Cody app makes a play as virtual coach for casual fitness fans

Considering all the fitness apps already available — from Runkeeper and Nike+ to Fitocracy and MyFitnessPal, to name just a few — it’s hard to imagine that there’s still room for more.
But two former Microsoft (s MSFT) product managers believe those apps cater to the more motivated fitness fiends among us. On Thursday, they rolled out Cody, a fitness app intended for everyone else.
Cody“The way I observe the people who use existing apps today, I’d characterize them more as enthusiasts, and we hope that more and more of the mainstream will get into the space,” said co-founder Paul Javid. “[It’s the difference between] what do the enthusiasts want versus more casual consumers of fitness.”
While other fitness apps emphasize metrics — either through GPS tracking that automatically calculates the distance of a run or the number of steps taken or through manual input – Javid said that to reach casual fitness fans (those who might only exercise a couple of times a week or less) Cody is more about the “stories” behind the activity. The image-heavy app encourages users to share posts about why a given activity is important to them or what’s happening around them, as well as tag their locations and add pictures to build up their “fitness graph.”
Cody also acts as a kind of virtual coach. When users first load the app, they’re asked to identify their goals – from losing weight to building muscle tone to de-stressing. For now, the app just surfaces original content about workouts, healthy living and other topics that match up with those goals. But, ultimately, Javid said, the plan is for Cody to learn from users’ activity and recommend articles, workouts, people or places that fit their interests. In time, he added, the app could integrate with fitness tracking devices to get an even more comprehensive view of each user.
Cody Prior to launching the app, the startup created a couple hundred pieces of original content but it soon plans to syndicate content from fitness and health site Greatist and could distribute content from other sources in the future.
When Javid and his co-founder Pejman Pour-Moezzi first left Microsoft about a year ago to focus on a startup, their plan was to build a social app that would help people accomplish their personal goals – in a manner not so unlike that of Lift, the Obvious Corp.-backed good-habit-building app.  But Javid said they soon observed that about half of the early beta users had fitness- or health-related goals, so they switched tacks to focus on those needs. To date, they’ve raised $200,000 in seed funding from Ken Irving, a member of a powerful oil family in Canada.
Given all the recent interest in digital health and quantified-self-type activity tracking tools, it’s not surprising that more entrepreneurs are hoping they can carve out opportunities with new tools. But while I think Cody’s highly visual design and clean layout could appeal to consumers who are just starting to get their feet wet in fitness, the crowded landscape could be a big challenge. While other fitness apps may not provide “coaching” and content, they’re already amassing tons of users’ fitness and health data and could, at some point, roll out data-driven recommendations as well. Also, when it comes to socializing around workouts, plenty of people already use Facebook and Twitter to share workouts, and Fitocracy already offers a dedicated social network for fitness.
Interestingly, among early beta testers, Cody’s founders have found that the app is especially popular among yoga, crossfit and bar method enthusiasts who don’t focus on metrics in the same way runners and bikers might. While the beta group has been small, it will be interesting to see if that trend continues.