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What is virtual fitness training – and is it right for you?

When I meet someone new, one of the inevitable conversation starters is “what do you do?” If I’m giving a short answer, it’s that I’m a virtual personal fitness and nutrition coach. And usually that opens up the dialogue to lots more questions about just what that means. In this article, I’m going to share with you what exactly it is that I do, how I do it, and where it fits in with all the fitness options available today.  

Virtual fitness training has been around for a long time. But when the coronavirus pandemic closed gyms for several months in 2020, people sought alternatives that allowed them to work out at home. And even though most facilities have reopened, a large percentage of people have decided they really like the convenience, privacy and cleanliness that home-based fitness offers. That’s probably why various forms of virtual fitness training were ranked at the top of the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021, a poll conducted annually by the American College of Sports Medicine.

The word “virtual” can hold many different meanings. I like to simplify things by putting virtual fitness options into three groups:

First, there are pre-recorded full workouts. These come in video form, such as YouTube, mobile phone apps, and expensively produced programs like PelotonTM, Beach BodyTM and P90XTM fall into this category. Old-school workout DVDs are in this group too. (Maybe you’re old enough to remember Jane Fonda’s or Cathy Smith’s workout videos? Back in the 1990’s I had a whole library of these!)

Next is live virtual fitness training. In this format, participants are working out at their own location in real time with a live instructor over a web streaming platform, like Zoom, Skype, or Facebook Live. This type of training can range from large group classes, to small groups, or one-on-one training. Often, large groups tend to focus on cardio workouts like Zumba or HIIT (high intensity interval training) as well as other group exercise formats like yoga, mat Pilates or tai chi. Small groups are more likely to involve resistance training, using body weight only, dumbbells, or stretch bands. One-on-one live virtual fitness training is tailored to each client, so could be just about any modality.

Online fitness training is a form of virtual training that evolved from traditional in-person one-on-one training. The primary difference is that the client receives a detailed workout program to follow on their own, and the personal trainer provides advice, accountability, monitoring and follow-up. The quality of online fitness training offerings can vary dramatically, based on:

  • How well the program is customized to your unique goals and fitness level
  • How workouts are delivered to you
  • The quality of the exercise instructions for each workout
  • The comprehensiveness of the program
  • The ease of communication and feedback with your trainer/coach
  • How often you interact with your trainer/coach
  • The types of value-added coaching features included with the program, such as in-person coaching calls, habit tracking, weekly check-ins, and specialized nutrition coaching

Each of these three categories of virtual fitness have pro’s and con’s. Let’s look at the biggest differentiators:

Differentiator:Pre-recorded videoLive virtual - groupOnlineLive virtual - one on one
Customization for your specific fitness level, goals, and rate of progress NoneSome – the instructor may offer some exercise modifications for different fitness levels during the session.Can be completely customized for you – but make sure that’s what you’re getting.Completely customized for you.
Providing accountabilityNoneLow: You know that have a class at a particular date & time, but may not get any follow-up if you don’t attend.Depends on the coach and how they manage their clients.High: You have an appointment with your trainer/coach and he/she expects you to be there or reschedule.
Comprehensive program (strength, flexibility, cardiovascular, nutrition)Depends on the program. Some offer choices that are quite comprehensive; others not so much.Not comprehensive in most cases, as the classes typically focus on one type of exercise only.Can be very comprehensive, but this is highly dependent on the individual trainer/coach.
What I do

I provide live virtual one-on-one and online fitness coaching exclusively. My years of in-person training and coaching gave me the knowledge and experience to effectively move into the virtual world.

What is absolutely of utmost importance to me, however, is developing and nurturing my relationships with my clients – whether we are meeting for workouts over Zoom, or I’m building a new week’s workout plan for them online. I take great pride in creating workouts that are fun but challenging, targeting the areas where each individual needs the most attention, and progressing from week to week at a pace that’s just right for them.

What does this look like?

