Online training is a completely different universe than what we have all become accustomed to within the in-person training format inside of a gym.
Not only are you and your athletes essentially stuck behind a screen, but you also lose out on the in-person interactions that keep everyone engaged. Let’s face it: the virtual space is here to stay, and although coaches have jumped back into in-person training to a certain degree, the online fitness world is only going to grow larger over time.
One of the main things that I see come up quite often in this new online landscape is where coaches are having a difficult time keeping their athletes engaged. I’m going to show you 3 key areas where you can excel to help increase overall athlete engagement in your training programs.
This doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting that you overload your athlete with a barrage of text messages, phone calls, and emails all at once. Instead, focus on consistency check-ins each week. This might look like one check-in per day or 3-4 check-ins each week. It all really depends on the preference of each individual athlete. However, the goal is to use this as a way to keep a consistent line of communication open between athlete and coach.
Your first step should be to see which mode of communication each individual athlete prefers. The simple thing to do is ask. This may be a text message, a message through your online training platform, an email, etc. Once they’ve selected their preferred option, be sure to take note of that and check in regularly based on their frequency preference.
Now, this doesn’t mean that each check-in will necessarily be about their training program or how their body is feeling that day. Sure, these topics will shoulder the load, but it’s also important to be relatable to your athletes by talking about other things outside of fitness and health.
Here are some examples:
- “How was your weekend?”
- “Did you do anything fun with your family?”
- “Did you visit any new food or coffee places?”
Stuff like that should get the ball rolling and make for some healthy, yet brief, conversation. Remember: we’re not looking to have a giant dialogue each time. That would be too time-consuming and tedious to keep up with especially if you have a large number of athletes on your roster.
Instead, check-in, see how your athlete is doing, answer any quick questions, wish them an awesome day, and then move on with yours.
What’s one of the biggest elements your athletes are missing from not being able to train with you in-person?
Simple: real-time feedback on their exercise technique and form.
We all know how much more value comes from feedback provided in real-time packed with context and dialogue, which allows for some back and forth, and ultimately places the athlete in a position to successfully complete an exercise with proper technique and form.
There’s truly no replacement to that in-person situation. However, as coaches, we must be solutions-based and problem solvers. In that case, it’s important to do the next best thing and truly turn over every single stone.
Here’s what I would do:
- Conduct as many live training sessions virtually as possible
- Provide real-time feedback during these live virtual sessions and make sure that your athlete firmly understands your feedback, and then hits a grand slam with their technique
- If schedules don’t line up for a live virtual session, opt to have the athlete shoot a couple of videos for one exercise from 2 different angles: side and front
- Make sure your athlete sends you these videos so that you can review, break down technique, and provide actionable tips and feedback
Although this process is not perfect, it certainly helps to give each individual athlete constructive feedback that he or she can use to improve their overall technique and form.
A monster part of why an athlete hired you in the first place is to provide detailed coaching, instruction, and feedback. Don’t let that get lost in the shuffle of this new virtual fitness world.
The basic premise behind any training program is that there must be a progressive challenge. Programming in a deload week here or there can certainly be helpful. However, the overall program needs to consistently challenge your athlete, and allow for them to build physical qualities over time such as strength, mobility, endurance, etc.
I get it, I get it. Your athlete only has one dumbbell and a TRX suspension trainer to train with. Or, he or she doesn’t have any dumbbells but instead has a pair of sliders – nothing else.
Does this make it challenging for you to program workouts? Of course. However, it’s on you to a) be creative, and b) continue to administer some sort of progressive overload into the training program.
Being creative means thinking of novel approaches or outside-of-the-box methods that are fun, but ones that can also be safe and sustainable. Most importantly, the training sessions must be engaging enough to challenge your athletes.
If you’re hung up on training program strategies with limited equipment, feel free to check out my personal YouTube channel with 1,000+ videos using a variety of training equipment for at-home and gym workouts.
Remember: continue to allow your athletes to make progress each step of the way.
Three big elements to keeping your athletes engaged in online training will be through consistent communication, technique feedback, and progressive challenges. Check off each of these three boxes to ensure that you’re putting the health and wellness of your athletes at the forefront.