“Technical Foul” is a column by Sarah Ko on sports technology.

From baking bread to making TikToks, new ways to stay busy at home are springing up during this pandemic. Although researching vacations you can’t go on any time soon is soothing, many have taken it upon themselves to lead a healthier lifestyle. Despite the inaccessibility to gyms and trainers, people are able to start and maintain their physical and mental health through consumer-available technology.

Peloton has skyrocketed to 172% in sales with over a million new program subscribers, making this its first profitable quarter. People are canceling their gym memberships since it is more cost-effective to own a bike and take virtual spin classes. Big-chain gyms such as 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Town Sports International have all filed for bankruptcy. With the closure of gyms nationwide, a new technology-driven method of staying active is taking over.

Nike has already created virtual fitness programs for anyone who has access to a smartphone. The Nike Training Club (NTC) application has countless programs with varying difficulty, length and muscle group focuses. It also allows users to monitor their heart rate and accurately calculate calories burned if connected to the Apple Watch health features.

Fitness apps like NTC are not limited to exercises. They look at health holistically by including nutrition plans and mental health check-ins. Rather than focusing on calorie counting and unhealthy dieting habits, the nutrition plans teach users how to eat cleanly and sustainably. There are recipes for every household, and they most certainly do not include unattainable secret ingredients that only a millennial farmers market would have.

Furthermore, many of the trainer-led classes incorporate mindfulness tips, which are especially helpful this year. If meditation or yoga isn’t for you, then their extension running app, the Nike Run Club, is perfect. The platform features freeform runs, where you are in charge of your pace, time and music, and it also includes mindfulness-focused guided runs narrated by Nike Master Trainers.

But perhaps the most innovative feature on these apps is its humanitarian campaign: chasing your dreams.

Girls drop out of sports twice as fast as boys. With the ongoing pandemic, it is almost next to impossible to support young girls and their athletic careers. Nike’s “Made to Play” program tackles this issue by teaching coaches how to foster a “girl-inclusive play and sport culture” globally.

Made to Play guide by Nike.
Made to Play guide by Nike.

Not only do these programs provide COVID-friendly plans for young female athletes, but they also allow these girls to view messages from their biggest role models. Imagine picking up a racket for the first time and Naomi Osaka teaches you how to develop the mindset of a champion, or in the midst of training for your last basketball game, A’ja Wilson prepares you to be an MVP.

Who wouldn’t want to workout like Cristiano Renaldo or Serena Williams? The gap between you and your favorite athletes is closing. Instead of watching them on TV, they can now be your coach from home.

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Photo by Nike News)
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Photo by Nike News)

Even after quarantine, gone are the days when you wait for someone to get off the treadmill or practice hot yoga in a small, sweaty space. Now, you can have direct access to the world’s leading fitness experts, all tucked away in your phone.

These applications aren’t just changing the physical nature of fitness. They’re focused on building a community, giving people a shining light in a time when everything seems impossible.

“Technical Foul” typically runs every other Tuesday.