Online training is a relatively new – and quickly growing – phenomenon in the health and fitness industry. More and more people have experienced its benefits first hand, but many people still wonder how, exactly, it works.

The COVID-19 pandemic skyrocketed the popularity of online fitness training for two main reasons: gyms closed and personal trainers needed a way to continue working, and people all over the world needed effective workout options they could do from home.

In April 2013 is when I started first online coaching business, working with people all over the globe. As many of my in-person clients were switching to online coaching, they asked a lot of questions like, “What is online coaching, exactly?”, “How does online training work?”, and “What’s in it for me?” I aim to answer all these questions for you here.

I’ve worked with clients in person since 2009, and online since 2013. Since 2009 I changed countries that I am based 5 times. It goes without saying that online coaching can benefit the coach in this way – I didn’t have to leave my clients behind, because location doesn’t matter! – but let’s focus on what you, the client, can get out of it!

What, exactly, is online coaching?

Online coaching is the most flexible, cost-effective, kick-ass way to reach your fitness goals in the known universe (OK, so I might be a bit biased). If you want to work out where and when it’s convenient for you – instead of relying on someone else’s location and availability – at the fraction of the cost of in-person fitness training, online coaching could be for you. You can get fit even if your schedule is crazy and your budget is tight. Pretty sweet, right?

Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center and the Online Trainer Academy, puts it this way:

“Online training is a new and exciting way for me to offer my clients what they need, when they need it, without the limitations and expenses of the gym so that I can offer a better, and more cost effective, service than an in-person trainer.”

Every coach runs their online programs a bit differently, but every one of us is providing our clients with fitness and nutrition guidance, detailed workout plans tailored to your specific goals, ongoing support, and a virtual kick in the ass.

It can be as simple as e-mail-based coaching, or as in-depth as video coaching sessions coupled with a specialized app you use to access workouts, track progress, and report to your coach.

So, what do I get with online coaching?

While I work with extremely wide range of clients my target is general people who simply want to improve their quality of life through health and fitness, the basic structure of my programs could apply to any type of online coaching. I’ll describe them here so you can get a sense of what to expect. With my coaching programs, you get customized workouts created specifically for you and your goals. Every client is different, so in 10 years of working with clients online, I’ve never given 2 clients the same workout program. I work with whatever each client prefers and has available, including their own homes, outdoors, or local fitness facilities.

You also get nutrition coaching where you’ll make changes one small – but powerful – habit at a time. We make sure that your nutrition supports your fitness and physique goals, including pre- and post-workout nutrition and any food-related lifestyle habits a client needs to work on. Oh, and I’m the master of how to implement “unhealthy foods” into your diet, so I teach some of that too 🙂

I don’t give clients prescribed meal plans for the simple reason that they don’t work. A diet plan is not empowering; it takes you away from your own decision-making process – which you need for long-term success. So basically you choose yourself what foods will be on your plan and how the structure of that plan will look like. I just put structure so your initial starting plan is not far from what you are used to.

With online coaching, you also get personal support from me daily. The level of communication ranges from e-mail and in-app text messaging for my most basic plan, to unlimited voice messaging, texting, and video exercise form analysis.

So, you’re basically getting a friendly virtual kick in the ass, access to world-class individual coaching and support, plus all the know-how you need to nail your fitness goals – whatever they may be.

The Ins and Outs of my Online Coaching

I’m not much of a “tech-y” person (and neither are many of my clients), so I aim to keep things as simple as possible while still delivering mind-blowing results. I use 3 apps in my online coaching: one each for fitness, nutrition, and communication. Scheduled coaching calls are done via phone or Zoom; whatever each client prefers.

Online fitness coaching involves ongoing and continuous support, not just scheduled sessions. If a client needs help, they can reach out at any time. I see details of every single workout my clients complete (and every one they miss!), and every single meal they eat.

Fitness coaching

For my beginners fitness coaching, I use a robust app called Trainerize, for more advanced clients I send detailed and advanced plan with various techniques and tasks to complete throughout the week, to make sure they maximize their results and performance based on past experience. My clients receive workouts, log them as they get done, and track their progress. I get automatic notifications whenever a client completes a workout (how’s that for accountability?!) and I can easily keep tabs on everyone’s progress. I also receive notifications when clients miss scheduled workouts! Clients also have the option of saving – or printing out – their workouts as PDFs if they like.

