Virtual personal training has become fitness revolution. It’s convenience-based fitness for clients to access a trainer or instructor online instead of commuting to a facility. The potential is limitless.
The advent of the internet and social media has connected the world in ways that were not possible just decades ago. We can obtain full degrees, certifications, and teach – all online. Even fitness classes are available virtually and on-demand.
In the past, the expectation of the fitness industry was to entice members of the general public to seek its many services. Now, the fitness industry is being called to deliver its services and make its professionals available to the general public in a new way – virtually and “on demand”. If you haven’t thought about bringing your business online, here are some key characteristics to know ahead of time.
What is virtual personal training?
Virtual fitness training takes many forms. It can be a collection of streaming videos that are pre-recorded (or live) and shared through a platform or app. Or, it can include live training and coaching sessions offered in a variety of ways. There are even some hybrid versions where coaching is blended with in-person and online activities.
Virtual training can also take the form of exercise program design and instruction. In other words, virtual fitness training is not a limited part of the industry. What can you imagine offering in a virtual world?
How much do online personal trainers charge?
Establishing a price point for your services is always a challenge no matter the platform. Many clients find the online environment less cost prohibitive in terms of time and actual dollars. Clients do not need to travel to a gym or physical location, can connect with their coaches through a variety of social media avenues, and online coaching sessions are generally less per hour than the face-to-face version.
Two things that make virtual fitness coaching less costly is the flexibility of the service and the fact that the professional isn’t tied to the same types of fixed costs that are otherwise associated with owning a physical studio or office (rent, building insurance, certain utilities, laundry services, etc.).
That said, there is still great variability in what fitness coaches charge for the virtual experience. Some coaching is by the hour while others choose to package their services. A typical breakdown is anywhere from $50-$100/month.
Services like Trainerize and NudgeCoach can help you determine how to determine your unique price point.
How do you find virtual personal training clients?
When it comes to recruiting virtual personal training clients, the biggest limiting factor will be your own creativity (and potentially, budget). Fortunately, spreading the word and getting your services noticed in the online world is not as costly as print advertising and media.
Rule number one: if an individual is seeking an online/virtual coaching experience, he or she is already online. Leverage that convenience and do some strategic marketing and digital media advertising (you’ll need to figure such costs into your overhead/expenses, though). Spend time where your ideal clients are, perhaps on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
Also, many professional associations offer a “find a trainer” or “locate a pro” service as part of a certified membership package.
Just as there are services available to help you establish pricing, there are businesses that connect clients directly to trainers (outside of your professional association). GymGo is one of many examples.
Tips to Get Started Going Virtual
Here is a checklist of steps to take when you are ready to pursue virtual personal training:
- Identify a client management system. If you’re just starting out, this doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. Some fitness professionals successfully use Google Drive. Other fitness software options are constantly popping up so keep researching. The current market offers a large variety for fit pros. The software you use will not make or break your success but it is an important component – especially as your business grows. Take time to evaluate what will work best for you and your clients.
- Check your insurance plan. Fortunately, many insurance plans also cover at-home and virtual personal training services but be sure to cover this base thoroughly so that you and your clients are adequately covered.
- Create the space. This goes two ways. First, you want to make sure you have an adequate training space that allows you to effectively demonstrate exercises and/or perform them with the clients you are training virtually. Free the space of clutter and distractions and organize your equipment ahead of time before each session. Second, help your clients organize a space for themselves at home by providing tips and organizational strategies to help them. A quality workout doesn’t require an entire gym – a simple 10-foot space can work well if you’re creative.
- Adjust the Medium. Most fitness clients are used to one medium – one-one-one real-time coaching and personal training. This adjustment is as much a challenge for them as it is for you. As you move toward offering virtual coaching sessions, make sure your clients are comfortable with the medium(s) available. Offer a couple of options and allow clients to select what works best for them. That said, avoid the trap of offering too many platforms. Do your research and choose three options that will work for your space, technological capabilities, and budget.
