II’m sipping a sparkling dry rosé with a friend, catching up and lamenting how the pandemic has thrown my workout routine to hell. It has been virtually impossible to find that enthusiasm to “get back on the bandwagon” again. I went from exercise being a fixture in my daily routine (Pilates, spinning, walking, running, personal training) to not having the energy to get off the couch and walk my dog.
As I’m sure many of you can understand, particularly given that this has been a bit of an epidemic within a pandemic, this has also had its own detrimental effects on mental health.
After listening to my ventilation session, said friend stops me and says that he has a possible solution. “I have something your Virgo brain is going to love,” she says. “AI Trainings”.
Turns out he’s discovered a new way to exercise in an unsuspecting San Diego studio: the Smart Fit method. The plan consists of three 20-minute training sessions per week, customized to your personal abilities based on artificial intelligence. And with just one hour total each week, she (along with a few friends of hers) was making massive changes in her body composition, strength, and endurance.
Nestled between surfer dive bars and a Patagonian store, overlooking the Pacific, this boutique personal training studio is filled with machines that look like a cross between medieval torture devices and Chuck Norris’ total gym. And, of course, a NASA machine appeared. Science!
When you sign up for Smart Fit, you have access to all machines, but the method in Smart Fit Method is that you have three sessions a week; one on each machine. And for each of those sessions, you’ll be in and out in 20 minutes (unless you’re staying to recover). You can walk-in or sign up for six-week challenges or an annual membership starting at $299 per month.
The ARX Smart 3 and Smart 5
Possibly the scariest of the bunch, and the one that definitely looks like a torture device, this set of strength machines comprises leg presses, chest presses, rows, overhead presses, pulldowns, and more. It uses a computer controlled motor to adjust to the exact amount of resistance you need for each repetition. The machines also save your preset range of motion, height, and limb length (like an advanced version of the driver’s seat presets in your car). And the screen allows you to monitor in real time how much you are lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and resisting in your concentric and eccentric movements.
My favorite. This NASA-developed machine connects you to tubes and cuffs and makes you feel like an elite athlete. Vasper uses super cold water in the muffs around his legs, arms, and neck to lower his body temperature. He also creates a blood flow restriction by squeezing his appendages into fists to optimize his workout, add to the “burn” and much more. Apparently this is also a favorite of Dave Asprey (the founder of Bulletproof), and it’s hard to find outside of ultra-elite, ultra-expensive boutique fitness studios.
For a smarter cardio workout, The Smart Fit Method uses the CAROL stationary bike. If a platoon used artificial intelligence and had a nice British lady voice telling you that you are being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and you have to pedal to survive, it would be a CAROL. The AI assesses your skills overall and within each session based on your performance, then customizes your resistance so you get a personalized workout exactly where you are, physiologically.
The Smart Fit team is currently developing a proprietary score that “provides overall metrics for each member to measure how fitness affects their longevity,” says CEO Rob Darnbrough.
This will be an amalgamation of points in an individual’s health profile: the score focuses on strength gains (push, pull, and drive), cardiovascular improvements (based on the CAROL bike octane score), improvements in cellular health (such as heart rate variability) and changes in body composition (percentage of body fat, improvements in lean mass, girth measurements) and more.
“Instead of just measuring one factor like body composition, we measure multiple data points to get a holistic score,” says co-founder Connor Darnbrough. “This approach will benefit each member by focusing their efforts on fitness to improve longevity,” adds Rob Darnbrough.
Members can access their score and track their progress through the app, making it easy to get an exact read on where they are and what they need.
My first few minutes at the seaside fitness oasis began with an espresso (yes, coffee!) that was always complimentary pre-workout (and very European). This makes sense to me; Caffeine is a strong performance enhancer and has been studied for its effects on exercise.
Then I went into the introductory body scan; each member receives their onboarding scan and then regular checkups as often as once a week. This body composition analyzer was like a DEXA scanner (like they use in the Modern Age), without the radiation. The 360 degree cameras were able to take a full 3D image of my body (in a silver gray color, The Secret World of Alex Mack kind of human stain). The trainers reviewed my results so I understood my basic health status and identified areas where I could improve (such as changing my makeup to a little less fat, a little more muscle, working on posture, and improving my resting heart rate). ) .
From there, I did an introductory workout on my first machine: the Smart 5. As you may have guessed, that workout was pretty hard, so I definitely needed some recovery afterwards. Fortunately, I was able to use the PEMF chart, which uses electromagnetic pulses to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and aid recovery. Smart Fit also has a cooling table, which is like a giant cold pack for your entire body.
I continued with my three workouts a week for six weeks, which was a total of six hours of exercise. It was all I did aside from my typical weekly Pilates session and walking. And you, the experience was discordant. In just 20 minutes, you feel as exhausted and shaky as if you just ran a half marathon or did an hour-long Crossfit workout. My brain couldn’t connect the dots. But even though it was absurdly challenging, it felt empowering.
And while my physical results were personally impressive for me (I lost three percent of my fat mass and half an inch in my waist), what really surprised me were the improvements in my strength, which was automatically quantified thanks to AI and robotics.
I saw improvements in all measured areas. The most exciting thing was how much more I could resist and push through the eccentric and concentric movements of the chest presses, leg presses, and rows. On day one, I was able to resist 525 pounds on a leg press; in the end, I was able to resist 655 pounds, a 25 percent improvement and 120 more pounds! I saw a 14 percent improvement in my rows (adding 17 pounds) and about an 8 percent improvement in my chest presses (adding 10 pounds).
I’ve been reporting on fitness for almost a decade and have covered a slew of new exercise methods and styles that promise to change the way you exercise, but end up being another flash in the pan. I can say with certainty that what is going on in The Smart Fit Method is not a gimmick. They are developing an approach that will change the way we view exercise and measure health.
If you’re in the San Diego area or near his studio in Kauai, Hawaii, stopping by here is a must (first session is free, by the way!). And if you’re not, keep an eye out for its rapid expansion over the next year.
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