Online Training vs. Personal Training: An Honest Comparison

 In FAQ, The Blog

In today’s world of choice, those who want to get fit have two options: hire a personal trainer or look for an online training program. Each option has its pros and cons, and while we offer online personal coaching, it isn’t the best solution for everyone. Sometimes, a personal trainer is the best choice.

In this article, I will provide an objective overview of both, listing the advantages and disadvantages of online training and personal training. I will discuss the various types of online training options that are available.  You can then decide the best option for you.

The Rise of the Online Trainer

The life of a newly qualified personal trainer is hard. In fact, it can be near impossible. According to reports, the average lifespan is between six to twelve months. Early starts, late nights, split shifts, 16-hour days, and no holidays. These are the norm in this industry. People burn out, fast.

You’re promised a salary of $60,000 a year plus benefits. Told you can work your own hours and have complete autonomy. All while working your one true hobby – fitness. These promises attract hundreds of thousands of people each year to the industry. Yet, more often than not, it fails to live up to expectations.

New personal trainers are not paid well. They work long hard hours and have little free time.  As a result, they often look to diversify and find other streams of income simply to survive.

Unfortunately, many succumb to the multi-level supplement companies who look to appeal to the clients of personal trainers. Many see it as a means of survival and begin to compromise on their own values and beliefs about health.

The internet offers a welcome alternate to personal training – becoming an “Online Personal Trainer.”

What Online Training Promises Personal Trainers

Technology has changed every aspect of the way businesses operate. It was only a matter of time before it hit the world of personal training. Even Apple is investing heavily in health care and wellness. According to Tim Cook, CEO, “health care is big for Apple’s future.”

However, in the grand scheme of things, online training is still in its infancy.

As the rise of online training continues, so does the rise of fitness marketing companies. These companies and individuals are starting to make outlandish promises. They’re preying on the fears and insecurities of trainers, and as a result, trainers are jumping in with two feet despite what some might consider wild promises. These include:

  • Earn $10,000+ a month.
  • Grow an online training business for a guarantee of increased income and freedom.
  • Afford more time with family and friends.

Is it any wonder that personal trainers are now turning to the world of online training? Wouldn’t you? Who doesn’t want to earn $10,000+ a month, right?

Online Personal Training Available

As personal trainers switch to online options, it’s important to understand what is available:

  1. Online Training Programs
  2. Workout Apps
  3. On-Demand Class Streaming
  4. Custom Written Programs
  5. Self-Guided Online Training Courses
  6. Online Personal Training
  7. Remote Personal Coaching (The Strength Matters Model)

Let’s take a deep-dive look at them in more detail.

Online Training Programs

Workout programs have been around for decades. Long before the internet, you were able to buy VHS and DVDs from channels like QVC. They promised you results in 90 days with easy to follow home workouts. Online training programs follow the same path today.

You can search online for strength training, fat loss, cardio and even extreme bodybuilding. Whatever you want, you’ll be able to find a variety of different options in a matter of minutes. Access will be instantaneous, and more often than not, in a downloadable PDF format for you to follow along at your own pace. These training programs often follow a 6-week, 12-week, or 90-day type format.

PROS

  • Instant access
  • A wide variety of choice
  • Extremely affordable
  • Workout from anywhere
  • Train on your own schedule

CONS

  • Not personalized
  • Your form cannot be checked
  • Not great for people who have little or no self-motivation
  • Doesn’t identify your “actual” training needs

Price can vary from just $7 to over $500 for a twelve-week plan.

Our Verdict

The best option for intermediate/advanced fitness enthusiasts or for those on a strict budget.

This is an easy choice for those new to the world of physical fitness and those on a tight budget. Without the accountability factor to a coach, people who buy these types of programs very rarely stick to them and they can often get injured, frustrated, and disheartened when they don’t see results. People will often jump from program to program. Over time, the cost of these programs can add up, proving to be more expensive than hiring a personal trainer in the first place.

Technology has changed every aspect of the way businesses operate. It was only a matter of time before it hit the world of personal training.Click To Tweet

Workout Apps

Health and fitness apps have become increasingly popular, growing by over 330% between 2014 and 2017. More than half of all smartphone users have downloaded a fitness or health app at one time or another.

As with online training programs, you can search for any type of workout app you want.  Access will be instantaneous, and, more often than not, is in a paid format, although you can find many free solutions from leading companies like Nike.

