Your Total Guide to Audio Workouts Like BeatActive and PEAR Sports

When Listening to an Audio Coach Is the Perfect Workout Solution

The consumption of audio content is on the rise, with the Association of American Publishers reporting a 37.5-percent growth in audiobook downloads in 2015, and Pew Research Center's 2015 "State of the News" report noting that podcast and online radio listening have been steadily increasing year-over-year.

These increases are linked to the widespread use of smartphones and the corresponding technology that enables users to access streaming content whenever they want, wherever they are. So it should come as no surprise that audio workouts are also making their way into the mainstream.

But the use of audio cues for fitness instruction is actually a bit of a break from traditional fitness content. While workout music has long been linked to motivation and exercise performance, fitness instruction has largely been viewed as a visual experience. Which makes sense​—exercisers appreciate seeing an instructor or expert demonstrate a movement before attempting the movement themselves. And yet, for individuals who feel comfortable performing exercises without a visual cue, audio workouts may be  a nice alternative to more traditional workout formats.

Benefits of Audio Workouts

Audio workouts aren't ideal for every situation. If you love dance-based fitness or intricately choreographed group exercise classes, it's going to be hard to effectively deliver the same caliber of workout using nothing but audio cues. But if you prefer to lift weights, self-direct your own high-intensity interval routines, or head outside for long-distance endurance training, audio workouts could be a game-changer.

  • Removes the "Crutch" of Visual Cues. One of the biggest benefits of audio-based training is that it removes the "crutch" of visual cues. If you're taking a class or following an online video, it can be easy to get so caught up in watching the instructor, that you fail to tune into you own movements, which could open you up to injury.

    This is particularly true in larger, class-based settings where in addition to the instructor's movements, you can get distracted by the movements of other attendees. If you're familiar with the exercises you need to perform, and you know how to perform them correctly, there's no reason to spend most of your workout focused on an instructor's movements. Audio workouts provide instruction without the distraction of visual cues, making it easier to focus on your own proper form.
  • Amps Up Solo Routines. Audio workouts are also perfect for solo routines, such as running, rowing, elliptical training, and cycling, because while you may not feel the need to enlist an instructor when you hop on a cardio machine, you may not push yourself as hard as you would if you had a coach in tow. Audio-guided workouts offer you personal coaching delivered straight to your ear, including instructions on when to increase or decrease your tempo and pace, or when to adjust your body position. This type of audio coaching may motivate you to push harder during training, ultimately helping you attain your next personal record.
  • Removes the Stress of Planning a Workout. It can be hard to know what to do when you get to the gym. Without a program to follow or a personal trainer to guide you, it's easy to feel un-anchored, as if you're floating aimlessly from exercise to exercise without much intention. When you use an audio workout, you can select the style of workout you want to perform, then simply follow along based on the instruction provided. And because audio workouts are usually developed by certified coaches and trainers, you can feel confident the workout you're following is appropriate and sound.
  • Many Programs Are Low-Cost or Free. Audio workouts offer the guidance of a fitness expert at a fraction of the cost of personal training or coaching. If you're on a tight budget, apps, podcasts, and other audio-training solutions can help you bridge the gap in your knowledge at a budget-friendly price.

Drawbacks of Audio Workouts

While there are certainly situations where audio workouts are appropriate (and even preferential) to visual training, there are drawbacks as well.

  • Poor Cueing Can Hurt Your Workout. Great fitness coaches are great cuers. They know how and when to provide instruction, and how to describe what an exercise should look and feel like. They're also great at keeping count and delivering motivation. While cueing is important in visual workouts, it's downright necessary during audio workouts. If you end up following a routine led by a poor instructor, the cues provided could interfere with your understanding of the exercise or program, limiting its benefits.
  • Beginners May Have a Hard Time Following Audio Cues. There's no way around it—if you're unfamiliar with how an exercise should look, even the best audio cues in the world probably won't help you do it correctly. For instance, unless you already know what a yoga revolved side angle pose is supposed to look like, it's going to be hard to follow a yoga instructor's audio cues to get the pose right, especially if you're trying to follow a fast-paced flow. If you're new to type of workout that requires a close attention to proper form, stick to visual classes and instruction until you master the form of frequently-used exercises.
  • Workouts Aren't Always Personalized. While there are a few exceptions, most audio workouts lack personalization. This means if you have an injury and can't do squats, but your audio program repeatedly asks you to do squats, you're in charge of altering your own workout.

