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Personal training has long been the gold standard of getting in shape: you get one-on-one attention from a professional who takes into account your current fitness, goals, injuries, weaknesses, motivation, and preferences. It’s one of the best ways to increase your fitness, but it can also be really expensive.
A more affordable alternative is online personal training, in which you may never meet your personal trainer.
But is online training effective? Will you get the same benefits? And how can you go about finding the best trainer for you? Here’s some advice for finding success in your online personal training.
Why Choose an Online Personal Trainer?
An online personal trainer provides a lot of advantages over a traditional, gym-based trainer. Here are just a few of the reasons that people have decided to get their workouts online:
- There’s a huge variety of training available, from general fitness and fat loss to athletic conditioning and even strongman training.
- You can get an idea of what your trainer will be like before you start the program with free trials, before-and-after photos, and preview workouts.
- Many online trainers offer additional services, like diet plans, phone consultations, or supplement information.
- It’s available 24 hours a day, no matter where you are. Workouts can be viewed on your computer, TV, phone, tablet, or any other device that can play video or display workout sheets.
And, of course, the price: online training can be quite a bit cheaper than traditional personal training. It all depends on what you want, how much you’re willing to put into it, and what works best for you.
Want to know what an online personal trainer looks like? Here are a number of popular trainers that will give you an idea of the kinds of services, prices, and programs that are available online:
Now that you know why online personal training is a good idea and what the trainers are like, let’s get into the advice you need to choose one.
Know the Types of Training Available
There are a number of different types of online personal training that range from simple and affordable to more complex and more expensive. Choosing the one that will work best for you is a crucial first step in finding an online personal trainer.
The first type of personal training that you can find doesn’t really qualify as “personal.” For $10 or $20 per month, you get access to content created by fitness experts (often celebrity trainers, like Bob Harper at DailyBurn.com) that address certain goals; increased core strength, fat loss, improved aerobic fitness, and so on.
It won’t be personalized, but it does have the advantage of being very affordable, and will help you if one of your fitness obstacles is that you don’t know what to do for a workout.
A slightly more personalized type of online personal training involves an accountability group. Here, a number of trainees are put in touch with each other and a trainer so that they can stay motivated. More personalized workouts are often provided, and members of the group submit logs of their workouts and their dietary intake once a week or so.
Having someone to help you stay accountable can be invaluable when it comes to actually doing what you’re supposed to do, but it does require a lot of honesty to work well. This type of training can cost up to $50 or $75 per month.
Finally, there’s full online personal training. You work with a single trainer, receive a custom workout plan, and have unfettered access to the trainer via email, IM, text, and possibly FaceTime or Skype. They could include assessments, more accountability, and more one-on-one time with your trainer. If you need a lot of attention and help with motivation, this could be for you; but be ready to pay for it, as these programs can cost in the hundreds of dollars per month.
Obviously, the best type of personal training depends on you. If you just need some workout ideas, you can get by without paying anything. If you have a tendency to skip workouts and you want some accountability, stepping up to the next level could be beneficial. And if you want highly personalized training — and you’re willing to pay for it —you can get a full personal training experience.
Think about what you need before choosing one.
Setting and tracking goals is part of what a personal trainer will do for you, but if you know what you’re aiming for, you’ll be better able to choose a format and a trainer that work for you.
For example, “getting in shape” is a pretty nebulous goal, and could be completed in a number of different ways. Maybe you need a personal trainer, but maybe you just need to gamify some habits to get yourself walking or running on a regular basis.
If you want to workout three times a week for 30 minutes, a personal trainer might not be worth the cost, so you could go with the most affordable option mentioned above. If you’re looking to make a serious change in your lifestyle and you’d like to work out five or six days a week using a number of different methods, investing more money might help you with motivation and proper training schedules.
Not sure what your fitness goals should be? Check out “How Not to Suck at Goal Setting” on Nerd Fitness—it’s a great overview of goal-setting for fitness.
Research Your Trainer
Because you won’t be meeting with your personal trainer, you’ll need to do some research before you get started.
- Do they have a degree or certification?
- Is their degree or certification recognized and current?
- Do they have reviews on Yelp or another online reviews site?
- Are there client stories on their website that indicate they do a good job?
One of the downsides of the Internet is that anyone can claim to be an expert on a topic without having anything to back it up; make sure your trainer actually is an expert.
Also, many trainers specialize in specific fitness goals, like fat loss or athletic conditioning. Once you have an idea of the sorts of goals that you’ll be pursuing, you can spend time finding a trainer that has experience and expertise in the area that’s most relevant to you. This will pay off in the long run, especially once you start to plateau after you’ve made your initial gains.
Understand the Drawbacks and Risks
Before you decide to use an online personal trainer, it’s important that you understand the drawbacks. There are a lot of advantages, but it’s not for everyone. First of all, you’ll never (or very rarely) work with your trainer face-to-face. This might not seem like a big deal, but there’s a lot of information that a personal trainer can get from watching you work out right in front of him or her.
Trainers can more easily track your fitness gains, spot problems with your form when you’re working out, answer any questions you have about your fitness, quickly make adjustments based on your goals, and be much more motivating when they’re there in front of you. It’s also easier for them to see warning signs of an impending or underlying injury.
Many people also enjoy the social side of personal training. A trainer that I know often says that she feels like a therapist as well as a trainer (this certainly seemed to the be case when I was working in a gym, too). There are many benefits to a personal trainer that you don’t think about — it makes you get out to the gym, you get to meet new people, you’ll be more motivated to do other fitness-related activities, and so on.
There are a lot of things you could be missing out on by going with an online personal trainer. But if that’s something you’re okay with, then it’s probably time to sign up for one!
Get Fit Online
Online personal training and fitness apps are becoming much more popular, and this is understandable given how much more convenient it is to get your workouts online, at any time of the day, on any mobile device you have with you, instead of going to the gym a few times a week. But there are some drawbacks, too, that need to be considered before embarking upon an online fitness training odyssey.
Have you used an online personal trainer? How did you find it? Would you rather go to a personal trainer at a gym? Why? Share your thoughts below!
Image Credits: sporty woman by Syda Productions via Shutterstock, Neghar Fonooni, DailyBurn, Syda Productions via Shutterstock.com, Jenn Huls via Shutterstock.com, FitStrong Fitness, Visionsi via Shutterstock.com.