Weightlifters of varying experiences are constantly looking for ways to enhance their performance and maximize time in the weight room. Rarely do weightlifters have the opportunity to see in depth analyses of their progress (over several sessions), and then modify their routine to reflect feedback. Similarly, the personal attention of a trainer to guide a person over a period of time can be costly and time-consuming. As a result, weightlifters value a program that provides targeted goals and instantaneous feedback without the cost and external needs. The Digital Personal Trainer focuses directly on these features by providing a flexible interface to address an audience of multiple levels of weightlifting experience. In our research and design, we did not attempt to develop a totally new product, but yet understand which components were lacking in most current products, and find the best way to design an interface to include these features.
Current Devices and Research
The industry in personal training devices is quite limited in the scope it provides for the user. Most of the devices currently available are not implemented on a PDA device and cannot feasibly be used in a gym environment. Other devices do not incorporate the abilities to allow users to choose from a selection of ready-made exercises, generate feedback, or tailor an exercise routine.
The issue of type of user is also a key variant in the many devices currently available. Some of the devices such as Crosstrainer, BodyFitDB, and PDAbs are designed for experienced users such as bodybuilders and powerlifters whereas GetFit, Personal Trainer One, and the Pocket Personal Trainer target novice users who are looking for more general fitness needs and beginner weightlifting programs. After researching many of these devices, we discovered that a wide range of experience was rarely targeted, and that we could capitalize on this feature by designing a flexible interface that could provide basic features that the user could interpret and use according to their own experience and goals.
Another component that appeared absent from many of these products was the ability to save and forward results to an actual trainer, a physician, or other specialist. Many of these systems appeared to be very proficient in giving users the ability to log their results from an exercise, but few provided the ability for users to further research exercise routines and make sense of results.
Body Fit DB (http://www.bodyfitdb.com) is a general fitness product that is designed for advanced athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters. Created for the desktop PC, Body Fit is an all encompassing program that allows the user to track all components of an athletic program and log their history. A user who wants customizable features does not have this privilege with Body Fit DB, thus limiting the interaction with the device. In our design of the Digital Personal Trainer, we used Body Fit DB’s journaling framework as one of the bases for retrieval of workouts. However, there was also a need to go beyond logging, and incorporate more views to add flexibility for the user when recording workouts.
One of the more comprehensive devices in the market is the Physical Genius (http://www.physicalgenius.com). Designed for the PC, this device encompasses routine generation, modification, tracking, and logging of notes from workout sessions. One of the key components to the Physical Genius is its ability to combine these components into a user-friendly interface. Each component is properly oriented on the screen and has very fluid transitions. The device is not built in PDA or PC form, rather the Physical Genius is built as a small handheld device with its own special buttons. The problem with this style is that it limits the amount of screen space available for the user. As a result, the user has limited flexibility in navigating throughout the interface, and the interface design is limited in the amount of extra features it can offer. The Digital Personal Trainer attempts to eliminate these limitations by creating a design fit for a PDA interface. Another problem with the Physical Genius is the inability to keep a history of feedback and user notes on a particular routine. As part of our focus to increase the interaction between user and the device, we saw this as a necessary component to include in the Digital Personal Trainer as well.
The Pocket Personal Trainer (http://www.bigmansoftware.com/trainer.htm) is another device that is well-marketed to our audience. Built for the PDA, this device is the most diverse of all the current products because it includes a weightlifting component, a cardiovascular component, an exercises database, and a reports feature. Having all these parts combined together initially appears to target the goal of providing an all-encompassing device for a user who does not want to invest time and money for a personal trainer. However, the interface appears very condensed in its PDA form and can be overwhelming to an inexperienced user. Since the Digital Personal Trainer design is also in PDA form, we recognized this issue and honed our approach by properly organizing the different components in order to have more screen space to develop them properly and for easy comprehension.
The Vivonic Fitness Planner (http://www.vivonic.com), another PDA device, offers users the ability to track fitness and dietary information. It has a very similar framework to the Digital Personal Trainer. Two of the features that hinder Vivonic’s performance are a result of a non-user-centered approach. Results of workout statistics are only generated once a week as opposed to allowing the user to choose when to analyze progress. Additionally, there is an extensive planning wizard which requires the user to answer several questions prior to establishing a workout which can be quite cumbersome for more advanced bodybuilders who know what they want to target. In the development of the Digital Personal Trainer, we implemented a more efficient and flexible profile wizard, along with allowing users to specify the parameters to generate results.
Another device, PTrainer (http://www.silveronion.com), is a fairly basic desktop-based system for recording information about workouts and nutrition. It minimizes the amount of extraneous features in order to best suit bodybuilders using this software. Similar to other products, PTrainer records basic information about aerobic and anaerobic exercises (sets, repetitions, rest intervals, and comments about certain sets), tracks body measurements, and allows users to manage dietary needs by providing an extensive database of foods and nutritional values for easy reference.
One of the main research concerns for the Digital Personal Trainer was, of the currently marketed products, what was getting users motivated the most? Raymond Horwitz, in his article “Crunching the Numbers”, explains that measurable results are what give users the most interaction with the system and resulting from this interaction is motivation to continue performing and analyzing results.
Digital Personal Trainer User Profile
The Digital Personal Trainer appeals to users from all these other devices because of its flexibility and ease of use. Users of all experience levels can take advantage of all the features involved and can tailor their own routine to what is most suitable. While the Digital Personal Trainer can be used by both men and women, the majority of users will probably be males with a moderate amount of weightlifting experience. Younger lifters will be more likely to use the technology in a gym environment and log their results live.
Users with little experience exercising can use the feature that allows them to select a specific routine from the Digital Personal Trainer database whereas experienced users can customize their workout for unique exercises.
Users can interact with the device to varying degrees including:
· Users who simply want an easier logging facility for their workouts
· Users who want to generate a pre-programmed routine based on preferences
· Users who are interested in seeing statistical results of their workouts
· Users who want feedback from the workout routines they are involved with
· Athletes or personal trainers who want to closely monitor daily exercise and be able to make immediate modifications based on analyses
The Digital Personal Trainer is created for the PDA in order for easy use in a gymnasium. A PDA is an appropriate medium since many people regularly carry these devices and would not require an external means or system for those users who have a PDA device. Additionally, the interface is very conducive to a PDA since the user can use a stylus and very few buttons to input results. Essentially, for users familiar with a PDA, the interface training is greatly reduced and simple repetitive actions are put to use.