As with any industry, technology within the health/ fitness world has its place and there are numerous advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to coaching/training, can using the newest gadgets and technology really improve the experience and grow your business?
First, it’s important to understand that online training isn’t for everyone. In addition to having expertise in health/fitness, to be successful the trainer also needs to understand how to operate an online business and leverage the corresponding technology. While some prefer to work in-person with clients, others choose to take advantage of the benefits online training can offer, namely, a large volume of potential clients. There is a significant demand for talented and effective online personal trainers.
Online training services can specifically cater to niche markets that introduce trainers to a completely new clientele and allow clients to connect with trainers that have specialties not available in their geographical area. Training formats have been developed for eSports (computer and video games) fanatics as well as hunters and outdoorsmen, just to name a few.
One potential pitfall of online training is losing the personal touch of meeting with clients; however, just like with in-person training, communication is key. Whether it’s via text message, video chatting (FaceTime, Skype, etc.) or simple phone calls— staying in touch is essential. The online trainer also needs to consider how to effectively communicate fitness plans with clients when the technology becomes inaccessible or is down for an extended period. A backup plan or alternate mode of communication is necessary.
Know Your Technology
There are many tools available to help with the management of your online training business. These range in price from free (Google Sheets) to costly (FitBot, Trainerize and Total Coaching). In many instances, you get what you pay for. The costlier subscription services give online trainers great functionality, including the ability to upload exercise demo videos, perform video analysis on clients, have client progress automatically documented and plotted, send images, documents, PDFs, and instant messages. One shortcoming of many of these services is that they don’t typically address accounting; however, there are many options available that can solve this problem, such as My PT Hub.
Another way technology can be used both in-person or via online training is by tracking Heart Rate Variability using something like iThlete. (This is likely only for more advanced, performance-based athletes keeping a close eye on recovery status, but it’s still something that wasn’t available to the general public even five years ago.) Apps such as Myfitnesspal, LoseIt or iFit can be used to help clients with nutrition education, diet tracking and accountability. Another useful tool for both online and in-person training is the Coach’s Eye. This can be used for more detailed video analyses, which is great for online but also extremely helpful in-person. Sometimes people need to see what they’re doing, both right and wrong.
One other aspect of technology that impacts both online and in-person training is social media. When people have a question, their first instinct is to grab their phone and search. Having a strong social media presence across multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat) is practically a requirement for growing a business. For many trainers, referrals and inquiries are directly proportional to how active they are on social media.
In the end, there are numerous advantages and disadvantages to how and when to incorporate technology into the fitness and coaching world. It really depends on the trainer and the client both being comfortable with the approach.
Scott Richmond, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Lindenwood University
Dylan Harris, M.S., CSCS, CISSN, owner of FitStatus Personal Training, LLC