Workout apps can feature hundreds of workouts in a variety of styles. They will provide detailed how-to videos, nice interactive features, and real-time tracking to check your progress.

PROS

  • Instant access
  • A wide variety of choice
  • Extremely affordable (even free)
  • Workout from anywhere
  • Train on your own schedule
  • Stylish apps that appeal to both men and women
  • Great tracking capabilities
  • Interactive features with video options

CONS

  • Not personalized
  • Your form cannot be checked
  • Not great for people who have little or no self-motivation
  • Doesn’t identify your “actual” training needs
  • Can lead to random acts of variety, leading to poor results

Price can vary from FREE to monthly subscriptions costing $99 per month.

Our Verdict

Best for fitness novices who are looking to get started and those on a strict budget.

Once again, this is often the choice of a fitness novice. Apps provide a great starting point for people on a tight budget. In our experience, people who buy these types of workout apps very rarely stick to them for more than 2 weeks.

We’re big proponents of fitness trackers and wearables. Workout apps definitely provide a sleek, interactive experience to online training programs. They do have their place when you are looking for inspirational workouts. They are great for traveling or when you’re on the go.

On-Demand Class Streaming

On-demand streaming services are, well, in demand. You just have to look at the rise of Netflix to see why. People are looking to take the studio/class experience home, and there have never been more ways to do just that.

You can search for any type of class you want, from spin class to Zumba, and bring the live experience of a class into the privacy of your own home with all the benefits of live instructors. Streaming services are popular with people who are on the go and love group fitness classes but can’t commit to regular time slots.

PROS

  • Instant access
  • Wide variety of choice
  • Extremely affordable
  • Workout from anywhere
  • Train on your own schedule
  • Stylish apps that appeal to both men and women
  • Great live experience
  • Interactive features with video options
  • Can watch an instructor perform the exercises in real time

CONS

  • Not personalized
  • Your form cannot be checked
  • Not great for people who have little or no self-motivation
  • Doesn’t identify your “actual” training needs
  • The content of virtual classes can be repetitive.
  • Instructor quirks may become redundant and annoying.
  • Can lead to random acts of variety, leading to poor results

Price can vary from $10 per month to $149 per month.

Our Verdict

This option is great for all levels of fitness, but it needs to be included as part of a well-rounded, structured training plan. Following random workouts, will lead to random results.

Again, often the choice of a fitness novice or people who just want to be entertained, on-demand streaming services are a great starting point for people on a tight budget. They’re perfect for people who love fitness classes but can’t get to a gym. Experience shows that people who buy these services very rarely stick to them.

On the flip side, we can also see the benefits for experienced fitness enthusiasts. They can sign up to complimentary services that fill the gaps in their own training needs.  It can be a great way to outsource your training needs at a fraction of a price.

On-demand streaming services are, well, in demand. You just have to look at the rise of Netflix to see why. Click To Tweet

Custom Written Programs

Custom written programs are the starting point of personalized training services. They address your needs directly. There are a variety of coaches out there who all specialize in a certain niche. You can contact a trainer or coach directly with a specific goal in mind and they will create a program to help you achieve your specific goal.

You pay a one-time set fee, for a program that’s been written for you, for a set period of time.  No further communication or interaction will take place.

PROS

  • More personalized service
  • Access to the best trainers worldwide
  • An affordable option
  • Workout from anywhere
  • Train on your own schedule
  • Expert advice and guidance
  • A one-time fee to pay
  • Can lead to better results

CONS

  • Often no personal interaction. Done via email.
  • Nobody can check your form
  • No regular contact from a coach
  • Not great for people who have no self-motivation
  • No thorough assessment processes.
  • More for specific goals, not general health and well-being

Price can vary from $49.99 per month to $749 per month.

Our Verdict

This is a great option for all fitness levels. If you value a more intelligent approach to training and you’re stuck for cash, this can be a wise move.

For those who want a more personal touch and are seeking real results on a budget, custom training programs can be the best choice for intermediate and advanced fitness enthusiasts. Those looking to work towards a specific goal – a powerlifting meet or marathon race – choose this type of training because they are very motivated. They just need some help and guidance to get them closer to their actual goals. This is a perfect starting point for personalized coaching and is ideal for anyone who is looking for the skills and knowledge of a personal trainer without the hefty price tag.

There is a lack of an accountability partner provided by a full-time coach. While these custom programs do go some way towards addressing individual needs, we often see people get off track, but the results can be good if the program is adhered to.

