You Vs. FitnessAI: How to Win the War With the Machines

A closeup of a woman facing a robot with eerie green and red lighting.

Bad news: You’re going to lose a few fitness clients to AI.

The good news: They’re probably not the clients you want at your gym anyway.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

As the AI revolution continues, consumers have access to apps like FitnessAI, which can generate personalized workout plans, track progress, provide accountability and connect you to a real person for advice. The app’s pricing page lists options from $3.99 a week to $129.99 for an annual membership.

So is an AI trainer better than you are?

Some people are definitely asking that question. Imad Khan tried to answer it in his article “Can an AI-Powered Fitness App Outperform a Human Trainer?”

Khan’s conclusion: “AI-powered software and algorithms can’t generate a workout routine for you based on your thoughts and desires—and it might not be precise in accommodating injuries. But everyone is different. … In my case, getting real feedback from a real trainer is what kept me motivated. … When it comes to gains at the gym, I’m opting to trust a human over a machine.”

Some people will take a different path: They’ll love ripping through AI-generated workouts, clicking icons to log results and fiddling around on the app.

You probably have a few tech-loving clients who might be tempted to drop their memberships and get workouts from a bot.

But I’d suggest those clients aren’t perfect for your coaching business anyway.

Relationships With the Right People

It’s possible that the clients who are willing to trade your presence for an app are very dissatisfied with your service. But you’re probably a great coach and charming individual, so I think it’s more likely that you managed to acquire a few of “the wrong clients” when you cast your marketing net.

You might call people in this category “at-risk clients” or even “tourists.” They’re people who might train with you for three months, hit Orangetheory for three months, groove with Kendall Toole on Peloton for a bit, then get workouts from Agent Smith of “The Matrix” (“I’m going to enjoy watching you squat, Mr. Anderson.”).

They’re fickle, and their perfect fitness journey must include a lot of novelty. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as their paths get them closer to their health and fitness goals.

However, if you sell coaching, your ideal client wants a long-term personal relationship with a skilled, likable coach—and you’d be wise to remember that above anything else.

Your programming? Important but not as important as your personal relationship with the client who does it.

Your equipment? Important but not as important as your personal relationship with the client who uses it.

Your facility? Important but not as important as your personal relationship with the client who trains in it.

I’m not saying programming, equipment and facilities are irrelevant. But AI can crank out programming faster than you can, other gyms have better gear than you do and other facilities offer more amenities.

Your greatest value as a coach can be found in the personal relationships you develop, maintain and improve.

The clients who are perfect for you want a personal touch—metaphorically and literally in the form of a high-five after a PR.

As AI’s influence grows, it will be very normal to feel threatened: “Will the bots take my clients?”  

To ensure they don’t, review your client journey today. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is my marketing going to help me acquire my ideal clients?
  • Do my coaching clients get a 10-out-of-10 level of personal contact?
  • How can I add even more personalization to my service?
  • Where I add more touchpoints to my client journey?
  • Can I become more likable? (Yes—instructions here.)
  • Should I send a genuine text message to five clients right now? (Yes.)

Any time you feel threatened by AI, repeat that process.

If you do, I’d suggest you won’t lose many clients to the robots.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.