Live Virtual One-on-One: After an initial fitness evaluation and goal setting session, we meet on Zoom one or more times per week. I’m in my home-based training studio, and you are wherever it’s most comfortable for you. We work with the equipment you have – whether that’s dumbbells, stretch bands/cords, a stability ball, or even a TRX Suspension Trainer or BOSU Balance Trainer if you’ve got either one of those (they’re both fantastic for home-based exercise, by the way). Or if you have no equipment at all, that’s fine too! Your own body weight plus a hand towel are all you need.

I coach you through the workout I’ve designed for you that week, demonstrating how to do each exercise correctly, then watching you for good form and keeping track of your reps and sets. All the while, we chat about what’s going on in your life, the latest happenings, or whatever comes up. It’s just like being together in person.

If we work out in person once or twice per week – and it’s right for you – I provide you with detailed instructions for completing that same workout on your own, once or twice more that week (more on how I do this in a moment). Also, if it’s right for you, I provide you with cardio workouts to do on your own in the coming week. These are designed entirely around what you enjoy doing, your fitness level, what’s available to you (treadmill, stationary bike, rower, or outdoors).

Workouts – and so much more

I believe it’s so important to take a holistic approach to fitness and wellness. So I incorporate not only exercise, but also flexibility and mobility (including yoga), stress management and nutrition coaching into every client’s program designed around their unique needs.

Online: The only difference between my live virtual and online coaching is that you complete your workouts on your own, when it’s convenient for you. No appointments to keep, no last-minute cancellations when the unexpected comes up. If you travel, your workouts can be tailored to where you‘ll be and what you’ll have available. We’ll of course still begin with an initial fitness evaluation and goal setting session over Zoom – that’s a critical element which I’ll never skip. Once you start, we’ll meet regularly over Zoom (or phone) for coaching calls to talk about your progress, your nutrition, and strategies for your success in achieving your goals. How often we meet is up to you – weekly or every other week is best.

We work together to decide where you want to be, and how best to get there, based on what your life is like right now.

After several years of experimenting with different methods of delivering workouts to my clients to do on their own, I finally found a terrific app that’s easy to use and provides lots of great features. It’s called Everfit. (Click here to watch a short video about Everfit.)

Through this phone app for Android or iOS, you will:

  • Go through your workouts step by step, from the warm-up, to the main set, to the cool-down. If we’re using time, not reps, it gives you a countdown timer.
  • View your calendar with the workouts I’ve assigned to you for the week – move them around on the calendar to different days if your schedule changes.
  • Be reminded of specific habits you want to develop, and check them off each day
  • Read articles and other content I’ve selected especially for you each week based on your goals
  • View your progress over time
  • Send me messages about a specific workout, habit, article, or any question in general

Throughout the week, I’m reviewing everything you’ve completed, responding to your questions and comments, and tracking your progress. I’ll check in with you if something seems amiss, to help you stay on track. At the end of each week, you’ll complete a brief questionnaire to let me know how everything is going and if you think of anything specific you want to discuss, either right away or during our next coaching call or live virtual workout.

Is virtual fitness right for you?

There are literally thousands of virtual fitness offerings available today. While for some people the energy and camaraderie of the gym experience plays a big part in keeping them motivated and challenged, many others find the gym intimidating. And there’s the driving, the parking, the check-in, the locker rooms, and masking requirements (hopefully that will someday end…) The explosive growth in virtual fitness has made it possible to exercise in the comfortable, private, judgement- and virus-free environment of your own home, on your own schedule.

So what virtual format is best? Well, that’s up to you to decide. Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you need to be entertained when you work out – meaning motivating music, an instructor with a perfect body, high production value video?
  • Is your goal primarily to maintain your current fitness level or develop cardiovascular endurance?
  • Are you injury-free?

Then one of the higher quality pre-recorded video workout programs like Beach BodyTM, Les MillsTM or PelotonTM (just to name a few) would be a good fit for you.

But your time is precious, and so is your wellbeing. If you want a fitness program designed just for you, and a caring and compassionate coach who’s guiding you every step of the way, then partner with me instead.

Let’s start with a conversation, and figure out together what approach will work best for you!

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