7 years ago, I would not have given online personal training a second thought. I was childless. Covid-19 wasn’t a thing. And I was loving life as a triathlete.
I was in control of my schedule, my sports were my social outlet and I knew a lot less about viral transmission.
Fast forward 2 pregnancies, a global pandemic and a cancer diagnosis: I can’t imagine my life without access to online training.
Online training (and the strong relationships I built with my coaches) supported me through those pregnancies, lockdowns, and strenuous medical treatments.
The flexibility afforded by online training is THE reason I was able to maintain my fitness during some very challenging events. My online coaches have given me tools that improved my quality of life and allowed me to weather these tough times a little easier.
I believe that access to flexible, accessible, and supportive fitness coaching has the power to be life-changing.
Especially during pregnancy and postpartum.
Especially in the face of medical complexity.
Especially during times of physical transformation (looking at you, Menopause).
And with the rise in popularity of online training, access to personal training has never been greater.
If you’re considering working with an online trainer- you might’ve guessed I’m going to try and convince you to give it a shot.
So what is it? What does it involve? What’ll you get out of it? And who’s most likely to benefit?
What is online personal training?
Just like traditional personal training, online personal training is built on a relationship between you and your trainer.
In the traditional personal training model, you might go to the gym for a discrete number of weekly sessions. Or perhaps your trainer comes to your home.
With online training, your sessions and interactions happen online.
Different trainers run their online personal training business in different ways, so let’s look at a few models.
And I’ll share how I run mine.
How does online personal training work?
An online trainer will offer either virtual 1:1 personal training sessions (a real-time model), programming via a virtual coaching platform (a programming-based model) or a combination of both (a hybrid model).
In a real-time model, 1:1 personal training sessions are typically run just like they would be in-person, you’re just meeting over Zoom. You bring some equipment, your personal trainer brings a plan.
You do your workout in real-time with your trainer.
In a programming-based model, a trainer might offer online training via an online personal training software platform like TrueCoach, Trainerize or TrainHeroic. These platforms allow a coach to write a complete training program and dispense it to their clients.
You do your workouts, with the guidance of supportive videos and coaching cues, on your own time and report back to your trainer.
As opposed to paying for a single session or package of sessions, you pay for a training program that you complete over a month or more.
I offer my clients a hybrid model.
First, we complete a virtual, real-time assessment call (over Zoom).
Then, I write their individualized program and upload it to TrueCoach.
Clients access their programs via a website interface or an app on their phone.
Each workout contains assigned exercises, sets and reps, performance cues and videos demonstrations.
TrueCoach facilitates a ton of interaction between my clients and I.
- let me know they’ve completed a workout or performed a subset of the workout
- leave feedback as they work through their workouts
- ask me questions
In turn, I can:
- leave a virtual high-five
- respond to comments and videos
- upload my own videos
- keep track of progress
In addition to monthly programming and unlimited communication via the app, my clients and I get together for a “live” coaching call every month to check-in, troubleshoot, answer questions, and talk about our latest Netflix binges.
What are the benefits of using an online personal trainer?
The four greastest benefits of online personal training are access, flexibility, cost-effectiveness and education.
PS: I’m talking about a programming-based or hybrid model of training from here on out.
No matter where you live, if you have an internet connection, you can connect with a trainer.
Since online training enables access to trainers all over the world, you can truly find the perfect trainer for you.
No more running late or canceling sessions. You can perform your workouts on your schedule. You can even break them up throughout the day.
Consider an in-person training session that might cost $80. For one session a week, you’re paying $360/month. And often, those sessions don’t come with a plan to follow in-between sessions.
For around the cost of 4 in-person sessions, you can get an entire month of personalized programming, daily access to your coach and live-check-ins to keep you on track.
You can work out several times a week and make progress towards a goal for a fraction of the cost of in-person training.
In a programming-based online training model, you do your workouts independently.
Since your trainer is not with you during the workout, you have to learn a little more about exercise techniques. And how to listen to your body.
A good trainer will educate you on good exercise form, explain signs and symptoms of injury and encourage you to tune your effort to your athletic readiness on any given day.
You will develop a bodily intuition that doesn’t always arise when you have someone telling you exactly what to do and counting your reps for you.
I think that’s a pretty cool thing.
Who can benefit from online training?
Almost everyone. But stay tuned for one exception.
Online training is for you if….
You’re looking for a personal trainer with a specific niche or expertise
Online personal training is the perfect choice for people who are looking for a trainer with a specific niche or expertise (hello, my pregnant or postpartum friends!).
Whether you want to maintain strength during pregnancy, return to sports postpartum, navigate pelvic health sympyoms or manage a chronic health condition, there is an online trainer out there who can meet your needs.
You have an inconsistent or busy schedule
I mean, who doesn’t? And then throw a baby and medical appointments in the mix?
Life is unpredictable.
Online training does not lock you into a firm schedule. It accommodates your busy life, rather than expecting your busy life to flex around a rigid training plan.
You travel a lot
Taking your babe to meet the family? Or starting to travel for work after maternity leave?
