a personal trainer in your pocket: the jillian michaels app [product review]

Personal training is expensive. So are fitness classes and gym memberships. And having someone tell you what to eat all the time (which, if you’ve worked with me before, you’ll know that’s not what I’m about, but that I do understand having an outline for what to eat in a day can be a helpful place from which to build good habits). 

When it comes to building a habit around working out – or just moving a bit every day – I’ve found that the biggest barriers for folks getting started tend to be cost (it’s too pricey), a lack of time and a lack of know-how of what to do. It can all be super overwhelming; and overwhelm, as most know, can be a motivation killer.

I was recently introduced to a new app produced by the Jillian Michaels fitness-and-wellness empire and was really stoked to see it navigates a lot of these barriers seamlessly. It's like having a little personal trainer in your pocket: one who makes working out relatively simple, easy to do just about anywhere and with whatever time you have. 

The workouts
Part-personal trainer plan, part-fitness class, the JM app offers hundreds of customized daily video workout circuits. The app generates a new one each day so you’re not stuck doing the same video for weeks and hitting a plateau.

Each move is performed by Jillian in an HD video, so you can follow along and adjust your form based on the example. Daily free workouts range in length from 6 minutes to half an hour, and the app offers upgrades for longer ongoing programs for a variety of skill levels. (These are targeted at building strength in specific areas and have names like Slim 60, Transform 90 and Booty Bootcamp.)

Also, every workout can be previewed before you do it: if you see there’s an exercise you’re not comfortable with or need to modify for an injury, you can swap it out for something else. Adjustments can also be made for the type of equipment you have on hand. No dumbbells or bench? No problem. I set mine to No Equipment and still had tons of moves available to me.

As with most video workouts, I was a bit skeptical that this wouldn’t be challenging enough. No worries here: I had the app set to Advanced and was thoroughly challenged by the moves. Rolling planks. Omg.

Time is kept really well, too, so you’re not worried that the timer has stopped or you’ve missed something. The instructions are super clear. Another win for video workouts here.

If you’re new to working out, or looking to add some accessibility, intensity and diversity to your existing routine, this app is a really great option. I’ve found it particularly handy being on the road the last several months. It’s entirely portable and you can do the workouts in small spaces. #hotelrooms

The meal plans
In addition to the workouts, the app also includes a meal-planning component. You can select omnivore, vegan or paleo plans and receive outlines for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, as well as shopping lists and tips for dining out on a given plan. Any recipe that doesn’t look appealing to your tastes can be swapped out for something else. Clean-eating-wise, this is a great guide and a positively massive recipe database. I had a really good time poking around in it for meal inspiration.

The recipes are easy to customize and easy to follow. Most don’t involve strange ingredients you’ll have to hunt down and the prep time is minimal.

I would counsel, though, that the recommended calorie intake through this program is really low, especially if you’re doing the workouts as well.

For instance, based on my height and weight, the app suggested I eat 850 calories a day, broken down into 200 calories at breakfast + 200 calories at lunch + 350 at dinner + a 100 calorie snack. That’s most certainly not enough, even if my goal was to lose weight. (Ladies, you’re looking at between 1200-1400 calories a day just to stay alive, so…) Keep that in mind when looking at the meal planner and consider amping up meals with addition healthy fats, plant protein and veggies if you’re following this plan exclusively.

Curious what kind of meals are in the app? Here’s a little preview, the chocolate almond butter bowl. (Breakfast? Lunch? Snack? It’s kind of awesome whenever…) It’s packed with healthy fats, so even for a small portion, you’ll walk away feeling supremely satisfied.)

chocolate almond butter bowl   
¼ tsp vanilla extract 
½ banana, sliced (I swapped in an avocado in place of banana to cut the sugar down)
1 cup ice 
½ cup almond milk 
1 tbsp almond butter 
1 tsp cacao nibs 
1 tsp unsweetened coconut, shredded 
1 scoop vegan protein powder 
1 tsp paleo granola, no dried fruit
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder 

Blend the almond milk, banana [avocado], ice, almond butter, cocoa powder, protein powder and vanilla extract until smooth. 

Transfer to a bowl and top with the cacao nibs, granola and coconut. 

The app
The platform itself is really slick: it runs well, it’s easy to navigate, and the process of setting up your preferences is really simple. The intro screens will guide you through creating your personal profile, including your preferences for food and workout intensity. It takes a bit to load, though, so keep that in mind if you’re tight for time before a workout; also, the app and all of its downloads take up a ton of space in your phone or tablet’s storage. (Worth it, though.)

The takeaway
This app is a super option for starting out on a healthy eating/being active adventure. It’s also a good complement to an existing healthy lifestyle and may provide an antidote to the same-old, same-old routine we can often find ourselves in. The workouts are tough – but doable – and the meal plans provide some interesting, diverse options for any palate.

You can download the app from Jillian’s website or the App Store.






(A little disclaimer: while I don’t make any money for this post, I did receive a free trial of the app to test-drive its features.)





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Posted in breakfast, cookbook review, expert series, gluten-free recipes, health coaching info, homepage featured, musings, recipes

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