Logging a workout.

Nutrition coaching

I use my own advanced planning and two apps, MyFitnessPal and Carbon Coach (with which most people are already familiar) for nutrition coaching. My clients log their food and I can automatically see their entries without them having to send me anything. Keeps things nice ‘n’ simple.

During the week I keep tabs on each client’s daily food logs. Every Sunday, clients send me screenshots of their macro and calorie averages for the week.

Food logging in an app isn’t for everyone. A few of my clients (like those with histories of disordered eating patterns, for example) choose to track their meals in other ways, like sending me photos of everything they eat.

Who can benefit from online coaching?

A huge variety of people can benefit from online fitness and nutrition training. I’m one of those people myself! (I think it’s important that all coaches have their own coaches.) You may be an especially good candidate for online coaching if one or more of the following describes you:

You’re looking for a coach with specific expertise or within a specific niche

Great coaches often have very specific types of clients they’re best suited to working with, given their qualifications and experience. As a client, you can seek out a coach who precisely suits your needs, even if they live in a different city – or on the other side of the planet.

I work exclusively with people wanted to improve their body composition and have serious commitment. If you’re looking for a “quick fix” 90-day challenge, I’m not your “Bro”.

With online coaching, you can work with a kick-ass coach who suits your needs from anywhere in the world!

You live in a remote location

People who otherwise wouldn’t have access to personal training can now have a coach! For example, one of my clients lives in the middle of Outback Australia, 1000 km away from Darwin. The tiny town gets their food delivered every 2 weeks on a giant truck. This is not someone who’d normally have access to an in-person trainer, but she now gets customized workouts, video coaching sessions, progress tracking, exercise form checks, nutrition coaching, and a friendly kick in the ass to take her fitness to the next level.

Another client travels on weekly basis to different location due to work, and before he used to have multiple trainers in different countries, now I look after him wherever he goes and his progress has doubled!

You have a very full schedule

Scheduling is a non-issue with online coaching. Instead of being stuck with someone else’s schedule (i.e. a trainer at a gym), you work out when and where you want, but still get the benefit of a structured program and ongoing support from a coach.

We can also be much more flexible with your workout programs than a typical 60-minute gym session. Due to demanding work schedules, for example, many of my clients split their workouts into five 20-minute sessions per week. Others will do cardio in the morning and weight lifting in the evening. Still others will do most of their workouts for 45 minutes at the gym.

Sometimes a bit of experimentation is necessary (e.g. switching evening workouts to morning workouts to ensure they get done), but I create workouts to accommodate your schedule – no matter how full it might be.

You travel a lot

I create challenging (and quick) body weight workouts for clients who won’t have access to any equipment while travelling. One of my clients is travelling for work this week, and wasn’t sure what equipment her hotel’s gym would have. I got her to send me a quick video clip of the gym when she arrived, and I then put together a workout she could do during her stay there.

You want to work out at home

You don’t need to go to a gym, if you don’t want to! Many of my clients train in their own homes for various reasons, like taking care of young children, living in remote locations with no gyms available, or just simple convenience.

You can skyrocket your fitness with the right set of body weight moves coupled with a few simple (and inexpensive) pieces of equipment. My clients’ home gyms range from a $20 set of resistance bands to a full garage gym with a squat rack and bench press.

You’re on a budget

Online coaching is cost effective. You’re not paying a coach a high hourly rate (plus club overhead), so you can get better training at a fraction of the price. Rather than booking hour-long sessions at the gym each week, online coaches can provide ongoing (and better!) support as you work toward your goals.

What type of client might not do well with online coaching?

If you’re the type of person who needs an appointment with a trainer at a gym in order to work out, online coaching might not work for you. You’re gonna need some level of self-motivation and self-discipline to get the most out of online coaching. You get structure, direction, support, and accountability of course, but it’s still up to you to get done what you’ve set out to do. 

Online coaching is a great way of empowering yourself to take ownership of your own fitness and build bulletproof health habits. It could be what you need to level-up your fitness!

Every single one of us right now is grieving the loss of normalcy. 

