Note: This article is supporting content to the Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance course.
Author: Shaun Stafford
Since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1990, our lives have never been the same: the internet is so ingrained in our daily lives that we can order our groceries, book our holidays and see our friends and family on the other side of The World in real time… All from a small hand-held device that fits into your pocket that almost never leaves our side.
The World has simultaneously become more connected and dis-connected at the same time: as Gen-X is replaced by Gen-Z, and social media consumption is at an all time high, what does this shift in human interaction mean for Personal Training and Personal Trainers in general. Moving your business online is seen by many as the Valhalla and evolution of PT: an endless stream of potential clients who are not bound by location… a flexibility that means your can work wherever, whenever from coffee shops and sun-loungers all over the world!
But does this shift “online” remove some of the key cornerstones of Personal Training? Can you really put the “personal” in Personal Training across a keyboard and through a screen? Most people get into PT because they love being in a gym environment and helping people achieve their health and fitness goals. They enjoy the physical interaction of coaching and developing a relationship over time where they see small but significant improvements.
This could be minor things like technique tweaks and the nuances of certain exercises. The obvious milestones of weight loss or weight gain are also a key indicator of a successful trainer client relationship. However, it can also be the small almost indeterminable improvements in confidence and efficacy in the gym that for most people would go unnoticed, but for the client could be the difference between quitting or staying the course and getting results!
Coaching revolves a lot around trust and that trust usually comes from face-to-face interaction: the ability to judge a client’s likely performance that day by subtle reads in energy and mood and adjusting your session accordingly so that they get continued progression. This is very difficult to do from an online coaching point of view and holds real value for Personal Training.
Then there is the “work-life balance” aspect of Personal Training: if you are a busy coach you could and should be doing 25-35 sessions a week. Whereas those hours might be conventionally unsociable with either early starts or late finishes, it still amounts to only 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week… When you are a face-to-face trainer, you largely turn up on time, take your sessions, do some basic admin and business accounting and then go home until you report for work the next day!
With online training, I know a lot of coaches who are “never off”: they are slaves to multiple weekly check-ins, Skype calls, endless emails and are at the discretion of whatever time-zone their clients occupy. The downtime needed to really switch off and recover is replaced by an almost 24-hour schedule broken up into micro-appointments spread over the course of the week.
And that is before they get hooked into the social media marketing needed to drive an online client base and then they take into account that online clients are wayyyyyy more “needy” than their face-to-face counterparts in the vast majority of cases… It is also worth noting that the rate you charge online clients will be markedly less than what you would charge someone for face-to-face training. This means that the volume of clients you’ll need to manage would be higher, and with that comes the admin associated with these extra people. Add in the extra marketing spend needed to attract the extra business and your hourly rate is getting hit by taking your business online and away from the gym floor.
Now this might seem a bit unfair or one-sided, and you can certainly get online coaches who run an incredibly balanced business that affords them a great quality of life, and like-wise you can get face-to-face trainers who can’t manage their time, diaries or finances to save their life… but on the whole, the coaches who suffer the most with time management and achieving a better work-life balance are those who have moved the majority of their work online.
To wrap up and going back to my first point, most people get into Personal Training because they enjoy being in a gym and working with people: by taking your business online, you largely remove yourself from both the gym and the people you are trying to help… Your office isn’t the squat rack and bench press anymore, but the coffee shop and We-Works of this world, and the buzz of the gym and the camaraderie of a great PT Team is replaced by the hum of a laptop and the solitude of working by yourself and connecting to people almost solely through a screen.
Online coaching allows you to reach a huge swathe of people: there are more people online now than off-line and the Internet provides a wealth of opportunity to grow and run a successful business. My advice to all personal trainers looking to take advantage of this would be to really think about what you enjoy about your job and whether going online will enhance this enjoyment or be a detriment to it…You should always love what you do and do what you love, and whether this is online or face-to-face, Personal Training is one of the best jobs on the planet!
Are you a PT, coach or fitness professional and want to better your nutrition knowledge? Sign up to our online nutrition course today! The course consists of ten online modules and on completion of these you will receive an accredited certificate in Nutrition by the Association for Nutrition (AfN) and earn CPD points from your professional body.