- Invest in quality production equipment. It’s true – you have to spend money to make money. Production equipment is key to quality virtual or streaming services. Start by researching the best high-definition webcam options and purchase additional lighting resources if necessary. Take time to invest the best options for a computer, Bluetooth headset, HD web cam, and microphone (and other equipment as needed). Practice recording yourself to test the sound and picture quality.
- Set up your equipment and run a test session with a friend, family member, or fellow fitness professional to seek feedback and work out the “kinks” before going live. Nothing is more disheartening or demotivating than to hop into a virtual meeting or session and the host cannot work the tech or navigate the platform effectively or efficiently. Log on to the session at least 10 minutes early to test your microphone, camera, screen sharing (if necessary), etc. In addition, set aside time to teach your clients how to use the platform(s) available. This can take as little as 15 minutes. Another unique option would be to pre-record a “how-to” video and share it with your clients via social media and email.
- Create a video library. A great virtual personal trainer will have a repository of “how to” videos that feature key movements and a breakdown of the form of each movement. This is especially helpful for teaching form for the more complex movements. Keep the videos simple with brief verbal descriptions and two full repetitions so clients can gain a good sense of the movement pattern. YouTube works well for something like this. (If you choose a training platform, they often already have a video library if you don’t want to tackle this monumental task)
- Develop an at-home equipment list for clients. A great workout doesn’t require a ton of equipment. It’s important for potential clients to understand that they don’t need to purchase a complex system of large equipment to get results. Get creative and encourage affordable options for clients. Resistance bands and loops, adjustable dumbbells, cordless jump ropes, stability balls, and fitness sliders are all affordable and have great utility in all types of workouts. This list can be downloaded and available in a digital format complete with hyperlinks.
- Create a digital client orientation packet. This is really about the necessary paperwork. Include a personalized welcome letter, PAR-Q+, Health History and Lifestyle Questionnaire, Informed Consent, Medical Referral Document, and other required forms. Seek the guidance of legal counsel to ensure you have all bases covered. Again, many platforms offer templates for these forms.
- Decide a marketing approach. It’s important to avoid spreading yourself too thin in the beginning of virtual personal training. Choose two platforms clients in your niche market use regularly and begin marketing specifically on those platforms. You can grow your following and then branch out to different channels.
- Seek Regular Feedback. It’s all about the user experience in the virtual coaching and personal training realm. At this time, clients may find themselves overwhelmed by the sudden need to morph their entire lives into a remote-stay-at-home existence. Check in with your clients more often than you previously did to ensure that they are feeling comfortable and, if not, you have the opportunity to address concerns and help overcome stumbling blocks.
Bonus Tip: As part of your continuing education efforts, invest in taking some classes focused on personal training in a virtual space. These courses will help you grow your skillset and help shape your online business.
Tips for Running an Actual Virtual Personal Training Session
- Test the Lighting. Believe it or not, you don’t need expensive lighting equipment to illuminate the session adequately. An affordable ring light works great! Keep in mind that clients should be able to see you clearly and that any natural or artificial light isn’t casting unnecessary glares or shadows. Also, be sure the lighting is not located behind you, but in front of you. Poor lighting will impact the client experience and overall quality of the session if it isn’t tested or considered upfront.
- Be Organized. Give yourself a window of time prior to the session that allows you to set out all necessary equipment, check your camera angle (and lighting) and test your video and sound. I also like to have the written workout available to share for clients who want or need a “road map” of the session. The space you are broadcasting from should be free of unnecessary clutter and equipment.
- Control Distractions. Be sure to put your computer, phone, and/or tablet on silent or use the airplane or “do not disturb” functionalities to block interruptions or distractions. Distractions can also come from kids, pets, visitors, etc. Do your best to reduce distractions on your end and encourage the same from your client’s side.