  • We’re grieving the cancelation of our spring plans. 
  • We’re grieving the inability to see friends and family, to celebrate birthdays and major life milestones like prom and graduations. 
  • We’re grieving whole lot of activities and events that fill our lives with meaning. 
  • We’re grieving the deaths of people we knew and loved.

The #1 best thing you can do for people who are grieving is to not sugarcoat their reality. 

This too shall pass VS paying attention

No matter how much you believe it, you shouldn’t tell people who are grieving that “Everything is going to be OK.” Or that, “This is all happening for a greater purpose.” Or that, “You’ll find love again.”

These are called platitudes, and they don’t help. What they do, instead, is prove to the griever that you weren’t listening, and they reinforce to the person grieving the thought that they are in this alone. 

This is what so many of us are feeling right now as we are told to find gratitude in the little things, to notice how nature is coming back, to appreciate the time we get to spend with the ones we are quarantined with. 

These might all be truths. It may help to find gratitude in the small things. The climate is certainly helped by our mass human slow down. The people we are quarantining with are our everything. 

and this still sucks. 

That is the phrase that people who are grieving report helps them the most, to hear other people say, “This really sucks.” No apology. No talk of the future. No fix. 

This just sucks. 

And this pandemic does, and all of us need to collectively hear one another say it. 

We all need to be given the permission to truly grieve; to have our pain at the loss of what we expected to be heard and seen. 

  • We need more leaders to tell their team: “This sucks.”
  • We need more parents to admit to their kids: “This sucks.” 
  • We need more influencers to say it on their platforms: “This sucks.”

And, we need to all say it a little more to each other, because what’s amazing about recognizing the current moment and holding space for a rightful emotion is that it allows that emotion to move on. It signals to our brains that, yes, this experience is real. Yes, this isn’t what I wanted. Yes, this sucks. But, it’s OK, I can do this. 

Giving grief a voice

Hustle culture won’t help here. 

False or forced peace, positivity, or gratitude won’t help here. 

Working from home mentalities won’t even help here. 

And that’s because we aren’t just working hard from home, trying to be grateful for what we have. We are working hard from home trying to be grateful for what we have during a global pandemic. 

Before any of us can move into the mindset of healing that works best for each of us, we first really need to hear how much this sucks, and that it’s OK to grieve what we’ve lost, and what we might lose even more soon. 

They say that optimists are not those who ignore the reality, but instead, those who see the reality, can find a path forward, a silver lining. None of us can be optimists without first acknowledging the hard cloud that hangs over us. And it’s so simple to do. It takes only two words. And I encourage you to say them outloud often to yourself, to your friends and family: “This sucks.” 

Hold the space for grief. Let it knock at your door, and come in for a cup of coffee. Give it the attention it deserves. Treat it like the guest it is. This too shall pass, but first, it’s going to continue to really, really suck.

With all the being said here are:

Sit back and think, before you take any action.

When a disaster strikes, we have a habit of cursing our life, “Why did this happen to me?”  Our plans get affected, and we are only left cribbing about the problems. When we react with this state of mind, we don’t solve anything but rather add more trouble. We hurriedly make decisions without thinking pros and cons and then regret it later. Try to avoid this from happening, by taking some time off to calm yourself and then facing the situation with a positive state of mind. This way you would use your strengths and do what best you could do.

Don’t focus on troubles, but your goal.

Obstacles are only distractions and to keep your attitude intact, you must focus on your goal. See what would come after you overcome all the troubles that exist. No journey is as easy as you’d want it to be. So, keep looking straight and keep your goal as your main priority. On the side note, you can figure out solutions for problems one by one. As they say, life is about learning how to dance in the rain and not waiting for the rain to stop.

Think about the solutions and not problems.

Similarly, being positive is about figuring out the solutions instead of problems. When times are difficult, we tend to dwell on the problems rather than working towards the solution. Our mind is occupied by useless questions similar to “Why this happened to me?” or “How come it’s been so bad!” while you should think “How to rectify the problem?” Get opinions from people around you and spend time talking about solutions. Don’t crib to your friends about what happened but ask them advice on how could you overcome it.

Get some encouragement; the minute things go down.

