’re not doing our jobs," Ramey said.

MobileFit is optional — offered to both current members and any new members.

"When any member joins, we automatically set them up an appointment with one of our wellness staff and then, that can go one of two ways — they want to be set up in the MobileFit system or they don’t want to," Ramey said.

If they do want MobileFit, subsequent appointments will be made with a staff member to assign a user name and password and provide more detailed information about how the program works.

"We will spend some time with each member and individually place them on every type of machine in here and make sure they know their seat settings, what weights to do and just basically get them feeling comfortable and used to everything," Ramey said.

And because no two people’s workouts are the same, MobileFit is individualized.

"What MobileFit does is it randomly generates a workout every day based on members’ interests and activity levels. Everybody’s programs are going to be different," Ramey said.

"If you’ve got somebody who comes in and just wants to take classes, then their program will just randomly generate different classes for them to go to. If somebody comes in that maybe has never been in the free weights, but really wants to get some experience in that area, then it’s going to slowly integrate free weights into their workout. It’s not going to throw them right into the fire. It will do it slowly and give them the most basic exercises first. But, on the flip side, if you have a marathon trainer or someone who’s worked out their whole life, they will get a more advanced plan. This whole program is really just based on individual activity levels and their own personal interests."

Doug Fabick has been a regular at the Kingsport YMCA for several years now and says he likes the flexibility to be able to add in other activities that he does outside of the gym.

"The neat thing about MobileFit is that I can do whatever I want to do exercise-wise, but I can add in other things that I do, too," he said. "For instance, when we had snow, I was able to add in shoveling snow and (MobileFit) gave me an idea of how many calories I had burned. We square dance. Last weekend we went to Gatlinburg and danced for 11 and a half hours. I can put that in, too," Fabick said.

And for those brand new to exercise, Fabick says MobileFit helps you figure out what you enjoy doing, increasing the likelihood you will stick with your workout regimen.

"It allows you to try a lot of different exercises until you can find something that suits you best," he said.

Another regular at the Kingsport YMCA, Delores Bertuso uses MobileFit on her smart phone and likes the fact that she has her workouts and her music on the same device. And, like Fabick, she agrees that Mobile-Fit can help users find the perfect workout.

"I started using MobileFit right when it was first offered. My favorite thing about it is if I start doing an exercise that it has suggested for me and I realize that I just absolutely hate it, I can go to that exercise and pull up other things suggested to substitute for this particular exercise. That’s happened a couple of times. It had me doing something that I hated. I said, ‘This is awful! I can’t stand it!’ I was able to find something else that I enjoyed, but was also challenging," she said.

Bertuso also likes the feedback she receives from her trainer via MobileFit.

"The program keeps up with all of my workouts and it tells me how many workouts I have done in the last seven days. There’s a place where your trainer pops up and says, ‘OK, you’ve been really consistent and that’s good,’ or ‘Gosh! We’ve been missing you! Where have you been?’ This is all a really nice feature of it, too," she said.

And as users make progress in their workouts, MobileFit recognizes this and helps keep workouts fresh and challenging so you don’t get stuck in a rut.

"MobileFit will sense if someone is doing the same weights over and over. It will ask them if they want to bump up their weights next time," Ramey said. "It may only go up 10 pounds. But it consistently changes things. Every time a user logs out of the program, they will be asked to take a survey of sorts. They are asked questions like, ‘Did you do anything different today? Was it too hard? Too easy? Just right?’ Based on your answers, MobileFit will make changes. It’s always adapting. And the suggestions it offers are just suggestions. If you’re not comfortable doing anything it suggests, you don’t have to do it."

Looking ahead, Ramey says the staff at the Kingsport YMCA is excited about what new opportunities members will have with MobileFit when the Y’s new MeadowView facility opens in May.

"There are a lot of aquatic exercises in the system that we’ve not been able to take advantage of yet, but when we move and have access to the [Kingsport] aquatic center, it’s going to set up a whole new batch of exercises and activities for our members," Ramey said.

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