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Online personal training problems – how to solve them!
Sometimes, innovative concepts completely alter or improve the way we engage every day activities or utilize commodities. As human beings make technological progress, new forms of communication and productivity emerge. Some of these progressions are simple or exciting to incorporate such as rotary landline phones evolving into the modern smartphone. However, not all progressive innovation is that straight forward and can even baffle some individuals. This is especially true with the concept of virtual or online personal training. In fact, I found the group most resistant to the idea or struggle to comprehend are fitness professionals!
Personal trainers generally fail to understand the concepts behind online training and I believe this is exactly why we have not seen a surge of quality online trainers even though the consumer is driving a market segment in that direction. People want affordable access to a professional who not only creates custom exercise programs, but also keeps them accountable with communication and positive reinforcement. Yet personal trainers have a perception of what “personal training” is and they adhere to a strict tactile traditionalism that excludes them from understanding. I will likely write about the shortcomings of trainers in another article so to keep on track, here are the three primary challenges to overcome when working with a trainer online.
PROBLEM 1 – Lack of Real-Time Form Correction and Que: In my opinion, this is one of the biggest challenges to overcome with online personal training. In a live session, a good trainer will be constantly adjusting form to ensure safety and optimize the benefits of each moment. I use 6 kinetic chain checkpoints with live clients for every single exercise. This means a subject’s feet, knees, hips, thoracic region, shoulders and head must be properly aligned for each exercise. In addition, I adjust range of motion and tempo when a client becomes misaligned or needs to alter the speed of a movement. So, as you can see this is an issue for virtual training.
SOLUTION: One way to correct form virtually is by having clients record short videos of themselves completing exercise they are concerned about or feel awkward doing. I have clients upload video directly into their secure folder in Google Drive so I can make assessments and send feedback for them to incorporate. This is great for me because I can assess how they move in general and allows me to write better programming. It’s great for the client because they get personalized feedback to enhance their awareness and over time, they self-correct to a greater degree than if they were going at it alone. By educating the client and getting them to think about the 6 checkpoints will improve their confidence and competency while working out. Not perfect because it’s not real time, but its pretty darn close.
PROBLEM 2 – Assessing progress and adaptation: In a live session, trainers can modify exercises based on the client’s response to the stress. We can quickly see if the weight is appropriate or the duration is sufficient. We can improvise to accommodate injures or generally enhance the session with program improvements based on direct observation. We detect minor progressions in a client’s ability to execute movements or judge enhancements to strength or flexibility. The subtle improvements notify a trainer that we are on the right track and the program is progressing as planned. This becomes a real challenge online because a trainer is not present to observe these adaptations.
SOLUTION: Communication is the key to coaching clients through understanding progressions and recognizing adaptations in their own body. Open dialogue and education work together on this point. I feel clients that understand their own unique physiology and how to maximize their results create sustainability. I encourage my online clients to liberally use the messaging system that is built right into the Forge mobile app. In addition, the Forge app has a simple system for clients to take notes on exercises so they can journal between sets. When I meet with clients during scheduled web chats, I review this information with them and coach them through the process or take their feedback and make any necessary alterations to their program. Clients that start with nearly zero coordination or gym confidence can quickly become a student of their body and begin to recognize changes that they can manage. In some ways, this makes them less dependent on a trainer and self-reliant. In the end, my goal is to get clients to a point of sustainability and lifelong habit change.
PROBLEM 3 – Motivation and real-time accountability: Often, a regular person will not put their full effort into exercises when they work out alone. I’m not talking about the dedicated lifter or serious athlete. I’m talking about people who would normally hire a trainer to begin with. A trainer will make sure you push through every rep, finish every set and challenge yourself in each exercise. The motivation to push yourself and the accountability to actual show up for your workout is part of what produces results. Getting the same quality on this topic using online platforms for personal training can be a real challenge, especially for the novice or person that struggles to workout anyway.
SOLUTION: Technology bridges the gap here. The Forge mobile app is a fantastic resource for creating motivation in a convenient and user friendly manner. Because of technology, clients can log their completed workouts, journal improvements, track body measurements, compare before-and-after pictures, create personal best scores and keep a record of their activities all in one mobile app. The Forge app also syncs with several partner companies such as MyFitnessPal, FitBit and Withings scales to automatically upload data. A trainer can use this information to identify trends and get a full picture of your activities and nutrition. One of my favorite aspects of the Forge mobile app is the check-in system. I get notified once a client checks into their workout and can send them a note of encouragement thorough the messenger module or follow-up and see how their workout went. I can also see exercise scores and timer results so I will have a better idea of the workout quality. Basically, I am in the mind of the client and they know they must report to me and this creates accountability. I remind clients to push through the hard parts and that coaching can inspire that extra push.
As you can see, the solutions are a partial substitute to live training. Clearly, online personal training is not ideal for everyone. There are still some people who truly need the in-person guidance of a trainer to maximize their health and fitness. But online training is great for people who need motivation, accountability, interesting exercises and periodic connection to a fitness professional. In the end, online training is an excellent alternative for a large group of people. To get more information on this topic or explore the online personal training in more detail, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michael S. Parker
Founder at Forge Online Personal Training
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