Should I Hire an Online Fitness Coach?

Use this guide to help you decide whether a virtual trainer is right for you.
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If your New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, gaining muscle, getting stronger, having more energy or competing in a competition, then you may be in the market for a little assistance. Finding a personal trainer you resonate with in your geographical area may be a challenge. Or perhaps you require a more flexible schedule than your local gym’s trainers offer. This is where online personal training can come into play.

“Online fitness coaching allows you to work virtually over the internet or through phone calls with a qualified fitness professional who creates custom fitness and nutrition plans to help you reach your goals,” says online personal trainer and fitness coach Julie Lohre, who is also an IFBB fitness pro, a season six contestant on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior and a former Oxygen cover model.

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“While the specifics vary, a successful online fitness coach will work with you personally and take you step by step through the process of transforming your body,” she continues. “They will be there to provide encouragement, support and accountability along the way, in addition to workout and nutrition guidance.”

The Benefits of Online Personal Training

With 15 years of virtual training under her belt, Lohre breaks down exactly what you need to know to ensure you make the right decision for your goals and lifestyle. So what are some of the pros for choosing this path?

  • Expertise. Let’s face it, finding a highly qualified personal trainer who cares about you (and not just building his or her own body or Instagram following) can be challenging — especially if you live in a small town. Through online personal training, you can connect with the best in the business, giving you access to someone with a proven track record for helping people make the kind of changes you are wanting to make.
  • Schedule. If you need a flexible schedule, online personal training allows you to work out on your own schedule. Whether that’s at 4 a.m., during lunch or late at night, the choice is yours.
  • Duration. Short on time or want to dedicate more time than the average gym-goer? An online fitness coach will create fitness programs specifically for your needs, taking into account the amount of time you have to dedicate to the process.
  • Flexibility. With in-person training, you are out of luck and charged a no-show fee if you miss an appointment. But with online fitness coaching, you are in charge of your schedule and you can be as flexible as necessary. Your fitness coach will create plans that can ebb and flow with your busy schedule, allowing you to adjust as needed.
  • Nutrition coaching. Most gym personal trainers are not qualified to address one of the most important parts of any fitness program: nutrition. By working with an online fitness coach who specializes in fitness and nutrition, you can put together all the pieces of the puzzle so that you can make real, lasting changes.
  • Cost savings. While a single 30- to 60-minute session with an in-person trainer can run from $50 to $100 or more depending on your location, online fitness coaching typically offers an incredible value and cost savings.
  • Accountability. With in-person training, you see your coach once or twice a week at your sessions, but beyond that, you are on your own. With online training, you have a fitness professional at your fingertips any time you have questions. In fact, most online personal trainers require you to send updates frequently so they can help track your progress and make modifications as needed.
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A Few Cons to Consider

While online personal training can be a good option for many people, there are definitely cases in which online training is not recommended. If any of the below scenarios sound familiar, then Lohre says it’s probably not for you:

  • If you need someone to be sure you show up. If you lack the motivation to work out and need someone who is expecting you at a session you are paying for, then in-person training could be a better option.
  • If you are concerned about performing exercises safely or are brand new to working out. Beginners or anyone who feels uncomfortable with weights may need an in-person trainer watching their form. Once you gain confidence, however, you may be able to switch.
  • If you have significant injuries or limitations. An in-person trainer can watch your form closely to ensure you are not putting yourself in danger.
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Who Should Use an Online Coach?

Generally speaking, Lohre says there are several types of people and specific situations that make online personal training or online fitness coaching an ideal choice:

  • If you feel stuck in a rut and have stopped making progress. If you have exercised in the past but feel lost or are in a rut, then online fitness coaching could give you the clear, step-by-step plan you need to take all the guesswork out of your training. Each time you step into the gym, you will know precisely what to do so that you can reach your goals.
  • If you are a busy woman who needs flexibility. Whether you are a doctor or nurse, running your own business, in the military or a super mom always on the go, online fitness coaching can provide the structure you need with enough flexibility.
  • If you have a specific goal. Want to compete in a figure competition, run a Spartan Race or lose 50 pounds? Online personal training allows you to connect with an expert in your field.
  • If you are an overthinker. If you tend to spend hours combing the internet and magazines for the latest fitness trends but you struggle to make sense of it all, then a qualified online fitness professional can put his or her years of experience to work for you so it all makes sense.
  • If you prefer working out at home. Because it can be so convenient to work out from home, online trainers can create specific workouts using just the equipment you have available.
  • If you are looking for accountability. Good online trainers will require you to report back frequently. They often want updates on the physical changes you are seeing in your body through photos and measurements, and they want your feedback about how you are doing and how the programs are working for you.

What Should You Look for in an Online Fitness Coach?

If you think online training is right for you, then you’ll want to choose the right coach. Lohre says to examine the following before signing up:

  • Experience. With social media being overrun by “fitness gurus” who love showing off their body for vanity likes, it can be difficult to tease out who is actually going to help you achieve your goals. Choose someone who has experience working with people like you and who has similar goals to you. Look for an online coach who has been successful enough to make this into a full-time career and has the success stories to back it up.
  • Credentials. There are currently no requirements to call yourself an online personal trainer or to designate yourself as an online fitness coach — all you need is a website and an email address. To ensure the trainer is qualified, choose a certified personal trainer from an accredited agency (such as NASM or ACE) and preferably someone who is also a nutrition specialist or dietitian.
  • Promises. Real progress takes time and should come from a combination of healthy eating and proper strength training. If a trainer promises that you will lose 20 to 40 pounds in a matter of weeks, run. The instructor is either embellishing to get you to sign up or will ask you do something extreme and unsafe.
  • Style. Do you prefer a coach who is supportive and understanding or one who is tough and pushy? Are you looking for a knowledgeable cheerleader who will get behind you and lovingly kick you in the pants when you need it or one who is hard-nosed and demanding? If you can’t assess the trainer’s style, try reading the success stories to see how the coach’s clients describe him or her.

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