When we start worrying, we tend to worry more each day. Which is why it is a good idea to connect with your friends who would encourage you to keep working on your goal. Read about successful people or pick up a good book. Spend some time rejuvenating, even if it was a failure. Then, it would be easier to start again with a positive state of mind. You’d power up your attitude after you experience something good in your life.

Have a strong control over your thoughts.

Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in your life, think about what’s good. When times are low, you must count your blessings and feel happy about what you have. Not because it would make the problem go away, but you would attain some peace and satisfaction and get the courage to start over. You must know how not to let any negative thought trouble you. If you have the power to control your thoughts, nothing in life can affect you deeply.

Took me 30 years and a worldwide pandemic to realise this so better read this carefully.

Since I was a kid I’m chasing happiness, growing up I used to always think that if I had things that I desire, if certain events would take place in my favour, or if I worked really hard towards a goal then definitely once I achieve that I would be the happiest man alive!

Then as I got older I started to realise that there is more to happiness and it is not about what could happen but more about what is happening in this very moment that we live in. However thoughts like “if I would workout hard for a year or so and improve my physique so I look more like Frank Zane, or Rocky Balboa I would definitely be happy!” were still in my head.

Only till about a year ago I realised that we can’t control what is happening in the world and we definitely can’t control other people, so if we will let outside events decide our happiness or if we will depend our happiness on other people, we will never be happy. Things will happen no matter what and people will come and go as they pleased and you can’t control any of that.

Without happiness, I’m dead. For me, happiness equals good luck. On a scale of happiness from 0 to 10, I think I’m about a seven or eight. But that’s a big improvement.

So here is my formula of being happy, happiness only happens when I stick to four simple goals:

MY ONLY FOUR GOALS IN LIFE

1.     I want to be happy.

2.     I want to eradicate unhappiness in my life.

3.     I want every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.

4. I want to keep doing what I love in a way that I love.

That’s it. I’m not asking for much. I need simple goals, or else I can’t achieve them.

There’s been at least ten times in my life that everything seemed so low I felt like I would never achieve the above four things and the world would be better off without me.

Other times I felt like I was stuck at a crossroads and would never figure out which road to take. Each time I bounced back to happiness and everything was fine again.

When I look back at these times now I realize there was a common thread. Each time there were four things, and only four things, that were always in place in order for me to bounce back. 

Now I try to incorporate these four things into a daily practice so I never dip low again.

THE DAILY PRACTICE 

Physical

Being in shape. Doing some form of exercise daily.

In 2010 for a whole year I would wake up at 5am and go for 7.2km run. Why 7.2km you might ask? Well simply because that was the distance from my house to the beach and back. I used to live on North-West coast of Ireland.

If you have ever been to Ireland you know that it rains every single day no matter what season of the year it is. especially on the West side of the country. But that never stopped me, I didn’t care, I ran when it was raining, I ran on my birthday, I ran Christmas morning before opening Santa’s presents.

Same people would drive by every morning while I was running looking at me with their sleepy faces and would wave to me out the window. Now, I just exercise daily whenever I am free but I always make sure I find time for it. It is one of my priorities. It helps me achieve my 4 goals in life!

All you need to do, minimally, is exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. So about 20-30 minutes worth of exercise a day. This is not to get “ripped” or “shredded”. But just to be healthy.

You can’t be happy if you aren’t healthy. Also, spending this time helps your mind better deal with its daily anxieties.

If you can breathe easy when your body is in pain then its easier to breathe during difficult situations.

Here’s other things that are a part of this but a little bit harder:

  1. Wake up by 5 a.m. every day.
  2. Go to sleep by 9-10pm. (Good to sleep 7-8 hours a night!)
  3. No eating at least 2 hours prior bed time. Can’t be happy if indigested at night.

Emotional

If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer.

Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help.

But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken.

Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you. And I never owe anyone an explanation. Explaining is draining.

Another important rule: always be honest. Its fun. Nobody is honest anymore and people are afraid of it.

Try being honest for a day (without being hurtful). Its amazing where the boundaries are of how honest one can be. Its much bigger than I thought.

A corollary of this is: I never do anything I don’t want to do.

Mental

Every day I write down ideas.

I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five more.

