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Online Training: Is It a Good Fit For You?

Online Training: Is It a Good Fit For You?

Increasingly, personal trainers face competition for potential clients from apps, online personal trainers, and other web-based resources. In the age of the internet, someone seeking to achieve a physical goal, such as to lose weight, can perform a quick web search to find help which does not require he or she leave the home.

As a business—which is what you are whether you run a traditional business or freelance—you must consider the online presence of these training services and adjust your own business model to accommodate the desire of individuals to have online access to the goods and services they want—including online health and fitness services such as personal training.

What is online training?

Online training is a training dynamic in which a client works with a trainer without physical proximity to that trainer. Most people who sign up for online training do so for convenience and cost savings. Time restricted clients or clients without immediate physical access to trainers can find online personal training a convenient alternative to face-to-face time. Additionally, many online trainers charge less per session, per month, or per package than face-to-face trainers.

The training process can occur in a number of ways, including:

  • Live-stream training sessions
  • Delivery of workout programs through a fitness-specific web app
  • Delivery of workout programs through a document sharing program
  • Delivery of workout programs via email

Regardless of the exact method, the process includes delivery of exercise (and quite often nutritional) programs at regular intervals, generally daily, weekly, or monthly. Workouts are performed, recorded, and returned to the trainer, with the exception of live-stream where the trainer is present during the workout. The trainer then reviews the results, makes adjustments, and provides modified programs to the client. Usually, some kind of regular communication via email, video call, or phone call is part of the process.

How hard is online training?

In most instances, with the exception of live-stream sessions, online training takes much of the responsibility off the trainer and places it on the client. This makes the process a little harder for the client and a little easier for the trainer. The client becomes responsible for tracking workouts, assessing difficulty, assessing form, and other tasks normally required of the trainer. The trainer, of course, can provide feedback about these elements based on sharing of data (e.g. workouts results, form videos, emails, etc.), but even then, the brunt of the responsibility for these tasks fall to the client.

Online training is best suited for a highly motivated client who needs direction, as opposed to the minimally motivated client who needs direction, constant feedback, and repetitive reminders to do the things he or she needs to do.

Limitations of online training

Online training has limitations in that clients do not have face-to-face time with a trainer due to the limitations above. In some online training dynamics, the client never speaks with the trainer, but instead only has email conversations with the trainer. This can stifle the Q&A process and leave clients wondering about key elements of the fit and healthy lifestyle.

For example, a client may not understand proper form, which leads to an increased chance of injury. Even if he or she watches trainer videos illustrating proper form, submits form videos for review, and receives feedback from the trainer, the resulting help is limited. This online process takes time, during which the client may still exhibit bad form. Additionally, the client still does not receive the live-action cues and tactile assistance he or she would receive from a trainer during a live session.

What does the industry say?

By and large, the “industry” does not say much about the topic of online personal training. Many singular individuals, such as myself, chime in with opinion pieces, but the online training dynamic in its current state is still relatively new, thanks to the advent of high-functioning mobile devices and VOIP.

The presence of popular sites like Fitocracy proves an audience exists for online training and apps for personal trainers, such as those offered in the Google Play store, reinforce this idea. However, while the demand is present, the growth and future of online training are still developing.

A personal note about online training

In my personal business, online training has offered us a way to reach clients we would otherwise not have access to. For example, we’ve worked with individuals in Europe, Australia, and Sweden through the use of online training.

Furthermore, the web app we provide to online clients provides an extra layer of service to our face-to-face clients, in that these individuals now have an easier way to track their progress, see upcoming workouts, and send us messages, among other benefits.

The use of a web app and the inclusion of online training provides us with more opportunity. We have clients that otherwise would not be with us if we did not provide online training. Even more, since we reside in a relatively small town area in the Midwest, where the interest in fitness is minimal and the competition for clients is high, the online training makes it easier for us to stay in business.

Should you try online training?

This is a question only you can answer. If you live in an area with the client base is large, you work full-time already, and you make the money you need, then diversifying into online training may not be the best option for you. You’re doing great already, why ruin a good thing!

However, if you find yourself struggling to find clients due to a small client base, strong competition, or some other reason, then broadening the services you offer through online training may be the path to greater success. Conversely, if you are a trainer who works full-time face-to-face, but wants more flexibility in your schedule, online training may be the route to do just that.

What do you think? Is online training the way of the future? 

Share your thought with me in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer any questions.

Nathan DeMetz

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