This piece is part of Bustle’s All Levels Welcome, a column about making fitness culture as accessible and inclusive as possible.
Maybe you're an avid gym-goer who's readjusting your routine, or you might be stuck in the apartment all day and just want to move around more. Online personal training can keep you on track with your fitness goals during the pandemic, and you might find that you like the arrangement even after it's safe to return to your gym.
"Online personal training is a coaching experience that is client-focused and allows flexibility for a busy schedule," says Katie Kollath, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of the LGBTQ women-owned online personal training business Barpath Fitness. "The workouts will be given to the client via an app every week," Kollath explains. You can complete all the exercises on your own time, and for a fraction of the price you'd pay for in-person sessions. A more financially accessible option than the IRL version, online training also lets you work out in the comfort of your own apartment and on your own time when traditional fitness spaces aren't super accessible to you.
Even if your gym is opening back up, you might be more comfortable continuing to exercise at home for the time being, especially if you or people close to you are immunocompromised. "Online training is growing exponentially during this pandemic," Kollath tells Bustle. "This is pretty much the only option right now, but I also think people are realizing the value of being able to work out on their own time while still having that accountability and feedback of a coach."
Even after quarantine lifts, there will still be an undeniable convenience of online training, especially for people who might not feel comfortable in gyms, or who work non-traditional hours. "I never felt very welcome in regular gyms," says Elizabeth, 31, who's been working with an online trainer for two years. "The white dudebro atmosphere was not for me, but my online coach gives me workouts that are designed specifically for my body and my goals — and I can exercise when and where I feel safest."
As with physical distancing generally, Kollath says that the biggest drawback to working with a trainer online is the lack of in-person connection. When you work with a coach IRL, they get to know you at some of your most vulnerable moments. Online, you might miss that connection, but that doesn't mean you can't still develop an important relationship with your trainer.
"When searching for a good online trainer, it is really important to make sure the coach has experience with training people in person as well," Kollath tells Bustle. Knowing that your trainer has that IRL experience helps ensure that they can develop the types of personal connections necessary to cultivate a safe and affirming trainer-client relationship.
You can shop around to find which trainer and online platform works best for you. Many trainers have an intake process during which you can learn about their coaching style, and they can learn what you want from them. "When you hire a coach, they should be programming for your individual goals and needs, so each program for each client will look a little different," Kollath tells Bustle. "Be wary of someone trying to sell you a cookie-cutter program." You can get a generic program from almost any fitness site, but that personal attention is what you're looking for when you're making the financial and emotional investment in a trainer.
Many web-based training apps include demonstration videos to help you learn how to do each exercise. A lot of online trainers, like Kollath, will encourage you to send them brief recordings of your pushup form, for example, so they can give you personalized feedback on how you're doing. "Personally, I reach out to each of my clients no less than once per week, usually more depending on the client and if they need a little bit more motivation and support," says Kollath. "This can also change from week to week depending on the client's life — things happen and life changes! Sometimes you need more of a push one week versus another."
As gyms slowly start re-opening, Kollath sees a big future for online personal training. "With advances in technology, we're able to really connect with people without being in person, and for most people this is more convenient and more affordable."