Paul Kim’s before-and-after pictures are pretty astounding. He argues that you can look that way, too, if you use his Alpha Trainer app, which provides a workout regimen on iOS and Android devices that you can take to the gym. The app is part of Kim’s goal of making personal training more social, enabling people to tap their friends for support in becoming more fit.
Now, somewhere in the fine print, it must say that you have to work out for six hours a day to look like Kim does in his picture. But Kim swears that isn’t true, and he has created a custom training program with his Alpha Trainer app that will get you into better shape in 14 weeks. Alpha Trainer gives you a custom workout program that is narrated by Kim himself, who admits letting himself get out of shape on his last startup before he went back to the gym with a vengeance, moving from 17 percent body fat to 4 percent body fat in 10 months. He started San Jose, Calif.-based Nido Labs, named after a resort in the Philippines where he chilled out, to codify a serious fitness regimen in an app.
“This is something that I believe passionately in,” Kim said in an interview with VentureBeat. “I came up with this as I did my own body transformation.”
The app is launching today on the Apple iTunes App Store and on the Google Play store. Kim said that app can be customized in 100,000 ways to fit each user’s needs. It also features social motivation, inviting friends to provide encouragement with every fitness achievement.
Kim previously ran KreditFly, a venture-funded alternative payments company that raised $3.25 million but didn’t survive. Before that, he created BilltoMobile, a $9.5 million-funded company that was acquired in 2010. He also worked at Samsung’s venture capital arm, and he once was a management consultant. But fitness was his first love. His first job was as a fitness trainer at Bally’s. And he’s a certified personal trainer and a fitness competitor.
“I went the Philippines to decompress from years of startups,” he said.
The current market for health and fitness technology is huge, but it is dominated by navigation-based cardio-tracking apps such as Runkeeper. Many of these apps are now undifferentiated, except for some like Zombie Run that are putting game mechanics and storylines into fitness programs. There are also a ton of wearable health and performance monitors like Nike FuelBand or the Basis Health Tracker. But these are all reactive, not proactive, in Kim’s view.
Food-tracking apps can help you record what you eat, and existing workout and fitness apps require you to input your workout data in excruciating detail in small mobile devices. These apps can provide pictures and videos on how to do exercises, but they are often generic.
“I kept looking at the market, and the tracking is often really tedious,” he said.
What’s missing is something that gives people deep health and fitness guidance, coaching, and instruction in a systematically designed and tailored program. You can get that at your gym with a live personal trainer, but this can cost more than $1,000 a month (or maybe $50 to $500 per session) to get outstanding advice and monitoring. But what if your workout should change based on your body type, fitness level, age, gender, workout preferences, your schedule, workouts confined to home, or specific problem areas in your body?
“Everyone has different issues and goals,” he said. “We will have the largest library of 14-week workout programs for both the gym and home.”
Kim, a 1999 runner-up for the Mr. Korea body-building competition, said Alpha Trainer targets this need. He designed each program over the course of the past year. He changed the workouts for body type, goals, preferences, and even technology platforms (such as mobile devices or tablets). And the price is right. The apps is free to download and try out for four weeks.
After that, you have to decide if you want to pay to get the remaining weeks through the purchase of an Elite subscription.
When you use the app, you’ll see Kim demo the exercise with the proper intervals of rest, sets and repetitions. You can use the program to log and track your weight progress if you wish. Such a “freemium” model will eliminate some of the barriers that normally get in the way of fitness goals. If you’re thinking that the first four weeks are the same as the next 10, you’re wrong. Kim deliberately divides the program into multiweek parts, based on his experience with fitness regimens. At first, he said, your body needs to be shocked. Then you can focus on cutting fat. You can upgrade to premium features for a fee, and you can purchase Gold Coins to send messages and gifts to others.
You can pick the days when you will work out, and you can select the exercises you will perform. Many, but not all, of the exercises come with a video. You work out while using the app, which has a timer. After you’re done, you can post the accomplishment to Facebook. You can pause the workout if you are interrupted.
Alpha Trainer also uses social motivation from your close friends. You can invite them to offer you encouragement as motivation partners. These partners are notified via an alert on your workout days. They can send you encouragement messages and gifts from within the app. That part of the app is akin to mobile messaging apps such as What’s App, Line or Kakao Talk. (All of those are growing quickly). The good thing about the social motivation is that the partners will download the app as well, and they may adopt it. That could make the app naturally viral.
Alpha Trainer also has workouts that you can do that are separate from your customized workout program, such as core workouts, bodybuilding, sports training etc.
“People who have a strong network are many times more likely to hit their goals,” Kim said.
The program also has its own “gamification” features, using game mechanics such as XP (experience points), levels, earned or purchased virtual currency, gifting, and leaderboards. That is all aimed at making the app more engaging for users.
The company is self-funded by Kim and it has six full-time and part-time employees.