Online personal training was something that interested me for quite some time now. You see, at the end of 2020 I will have been a personal trainer for 10 years. A decade! In my time I can honestly say that I’ve had 100’s of clients. I’ve run programs for kids, adults, the over 60’s, individuals, groups, families, friends that train together, corporations, ran bootcamps, taken sporting clubs through fitness programs and provided strength and conditioning programs for individual athletes. It is a logical next step.
Being an online personal trainer is not only a way for me to expand what we do, it is a way for me to reach and assist my extended family and friends that live in other areas of Victoria, Australia, and even across the world.
However, I’m not someone who will just put together anything simply to be out there. I have pride in what I do. That’s not to say all the other online personal trainers do not, there are some great trainers and online programs out there. But I’ve been in the industry long enough and have seen plenty of trainers come and go and know the reasons why. A quick dollar, demonstrating large egos, or an interim job is the goal for some.
For me, it’s not just about putting a template in an electronic form. This is my career. Being an online fitness trainer or online personal trainer to me means understanding the reason I am in this industry, taking that passion and delivering it into our online training program. I’ve spent over a year putting the many pieces of this unconventional method of personal training into a program that I am extremely proud of and know works.
What I haven’t done until 2020 and the infamous Coronavirus pandemic is run online personal training. Interestingly, the come about of our online personal training isn’t due to the Coronavirus and/or the lockdown of Melbourne, yet they are substantial contributing factors as to why we have gone from zero online clients, to somewhere in the vicinity of 50-70 in less than 12 months! We now provide online virtual personal training programs, online programming for training and nutrition and online virtual group fitness training.
But with so many different types of online programs, and with so many different facilities doing online gym training now, how do you know what’s what?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the different types of online personal training programs, and what to look out for, let’s explore how we can benefit from online gym training.
THE POWER OF OTHERS
I’m pretty sure by now you’re well aware of the implications that Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown brought on by the 2020 Coronavirus global pandemic has had. If you haven’t, you’re either living somewhere on a deserted island (in which case there is no point in writing this for you because you wouldn’t have electricity, the internet and most likely a working computer and won’t be able to read it), or you’re not from earth. And as much as I think it would be cool to program for and train an alien, the anatomical differences may be challenging. Then again, maybe not.
The Coronavirus pandemic has taught us that interaction with others is significantly important. Human beings are social animals. We all kind of knew that, but now we really do know that. Up until this point most of us have probably taken engaging with others for granted, but as this terrible virus dictates our way of life and forces us to be isolated from our family and friends, we are appreciating all the connections we have with those around us. Why?
There have been a number of studies over the years showcasing the relationship between social support and the quality of physical and psychological health.
In 2009 a research article published in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information states that “positive affect is associated with protective psychosocial factors such as greater social connectedness, perceived social support, optimism, and preference for adaptive coping responses”, meaning that social connection provides us with a positive affect. The study (amongst others) finds that there are marked associations between positive psychological states and health outcomes, including reduced cardiovascular disease risk, increased resistance to infection, better quality sleep, lower cortisol levels, improved immune function, optimism, and even behavioural and personality traits such as greater openness to experience. (1).
There are a number of studies and research demonstrating the importance of social connections in humans, and while I won’t go into detail with all of them, I simply want to demonstrate to you that there is a link proven by scientific literature.
The reason I want to do this is to demonstrate that training with others, whether it be an online gym training program that you do on your own through a gym or online personal trainer, or whether it be done by online virtual personal training or virtual group fitness classes, brings you that element of social connection. You may not have that face to face contact, but the connection, that sense of belonging to something, is still there.
What’s more, those who commit to habit change in a group are more likely to succeed in the habit change and maintain (2). So, if you’re goal is to change your exercise or eating habits, lose weight, get fit, build muscle, then connecting with and doing so with likeminded others has proven to help.
In fact, “most of our behaviours are driven by two things: our environment and our beliefs. And environment is perhaps the most powerful of those two because in many cases your environment can shape your beliefs. This is especially true when you consider your environment to include the people who surround you” (3).
Okay, so now you know that exercise, and exercising with others, even if it is in an online capacity is significantly beneficial to you, your mental and physical health, and can help you achieve your goals, how do you know what type of program to choose, and equally as important, from who?
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ONLINE TRAINING:
Currently, there are 4 different types of online training programs:
- Pre-recorded videos
- Online Virtual Group Fitness
- Online Virtual Personal Training
- Online Training and Nutritional Programming
These are exactly what the name suggests. Your gym or fitness centre records a workout and posts it for you to do in your own time by yourself. This type of online training is generally cheap as these are pre-recorded and go out to a number of people that register to do them.
You can do these at any time because you can access them at a time convenient for you.
Our tip: is to avoid these as they severely bypass one of the key components of exercise, being individualisation. They also lack the connection with others since there is no interaction whatsoever.
