What is Online Coaching or Online Personal Training?
Spam On The 'Gram
Anyone who is on Instagram has seen the “DM for Online Coaching” in the bio of most ‘gram "influencers" - loosely defined as anyone who looks good on the beach.
You probably have never seriously contemplated enquiry, let alone sent the DM.
But what happens if you do?
You most likely get a PDF with your name on it that includes a generic training program along with a link to an ebook containing some recipes of questionable copyright status.
If you stick to the plan you will get results, but the same can be said about any plan.
But what about when it gets hard, or you need to make changes?
Unfortunately, the one-off payment of $99 doesn’t come with any coaching or support, unless you count daily posts of motivational quotes to be supportive #fitspo #goals.
Most people haven’t haven’t had a bad experience with online coaching because they haven’t used it. However, the perception is that you get something similar to what I just mentioned or receive nothing.
This is unfortunate because online coaching is opening exciting opportunities for you to work with experts across Australia.
It's Not Really Online Personal Training
Although you might be someone who is/was/wants to be a personal trainer, the service that can be provided online is different to a personal training session in the gym.
The primary difference is that there is no immediate feedback on technique or supervision while you are exercising.
For that reason, online coaching is not suited to clients who need technical instruction such as beginners.
Instead, online coaching is suited to people who need strategic advice regarding their training and nutrition.
Master Of None
Ten years ago, the advice you had access to was mostly limited by the knowledge of the Trainers at your local gym.
The Trainer’s knowledge was also somewhat limited by the clients they could train - they had to know a little bit about everything, so they could train anyone and everyone.
Old habits die hard. If you go into a gym now, you will still see PT Profiles that claim expertise in strength training, functional training, endurance training, fat loss, prenatal, postnatal, strength and conditioning, nutrition... the list goes on.
The internet has changed the game for clients and trainers alike, by opening up coaching and knowledge channels that were previously unavailable.
You could conceivably have a strength coach putting your training together from the UK, while your nutritionist does their bit from Canada.
I have personally hired coaches and mentors across Australia and the UK.
When I wanted nutrition advice during a strength training phase, I was able to work with a great nutritionist on the Gold Coast who owns and runs a powerlifting gym.
When I needed business advice regarding building a coaching business, I was able to connect with one of London’s top coaches who could offer advice specific to my needs.
Whilst there are more pretenders out there than ever before, there is also unprecedented access to experienced and qualified coaches that simply wasn’t available ten years ago.
This is exciting for clients, but it’s also exciting for coaches because they can now work with the people they are best suited to.
Let’s just think about that...
I can tell you that I work with busy young professionals aged 26-32 who have gained weight over the past few years working full time.
They want training and nutrition to become proactive, not reactive before they start having kids.
Pretty much, the goal for me is to get clients to the stage where they make decisions to not gain weight instead of to lose it, before they start having kids.
That’s a very specific brief.
If I was working in a gym, I would have to set up near the CBD in Sydney or Melbourne and have clients come in for a one-hour training session a few times per week.
Instead, by working online, I can coach clients from anywhere in Australia while I am based in Kingscliff, NSW.
For people like me, who prefer to develop strategies and programs than supervise deadlifts and make small-talk between sets, we can focus on their areas of expertise - developing a personalised approach for the client.
How It All Works
I can only speak to our processes and systems, but I can give you a bit of an outline of how online coaching works.
The first thing you do before you become a client is to track your food intake and physical activity for seven days.
This becomes your base point for future recommendations, whilst also providing a better idea of the foods you eat, at what time, and how much you move.
Once that’s done, I can put together a strategy for you to achieve your goals.
I don’t know you very well, but I can envision a strategy that might work and then we can see what happens when you implement it.
You get a training program (delivered via mobile app) and some nutrition targets for the next few weeks.
The training program outlines your exercise for the week. The nutrition recommendations vary - it can be anything from a protein target to changing a meal or snack.
Then you put it into play and we monitor the results.
If things aren’t working, we refine the strategy.
This happens most of the time - it’s very rare to come up with a perfect strategy after just a few calls and form submissions.
Instead, we try a few things to see what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes people get disheartened when something doesn’t work because they think they are a failure or wasting their money.
But remember, the goal is to get you lean and to the point where you are looking to prevent weight gain.
An important component of doing that is understanding what works for you and what doesn't - everyone is different!
Why I Like It
I trained clients in the gym for two and a half years full-time.
I started with two clients and when I finished up at the end of 2017, I had a full foster and the business employed a second trainer.
It was good. I enjoyed training clients in the gym, but it wasn’t a long-term play for me.
I love coming up with strategies to help people improve their body composition.
But when I was training clients in the gym, I spent 22 hours per week working with them face-to-face. Coaching technique and intensity wasn’t my passion.
Training is only one component of a body recomposition strategy.
When I was working with my online clients, I could focus on the strategy without needing to be in the gym coaching their training sessions (they could do that with someone else).
A strategy that decreased energy intake by 10% had a bigger impact on body composition than a strategy that increased the bench press by 10%.
So at the end of 2017, when my partner got offered a job near the Gold Coast - I told her I was in. This was the perfect opportunity to go 100% online!
This would allow me to take expand my online client base, which was always limited by the number of personal training clients I was working with.
My online clients were a younger demographic than I trained in the gym.
We charged $120 per session for PT, which limited the types of clients we could work with.
There weren’t too many 27-year-olds dropping that three times per week for sessions, so the result was executive style clients who wanted to lose weight after sustained periods of weight gain.
While I enjoyed working with these oldert clients, it could be a challenge to see the strategy you put together not being a high priority.
Part of it was my ego, but it also meant they would limit how quickly their body composition changes would eventuate.
Of course, family and work come first, but if you want to get results there are going to be times when your strategy comes before socialising and beers.
Some people weren’t happy to that.
But the online clients were a bit younger, had less familial commitments, and were generally looking to be more proactive with the training and nutrition.
I hate to say I ‘got energy’ from working with them - we all know energy comes from food (and caffeine) - but they definitely invigorated me.
Moving up north and going solely online has been a great for me!
It's Here To Stay
While it’s mostly the domain of early-adopters now, online coaching will become a key component of the fitness industry over the next decade as technology to deliver workouts and get exercise feedback improves.
I personally think the standard of coaching will increase as more clients view online coaching as an option.
As more users gravitate towards the platform, people will become more confident in the system and be able to speak to their friends who have already used online coaching.
Referrals from friends and reviews online.
If you are considering online coaching, I strongly recommend doing some research to find the right coach for your needs and then looking into the content and social media.
You will be able to learn a lot about how they approach their coaching, which can help you determine whether they are right for you.