The outbreak of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus has forced business owners and their employees, independent contractors, and even educational institutions online, since social distancing measures require individuals to avoid congregating in enclosed spaces. Fitness is among the many industries that have been forced to pivot in order to meet a new demand, a demand for virtual fitness programming. As personal trainers, we have been forced to adapt as well, since we can no longer meet face to face with our clients for our regular sessions.
At PT Academy we educate, prepare, and support personal trainers to help them create successful careers in the world of fitness. Although the coronavirus pandemic has acted as the catalyst for the transition to online coaching, we’re choosing to look at this as an opportunity to really perfect those online services that clients have been wanting for years. If you are a certified personal trainer that is wanting to transition to online coaching, either in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or for the many benefits online coaching can provide, we’ve gathered a ton of resources to help get you started.
Benefits of Online Coaching
Setting aside the need for virtual services due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are plenty of reasons personal trainers should consider including online coaching in their list of services. Most people have access to some kind of laptop or smart device with a built-in camera and microphone, the two pieces of equipment that are necessary in order to participate in virtual learning of any kind. This makes convincing people to try out online personal training super easy since they won’t need to invest in any special equipment in order to connect with their trainers.
Although you cannot physically adjust or instruct clients when you coach online, the few drawbacks of virtual training are easily outweighed by the benefits. Here are just some of the ways that adding online personal training to your services can help you grow your business:
- Reach more clients: Physical distance doesn’t matter when you offer online coaching, so you can take on clients from your neighborhood or from the other side of the world
- Be more flexible: Meeting times can more easily be rearranged when you don’t have to worry about driving to and from a location, hitting traffic, waiting for late clients, etc. With online coaching, a canceled session just means an open slot, and often times other clients will be glad to take the slot last minute
- Enjoy more free time: Since you won’t e worrying about travel time and traffic, you’ll be able to spend the time you aren’t working one-on-one with clients more productively...or not. Rather than sitting in a car or on the bus, you could be engaging with clients on social media, attending an online seminar, enjoying a class from one of your favorite trainers, or just enjoying some downtime
- Save money: Not needing to rent a space or pay a portion of your earnings to a gym will help you save money, and since your client will be exercising from their preferred location as well, they won’t need to worry about memberships or additional fees. By training clients online from your apartment, house, backyard, local park, etc., you’ll be saving some major money and enjoying the freedom to choose your classroom
- Help clients feel comfortable: It’s not just you that gets to choose your ideal classroom when you offer online coaching, your clients get to choose their ideal classrooms too. One of the biggest reasons people hesitate to look for a personal trainer is pure anxiety, but being able to work with a trainer from the comfort of their own homes is often all it takes to ease the nerves. Online coaching can help some of your clients to feel more at ease, and more willing to step out of their comfort zones
Learning to Coach Online
If you have always operated your personal training business in-person or face-to-face with your clients, the idea of transitioning to virtual coaching or online learning can be incredibly daunting. Personal training is, obviously, a physical job, and since much of the duties of personal training include adjusting and correcting form to ensure clients are safely and effectively doing their movements, the idea of not being able to physically lay hands on a person makes many trainers avoid considering online coaching altogether.
While trainers are understandably wary of the potential impact of online learning on the quality of their sessions, it is important to remember that just as you learned how to coach in person, you can learn how to coach online. You were not born naturally understanding how to walk clients through a difficult workout, and you had to make adjustments and take time to educate yourself before you began your career.
Just as you once were taught to work with clients in a “conventional” setting, you can most certainly learn to coach your clients online, as long as you are willing to put in the work and make a few adjustments. At PT Academy, we offer tons of resources and support to help personal trainers make transitions within their careers and to harness new markets for advanced success.
Keeping Clients Focused
One of the largest challenges associated with online coaching is that it is relatively easy for your clients to lose focus and, consequently, commitment. Keeping online coaching clients fully engaged and focused on their goals is a little more difficult (or perhaps it’s just different) than keeping people focused in person. Online, it can be easy to forget the human side of coaching, which is totally counterproductive to the goal of personal training.
When you coach online, you are going to need to learn to be in tune with the specific needs of your individual clients. Whereas in group class settings (or even one-on-one in person) trainers can often get away with pushing their clients for almost every session, sessions online may need to be more specifically tailored to the mood or abilities of your client that day.
There is no faster way to lose a client than to push them beyond their limits and to ignore their needs during a session, and online, this is particularly important. As you transition to online coaching, consider creating a schedule that will allow you to check in regularly with your clients to assess their mood, energy levels, motivation levels, etc.
Taking a more active role in the mental and emotional capacities of your clients can help you to build deeper, longer-lasting bonds with them, even if you only ever work with them through a screen.
Setting the Scene
Traditionally, personal trainers have been in charge of finding and securing workout locations (unless they pay home-visits) to make their clients feel comfortable and ready to break a sweat. Online coaching naturally eliminates the need for you to find an appropriate workout location, but comes with its own unique ‘environmental’ challenges.