- Keep it Simple. Virtual workouts do not (and should not) be ultra-complicated or involve a multitude of equipment options. Before offering virtual sessions, ask your clients to inventory the equipment they currently have and provide a “recommended equipment” list with links to purchase options. Program sessions to include simple, but effective movements. Bodyweight works great as a resistance tool, as do affordable options like resistance bands, loops, and adjustable dumbbells. *(See below for more creative ways to create resistance)
- Conceptualize the Intro and Outro. The intro and the outro – these elements are what sets the tone for the beginning and end of the session. For the intro, welcome your client and do a quick check-in to see how your client is feeling and if they have any questions or concerns prior to beginning. Then, tell them what you have planned for them (share your screen if necessary) and give them a chance to ask any clarifying questions. Praise them for showing up to the session and let your excitement for your time with them show.
For the outro, communicate all that they accomplished during the session and that they should feel proud of their efforts and commitment. Tell them you are excited to see them at the next session and that you are looking forward to sharing that time and space with them. Lastly, be sure to thank your client for coming to the session and for taking their time to do something great for themselves. Keep the focus on them and what they achieved by investing their time with you.
Modifying Exercises During Virtual Personal Training Sessions
Modifying exercises for in-person personal training sessions can be simple enough if you know what to look for. However, hosting virtual personal training sessions and then modifying exercises can seem overwhelming. As with all new things you try, there will be a learning curve, but ultimately modifying exercises online will be the same as doing so in an in-person session — if you know how to set things up and if you know what to look for. Here’s how to modify virtual training workouts for at-home exercise.
Step 1: Help Your Clients Set Up Their Space
Believe it or not, this is the single most important step in this process (assuming you’re already familiar with how to modify the exercises themselves). Ask your client to set up for the session, and then when they say they’re ready, assess their setup.
It’s helpful to instruct them ahead of time to wear clothing that will not blend in with their background and also to not be “backlit” by standing in front of a window.
Make sure you can see their entire body. Ask them to set up for plank at a side view, then ask them to stand up in a frozen “jumping jack” position to ensure you can see the tips of their fingers and their feet in the same frame.
It’s only when you can see your client’s entire body that you can suggest modified exercises for them.
If you have a very tall client in a small space, seeing their hands and feet with arms overhead may not be possible. Just do your best to assist the client in capturing as much of their body as possible.
Step 2: Demo the Exercises — But Don’t Exercise with Them
If you fluctuate between group fitness classes and personal training, the temptation to demonstrate or even perform the exercises with your client is high. In some ways, doing the exercises with your client can make them feel less self-conscious and that they have a professional workout partner. This can work for clients who are already familiar with the exercises you’ll be trying out and who don’t need much direction.
However, clients who need modifications while virtual personal training will require your full attention. Show your client how the exercise should look and then set up in front of your screen to watch them try it themselves. Now that they’re in full view, it should be easy to see if they have poor posture or are struggling.
Step 3: Instruct Your Clients to Use the Tools They Have
It’s easy to succeed as a fitness instructor when you’re in a gym setting. You and your clients can take advantage of the equipment, including cardio and weight-training machines, mats, weights, mirrors, and more.
Unless your client is particularly passionate about fitness, it’s not very likely that they have all of these items on hand. You’ll need to instruct your client to use what they have around the house to help them modify their exercises for virtual personal training.
Here are some things you can suggest:
- Use thick books as weights. Ask your client to weigh the books to ensure both are roughly the same weight. They can use these in place of dumbbells or weight plates (perfect for bridge dips).
- Water for weight. For stronger clients they can carefully fill buckets of water to use for deadlifting.
- Use stairs for cardio. Who needs a stair master when there are actually stairs at home?
- Use a towel in place of a resistance band. Towels can be great tools to improve flexibility and strength.
Coaching in person and virtual personal training are two different animals. Learning to go virtual will take time – just as it did for you to hone your craft at leading one-on-one or group fitness sessions. Be patient with yourself and be honest with your clients. You’re likely learning this new approach together and can be of tremendous support to each other as you navigate the strange and uncertain days (and months) ahead.