Types of Online Personal Training
Working with a personal trainer in-person could take place in a gym, studio, home, or outdoor setting. In-person training involves you traveling to the personal trainer or the trainer traveling to you. On the other hand, online personal training allows you to work on your health and fitness goals virtually.
The distinction between the two approaches will more likely dictate your decision how you will work with a fitness professional. Both approaches to personal training include exercise programming, but not all (online or in-person) offer nutrition planning. In-person personal training seems to be self-explanatory. On the other hand, there are three types of online personal training:
- Live one-on-one or group
- Middle ground or sweet spot approach
While these variations seem distinct, there can be a lot of overlap, depending on how the trainer/business decides to offer the online training service. What is clear, however, the first two options – automated and live – are at extreme ends of the spectrum and the third fits somewhere in between. To help you decide which approach is best for your health and fitness journey, the three options will be briefly highlighted below.
As the name shows, this type of online personal training involves little or no interaction with a personal trainer. The idea behind this approach is ease use for the client. Because of its ease or simplicity, and the lack of (or very little) interaction with a personal trainer, this approach is typically the most affordable online personal training. Automated online personal training often involves the use of an app. You input your personal information, goals, and experience level, and an exercise (and nutrition) plan are automatically created.
It’s evident that automated personal training is very convenient, given you can take your exercise anywhere you have access to or where equipment is available. However, depending on the app, flexibility could pose an issue. What I mean is there may be limitations to the types of exercises and/or exercise equipment built into your program, which may not include the exercise(s) you want/like to do or the equipment that is available to you.
Similarly, the nutrition plan may not include some of the foods you enjoy eating, there may be a lack of diversity in food choices, and foods you don’t like might even show up. There are apps that may be further along in the industry and include a lot more flexibility in both exercise and nutrition options. However, those programs will more likely not be the most affordable when taking the automated approach to online personal training.
One other consideration with automated online personal training is you have to be a very independent person. I say this because there won’t be someone there regularly to keep you motivated and accountable, to check in with to answer questions, tend to issues, or show you how to mix up or progress your training plan. While numbers vary, some estimates show that up to 90% of people will give up on their health and fitness goals within the first three months, particularly if those goals were set as New Year’s resolutions. This demonstrates that although very convenient, this convenience comes with a potential tradeoff.
(2) Live One-On-One or Group
Live one-on-one or group training is at the opposite end of the spectrum of online personal training, with automated being at the other end. Because you are working with a trainer face-to-face virtually, this approach to online personal training is most similar to in-person training. That similarity often means that live online training can be the most expensive type of online personal training.
Like the automated approach, convenience is a plus. Wherever your computer and equipment are located, and you have an internet connection, you can train. There are two sides to flexibility, though. Unlike automated online training, having a live personal trainer can help with exercise choice and nutrition diversity. However, similar to in-person training, flexibility is most affected because there is a set meeting time. And if you don’t show up for your training, you could be charged for a no-show. MyFitPod is fast-growing and popular company offering this type of online training.
Because you get the motivation and accountability, questions and issues tended to, and the ability to mix up and progress your training and nutrition plans regularly, live online training is definitely a plus. But, as highlighted above, given its resemblance to in-person training, these benefits often come with a heftier price tag.
(3) “Sweet Spot” Approach
By bridging the gap between automated and live online personal training, the sweet spot approach attempts to make up any weaknesses the other two types of online training may pose. Dr. Mike’s Fitness is perfect example of this middle-ground approach. For instance, similar to automated online training, while you are expected to become more independent since there won’t be a trainer with you while exercising, you do have an initial consultation with a trainer to create, personalize, and finetune your program. A trainer is also available continuously throughout the length of the program. This is helpful since you will be held accountable and kept motivated, as well as getting your questions answered and issues tended to. And there’s a follow-up consultation at the six-week mark to make modifications to your program to keep you progressing toward reaching your goals.
Because many automated programs are limited in the type of equipment that’s included, you might have to purchase new equipment. This limitation could also be problematic if you want to try new equipment and/or exercises. Similarly, some live online trainers have selective equipment choices, which would require you to make new purchases rather than working with the equipment you already have. Most online fitness programs that take the middle ground or sweet sport approach build your exercise program based on the equipment you have access to or willing/planning to purchase. Additionally, the program only includes exercises (strength and cardio) you like doing or willing to try. This is all worked out during the initial consultation, the follow-up consultation, and throughout the entirety of the program.
Nutrition is a major part of any health and fitness program. Proper nutrition, including calories, has to be directly connected to your exercise program and desired goals. The benefits and drawbacks of both the automated and live online programs were highlighted in their respective sections above.
Now imagine having a program that uses a nutrition database that includes 1000’s of foods and allows you to eliminate (or include) the types of foods you don’t want to show up (or want to show up) in your weekly meal plan. Taking it a step further, when creating your weekly meal plan, wouldn’t it be helpful to have the ability to choose the max prep time, max cook time, and max number of ingredients you want included for your meals each day and week? Furthermore, providing you with a weekly shopping list, a recipe for every meal, and the ability to substitute foods without affecting the structure of the program would put the cherry on top of a nutrition program that is 100% personalized. If nutrition planning is important to you, you can’t go wrong with an online fitness program that takes the “sweet spot” approach.
There’s a clear difference between in-person and online personal training. However, the water gets a little muddy when considering the various types of online personal training. When deciding which approach to online training is right for you, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each type and narrow down to what you are expecting to get out of your training experience.
If you want to spend the least amount of money and willing to accept several potential limitations (see above), then an automated approach is right for you. If you want the feel of in-person training and are willing to spend the money for this convenience, while perhaps sacrificing a little flexibility, then live online personal training might be the right choice. But there is a “sweet spot” to online training that gives you flexibility, convenience, and access to a personal trainer throughout the length of the program without breaking the bank.