With a surge of new fitness apps, wearable devices, and wellness technologies, trainers are beginning to enter the next level of smart coaching with the potential to garner more money from clients that are getting better results.
This January, at the world’s premier technology conference, Consumer Electronics Show, influential fitness brands such as Under Armour, Fitbit, Matrix and MYZONE impressively showcased how their brands are promising to move the needle of fitness for health consumers, gym owners, and savvy fitness professionals- all through the use of digital health.
As the pulses from millions of devices signal the growing trend of digital health as a household name, the uncomfortable truth is that a majority of personal trainers still remain in the dark about just exactly how to use them with their clients.
Money trails and step counters all point to the power of increased connectivity and accountability for users on and off the gym floor, but the educational gap around how to use this new technology for trainers is growing wider every day.
The solution, as shown by an sharp increase of digital health coaching platforms since 2014, is to use the cloud to leverage a trainer's time, energy, and expertise into leading small connected accountability groups through virtual touch points.
Digital Health Group Training
The best trainers in the industry already have a knack for connecting with and organizing their client's variables into periodization tables and detailed training logs.
Making a successful transition to virtual coaching in small groups will solely depend on the willingness of the fitness professional to jump into the technology pool with both feet.
Alleviating the fear of drowning in the data, there are now emerging platforms like Ascend from LoseIt!, Nudge Coach, and TicTrac that offer ways to help trainers and coaches manage workouts, health data, and lifestyle factors of their clients like never before.
For over two years, the digital health juggernaut Fitbit has used corporate and team step challenges, leaderboards, and weekly games to engage small groups in healthy competition, but where the next level of small group training lives and breathes is in the comprehensive ecosystems filled with data that offer a 24/7 look into a client's steps, sleep, hydration, nutrition, and lifestyle.
Hidden in this data is profound meaning and a perfect context for a smart coach to give the right advice after seeing patterns of self-sabotage in the habits of their clients.
Making Sense of The Numbers
As the blending of fitness and self-quantification become further enmeshed in 2016, the practice of tracking lifestyle data will become common practice among forward thinking trainers to inspire positive behavior change in clients during one-on-one sessions and in small groups alike.
The ethos of the growing quantified self movement defines this relationship of data and increased mindfulness in their straightforward tagline: "Self Knowledge Through Numbers"
Using passively collected group data from devices to elicit actionable feedback is truly where the use of wearables and a coaching dashboard are changing the paradigm of coaching.
Together, they leverage what clients are doing in the club, and most importantly, in the other 160 plus hours they're not with their trainer.
Going one step further, the combined knowledge and tools for sustainable behavior change (like the systems offered in NASM's Behavior Change Specialization course) used in tandem with digital health coaching platforms can teach a progressive approach to staying connected to small groups when motivation matters most.
Gamification & Group Challenges
With increasingly busier days and less sleep, human will power is being distracted like never before by modern day stimuli. Sometimes, we all need a push to overcome our weakness to these distractions. The good news is that a push doesn’t have to be boring. Using the three following tools when coaching a small group will set up the trainer for digital health coaching success:
Using applications like Fitbit and Nudge Coach, virtual leaderboards can be used as a visual motivator and help gamify the fitness experience. Adding a social twist to group exercise offers extra encouragement which in turn will yield higher participation and enjoyment.
Private Facebook Group
Upleveling the connection, trainers who create secret groups on Facebook offer a unique and highly personal community to engage and motivate by delivering specific articles, resources, and challenges. In this nurturing and safe environment, connection from other members in the small group are able to inspire one another via comments, likes, and mentions that congratulate others on a job well done.
Within the private Facebook group, weekly challenges become a powerful way to cheer on your buddies or even start new dialogue around some friendly competition. Whether it is a step goal, pullups, pushups, or miles ran, weekly challenges facilitated by the coach can be just the novelty needed to get the group even more engaged.
From a recent in-depth interview on Wellness Force Radio with LoseIt! CEO Charles Teague, we learn that the perfect recipe for digital health coaching is still being refined to produce scale and efficacy among groups.
As platforms like Ascend from LoseIt! work out the kinks, the power of being a cloud-connected trainer is available to the industry right now through the comprehensive platform found at Nudge Coach.
Using Nudge, trainers are able to set up custom notifications in the central dashboard that will automatically remind the fitness professional when a client is out of any specified parameter including steps, nutrition, hydration and activities completed.
This offers the coach real-time data to review and send HIPPA compliant SMS messages through the application right to the lock screen on their client's phone.
Cutting through the barrage of emails, social media, and all the other noise in a busy client's life provides a way for the digital health coach to engage in meaningful conversations that are more personal and goal specific.
Taking Inspired Action
No matter the technical literacy of trainers in 2016, powerful group coaching platforms are rising to meet the demands of clients and fitness professionals in an exciting new way.
As technology decreases in cost and doubles in performance thanks to the law of accelerating returns, the fitness industry will experience a radical shift towards meaningful data and better connection around the conversations that can break through bad habits.
This year, the digital health movement has the potential to light a up a new stage where the trainer can use technology to serve more clients, stay connected, and have more fun doing so.
When new technology and the fitness industry join hands, we can lift each other up to higher levels of health and wellness.
About the Author
Awarded "Top 50 Digital Health Influencers 2015" by Onalytica, Josh Trent, NASM CPT, CES, BCS, HLC is a Digital Health Coach with over 10 years in the health, fitness & wellness industry. Josh is the founder of WellnessForce.com and host of Wellness Force Radio, a #1 ranked iTunes New & Noteworthy podcast in Health, Self-Help, and Fitness & Nutrition. His vision is to empower greater wellness in over one million lives through technology by teaching digital health as an integrative life practice.