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!

These days with fitness industry growing so fast everybody seems to have their own ideology and sticking to it no matter what. Sometimes we even forget to look into science based straight facts, or we find a simple fact taken out of the context and interpret it in a way that would suit our ideology the best.

What I keep hearing and I think we all can agree on it is that, Sugar is bad and Vegetables are good. Right? But is this a black and white truth? Let me explain.

Eating till you can’t move

If you eat until you can’t move all day everyday (ad libitum, as researchers call it), and you start adding sugar to your coffee, your oatmeal and your protein shakes, you are most likely going to gain weight. But that does not mean that “sugar made you fat”.

The reason is simple. Sugar scores very low on the satiety index. This means it doesn’t fill you up much relative to how much energy you consume. So if you add sugar to a meal, you won’t eat much less of it. In fact, you may eat more of it because it’s tastier (higher palatability, as labcoats say). Adding sugar to your meals will increase your overall energy intake.

And since your body follows the laws of physics, specifically the laws of thermodynamics, what happens to your weight depends on your body’s energy balance. You gain weight in an energy surplus, because energy will be stored. You lose weight in an energy deficit, because your body will have to oxidize AKA burn bodily tissue to get enough energy.

What is sugar and how it affects You

So what is sugar? Is it really more fattening than oatmeal or rice?

Table sugar AKA sucrose (50% glucose, 50% fructose)

Many studies have compared groups eating a diet with the same macronutrient composition (% protein, % fat, % carbs) that differed only in which carb sources were consumed. The groups eating lots of sugar lose just as much fat without losing more muscle mass than the groups consuming little or no sugar. In studies where complex carbs like whole-wheat bread are replaced with sugar but the total caloric intake is kept constant, no body composition changes take place.

So as long as you are aware of what you are consuming daily, having sugar in your diet is in itself not bad for your physique.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

A 6 month study of 390 participants found that this is true for all simple carbs, like fructose (fruit sugar) and lactose (milk sugar): whether you consume simple or complex carbs, it does not affect your body composition. Also important blood markers such as your blood lipids (an important marker of your cardiovascular (heart) health) has not been effected due to amount of sugar being consumed, as long as overall caloric intake was acquitted.

So is it right to classify simple carbs as bad and complex carbs as good? It think it is more than anything a medical tradition that we call carbohydrates with 3 or more sugars ‘complex carbs’ and we call carbohydrates with 1 or 2 sugars ‘simple carbs’.

What about “sugar crash”?

It is a myth that sugar causes a massive blood sugar spike followed by a complete crash. The effect on a food’s blood sugar is measured by the glycaemic index (GI). Sugar, due to its 50% fructose content, has a GI of ~68, which is a ‘medium’ effect on blood sugar. Sugar even has a lower GI than whole-wheat bread, which has a GI of ~71. The same applies to the insulin index.

Sugar is “unhealthy”

Just think for a second, there are many cultures in tropical climates thriving on diets of up to 90% carbohydrates. And we’re not talking oatmeal and broccoli here. These cultures rely on sugary fruits. In fact, honey is the favorite food of the Hadza from Tanzania.

Evolution has made sure our bodies can deal with sugar, because it is found in many of the world’s most nutritious foods: fruits. Fruit is in fact one of the foods humans have consumed for the longest period of our genetic existence. It has been a staple in our diet ever since we were still monkeys living in the jungle. And glucose is literally in our blood.

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – La Rochefoucald

Conclusion

Sugar isn’t bad. Nor is it good. Sugar has empty calories. It doesn’t satiate and you feel hungry soon after you finished a sugar based meal. But if your overall diet is nutritious, you are healthy and physically active and your diet consists mostly of whole foods, sugar won’t make your waistline any bigger, or won’t make your “abs disappear”. You don’t have to live on rice and broccoli. And unless you have a food intolerance, you certainly shouldn’t avoid fruit or dairy because they contain sugar. That’s exactly the kind of broscience that drives fitness enthusiasts into following obsessive and monotone diets that aren’t healthy in psychological or nutritional terms.