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Wello aims to bring the gym home through live training service

Agam Shah | April 1, 2013
Wello is planning to bring one-on-one and group workouts to tablets, with the goal of offering an app for gaming consoles and TVs

Prices range from US$10 to $199 for up to an hour of training, with celebrity trainers being the most expensive. By comparison, gym membership could range from under $100 to over $200 a month.

The company, which has five employees, late last year closed a round of $1 million in funding from a group of investors including Kleiner Perkins. The company has been working on its tablet app for close to two years now. The application will use video technology so multiple workout participants can be viewed on a tablet screen during a group session.

Technology was an initial hurdle for Aisha Baro, who had to upgrade an old computer to use Wello. She now works out twice a week, which provides her flexibility on where and when to train.

"At a regular gym I would be assigned to a trainer based on my availability. Here I got to choose," said Baro, who lives in Half Moon Bay, California.

Baro has retained her gym membership, but supplements it with training on Wello from Judy Kuan, a New York City resident and a part-time fitness trainer. Wello has helped Kuan balance fitness training with her other professional commitments.

"Wello finds the clients and provides the business infrastructure, and all I have to do is show up, get to know the clients, and focus on providing really spectacular workouts," Kuan said.

Wello's concept is interesting and fitness can be taken far with online video resources and training aids, but there are benefits and drawbacks, said Kristen Mann, a community coach for Australian Sports Commission's active after-schools program.

"I can see its appeal to people who cannot gain access to particular classes or trainers, particularly in remote areas," said Mann, who also owns the White Tiger Korean Martial Arts school in Glebe, Australia, near Sydney.

Online fitness training doesn't trump having an in-person real trainer, but is viable if the client and coach are in constant contact, said Grace De La Rua, who runs Fatfighter Fitness in San Jose, California.

"It takes someone who is highly motivated to follow through on their fitness plans when there's no one actually watching," De La Rua said.

Sometimes instruction could be "lost in translation," De La Rua said. For example, a virtual trainer wouldn't have a full view of a user's movements, making it difficult to correct improper technique and form.

But she remains a proponent of online training, which she also offers independently.

"I have been able to reach and help many other people that I otherwise would not have without having an online option," De La Rua said.

Fitness professionals who were asked about the concept found Wello a supplement to rather than a replacement for some specialized workouts like martial arts. Mann noted that the safety of clients could be an issue without a physical presence, but Wello's Silverglide said trainers monitor clients closely to ensure they are exercising safely and aren't pushing themselves too hard.


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