In-person, trainers don’t have to put much thought into making sure their clients can see them and are able to follow along without getting distracted. In-person, holding someone’s attention is as easy as noticing their eyes wandering, but over a screen, connecting and holding focus on that level can be incredibly challenging. Because of this, it is essential for personal trainers looking to move their services online to set the scene appropriately for their online coaching sessions. Here are a few tips to help create a positive and focused workout environment for your clients even when you are connecting online:
Find a Neutral or Natural Background
Too much distraction in the background of your video will have your clients’ minds wandering, and when we say ‘distraction’, we don’t just mean “interesting” things. Distracting backgrounds can be anything from pets or children playing behind you to a bag of laundry slowly slumping to the side. When you set up your shot, be sure you choose a neutral background (like a wall) or something natural, like a park, your backyard, or some lovely trees.
Choose Bright Equipment
One of our jobs as personal trainers is to correctly demonstrate the exercises we assign to our clients, which can be a little more complicated to do over a screen. To aid in the process of teaching your clients various movements, consider choosing brightly colored equipment like fluorescent or neon weights, resistance bands, jump ropes, etc. The bright colors are more eye-catching than neutrals, and will help your client to see more clearly how you are performing the movements.
There is nothing worse than leaving your client to stare at a blank screen while you go to find the equipment you forgot to set up before the session began. If you plan to begin offering online coaching, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to set up an area where you will keep all of your equipment and gear for when showtime comes. Having everything organized and on hand will ensure you aren’t wasting your time or your clients’, and will make you seem more professional and reliable even if you are just beginning your virtual coaching career.
Best Video Platforms
The most basic necessity of online coaching is video and audio. Luckily, with the widespread use and ownership of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, the majority of individuals have access to devices with built-in cameras and microphones. Because of this, it isn’t hard to find ways to connect via video with your clients, but it is important to know what your options are and which could prove to be most useful. Here are a few of the best video conferencing/chatting platforms available for most devices:
If both you and your client have iPhones, FaceTime is one of the best and easiest ways to connect. FaceTime is a video chatting feature built into all iPhone (and most Apple) products, and allows iPhone users to connect without needing to download any additional apps, worry about creating new log-ins, or look out for website crashes. FaceTime is also free and super high resolution as long as you are connected to reliable WiFi so you can be sure your client sees every detail of your workout.
Google Hangouts is a free text, voice, and video software available to anyone with a Gmail account. Google Hangouts is available on Android and iOS devices and is free to download regardless of which device your client may have. Like FaceTime, Google Hangouts is reliable and high resolution as long as you are connected to reliable WiFi, and also has additional features to enable group video chats and conference calls with ease.
Zoom is yet another free to download video conferencing app that makes it super easy to connect to anyone in your network. Featuring high-resolution video, easy connections and invites, and tons of additional media and resource sharing tools, Zoom is perhaps the most versatile of these options, and certainly the one with the most features. What really sets Zoom apart from other video conferencing tools is the ability to reach enormous audiences without compromising speed or quality. With Zoom, you can take on individual clients or teach online classes of up to 1,000 video participants!
Top Apps for Personal Trainers
Whether you are coaching your clients online or in person, having an app to allow you to connect during the times you are not in a session can be extremely beneficial. These apps are designed to enable personal trainers to provide their clients with the information they need to successfully achieve their healthy living goals. Here, we’ve selected apps that include tons of amazing features, from nutrition tracking and meal planning to personalized workout routines and even managing billing!
My PT Hub
My PT Hub is an app that allows personal trainers (and gyms/fitness centers) to manage their clients. The app includes tons of features like nutritional programming, personalized workouts, scheduling functions, billing, and even an Event Stream feature that enables you to connect virtually with clients around the world to share both impromptu and planned workouts. My PT Hub is 100% free for your clients to use, so there is no need to worry about charging your customers extra for software of any kind.
Trainerize is specifically targeted at personal trainers that are looking to meet new clients and make meaningful connections with them. Trainerize has tons of awesome features to help you to retain clients and stay organized like training plan templates, habit-building tools, and lots of ways to communicate with clients. The price of Trainerize is determined by how many clients you need to support, but don’t worry, your clients never pay a penny.
Vagaro is an amazing app that allows business owners to share their services online, connect with customers, book appointments, take payments, send reminders, and more. While Vagaro can be used by service providers of virtually any kind, this app is particularly useful for personal trainers that have transitioned to offering online services.
Vagaro is an all-in-one platform where interested customers can find your services, browse what you have to offer, make appointments, and pay all in one. Vagaro can be used on practically any device, and offers a 1-month free trial to new users when they sign up.
Have you been considering moving your coaching services online? Learn more about expanding your client base and how to offer virtual personal training safely and efficiently by visiting PT Academy and our blog today!