The other day I tried to write 100 ways on how to reach out to people using social media. Because that’s the next thing I want to focus on. Helping people I can’t reach physically. I came up with 15, I couldn’t come up with anymore.

Then the next day I came up with another 10. It definitely stretched my head.

No ideas today? Write down 50 favourite quotes, translate your favourite song into different language and memorise it.

Need ideas for lists of ideas? Come up with 30 separate chapters for an “autobiography.” Try to think of 10 businesses you can start from home (and be realistic how you can execute them).

Give me 10 ideas of directions this blog can go in.  Think of 20 things you can do to improve your life after life goes back to normal, whatever that will look like. List every productive thing you did yesterday (this improves memory also and gives you ideas for today).

The “idea muscle” atrophies within days if you don’t use it. Just like walking. If you don’t use your legs for few weeks, they atrophy.

You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.

Spiritual

Bintan island, Indonesia

I feel that some people don’t like the word “spiritual.” They think somehow related to “god.” Or “religion.” But it is not!

I don’t know what it means actually. But I feel like I have a spiritual practice when I do one of the following:

  • Pray (doesn’t matter if I’m praying to a god or to dead people or to the sun or the sea in front of me – it just means being thankful. And not taking all the credit, for just a few seconds of the day).
  • Meditate – Meditation for more than a few minutes is hard. It’s boring. You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. Here’s a simple meditation: sit in a chair, keep the back straight, watch yourself breathe. If you get distracted, no problem. Just pull yourself back to your breath. Try it for 5 minutes. Then six.
  • Being grateful – I try to  think of everyone in my life I’m grateful for. Then I try to think of more people. Then more. Its hard.
  • Forgiving – I picture everyone who has done me wrong. I visualize gratefulness for them (but not pity).
  • Studying- If I read a spiritual text (doesn’t matter what it is: Bible, Tao Te Ching, anything Zen related, even inspirational self-help stuff, doesn’t matter) I tend to feel good. This is not as powerful as praying or meditating (it doesn’t train your mind to cut out the BS) but it still makes me feel good.

My own experience: I can never achieve the four “simple” goals on a steady basis without doing the above practice on a daily basis. And every time I’ve hit bottom (or close to a bottom, or I’ve been at some sort of crossroads) and started doing the above 4 items magic would happen:


THE RESULTS

A)     Within about one month, I’d notice coincidences start to happen. I’d start to feel happy and lucky. People would smile at me more.

B)      Within three months the ideas would really start flowing, to the point where I felt overwhelming urges to execute the ideas.

C)      Within six months, good ideas would start flowing, I’d begin executing them, and everyone around me would help me put everything together.

D)  Within a year my life was always completely different. 100% upside down from the year before. More happniess, more luck, more health, more money, etc.

And then I’d get lazy and stop doing the practice. And everything falls apart again. But now I’m trying to do it every day again.

Its hard to do all of this every day. Nobody is perfect. But I know when I do it, it works.

Amazing Feeling of Accomplishment

There are many goals we give ourselves. Some get done while others get pushed to the side. Sadly, more goals are being pushed to the side than there are goals getting done. Whether it be because of time management or no more desire to continue, many people give up on their goals.

However, the feeling of accomplishing a goal gives us the motivation we need to accomplish our other goals. We all feel great when we accomplish something. I feel amazing when I do a hard workout in the gym, write a certain number of programs and nutrition plans every week, finish reading some educational material, climb Mount Everest (still working on this one).

The feeling of accomplishment invigorates us to raise our standards. Putting the giant check mark in front of a goal boosts this invigoration. In order to get the best feeling of accomplishment, you need to acknowledge the accomplishment. Writing down the goal and putting a giant check mark in front of the one you accomplished is the best way of doing that.

In order to continue to do the work we do, we need to have an incentive. The best incentive is the feeling of accomplishment. Some people will quickly argue that a monetary incentive is the stronger of the two, but the feeling of accomplishment raises our standards and as a results makes us pursue more challenging goals. Maybe your first goal was to walk 5km. Now your goal may be to start jogging every week for a certain amount of days.

The feeling of accomplishment allows us to raise our standards. By raising those standards, we will be able to accomplish the goals that once seemed impossible.