Virtual Training – Less Personal, More Training?
By Rick Richey, MS, LMT
Is online virtual personal training the next frontier for fitness? IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) is the leading trade association for health and sportsclubs (aka gyms). We can pull all sorts of great data from this organization about personal training, average price per session, average number of gym goers that participate in training, etc. However, when looking for data on virtual training, it’s just not there. Likely it’s because the entrepreneurial trainers that have started web-based training businesses are not yet part of any trade organizations where data can be collected and shared.
IHRSA has noted that only 13% of the American population is a member of a health club. This means that almost all of the personal trainers out there are fighting over the same 13% pool of potential clients. That leaves 87% of the population, the health club non-members, without easy access to personal training – unless they have web access. And, according to Internet World Stats, more than three fourths of the U.S. population has internet access. This means that the very small group of companies and trainers that do web-based training have an incredibly large base of opportunity.
Here’s a sampling of several providers of quality web-based personal training:
- JessicaSmithTV.com is an interesting platform with numerous styles, training, and workout options.
- PhysicalFix.com is probably my favorite website, primarily because the clients must fill out an in depth PAR-Q prior to the workout streaming. Based on physical issues or restrictions, the training algorithm kicks out exercises that are likely to be contraindicated (not recommended). For instance, you have a shoulder issue. PhysicalFix.com will delete all overhead exercises from your program in order to avoid aggravation or re-injury. Then you will be sent several different workouts each week with training clips streamed together to provide a motivating and somewhat specialized workout.
- Wello.com is one of the newer players in the virtual training space. A trainer and client connect in real-time via 2-way video. You can do the training session anywhere you have a web cam and internet access. Wello.com helps to bridge the gap between clients going it on their own and the guidance and accountability of a personal trainer.
Web-based programs are great because they offer the chance to reach folks that may be intimidated by the gym, prefer to workout alone at home, or for those that travel and want to stay on a program. However, the farther away from an actual personal trainer, the farther away clients get from the quality of service. Think of it this way, we may all benefit greatly from having a 1-on-1 tutor (personal trainer) that can pay close attention to nuances and particulars, as well as clearly explain why and how the training helps to reach a goal. Similar to going to school online, virtual training is a great tool since it allows people to train on their own schedule and location, but requires a lot of responsibility because no one is watching to ensure quality work is being done. Motivation and accountability could falter without the support of a live trainer or the social motivation we get when exercising with others. If this is true with virtual training, then you give up a bit of the “personal” to gain more access to “training.”
As a final point to trainers interested in web-based virtual training, you must provide quality training information. If you are suggesting exercises that the industry views as contraindicated, you may be responsible for any training injuries caused by your clients following your suggestions.
Take advantage of the potential revenue streams that fit your business plan and personal preferences. No matter what, keep your quality of service high. Good luck.
Rick Richey, MS, LMT
NASM Faculty Instructor