How to find an online personal trainer for less than the cost of a gym membership


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Photo: Getty Images/Uwe Krejci

Working with a one-on-one fitness coach used to mean schlepping to the gym, shelling out big money, and trying to make the most out of a few 45-minute sessions per week. But now, thanks to online personal trainer technology, it’s become increasingly common, accessible, and affordable. Instead of having to hit your local brick and mortar, you can now get a personal trainer in the palm of your hand.

“Working with a trainer online provides flexibility in schedule and location, while still giving you the expertise and accountability of a trainer. It also integrates all things fitness into one place: your workouts, running, biking and anything else you like to do to stay active,” says Aftan Noon, ACE certified personal trainer at TRAINIAC. “Beyond that, your trainer can also review and adjust your workout based on metrics like your heart rate, heart rate variability, and steps.”

Want to know more and see how an online trainer could work in your life? Read on for everything you need to know about hiring an online personal trainer… and why it just might convince you to quit your gym membership once and for all.

What are the benefits of an online personal trainer?

In general, working with a personal trainer allows you to have a totally customized fitness program, and the same is true when working with a digital personal trainer, as well. In fact, there are many ways that working with someone digitally actually is even better than in face-to-face meetings.

1. Accessibility: In addition to being more affordable than a gym session, an online personal trainer gives you the freedom to access your personalized plan wherever you go. “Your trainer can create workouts for you to do anywhere with minimal equipment or customize workouts that you can take into your local gym, and even program activities like running or cycling workouts to do,” says Tripp. “All of this adds up to a health and fitness plan that is catered to you, led by your online personal trainer.”

2. Flexible communication: Unlike normal gym sessions, in which you really only have access to your trainer during your one-hour appointment, many digital fitness apps allow you to regularly be in touch with your trainer. “Unlike a normal gym session with your trainer, you have the ability to receive programming and communicate with your them on an open platform and not be restricted by a set schedule and appointment time,” says Geoff Tripp,  CSCS, Head of Fitness at TRAINIAC. “Having a flexible schedule and communication option is key for building long-term success with your health and fitness goals.”

3. Progress tracking: Since many online personal training platforms are connected to apps, you can easily track your fitness plan—and your progress—in one easy place.

4Planning: With this type of all-in-one-place organization, you’ll be able to better plot and plan your workouts since you’ll know what’s coming weeks in advance. “When working online with a personal trainer there is usually a program set out for one to twof weeks in advance,” says Noon. This allows a client to look ahead and ask any questions about workouts they may have in their programming.” Your trainer will also be able to give you workouts to do on days when you’re not working with them (many of which can be found in the apps), which will help you stay motivated.

5. Accountability: Having someone to answer to, whether online or in person, will always make you more likely to show up.

How much does an online personal trainer cost?

While the rate of an online personal trainer varies from company to company, it’s safe to assume that working with a coach digitally will put less of a dent into your monthly budget than hiring someone IRL. There are a number of factors that go into what a trainer charges for an in-person session, but rates across the country can vary from around $50 to $164, according to FindYourTrainer. In comparison, you can get a month’s worth of sessions for as low as $80.

How do I find the right online personal trainer?

Since you’re not actually meeting your trainer face-to-face, finding the right person might feel like a daunting task. A few tips to help you track down the right fit:

1. Be specific in what you’re looking for: There are many different types of trainers out there who may have different specialities and different approaches to fitness. Figure out what your goals are, and then work to find someone who best meets your needs and whose training style you best respond to. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you probably don’t want to work with a bodybuilding coach; if bootcamps aren’t your thing, you probably don’t want to work with a push-up lover.

2. Check out their background: It’s easy for a trainer to look legit online (thanks, Instagram), but you’re going to want to look past their pretty pictures. Check out their degrees, which indicate how much training they’ve had. “If a trainer has taken the time to invest in learning their craft, you can expect a higher depth of knowledge, which leads to better coaching,” says Tripp.

3. Do your due diligence: It’s best to get as much information as possible before you actually hire your online personal trainer, and there are a few ways you can do that. Read reviews online, ask for referrals from former clients, and (most importantly!) schedule a consultation call to make sure this person is the right fit.

What are our favorite online personal training apps, you ask?

Finding an online personal trainer (using the tips above!) is easier than ever thanks to these digital fitness platforms.

1. Trainiac

For $80 a month, Trainiac sets you up with a personal trainer who will put together an individualized fitness program just for you. It comes with daily workouts, complete with video training, based on your goals as well as the activities you enjoy. You’ll also have access someone who will hold you accountable, and who you can regularly get in touch with via video chats and text messaging.

2. Future

Future’s personal training program starts with a diagnostic test. What are your goals? How many times per week are you looking to exercise? What does your diet look like? Then, the app pairs you with a coach who will best meet your needs. For $149 a month, your trainer will send you custom workouts every week (complete with videos), and you’ll also have access to them for a FaceTime strategizing session plus unlimited messaging and expertise. The program also pairs to your Apple Watch, so you can take your trainer with you wherever you go.

3. Mirror

In late 2019, Mirror introduced personal training alongside its roster of live and on-demand classes, making it easier than ever to get gym-quality personal training experience in your living room. The device uses a two-way camera that allows you and your trainer to see each other in real time, making it just about as close as you can get to training with someone IRL. It costs $40 a session, and you can have as many people as you want training at once. The catch? You need the $1,495 Mirror hardware in order to use it.

4. Fitbit Coach

Turn your FitBit into an online personal trainer by way of FitBit Coach, an element of FitBit’s Premium Package. While this trainer isn’t quite as personalized as some of the other offerings (as in, there’s not a real person to communicate with), it helps you put together a fitness plan to reach your longterm goals while also allowing you to track progress in real time. It gives you personalized recommendations based on your activity levels, plus audio coaching through the app. FitBit Premium costs $80 a year (or $10 a month), and comes with additional features like advanced sleep tracking and more personalized insights.

5. Vi Trainer 

Think of Vi Trainer as your own personal run coach. It serves up on-demand audio workouts in which a trainer will motivate you through sprints and distance runs to get you across the finish line (and maybe even hit a PR). To see it in action, check out the video below.

For some training that’s slightly less personal (but still ultra-effective!), you can follow along with our Trainer of the Month Club YouTube series. And here’s why digital fitness isn’t going anywhere any time soon. 

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