When to Choose an Audio Routine

Audio routines are best for intermediate- to advanced-level exercisers who already know proper form and are comfortable following audio cues. They're also good for individuals engaged in endurance training, who need a little extra motivation to push themselves during a pace- or tempo-based routine.

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Audio Wearables

Jabra Sport Coach Headphones
Jabra

Audio wearables combine wearable equipment, such as heart rate monitors, earbuds, and foot pods, with audio cues based on real-time biofeedback. This means that in addition to receiving audio cueing for your workout routine, you'll also receive information on how hard you're working, whether you should increase your intensity, or, based on GPS, how far you've traveled. A few of these systems include:

PEAR Sports: PEAR Sports has been around for a number of years, and they've adapted and improved their audio coaching system with time. They now offer hundreds of programs designed by high-level coaches for practically all activities and workouts, including strength training, running, stand up paddleboarding, beach volleyball, and foam rolling. Their wearables include headphones and a heart rate monitor, and their downloadable app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition: The Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition earbuds have a TrackFit Motion Sensor embedded inside that tracks your motion, automatically counting your reps (just like a trainer!) while gauging your distance traveled and steps ​taken. The corresponding app (available on iTunes and Google Play) provides pre-programmed workouts you can follow, but you can also design your own workout, then follow it seamlessly as you listen to the audio cues through your earbuds.

Vi: Touting itself as the first artificial intelligence personal trainer, Vi tracks and monitors your physical fitness throughout the day, providing you real-time feedback on your activity, synching with your personal fitness goals to encourage you to meet them. The corresponding app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

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Apps and Downloads

Audio training through apps and downloads has been around for some time, particularly in relation to endurance-based run training, but if you haven't checked out new apps in a few years, it's worth doing. There are now programs for almost every type of workout. Here are a few of the popular options:

  • Beatactive: Beatactive combines custom-designed, motivational music that's perfectly synched to the tempo and intensity of the audio-cued bodyweight exercises. Workouts are typically designed in a circuit format for a quick, effective, cardio and strength training combination.
  • Motion Traxx: Like Beatactive, Motion Traxx features custom music and audio coaching, but this app's focus is on cardio training workouts, including the treadmill, elliptical, and bike. If you want to get more out of your cardio routine, this app might be for you.
  • Zombies, Run!: If you're a runner who likes zombies, you may want to immerse yourself in Zombies, Run! This app tells you a story about zombies, delivering it to your earbuds. The trick? If the zombies start catching up to you, you'll want to run faster! Talk about extra motivation.
  • Aaptiv: Aaptiv is another app similar to Motion Traxx and Beatactive, in that it combines music and audio coaching, but it offers more wide-ranging workout options. You can select everything from a treadmill workout to yoga, strength training, or stretching. Also, the music isn't custom-created, but includes tunes you already know, straight from the radio.
  • CycleCast: If you're a group cycling junkie, CycleCast is probably the app for you. It enables you to select a coach and ride time, then it talks you through a cycling workout while delivering popular playlists from artists you know. 

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Podcasts

While workout and training podcasts are mostly relegated to talking about exercise, there are a few exceptions, particularly when it comes to yoga. If you're an intermediate-level yogi who's familiar with most poses and proper form, then it certainly doesn't hurt to take advantage of the free practices available through podcast platforms like iTunes and Pocketcast. For instance, the Yoga Download 20 Minute Yoga Sessions podcast has hundreds of short, high-quality programs you can follow along with at home or at the gym.

Sources:

Bluestone, M. AAP StatShot: "Publisher Net Revenue from Book Sales Decline 2.0% Through Third Quarter of 2015." Association of American Publishers. http://publishers.org/news/aap-statshot-publisher-net-revenue-book-sales-declines-20-through-third-quarter-2015?. January 2016.

Karageorghis C, Priest D-L. "Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part I)." International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychologyhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1750984x.2011.631026?. Vol 5, Iss 1. 2012.

"State of the News Media." Pew Research Center. http://www.journalism.org/files/2015/04/FINAL-STATE-OF-THE-NEWS-MEDIA1.pdf?. April 2015.

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