7 Traits of an Amazing Online Personal Trainer

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Online training is becoming more popular and there are literally thousands of coaches out there, ready to help you meet your goals. Some online fitness coaches offer broad programs where you exchange money and they will create any type of program for you. Other personal trainers only offer more specific programs: postpartum weight loss (heyyyy ūüėČ ), competition training, marathon training….the list goes on and on. No matter what goal you’re aiming for, there’s a coach for that.

This also means, unfortunately, just about anyone can call themselves an online coach, qualified or not. This isn’t to say that someone who hasn’t taken an accredited program isn’t qualified. I’ve seen amazing coaches who weren’t certified change lives and make the world a better place…and I’ve seen coaches with all the “right” certifications push their own agendas and take their clients down a dangerous path. It happens, but the more informed decision you make about your trainer, the better off you’ll be.

Before you send in that first payment, or sign up for another month or package, you may want to look at this list and see how your trainer measures up!

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  1. Before you sign up, make sure you know- how does the program work? If there aren’t details on his/her website or somewhere on social media, you should be able to get a clear answer from your potential trainer about what all the program will involve. A good online trainer will give you a detailed questionnaire so they can get to know you, your medical history, any injuries they should be aware of, your habits, your history with food and exercise, and what your goals are. This is how we develop your program- by getting to know you and what’s going to work (or not work) for you. Of course, you probably won’t fill out this questionnaire until after you’re ‘officially’ a client, but it’s a good sign to know that it’s coming.
  2. Before you sign on, a trainer should be able to tell you how workouts will be sent, how you’ll be able to reach them and how often (some trainers give you their phone numbers and email and say to call or text anytime, while other trainers set boundaries for when they’re available to answer questions) and have a solution to exercises you don’t understand (for example, I send instructions, photos, or instructional videos to all exercises I send, and so far, no one has reached out for more explanation).
  3. Does your trainer offer check ins?¬† With my clients, we do weekly check ins with weight, measurements and progress pictures to track any changes, and they also answer a few standard questions. This helps me to celebrate little wins they’ve had over the last week and also help determine any changes that we may need to tweak in their program. Some trainers may offer a smaller package that does not include check ins, just workouts. That’s perfectly fine, for the¬†right client.¬†To me, the client who doesn’t need check-ins is someone already experienced in lifting and already has the right mindset to exercise consistently without encouragement. Not everyone needs to be frequent contact with their trainer- they just need specific workouts to hit their goal.
  4. Is your trainer passionate about health and fitness? I’m a firm believer that a good trainer doesn’t have to be chiseled or resemble a Greek god, but they do need to walk the walk. A good trainer is going to push you and get you out of your comfort zone, and that won’t happen if the trainer isn’t pushing him/herself as well. I could write a completely separate article on this, but there’s a big difference in having self love, and not taking care of yourself! We should all show ourselves self love, and sometimes it’s perfectly okay for that to come in the form of having some “lazy” rest days, eating junk, whatever that may look like! But, a personal trainer needs to exemplify good habits and routines, and take care of themselves. Why would you want to follow advice from someone who doesn’t follow it themselves?
  5. There’s a good balance of grace and accountability. As a new trainer, this was probably my biggest personal challenge in coaching my first few clients. Grace and accountability are both so important in their own respects! As a client, your trainer should be understanding that you are¬†human.¬†Things are going to come up and there are going to be days that don’t go as well as others. You’re going to mess up sometimes. Your macros aren’t going to be perfect everyday. You’re going to skip a workout or two. And that’s okay!! It’s not your trainer’s place to judge you or condemn you. Your trainer shouldn’t belittle you for these things or punish you with extra burpees. What your trainer¬†should offer is grace, then accountability. Your trainer should push you to reach your goals and inspire you. He/she should be holding you accountable to reach your goals and push through the uncomfortable parts.¬† Slip ups are going to happen, but you can’t get complacent. A good trainer will help you balance this!