Self-Guided Online Training Courses

Self-guided online training courses are delivered via intuitive online training platforms. It is a form of instruction centered on a specific topic and assembled into a variety of multimedia elements, including presentations, interactive content, audio, and video.

A good example is the “Elements” course from GMB fitness, an 8-week online training program that focuses on mobility and flexibility. Another good choice is The Forever Fix Program by MoveU, a 6-month, step-by-step online program to fix your body and live pain-free.

The emphasis is on self-learning, which can be more conducive to long-term personal success and personal development.

PROS

  • In-depth learning environment
  • An opportunity for personal self-development
  • Access to great trainers worldwide
  • Workout from anywhere
  • Train on your own schedule
  • Lifetime access to expert advice and guidance
  • One-time fee to pay
  • Can lead to a lifetime of results

CONS

  • More expensive option (one-time payments from $697 to $1497)
  • Often no personal interaction. Done via email, or Facebook groups.
  • Nobody can check your form
  • No regular contact from a coach
  • Not great for people who have no self-motivation
  • Not always a thorough assessment processes
  • More for specific goals

Price can vary from $697 per month to $1497 per month.

Our Verdict

This is a great method for somebody who values education and the importance of self-development, is an excellent solution for all levels of fitness, and is for those who want an educational approach. If you value a more intelligent approach to training and have a bit of cash to spare, this can be a great option for you.

Online training courses are more convenient and cheaper than traditional in-person training. You can learn in a relaxed manner, and you will be the master of your own education. It’s ideal for people working towards a specific goal or challenge. People who choose this training method tend to be highly motivated. They just need some help and guidance to get them closer to their goals.

These programs lack the accountability partner and commitment of a full-time coach. They go some way to addressing personal needs, but a lack of coaching can lead to plans going off track. Results can be good if the program is adhered to, but it is often a long road to success.

Online training courses are more convenient and cheaper than traditional in-person training.Click To Tweet

Online Personal Training

Online personal training is the hottest commodity in the fitness industry right now. It’s considered to be the most flexible, cost-effective approach to training. It is similar to personal training in that you choose a trainer that fits your needs. They then work with you to create a customized program, and together you work towards a specific goal. All training is done remotely, from the consultation to technique correction. There is no in person, face-to-face time.

Because online personal training is in its infancy, there is no clearly defined method or model. Each trainer has his or her own unique style and methods in delivering their product. For example, one trainer may work with you only using spreadsheets and email but no phone or video call, while another uses the latest online software and includes weekly video calls. There is no right and wrong.  It comes down to personal preference.

Online training has finally made personal training affordable. It’s no longer a luxury for the rich and famous. It allows for a flexible schedule. Gone are the days of re-scheduling. You can work with a trainer for a short period of time (6-weeks) or well over a year. It just depends on your budget and personal needs. It’s popular because its cost- and time-effective, and it yields results.

PROS

  • Personalized solution
  • More cost-effective than personal training
  • Works around your lifestyle
  • Access to great trainers worldwide
  • No need for a gym membership
  • Workout anywhere
  • Train on your schedule
  • Improved communication with your trainer 24/7
  • Able to track workouts with fancy software
  • Check progress and track results with software
  • Community – access to private Facebook groups

CONS

  • Most expensive option (monthly payments from $100 to $1497)
  • You miss the subtleties of having a live trainer working with you
  • Often no personal interaction. Done via email, or Facebook groups.
  • Nobody can check your form in real-time
  • Not suitable for people with complicated medical histories
  • Can often wait 24 hours before having contact with your trainer
  • Not great for people who prefer face-to-face interaction
  • Not always thorough assessment processes
  • The wild west of fitness

Price can vary from $100 per month to $1497 per month.

Our Verdict

It’s great for people who lead busy, hectic lifestyles, those who are technologically savvy, and those who hate the gym but want an accountability partner 24/7.

In fitness, the success of a personal trainer is measured on the results they get with their clients. In our opinion, the results you get online are almost identical to in-person training, and in some cases better. It comes down to the individual trainer’s skill set – not all trainers are created equal. It’s far more cost-effective and more flexible than personal training.

Online personal training is the wild west of fitness right now. It’s imperative you do your research. You need to find a trainer that is reputable and can explain to you clearly how they work with people online. If you decide online training is right for you, research your trainer extensively. Look for their qualifications, experience, and the quality of the work they do. Look for their methodologies – do they have a proven system? If not, they are more often than not flying by the seat of their pants.

