New app harnesses artificial intelligence to help fitness enthusiasts and trainers
Zihi promises to be “the world’s first adaptive and truly personalized training platform for runners.”
If the name Revere Greist – co-founder of the new Zihi fitness app – sounds familiar to you, it could be due to his contributions to the behavioral health tech scene in Madison. In 2007, he launched Waypoint Health Innovations, which designs computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy programs for people with mental illnesses. Ten years later, he founded MERET Solutions with his father, whose name may also mean something to you: psychiatrist John Greist, co-founder of Epic Systems Corp. and pioneer of computerized medicine.
Or it could be that you like to cycle in and around Madison and use the Strava fitness app, which has been downloaded by 76 million people. “Ah,” you think now, “that Revere Greist”.
Strava is a popular fitness app adopted by weekend warriors and elite athletes. Greist falls into the latter category – a native of Shorewood Hills, he swam competing for West High School and Wesleyan University before earning a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and UCLA, then rode his bike. for years. When his trainer, Madison-based professional triathlete Patrick Brady, suggested he add running and attempt triathlons, he gave it a try – and placed fourth overall at Ironman Wisconsin in 2018. In 2019, he finished eighth in his age group in the Ironman World. Championship in Hawaii and ninth in his age category at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in France. Greist is number one on many Strava “segments” around Madison. The app tracks data like mileage, pace, and routes, which you then share with subscribers (who offer “congratulations” feedback). It can be motivating no matter what your level is – and it’s not by accident, but by scientific design.
“I really had the Strava experience when it came out,” says Greist, who considers exercise to be fundamental to mental health. “It was amazing to me that a digital platform could really change the way we behave in real life.” But Strava is just a tool, like TrainingPeaks (an electronic workout journal with the option to purchase coach-designed plans), and both have their limits. Greist believes that working with a professional coach is still the gold standard, but it is expensive.
Next, Greist met Egor Akimov, former chief sports scientist for the Russian national triathlon team, now living in Middleton, and Mike Vinogradov, a world-renowned coach in the sport of orienteering. It turns out the men had an idea for a product that combined the best aspects of apps and coaching with artificial intelligence to create something entirely new. Greist immediately recognized his potential.
“It was amazing to me to see that you could develop a web-based program that would mimic what a cognitive behavioral therapist would do,” said Greist. The trio put together a team, raised funds and, in June 2021, officially launched Zihi.
Zihi promises to be “the world’s first adaptive and truly personalized training platform for runners.” It harnesses artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate personalized training plans, adapting after each workout based not only on objective data, but also on subjective metrics that other applications do not follow; it will eventually incorporate things like sleep, stress, muscle pain, pregnancy, menstrual cycles, and changes in altitude. Greist says Zihi is not supposed to replace the coaches, but to support them. This will help reduce overtraining and prevent injury, and it might even have significant crossover potential with Greist’s work at MERET, who is currently working on a suicide risk assessment project.
“When people start to overtrain, their symptoms present very similar to those of people who are depressed,” says Greist. “We could eventually incorporate some of the standard psychometric measurements into the subjective information people give us about Zihi.”
Until then, Greist will continue to hunt for segments while trying to keep up with his 82-year-old father, who wrote the book “Run to Reality” in 1977 with the late Movin ‘Shoes co-founder Roger Eischens. “He’s still an animal athlete. He travels to New Glarus on his bicycle at 30 km / h; I’m not kidding, ”says Greist.
Hope it’s noted somewhere.
Maggie Ginsberg is Associate Editor-in-Chief of Madison Magazine.
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