It’s a common scenario: You’re traveling for work and want to exercise, so you check out the hotel gym. Unfortunately they don’t have the same equipment as your home gym, but no worries. You FaceTime your trainer, who checks out what is available and customizes your workout on the spot.
That’s a promise of some online personal training coaches. Predicted by consumer insights firm Club Intel to become more popular this year, this is what it sounds like: You get a workout plan from a trainer you most likely never actually meet in person at the touch of your fingertips.
“As people become more comfortable using digital interfaces for all things in life, this makes sense,” says Pete McCall, an ACE-certified personal trainer and host of the All About Fitness podcast. “We order food and manage our finances this way, so why not use it to get an effective fitness program?”
HOW ONLINE PERSONAL TRAINING WORKS
Just as every gym, studio and trainer is different, so is every site that offers personal training. Some only offer a workout each month — often with video demonstrations of the exercises — that are more or less tailored to your goals. You may also have access to a private Facebook group where you can find support and perhaps engage with a trainer via Facebook Live once a week. And many offer nutrition plans to pair with your training.
Still others give more personalized attention, having you fill out a questionnaire about your goals, health history, injuries and more. Then the trainers design a workout just for you, and you do your sessions with them over Skype or FaceTime. That way they can watch you, correct your form and give you feedback as you do the exercises.
You may also be able to email or text your coach anytime for help. “If you want to send a video on your phone asking if you’re doing an exercise correctly or if something is the right piece of equipment, you can,” says personal trainer Franklin Antoian, founder of iBodyFit.com. “Or if you have a general fitness question, you can ask via text or social media.”
THE PROS AND CONS OF ONLINE PERSONAL TRAINING
As with all things, there are pros and cons to training this way. Here’s what you need to know before you consider mobile virtual coaching, as some call it.
Clearly that kind of anytime, anywhere access is a perk — one you may not get from meeting a trainer in person. Convenience is another reason many like this type of training. “It allows you to exercise on your time frame, and you can do it at home or at a gym” using the equipment you have, McCall says.
Depending on the plan you choose, it also tends to cost less, says Antoian, who charges about as much for one month online as he does for one in-person session, and it’s a great option for people who may feel intimidated by the gym. You get an effective workout that helps you meet your goals without, say, worrying about people looking at you while you lift.
Still, virtual training isn’t for everyone. Not all programs are specific to you. “It may be a canned workout that’s not tailored to your needs,” says McCall, adding that you also don’t get exercises specific to the way you move. “If I can see you move, I can say, ‘try this or that instead,’” he explains. But you can only do that if you do the Skype or FaceTime sessions, which not everyone can afford.
READ MORE > 10 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR PERSONAL TRAINER
HOW TO FIND YOUR BEST ONLINE TRAINER
With the different options online, if you decide to try this, you want to be sure the trainer you pick is certified. Check their site for their credentials, as well as any nutrition certifications if you get a food plan, too. Then, look for any reviews, testimonials and information on what kind of support they provide.
Narrow your options to about three and contact them to ask questions — then see how quickly they reply. If they answer right away, great. “But if they take longer, if you have a question after you pay them, they may take long to reply then as well,” Antoian says. Also be sure they answer your query thoroughly. “You can see if they care about you and your goals or if they’re just trying to get your money from 1–2 emails, Antoian adds.
If you find an online personal trainer you want to work with, go for it. “I think it’s great way to get fitness advice,” McCall says. “It’s more personalized than a book or magazine, but you get more autonomy than seeing someone one-on-one in a gym.”