I read about Wello and thought it sounded intriguing -- get an affordable personal trainer without leaving your home, and schedule a session at a time that's convenient for you. Personal trainers at gyms and private studios typically cost a minimum of $75 per hour, plus to get to them can sometimes be a hassle. Initially, I was skeptical about the video aspect of Wello -- can a personal training session be successfully accomplished through video chat? But for about $20 a session, I was eager to find out.
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I had a total of three 25 minute sessions with trainers at different levels of experience (and corresponding prices) -- one with a newer trainer, one with a celebrity yoga instructor and the third with a moderately priced trainer. Wello says some 25 minute sessions will be as low as $5, although the lowest price for a 25 minute session I found was $15. Cofounder Leslie Silverglide said Wello may eventually price trainers based on user reviews rather than that trainer's experience (a smart idea).
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Trainers can view your private profile -- which you create when you sign-up for the site. This is where you write your height, weight and fitness goals (don't worry, this is for their eyes only). This really helps them customize your workout to align with your workout goals and current fitness level.
The training sessions are largely dependent on your Internet connections. My second session had to be cancelled because of the trainer's poor Internet connection. We re-scheduled for later that day but were only able to get through 10 minutes of yoga until it began cutting in-and-out again. The other sessions went well; although I think cardio workouts are best on video chat because when and if you have to adjust the screen, you're already moving so it doesn't disrupt your workout too much. Despite the connection issues, I was able to get some great at-home workouts that were affordable, convenient and tailored to my specific needs, unlike the workouts I get from DVD's.
This is what it looks like:
Of course, virtual personal trainers cannot touch you to correct your form but I found out that if they're vocal and can give good directions, perfecting your form with the help of a trainer is not any more difficult virtually than it is in real life. The gym equipment is what you may be lacking at home, but that's no problem. When you buy your session, you fill out a form indicating what equipment you have at home (in my case, nothing but a yoga mat). The trainers prepare their workouts according to what you have at home.
After you sign-up for a Wello account by entering your name and credit card information, there is some setup involved to make sure your experience goes smoothly: Make sure your screensaver is set to a time longer than your session. Before scheduling a session, check that you're in the correct timezone since trainers are located across the U.S. You can do this by looking under "account settings."
All trainers on the site are screened by Wello's own certified personal trainer. Wello trainers also must complete a course about how to successfully train a client using video chat (I think this is key to the site's success). The founders tell me this includes tips like speaking loud and clear, and giving more demonstrations and descriptions than you would in real life.
Wello currently has more than 150 trainers with specialties in yoga, pilates, reiki, cardio, toning and stretching (some have even more niche specialities within their focus area). I like that each trainer's profile has a photo, and sometimes a video. There's also a description of their specialties and most helpful, a list of the types of people they work with -- moms getting back into shape, seniors, athletes and more.
The site is free to use for now, but eventually, the co-founders say they'll charge an additional $20 per month, which would be a shame since one of the best perks of this site, in addition to the convenience, is getting a great instructor for about half the price you would pay at a gym. Still, being able to schedule a trainer whenever you want is great for people who travel a lot, or stay-at-home moms who might have a hard time leaving the house.
The co-founders are testing various home screens for the site -- one called the personalized feature which lets you fill in what type of exercise you want to do, select the date and time you want to do it and it gives you a list of trainers available. Although convenience is key, sometimes tweaking your schedule a bit to get a great trainer is worth it, so I hope they'll always keep the browsing capability.
One feature I would like to see Wello add is the option to have a text-message reminder sent to your phone an hour, or maybe a day, before a scheduled workout. Essentially, it's up to you to remember your scheduled sessions (I entered them in my phone's calendar), although Wello does send you an email reminder.
- Having access to the wide variety of trainers on the site makes you feel like you have a team of fitness experts just a couple clicks away. This also gives you the chance to try out numerous trainers, and either stick with one or meet a new person every session.
- It's way more affordable than in-person sessions.
- It's flexible. You can schedule sessions in 25, 40, and 55 minute increments. You can have a session anytime -- just click on the "right now" option to see who is available at that moment.
- Sometimes the camera angle can be a bit awkward and you'll have to adjust it when moving from standing to floor exercises.
- Some trainers are better at video training than others, the main problem being it can be difficult to hear someone when they step too far from their computer.
There are only a few legitimate competitors to Wello. One site called Move Together Fitness offers personal training and nutritional services via video chat, but I'm skeptical of the site's credibility since it shows a man in a business suit doing over-extended squats. And I suppose any personal trainer can set up a web cam and offer discounted personal training sessions via a Google Hangout or Skype, but it wouldn't have all the bells and whistles that make Wello so useful.
Turns out, you can get a quality personal training session online -- at least with Wello. The workouts were tough, super convenient, affordable and easy to schedule. Despite the occasional Internet hiccups and screen-adjusting, this is a service I'll be using again.
After reading this, are you interested in trying a service like Wello or do you have a better option? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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