Getting sweaty via Skype or email makes one-on-one training possible for almost anyoneBy: Hollis Templeton
Gone are the days when having a personal trainer meant you were a celebrity or elite athlete. Now, trainers across the country are offering their services via video call or email, making one-on-one attention more accessible to everyday gym-goers. If you already know your way around the weight room but could use some expert help losing those last 5 or preparing for your first marathon, consider these five reasons why remote training could help you meet your goal.
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Getting individual attention at the gym has always come with a hefty price tag—to the tune of several hundred dollars a month if you schedule regular sessions. You’ll keep more money in your pocket with web-based coaching. “Reduced cost is one major difference between Skype training and training in a gym,” says Jason Whalen, CPT, owner of JWW Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ. His studio charges $30 per hour for one-on-one remote training sessions, while in-person sessions at health clubs across the country can range anywhere from $60 to $120 per hour.
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“Lower cost allows people to receive the guidance and support of a trainer when they otherwise might not have the finances to do so,” says Tina Reale, a NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness. Four weeks of personal training with Reale cost $50, while eight-week sessions are $90 and 12-week sessions $125.
Another service, FitOrbit, provides daily workouts and eating plans, and connects you to a coach via email. That’ll set you back about $30 a week—less if you sign up for several sessions at a time. A six-month package works out to about $10 per week.
Your gym has a limited staff of trainers who may or may not be able to meet your needs. But on the web, your options are endless. “Different people look for different qualities in trainers based on their own personalities and preferences,” says Reale. Someone who’s just signed up for a 100-mile bike ride might want to work with a trainer who specializes in endurance—not a muscle-bound Schwarzenegger type who hasn’t ridden a bike since 1985. “Skype provides the client a great deal of freedom in choosing a trainer, without concerns about geographical location,” says Whalen.
Need help narrowing options? Fill out a few questionnaires about your fitness goals, favorite activities, schedule, personality type, and any medical problems, and FitOrbit can match you to one of its 300 personal trainers.
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“With a physical gym and trainer, you have to factor in the commute to the gym and any time you spend waiting for your trainer, and book your workout around when your trainer is free,” says Amir Hosseinpour, senior vice president of product strategy for FitOrbit. “Plus, if you cancel your session, you may have to still pay the fee.”
While Skype sessions operate on-schedule similar to how gym sessions work, you’ll save yourself travel time by working out at home. “Clients enjoy the flexibility of knowing that they can schedule in a 30-minute private session, receive a great workout, and be back at work or enjoying their vacation right after,” says Jennifer Blaine, founder of Jennifer Pilates, who offers private and group sessions via Skype.
If you connect with a trainer using a program like FitOrbit, your workout for the day will arrive in your inbox and you can complete it whenever you find time. Reale’s services work the same way—she sends her clients month-long fitness plans that include both cardio and strength training sessions and checks in via email to answer questions and see how they are progressing with the program.
Another time-saver: you can exercise anywhere, which is ideal for frequent travelers “The client only needs enough space to stand up and lie down,” says Whalen.
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You don’t necessarily need a gym membership to complete the workouts that your online personal trainer puts together for you. “The more equipment available, the more variety I can include in a plan,” says Reale. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t provide a solid training plan for at-home workouts.” (Related: Household Objects That Improve Your Fitness)
“If someone is limited financially, but does want to include some extra weight equipment in their workout, we will improvise and use whatever is around them—water jugs, phone books, and so on,” says Whalen, who favors body weight exercises. “I do mainly callisthenic training with my Skype clients because I have found this to be just as good and sometimes even more beneficial and demanding than using equipment.” When weights are used, Whalen keeps it simple: “The clients I do train with equipment use mainly free weights, a Swiss ball, a Bosu ball, and an exercise mat,” he says.
If you’re a fan of the gym, that’ll work, too. “I work with clients who train with me via Skype and also go to their gym on their own to do cardio or whatever else I have planned for them,” says Whalen.
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Your Zumba DVD won’t hold you accountable once you put it back on the shelf, but an email in your inbox might. “You’d think that because it’s over email that people would be more prone to fib about their program, but FitOrbit trainers say that their real-world clients are the ones who brush things under the rug,” says Hosseinpour. “Being in the gym surrounded by super fit people can be very intimidating. You may not want to tell your trainer that you’ve been skipping workouts.”
When exercise motivation is as simple as opening up your laptop, there’s no reason not to get moving. (Related: Are your exercise excuses laughable?) Remote training makes it harder to reach for common workout excuses, like not having enough time or being intimidated by public places, says Whalen. Plus, online training sessions leave plenty of room for reinforcement, feedback, and questions. “Online training can have some extra positive effect on motivation, in my opinion, because I’m always just an email away for support and will regularly check in with clients or drop them a line with a motivating thought for their day,” says Reale.
“Since Jennifer Pilates added an online studio, we notice increased accountability and success,” notes Blaine. “The convenience of knowing you can work out from wherever you are allows me as a trainer to take accountability and hand it to the client and say, ‘There is no excuse. I am here for you wherever you are, anytime’,” she says.
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