Training States


Helping users maintain healthy fitness habits




Interaction Designer

UX Design
Foundational Research
Wireframing + Prototyping
Usability Testing


1 designer
1 researcher


3 months




Tempo is a digital personal trainer with computer vision technology that can correct lifting form, track performance, etc.

The problem: user retention

The bread and butter for the startup is the monthly subscription fee. However, after 6 months of purchase, only 50% of users remained active, causing concerns around retention.

My role

I was tasked with taking on a vision project to understand what was causing inactivity and how we might address it, which involved research, wireframing, concept testing, and prototyping.

“As a vision project, explore ways to help our users make fitness a habit with Tempo.”


Information gathering

Design audit: examining what we'd already tried

Weekly streak:
Analytics show this feature is engaging mostly for those who are already consistent

Weekly workout planner:
Analytics show very low adoption of this feature

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Existing survey shows that users go inactive due to oddly specific reasons


Unanswered: Why are these reasons causing users to go inactive for such a long period of time?

Existing interview data: Users want Tempo to hold them accountable to a routine like a personal trainer


Unanswered: What kind of accountability should we be providing?


Landscape research

I conducted expert interviews and performed a literature review of peer reviewed behavior models.


Experts say: fitness routines need to adapt to life events

According to exercise physiologists, life events arise and disrupt fitness habit formation. In order to prevent this, the trainer must:

  1. Detect that client is experiencing an interrupting life event in the first place

  2. Check-in and adapt with the client by adjusting their training plan or providing accountability

“If you don’t work around whatever is happening in their lives, they’re going to fall out of routine. Their life events become barriers. ”

Connecting this back to our data

The earlier survey responses were life events that had turned into routine barriers because we didn’t detect when they were happening, and we couldn’t “check-in” and adapt at the right moment.

How might we be more sensitive and adaptive to what is happening in our users’ lives in order to prevent life events from interrupting a healthy fitness habit?


Early design struggles

Complexity of the problem

  • How do we account for all of the different interruptions that can happen?

  • How can we (a digital product as opposed to a human) detect routine-disrupting life events without being invasive?

  • How do we actually identify the appropriate moment to check-in?

Early wireframes: the struggle is REAL

I tried MANY concepts that attempted to detect and adjust around life events, but the complexities listed above were definitely problematic.

Below is one brief example - as you can see, trying to account for all specific use cases becomes overwhelming very quickly and can feel quite invasive.​


After what felt like the 200th iteration, my design mentor recommended the following:

“This problem is too big to approach this way - think of this at a systems level. ”


Taking a systems approach

Categorizing disruptive life events (2x2 matrix)

Drawing from the behavior change models I studied earlier, I recalled that behavior change is a function of ability and motivation.


Realization #1

We can group individual life events into categories of user needs, which is far easier to design for and less invasive.

We don’t need to know the specific details - we just need to generally know category of need to solve for.

Mapping how motivation and ability are affected by a life event

Journey mapping the user’s experience before, during, after the life event helped me realize that the problem wasn't necessarily the life event itself - it was the struggle to return to a routine once it’s been disrupted.

Is there a way we can bring Joy’s motivation and ability back above the minimum threshold after a life event by somehow knowing the right moment to nudge her with accountability?

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Realization #2

The life event itself isn’t the biggest problem - it’s returning to the routine once it’s been disrupted

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Our product today only assumes the user is constantly in “active” state.

  • It does not adjust to meet the prior categories of need when something happens in the user’s life.

  • It does not know when to provide timely external motivation to return back to a fitness routine.

Narrowing the user scope

For advanced athletes, fitness has become second nature and has become routine. For beginners, fitness is not yet a habit and is therefore much more susceptible to disruption.

Resiliency to routine disruption


Decision: Narrow the scope to beginner athletes

How might we help beginners return to their fitness routine after a disruptive life event?


Design Proposal: Training States

A way to tell Tempo that you need something different for a while, and provides a guided return path back to your normal routine.

Reasons for inactivity (from the earlier survey)

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Key feature:
A training state is never assumed to be infinite - the user must commit to a timeframe for the state, thus letting Tempo know when to provide external accountability.

Phase 1: Joy leaves for vacation

Joy needs to leave for her summer trip, so she lets Tempo know she’ll be away from the home gym for about two weeks.


Phase 2: Joy is away

Though Joy wants to keep her streak, she doesn’t really want to work out while on vacation - however, she notices Tempo allows her to maintain her streak by alternate means while she’s in the Mobile state.

Joy decides to log a light walk to keep her streak, and gets rewarded!

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Phase 3: Joy returns home

Joy gets back home, and rests for a day from travelling. As if on cue, Tempo reminds her that she committed to a 2 week break and that it’s time to get back into her routine.

She’s not quite yet ready to return to full power, so she decides to ease in.

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Concept Testing

I conducted 5 moderated interviews with Tempo users who self-rated themselves as fitness beginners and had all become inactive for a period of time.

5/5 users rated the concept a 7/7 on the usefulness scale

The concept seemed to resonate because of the following reasons:

  1. The training states mirrored circumstances the users had experienced in their lives that caused them to stop using Tempo

  2. The ability to tell Tempo they need a break every now and then made them feel like they weren’t going to be “punished” for not constantly pushing hard

  3. The design felt more empathetic and understanding compared to the existing product

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Deliverable: Final vision

In a future Tempo, training will not be a constant, rigid state.

Tempo could become adaptive, supportive, and an extrinsic source of motivation.

Here are 3 design principles Tempo can do to achieve this.


Build a conversation between Tempo and our users


Allow the user to tell us when something comes up...

Profile-2.png that we can provide support at the right moments


Treat training as a series of varying states, rather than as a constant



Help users transition between states by asking what they need next


If Tempo becomes more communicative and more adaptive to barriers, it will become very sticky.