Meet the virtual running coach that can replace pricey personal trainers

Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored
Wed August 15, 2018

Ever considered getting a personal trainer or private coach, but quickly changed your mind as soon as you saw the cost? If so, we can't blame you. At many gyms, a single training session can cost as much as $100 an hour. In major cities, that cost can climb higher, depending on a trainer's experience and place of employment.

Luckily, there's a new device available that allows you to have your very own virtual trainer talking in your ears while you work out, thanks to a company called Vi.

Vi Sense ($149; amazon.com) is marketed as the first artificial-intelligence trainer that coaches you in real time. These wireless biosensing headphones track your motion, pace, heart rate, touch and more.

When you use your Vi Sense trainer, everything is controlled by voice commands, so you can say "How am I doing?" and Vi will give you a status update on your run. As you train, Vi also offers motivation -- "Almost there!" -- so you can reach your goal while maintaining a positive mindset.

How does this technology compare with a real human trainer? Vi claims that training with these headphones is actually more effective, because Vi coaches you based on your biometrics, "making for a more dynamic and effective workout." One member of the Vi community reported that "I got a real time account of my pace and heart rate which really helps when I am trying to stick to a particular speed. You can't get that with a human personal trainer."

Of course, it could be argued that these headphones can't visually monitor your form when you're exercising or comment on how you're placing your foot on the pavement. However, the amount of data provided, including the impressive pace guide and heart rate monitor, makes a big difference when you're aiming for consistent performance — even without a human trainer working directly with you.

For those who expect more from their fitness tracker, Vi Sense is a stellar option. Not only is it designed to monitor your running progress, but it can also track cycling and other types of exercise. And to top it off, the built-in app (for iOS and Android) comes with a free 12-month subscription with access to custom AI-based training plans that help take your workouts to the next level.

Note: The price above reflects the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.