Online Fitness Coaching Ultimate Guide: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Technology has made it possible for personal training meetups to happen virtually. It's great when you need to workout from home, but it's not something to go into blindly. There are great coaching programs offered online by qualified trainers but there are also scams to avoid. In-person training is ideal, but amid COVID-19 a virtual coach can help you reach higher goals than you might alone.
Benefits of Working with a Virtual Fitness Coach
If you're wondering whether online fitness coaching could help you, here are the benefits it offers:
Virtual fitness coaching typically involves using an app like MyFitnessPal or Fitbit to track your workout stats. While your coach isn't there with you, they can see data on how your body is responding to your workouts. They can use it to create the optimal workouts for you based on your progress. This approach can fast-track your growth and get you the results you want sooner.
The Motivation Factor
If holding yourself accountable is a challenge for you, working with an online fitness coach could help. A coach may work you harder than you would work yourself, and they're trained to hold you accountable to specific goals. Having someone check in on your progress can be a huge motivational factor that helps you succeed.
Knowledge You Need
When you're trying to take your fitness level higher than it's ever been, you need the next level of expertise. Beyond the basics of exercise and weight loss, trainers understand how to perform strength training exercises safely to best avoid injury. Working with a virtual trainer can boost your confidence in new exercising techniques so that you can do them solo in the future. Many online trainers help advise your nutrition regimen for post-workout recovery.
Online Fitness Coaching Styles and Pricing
Depending on your budget and needs, there are different options for going about online fitness coaching.
Personal Training Sessions
One style of virtual fitness coaching aims to mimic the in-person training session you would have in a gym. By proxy, a live video feed can allow you to see your trainer and show them your form. Online personal training sessions range widely in price, typically based on the coach's demand.
Fitness Coaching Plans
As opposed to paying for sessions, you can save money by paying for a coaching plan upfront that gives you access to text messaging your coach anytime. In an initial consultation, a coach will typically help you set the fitness goals you want to achieve. The coach creates a track for your results and follows up with you by sending custom workouts.
If you don't feel the need to work with a trainer live, a fitness coaching plan might be for you. With unlimited texting access, you can send a video of yourself doing a new exercise you're unsure about so the trainer can check your form.
Nutrition and Fitness Coaching
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) not only certifies personal trainers, but also nutrition coaches. Some fitness trainers are also certified in nutrition coaching, which gives them the knowledge and expertise to create custom diet plans for clients in addition to customized workouts. If your goal is to lose weight or eat healthier, you may benefit from a nutrition coach holding you accountable to your diet. Look for a coach that combines fitness training with certified nutrition coaching.
The Dark Side of Online Fitness Coaching
A large social media following can deceptively masquerade true merit, and you don't want to pay more than you should for the expertise you're getting. The best fitness coaches are more focused on their long-term careers than their Instagram page. They're more interested in sharing their clients' results than they are in gaining their own celebrity.
A "fly by night" instructor without actual experience can copy and paste workouts from other sources while using social media to look like a professional. Someone with a real certification from the NASM or another accredited certifier, such as the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) or the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Getting the Real Scoop on an Online Coach
What makes a great personal trainer is typically their experience. Personality or "vibe" is important, but ultimately a trainer's expertise is what gets the results.
Personal Trainer Qualifications
Some trainers place proof of certification on their websites. Any coach should be able to present an up-to-date certification if asked. Since fitness training certifications do expire, it's important to see a current certification to know your trainer has continued receiving training.
Red Flags to Look Out for
The most obvious red flag is the inability to present an up-to-date personal training certification from an accredited organization. Another red flag is the trainer not keeping in shape themselves, which could indicate they lack the know-how.
Still, look beyond the trainer's appearance and certification. Online trainers creating vanity-focused social media content instead of helpful education may not be passionate about working one-on-one, and less likely to be up with the latest industry knowledge.
Online vs. In-Person Fitness Training
When you go into a gym and sign up to work with a personal trainer, you're guaranteed a person who's qualified and trained. Online coaches don't always have supervision and must hold their coaching business to their own standards. The other benefit of in-person training is having someone to spot you and assist with heavier weight lifting. If you're new to using gym equipment, having a trainer can help you safely build confidence with it fast.
On the other hand, if you're adjusting to working out at home during COVID-19, it may help to have an online trainer. He or she can tailor workouts to the space and equipment you have. Plus, you'll often get more digital access to your online trainer as opposed to an in-person trainer, who only meets with you in person.