Online Virtual Group Fitness:
These are live sessions run by an online fitness trainer with multiple participants. Much like the group fitness sessions you would typically do in a gym, they are designed primarily as a one program for all participants. While the benefit of this is a reduced price, the disadvantage is that not all participants will be at the same level. Someone (if not multiple people) will be disadvantaged here, whether it be because of their fitness level or because of injury reasons or something of that nature.
Online virtual group fitness generally has set training days/times so you’ll need to keep an eye out for the timetable and see if it works you.
Our tip: not even the best online fitness trainer would be able to provide all the key principles of exercise science with this program, but if you want a basic fitness program, at a decent price, this could be an option for you. It will still provide you with the connection with others.
Online Virtual Personal Training:
An individualised and tailored program designed for you by an online personal trainer. This program is delivered live at a time that suits both you and your trainer. These sessions are generally the most expensive out of all the online gym programs because the program is done just for you and there will be a time slot reserved for you by the trainer whereby the trainer will take you through the workout.
If you hunt around you might find an online coach that will be able to provide you with an individual online personal training program done in an online group setting which ultimately gives you the best of both, however these are extremely rare and there is only one such program that we know of that does this. and even in this scenario, one online fitness coach can’t keep their watchful eye on everyone at all times.
Our tip: if you have the finances available and you are someone with less than 2 years gym experience, online virtual personal training is your best option.
Online Training & Nutritional Programming:
Although still a relatively new concept, this one has been around the longest out of all the online training and coaching options with at least a couple of years under its belt. As the name suggests, at this level you are provided with a personalised program for your training (and nutrition).
This program is different in that you do not perform any live training, nor are your workouts viewed by your coach, and you undertake your sessions (based on the program your online coach provides you) by yourself and in your own time.
This generally means that you are self-motivated and have a decent amount of training experience.
Your online personal trainer will still oversee your program on a weekly basis by viewing the data you have entered into a template that he/she has provided you, in which he/she will then provide you updates appropriate for the week ahead. The better online fitness trainers ask for videos of your main exercises.
This program is cheaper than online virtual personal training because your coach isn’t spending a large amount of time watching and instructing you in your workouts, yet it is more costly than online virtual group fitness training because there still is a smaller amount of time spent on your personalised program via updates.
Our tip: if you have more than 2 years’ experience in training and are quite confident around training and equipment, then this may be the best option for you.
Side note 1:
There is one other important point to factor when choosing an online fitness program, particularly if you live in Melbourne metro right now, and that is the availability of equipment! Be sure to factor this in when deciding which program is best for you, and from which online personal trainer. I mean, it’s pointless asking someone to teach you Olympic weightlifting if you only have 2 x 5kg dumbbells at home.
Side note 2:
Another factor to keep in mind is what can be achieved in your training program, particularly during lockdown if you are in Melbourne. Be realistic and adjust your goals if needed, which can be re-adjusted when life gets back to some kind of normality.
WHO IS THE BEST ONLINE FITNESS TRAINER FOR YOU?
So, who is the best online personal trainer? And more importantly, who is the best online personal trainer for you? Well, that depends. Ultimately it depends on you and what your goals are. I can’t tell you who to choose or who is the best online fitness trainer. No one can nor should without knowing you and your goals. But you can. There are some great online personal trainers out there and there are some, well, not so great ones. What I can tell you is that if you aspire on being a marathon runner, you probably shouldn’t use a powerlifting coach, and vice versa.
I can tell you to use your judgement, remembering:
- a) that it has gotten you this far in your life; and
- b) what your health and fitness goals are/the reasons why you are training. The king of all training principles is specificity, so this should weigh heavily in your decision in choosing who is the best online fitness trainer for you. If you wanted to learn the ways of Miyagi-Do then you wouldn’t go to Cobra Kai for lessons, would you?
Choose a trainer that trains people with the same goals as you. One where the place and the people fit in with you and your goals. Definitively do not choose an online coach based on their social media profile, we can’t stress this enough.
Remember you are never locked in to a particular trainer, program or facility, and if you are being asked to sign up to a 6 or 12 month agreement, then these are flags that you should avoid that coach in every way, shape and form, whether it be online, face to face, or from a remote deserted island!
Look out for certain characteristics and traits of that coach, and if they don’t work for you and that coach doesn’t try his or her best to get you your results (which should also be their goals), then perhaps he/she isn’t right for you. “There is no such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher” (4).
So, whether you’re an individual or business looking for an online fitness trainer (or you’re an alien that wants to shed a few kilos), there are a few things to consider.
I don’t want to be the best online fitness trainer in the world, I only want to be the best online fitness trainer in the world to my clients.
Thank you for reading.
(1). Steptoe, Dockray, & Wardle, 2009 – published in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information
(2). Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit 2012
(3). James Clear – www.jamesclear.com Care Groups: How to Change the Habits of 107,000 People
(4). Karate Kid film 1984