MORGAN PARK — A Morgan Park Academy alum is behind a free app that provides video instruction for exercises that can be done just about anywhere and without weights or other devices.
"Right now we are sitting at 4.5 stars," said Coleman, referring to Sworkit's App Store reviews.
The app is designed with busy, health-conscious people in mind. Users first are asked to select the type of workout they'd prefer with strength, cardio, yoga and stretching as options.
From there, they can further customize their workout to focus on a problem area or take a whole-body approach. Users then choose the duration of their workout and begin with a push of a button.
The workout starts with a video demonstration for a specific exercise, such as an overhead press or a Spider-Man push-up. These exercises are all set to a timer with short breaks in between.
If you don't like the particular exercise, simply skip ahead to the next one. This feature is what has many users comparing the fitness app to popular music streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.
So far, the app has been downloaded 8 million times, and Sworkit boasts 1.5 million monthly active users, Coleman said.
He said about 65 percent of the regular users are women. Many of the most enthusiastic supporters are also frequent travelers who appreciate the app's collection of exercises that can be performed at home, in a hotel room or elsewhere relying solely on body weight and movement, Coleman said.
But way before Coleman ever became president and chief operating officer of Nexercise Inc., the parent company of Sworkit, he was a student at the small private school at 2153 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park.
The school "taught me to embrace diversity," said Coleman, a 1991 graduate of the school he attended from first grade until the end of high school.
"Otherwise, I would have been around a lot of other kids that look just like me," he said while standing on grounds of the picturesque campus on the Far Southwest Side.
Coleman's mother, Stephanie Coleman, lives just blocks away from the school. His parents split when Greg Coleman was 3 years old, but he maintained a solid — albeit long-distance — relationship with his father, A.B. Coleman.
"I grew up in a single-parent home with my mom," said Greg Coleman, who also spent time with his grandparents in West Pullman while his mother worked as a flight attendant for United Airlines.
Upon graduation, Coleman enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co. He wanted to become a pilot, which had somewhat become the family business.
His father was the first African-American from Tennessee to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. and went on to become a helicopter pilot. Greg Coleman's grandfather on is mother's side, Leroy Stephens, was one of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Greg Coleman graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995 and immediately went on to flight school, where he began operating in-flight refueling planes known as KC-10s. He flew 60 combat and support missions, including an assignment in Kosovo in 1999.
Just before the 9/11 terrorist attack, Coleman transitioned to flying C-37s, a corporate business jet. He typically flew high — ranking members of the military and presidential cabinet members and was stationed in Florida.
Coleman met his wife, Allison Alexander, in Miami and the couple married in 2005. It was then that Coleman began thinking about transitioning out of the military. To do so, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's renowned Wharton School and began studying finance.
He met Benjamin Young at the Ivy League business school, and the pair began carpooling. Young was a software engineer, and he and Coleman both noticed that their busy schedules had taken a toll on their bodies.
"The notion of exercise and staying physically fit fell by the wayside," Coleman said.
This was the impetus for Nexercise, which the newbie business partners based near their homes in Rockville, Md. They were successful in making money their own app, but opted to buy Sworkit to further pursue their efforts.
The business partners relaunched a completely updated version of Sworkit in 2014, and the results have been impressive. A University of Florida fitness research study in July gave Sworkit the highest score when compared to other fitness apps on the market.
Coleman is planning to further develop the app as well, adding a few exercises that include small weights as well as a kids version of technology. This comes in response to physical education teachers who have begun using Sworkit in their classes.
Perhaps one such place Sworkit could be used is in gym classes at Morgan Park Academy. Coleman visited his former school on Oct. 8 while also checking in with his mother and attending the Black in Tech conference downtown.
"This was a very nurturing environment," Coleman said of his former school. "And it was a good education too."
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