The path that led to the creation of my app, Virtual Nick, started back in 2014; when I was just 19 years old and fresh out of college.
Finishing college can be a daunting prospect for young people as they look ahead to their future to decide what the best next steps for them are – luckily, I had already decided that I wanted to become a personal trainer, which I set about doing as soon as I finished college. I have never been one to do things by half measures, so at the same time that I embarked on becoming a self-employed personal trainer, I also became a CrossFit Stags & Does coach. CrossFit is a mixture of gymnastics, weight lifting and metabolic conditioning that is both mentally and physically challenging. Through this I met a huge range of inspiring people from all walks of life, and I also competed at a high level of Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit training.
I worked extremely hard on my career in the fitness industry (quite literally), and over time my client list reached near maximum capacity. Although this was a fantastic achievement, it was frustrating for the size of my business to be limited to a certain capacity, especially as a fair amount of my professional time as a personal trainer was spent planning and personalising my clients’ fitness programmes, not just training them.
As the business and client list continued to grow, I decided to walk away from CrossFit, as both a coach and an athlete, so that I could dedicate enough of my time and resources into the expansion. During this period of coaching, I started to discuss Artificial Intelligence with one of my clients, who explained it as a simple process of working through questions and answers using technology. I realised that the process of asking and answering questions made up a lot of my planning process, which confirmed that AI could potentially help me take my business one step further, making the process of personal training more time and money efficient, and giving me the extra hours and resources to expand.
The idea of introducing modern technology into my personal training approach led me to the initial concept for Virtual Nick, and made me realise that, while I had great experience as a successful self-employed personal trainer, the development of a virtual, personal training app was a different ball game. So I started to look for further information online, and in the local area, to support my development and came across a REACTOR MeetUp event. At the Meetup event, I learnt more about the REACTOR Project, and by November 2018, I became part of the programme.
Through REACTOR, I was connected with several important networks within Cambridge and exposed to a variety of accelerator schemes. Not only did the event series allow me to meet like-minded people, they also taught me important matters such as the finer details of IP law, which in turn supported me in securing a Gamification and Innovation Grant through REACTOR.
Virtual Nick is now a fully developed product; it is an Artificial Intelligence fitness app that utilises user information to create and suggest bespoke workouts for the user. In the same way that a personal trainer is able to track client progress and adapt workout programmes in line with progression, the app collects data feedback to ensure clients are progressing at an optimal rate.
As part of the REACTOR project, I also learnt about the concept of gamification. There is already an element of gamification within fitness, as improvements generally act as rewards that encourage further commitment and improvement. However, progress can be hard to track; Virtual Nick utilises games mechanics within the app by tracking and displaying user statistics in a clear way, allowing users to attempt to beat their previous efforts and consistently improve.
I am currently using the REACTOR Incubator space weekly to further develop the app to its next stages; this involves getting the product out into local, independent gyms as a retention tool and to help gym goers stay on top of their training. We want to grow Virtual Nick across the UK over the next two years, and from there expand over Europe within the next five years – we have a big vision for the future of fitness and Virtual Nick. We want to put the power of personal training into the hands of everyone who wants to live a better, healthier lifestyle.