The coronavirus has scared a lot of people out of the gym, to say the least. People are not messing with the COVID-19—and you might be feeling the brunt of this if you’re a fitness professional. For those of you who have a business that’s mostly or entirely in person, this might be your worst nightmare. All of a sudden you are no longer able to train people face-to-face and that project of turning your business digital that you kept procrastinating on is now biting you in the ass.
So what the heck do you do?
Step 1: TAKE A BREATH.
Step 2: SLOW DOWN.
Step 3: Evaluate.
Ask yourself: What needs to happen first? A good place to start is contacting clients. Have you developed a solution to meet the needs of current and potential clients? Because guess what? Every one of your clients—in fact, everyone in the US who likes to work out—is currently facing a tough situation where they aren’t able to go about their regular workout sessions so they’re looking for something they can do in the meantime at home.
What options are there? Well, the short answer is: a ton. You can send them workouts. You can coach them in real-time via a digital video platform. You can do live follow-along workouts for multiple clients at once.
Before you decide which one you’re going to do, there are some things you need to figure out. Ask your clients what kind of equipment they have. Most people can probably only do bodyweight movements or exercises that require small weights. You can’t exactly expect them to have a squat rack and multiple kettlebells lying around in their living room.
Next up: Do you have videos explaining the way you want things done or the way you want things to look? Do you have an easy resource for clients to follow so they feel like they have some control? You need some materials for your clients to see and hear. Make as many tutorial videos or photos as you think they will need.
If you’ve never done online programming for clients before, check out this awesome video by Jason Brown of Box Programming.
Tips From Experts in the Industry
10 Tips From an Expert For Coaching Clients Online
If you’re coaching people live via Skype, I highly recommend checking out Missy Bunch and her business Movement IQ. Here’s her Instagram for reference. She teaches movement online to a wide variety of clients and all it takes is one look at her online presence to see that she knows what she’s doing. She has a well-run system that we could all learn from. Here are 10 tips from Missy to create a smooth, efficient online coaching experience for her clients. Take notes.
1. The client needs to use a laptop or computer—NOT their phone. Although if there is no other option than their mobile device, you could make that work.
2. Do a trial run with someone you trust and do it for free in turn for a review from them on Yelp, Google business, Facebook, etc. This can be a friend or a longstanding client you already have a strong relationship with.
3. Make sure your lighting is good (you will find this out during your trial run).
4. Be prepared. Your cues will be key in saving your energy.
5. One-on-one online training is generally more exhausting because you only have verbal communication available (obviously), which most coaches aren’t used to. Be prepared to be a little more tired than usual at the end of the day. Drink enough water and make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
6. You MUST create space between clients. For example, 50-minute sessions or have 15 to 30 minutes to yourself between each session. Do not do back-to-back sessions online. You will run overtime most of the time and you’ll exhaust yourself.
7. Smile a lot. They already feel awkward so don’t add to the awkwardness. Make them laugh, acknowledge anything weird, and make them feel comfortable.
8. Be authoritative, like, “Hey, can you please move the camera down so I can see more of your feet?” They want to feel completely confident that YOU feel completely confident and you know what you’re doing.
9. Don’t be afraid to demo. Move your computer if it looks weird. Ask them if they can see what you want them to see. “Can you see my full squat?” Ask questions, make sure they understand you, and work together.
10. HAVE FUN. Make light of this dark time. Show your appreciation tenfold for them going out of their comfort zone. Yes, I know you’re uncomfortable too, but they’re paying you for a service. At the end of the day, if you need to, you can vent to your spouse, family, and friends about how you’re feeling. Save it for later, though, not when you’re in the middle of a session.
How to Communicate With Your Clients Online
Brendon Rearick is another fitness expert who we could all learn from. Here are his Instagram and website. He runs three companies, including Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC), which educates and certifies trainers to offer the best programming to their clients. Brendon knows more than anyone that training clients online is a different ball game than coaching them in person.
Cueing is a major part of coaching in general, especially when it comes to online coaching. Rearick uses the acronym P.A.F. for cueing any exercise:
- Finish and feel
Translation: Cue the POSITION you want them to start in (including the weight if you’re using one). Then cue the ACTION or the movement. Finally, cue how you’d like them to FINISH and where they should be FEELing it (I don’t think coaches ask this question enough).
For example, if you were coaching a goblet squat to a box it would look like this:
Goblet Squat to a Box
- Find a box height (use pads to adjust the height if needed) that allows you to squat to parallel. Hold the weight against your chest. Elbows in. Feet shoulder-width apart with your toes slightly turned out. Have the backs of your heels against the box.
- Sit back to the box. Tap your butt to the box. Do NOT sit down or relax on the box.
- Drive through the ground and stand up tall. You should feel this in your hips, legs, and core. I don’t want you to feel this in your back or knees.
Have uniform communication so everyone can understand the objectives clearly. Remember, if your client is having a hard time understanding what to do or executing something correctly, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault. It’s a coach’s job to lead and guide so your client can do it the right way. Find a way to communicate with them that they can understand. It’s up to you.
How to Build At-Home Workouts
For building at-home workout programs, I recommend learning from Amanda Wheeler, who builds is busy building all of the programmings for Mark Fisher Fitness as they have moved from an in-person facility to an entirely online experience. She understands that an at-home program for a client won’t look the same as something you would create for an in-person client. She offers great advice for any trainer setting up an online program for their clients. “Now is not the time to come up with crazy new exercises that your clients can’t figure out,” Amanda explains. “The best program is the one that makes people feel successful and the one that they will actually do consistently.”
Simple doesn’t mean easy. Try programming the basics that your clients already know. To make it more challenging, use isometrics, quarter reps, or plyometrics. If your clients know how to squat, add an iso squat, a one and 1/4 squat, and a jump squat. These all feel very different. Make the basics challenging.
The Final Word
Everyone is going through this. If you had to switch your business from in-person to online on the fly, your clients will expect that there will be some challenges and honestly, if you have a good relationship with them they will be able to go with the flow. As long as they feel you are doing everything you can do to deliver value, they’ll stick with you.