Your trainer should be able to write you workouts that you can perform anywhere with whatever you have on hand. I routinely modify my client’s workouts so that they can take them on-the-go.
You want to workout from home
I’m raising my hand.
It’s just so dang convenient.
And I’m never gonna miss the comparison-itis that comes from being in a crowded gym.
You’re dealing with medical ish and you’re not comfortable in an in-person setting
Also me. Also a lot of my clients.
If you’re feeling vulnerable, working out in public can be a roadblock to working out at all.
Or, if you’re immune system is on the rocks and you’re not able to do in-person work, online training is your bff.
Who will not benefit from online training?
If you require the in-person accountability of real-time training, a programming-based online training model probably won’t be the best fit for you.
If you aren’t open to doing unsupervised workouts, you won’t get a ton of value out of the experience. And that’s okay. Listen to your gut and choose the type of training model that best sets you up for success.
Why is online training extra awesome during pregnancy and postpartum?
When I was doing more in-person and virtual real-time personal training, I was constantly fielding last-minute cancellations and reschedules. And I’m not mad about it- Being a parent is hard and unpredictable.
I love working with pregnant and postpartum folks so this unpredictability comes with the territory.
And that’s precisely why a programming-based online personal training is so freaking great for pregnancy and postpartum.
No more cancellations and forfeited sessions
If your nausea is particularly bad-
If your infant is going through a sleep regression-
If your child is home sick-
You can move your workouts around to suit you. You can do them at different times, different days-
Admittedly, for a lot of folks, it works best to schedule their workouts in their calendar as if they were meeting someone for an in-person session.
But if you have to change the plan, you get to change the plan.
Show up exactly as you are
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that online coaching and at-home workouts truly meet you where you’re at during this chapter.
You don’t need to do your hair, put on your LuLus or make arrangements for your kiddo.
Need to stop and nurse your babe? No prob.
You get to show up exactly as you are.
You get an extra guide on this wild safari
If you have a great online trainer, they’ll do more than just program sets and reps. They become a wing-woman supporting you through your pregnancy and postpartum journey.
In my coaching practice, I routinely field questions about pregnancy symptoms, childbirth prep, labor and delivery, postpartum body changes, pelvic health and more.
Where you might only spend a few minutes with your medical provider at your check-ins, you spend a lot of time talking to me throughout the month. I love sharing resources and referring folks out to my network of birth pros when someone’s needs exceed my scope of practice.
I’m also your cheerleader.
When the road is rough, the symptoms suck or you’re having trouble navigating your medical care, I’m an extra layer of support.
How do you find a good online trainer?
It’s tough to vet personal trainers. I’ll be the first to admit it.
The fitness industry is not regulated at all.
Anyone can throw together a program and call it a certification- and tons of people with no qualifications promote themselves as fitness gurus on the socials.
If you want to be diligent, check that your trainer is certified as a personal trainer (CPT) or a certified strength and condition coach (CSCS). I like when folks list their certification credentials right on their websites (which is why I do). Some of the strongest certifying organizations include:
- National Academy of Sports Medecine (NASM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
If you are looking for someone with specific expertise, like pregnancy and postpartum fitness, make sure they have extra training in that area.
For perinatal fitness, I recommend working with coaches who have taken additional training with one or more of these organizations:
- Girls Gone Strong
- Jessie Mundell’s Postnatal Fitness Specialist Acadamy
- Brianna Battles’ Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coaching Certification
- Sarah Duvall’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist
Where available, the links above will take you to directories of coaches certified by these industry-leading courses.
Questions to ask your potential trainer
In addition to learning about your potential coach’s credentials, you might also want to investigate:
- How long they’ve been coaching (New trainers can be great! But it’s fair to ask about their experience. )
- Whether they offer 1:1 real-time training or whether they use a programming-based model
- Whether they offer customized workouts or templated programs
- Whether they require a minimum time commitment
- How often they’re in touch with you throughout the month
- Whether they require you to acquire specific equipment
And please keep an ear out for promises of results that sound too-good-to-be-true. We can’t GUARANTEE results. We do not personally heal your Diastasis, make you lose weight, reverse your prolapse.
We are merely guides- sharing tools and experience. It’s up to you to implement and do the work.
To tie a bow on my love affair with online training
To go from traditional in-person personal training to online training might require a little bit of an open mind.
But if you require specific expertise (pre/postnatal!), lack access to in-person training, have an inconsistent schedule or you’re dealing with medical ish- it’s a fantastic choice.
And here’s one last perk, to tie this all up with a bow:
Working with an online trainer does require you to take more responsibility for your fitness and own more of the accountability to get the work done. And I see that as a really great thing.
By taking on more of the accountability, you gain self-efficacy, you learn a ton about your body, and you truly take control of your own health and fitness.
👋🏼Before you go:
Did I answer all your questions about online personal trainers and virtual services? Have I convinced you to give it a try? Let me know in the comments below.
If you are pregnant or postpartum and you’re interested in online personal training, hop on my waitlist. You’ll be the first to hear when I have new openings.
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My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.