There are workout apps, there are healthy eating apps and there are mindfulness apps. Centr, the glossy subscription-based app fronted by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth, which is released in the UK today, combines all three and creates a detailed weekly schedule for you to follow. It’s based on input from A-list coaches, although most are US-based so they’re unlikely to be familiar to a British audience. Coach was granted an early look at the customisable service which for a limited time costs £12.49 a month (three months £29.49, one year £74.99), 20% off the regular price, and offers a free seven-day trial.
To get started you enter your basic vitals (sex, height and weight) and your goal (lose weight, get fit and toned, or build muscle), then pick a workout intensity (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and log your dietary preference (“regular”, pescetarian, vegetarian or vegan – all the recipes include swaps to make them gluten-free).
From there, the app pulls from a bank of workouts, recipes and mindfulness practices to put together a schedule for your week. Coach chose to get fit and toned, requested workouts of intermediate intensity and chose a regular diet. We’re now down to work out on six days and try a daily meditation exercise or a sleep visualisation that takes between five and ten minutes. There’s also a suggestion of a different advice article every day, on typical health and wellness topics – one day it’s a guide to protein powder, another it’s the art of relationship repair.
Every breakfast, lunch and dinner is also planned, apart from lunch on Thursday and Friday which are listed as leftovers, although the app does have a few easy ideas if you forget to make an extra serving of a meal earlier in the week.
You’re not stuck with what’s suggested, however – there’s the option to swap out workouts and recipes, so because we can’t make it to the gym today we could swap the free-weight HIIT and HIRT (high-intensity resistance training) workout with a bodyweight functional session instead.
The workouts in our sample week are varied, with a couple of strength sessions that require access to a gym (or at the very least a home gym in a garage with bench and a decent selection of free weights), MMA and boxing cardio routines, functional workouts and a Pilates “glute sculptor”. It’s a commendable variety of disciplines that should lead to well-rounded fitness, and if you’re doing six sessions a week, you’ll no doubt be fitter by the end of it.
Most of the workouts can either run as a trainer-led video which you can stream through a TV with AirPlay, or just play as images of the exercise you should be doing with a timer, which is all you need if you’re trying to follow along in a gym. Underneath each workout there’s an outline of the session, plus video form guides so you can get your head around any unfamiliar moves before you dive in.
The meal planning part of the app is as well designed and executed as the training part. You can adjust the servings required in case you’re making enough for leftovers or eating with someone else, and the quantities in the recipe change automatically, which then updates an auto-generated shopping list to help you in the supermarket, a smart time-saving feature.
That list is also a useful way to get an overview of what you’re eating – in the case of our plan for the week, it’s a lot of vegetables, limited dairy and eggs, not much red meat, zero processed pork, and carbs primarily from rice and sourdough bread. If that sounds heavily plant-based for a “regular” diet, it is (although that’s no bad thing in our opinion) and Centr makes Mondays meat-free on the omnivore plan. If you tend to eat a typical heavily processed Western diet, following a Centr meal plan will be a radical change to what you eat. One person on the closed Centr Facebook group wondered aloud how they were going to get a nine-year-old to eat this stuff. Even adults unused to plant-based nutrition may marvel at amount they’re spending on nuts and seeds.
Speaking of which, following this meal plan will not be cheap. While Centr does have advice on keeping to a budget with sensible, practical advice, we started to punch our week’s shopping list into Tesco’s website, setting each meal to one serving and choosing organic where we could, as Centr advised. After spending £30 selecting most of the pantry section (25 of 29 items, missing off black rice, dill pickles and rice paper roll sheets because it’s Tesco, not Waitrose, as well as protein powder) we decided we didn’t have the time to find the 77 other ingredients required. We estimate the shop would have comfortably reached about £150 –although that’s assuming you’re starting with completely bare cupboards and we would have ended up with a well-stocked pantry full of sauces, herbs and condiments that could be used again in future. All the same, the approach could not be further away than Joe Wicks’ Lean In 15 series for the time-poor, or something like Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie for the thrifty.
To a large extent, it’s the same with the rest of the app, especially in terms of time. We’d put aside an hour for each workout for getting changed, setting up, warming up, working out, warming down and showering off after. Breakfast and snack recipes seem more complicated than they need to be – although they do look delicious – particularly snacks, where for some reason a piece of fruit isn’t recommended (prep time = a big fat zero). Add up all the cooking, working out, meditating and reading and it seems you’d need to dedicate close to three hours a day to doing what Centr has planned for you. That’s a big commitment, so although Centr has the fundamentals in place to ring positive changes for your health, it’s a shame that it makes it less accessible for most people. Time is money, and you’re going to need a lot of both to get the most out of this app.
Join Centr | £12.49 a month