If you prefer face-to-face contact and real human interaction, online training isn’t for you. Likewise, if you struggle with self-motivation, online training can prove to be problematic.  This is not for people with a complicated history of injuries. You need to be medically cleared by a professional, and even then online-training can be the wrong choice. 

Remote Personal Coaching

There is a significant difference between training and coaching. Training is about transferring knowledge while coaching is about enhancing knowledge development. Coaches are undoubtedly the secret to fitness success. The coach helps the individual improve his or her own performance. In other words, a coach helps the client to learn. Online personal training can be considered the “teaching” of fitness.

Our remote coaching model leverages all the benefits of online training, but we go a step further by adopting a real-world coaching model. Online coaching has certainly changed the way we work with clients. It has led to an online and hybrid approach (remote and in-person). We have found this yield’s significantly better results while empowering people with the skills to make more meaningful changes.

PROS

  • Personalized and tailored solution
  • For people who seek mastery in fitness
  • For people who value education and results
  • More cost-effective than personal training
  • Works around your lifestyle
  • Access to trainers worldwide
  • Your workouts extend beyond the gym environment
  • Coach lifestyle and daily habits. More than just workouts
  • Combines the power of great software and human connection
  • No need for a gym membership
  • Workout Anywhere
  • Train on your schedule
  • Communication with your coach 24/7
  • Thorough assessment process designed exclusively for online purposes
  • Track workouts with fancy software
  • Track compliance rates with fancy software
  • Thriving Community – connect with like-minded people on the same journey

CONS

  • Most expensive online training option
  • You miss the subtleties of having a live trainer working with you
  • Nobody can check your form in real-time
  • Not suitable for people with complicated medical histories
  • Can often wait 24 hours before having contact with your trainer
  • Not great for people who prefer face-face interaction
  • Not ideal for people who lack self-motivation
  • You need a smartphone or device
  • Not ideal for people who are computer illiterate

Price starts at $249 per month, rising to $1497 per month.

Our Verdict

While costly, it provides a hybrid approach to personal training that offers the best results. For those committed to health and well-being, remote personal coaching gives you a number of opportunities to get a personalized and tailored solution, fit your training around your busy schedule, have access to the best coaches in the world, and reach the elite athletes level of fitness. Perhaps not for everyone, remote personal coaching speaks to the serious athletes who want to push themselves to achieve their highest potentials.

Remote Personal Coaching is a hybrid approach to personal training. It offers great results, without the strain on your wallet.Click To Tweet

Which Option Is Right For Me?

That’s the magic question. And the answer is one you’ll have to answer for yourself. It’s about deciding what’s right for you and your health needs. Both offer many advantages, yet both have disadvantages. The best option for you might be to combine both.

In 2017, Strength Matters entered the world of online training to test our new system of educating personal trainers and make sure it worked. We worked with a select number of clients online, and after a period of trial and error, it quickly evolved into our number one service. It has revolutionized Strength Matters and changed the way we do business forever.

When we entered the world of online training, we thought it was going to be easy. We thought what we did with in-person clients would easily carry over to our online clients. We couldn’t have been any more wrong.

Our systems, assessments, and in-person coaching strategies did not carry over. We had to overhaul our entire system of training to accommodate this new way of thinking. We even had to change the way we delivered on customer service. It was a long and painful process.

The industry standard didn’t suit our needs or meet our clients’ expectations. We had to take a different approach. As a result, we turned to a “coaching” model.

At Strength Matters, we only offer Online Personal Coaching. If you think that might be the right choice for you, we want to answer any questions you have!

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step

In every great hero movie, the hero comes across some kind of guide. That guide takes the hero under their wing and pushes the main character to his or her very limits. Just think, where would Luke be without Yoda? We are the stars of our own movies. And we all need that guide.

When it comes to fitness, a coach can be your personal guide to movie hero-type success and your secret weapon. There are so many benefits to having a personal coach, I would go so far as to say that coaching is a prerequisite for achievement. Period.

Once you take that first step, you can achieve anything you want. The Strength Matters Steps to Living a Pain-Free Athletic Lifestyle won’t be easy, but they’re guaranteed to work if you follow them, and we’re here to help every step of the way. But it’s up to you to get started. Are you ready?

Apply to take the six-week challenge today.

Life’s better as an everyday athlete.

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