  6. Does your trainer listen to you? A lot of training can be trial and error. While seasoned trainers are pretty good at guessing why the client hasn’t gotten the results in the past, or what a quick solution could be- we don’t know everything! We have to make our best educated guess, and see how your body reacts. Just like any good doctor will also do in their own right. So with that, good communication is a MUST! The client can’t get great results if they aren’t heard when they feel they have a problem. If a client says they’re following all the instructions exactly, but still not seeing results, it is the responsibility of the trainer to find the missing link. What needs to be tweaked? Is the client eating a salad dressing or coffee creamer with a lot of added sugars, or isn’t sleeping at night- causing hormones to be completely out of whack? There are a lot of factors that can weigh in, and easy to miss if communication is lacking.
  7. Does the program you’re given line up with your lifestyle and your goals? The great thing about online programs is that the client can workout whenever, wherever, without worrying about scheduling time in person with the trainer. Flexibility is a beautiful thing! Out of my own clients, they are all SO different! I have clients that work out only in the gym, only at home, or a hybrid of both. They work out only in the mornings, only in the evenings, or just whenever they can manage to squeeze it in. I design their programs to fit their goals THEY set, not just what I think they should do. If they love to run, I add in a few runs as their cardio. If they have a bike at home, I program that in. If clients have certain injuries, it very carefully programmed around that, too! For the average person, you really can just find a workout on youtube or something generic. But, for those that have struggled with losing weight, staying motivated, or are just beginning and not sure what to do- if you have specific goals, a personal trainer really needs to be writing a very specific program for you! “One size fits all” doesn’t work because our bodies are so different! As well as our goals, where our health journeys have already taken us, our genetics, our relationships with food, etc. So make sure that when you receive the program from your trainer- it makes sense for YOU!
  8. Last but not least, your trainer should be able to say “I don’t know.” Like I said earlier, trainers don’t know EVERYTHING. A lot of us will specialize in something specific, but something else could be completely foreign. For example, I am a prenatal and postpartum specialist. I love working with women in this season of life! I also work with women wanting to lose weight. What I DON’T do is help women with body building or physique competitions. I’ve run a half marathon, but never a full marathon. I know¬†more than most on these two sports, but not enough to coach someone for a show or a marathon. There are coaches who specialize in these events, just like everything else! So if I have a client wanting to run a marathon, yes, I can help them if they don’t want to hire another coach just for that, but do I have personal experience? No. I have to be humble enough to admit that this isn’t my zone of genius. I’ve turned down clients before that had several injuries, and I just didn’t feel comfortable taking them on as clients. What I did instead was encouraged them to hire someone local that could be with them to monitor them to ensure they didn’t re-injure themselves.
  9. A great answer for a trainer to give you is “I don’t know, but I will find out!” Trainers who are afraid to admit to their clients they don’t know something can create dangerous situations. When I first began as a personal trainer, it was very clear to me the significance that I was dealing with a person’s health. If I screwed up and gave poor advice, they could be seriously injured. I did not take that lightly! My questionnaires are pretty thorough, and usually I follow up with even more questions if I feel I don’t quite understand something about them well enough. That’s also why I feel check-ins are so important!

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To recap, a great online trainer will possess certain qualities that are a MUST in order for you to hire them! Does your trainer:

  • Explain his/her program in depth before you sign on?
  • Offer check-ins?
  • Act as a role model and is passionate about health and fitness?
  • Offer a good balance of grace and accountability?
  • Listen to you?
  • Design programs that fit YOUR lifestyle and goals?
  • Admit when they don’t know something?

What others qualities would you say a trainer needs? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or email me at erinshepherdfit@gmail.com and let me know what you think!

Are you ready to make the leap into working with a personal trainer? Check out the options on my¬†Work With Me¬†page to see which program is the best fit for you. If you’re ready to apply,¬†CLICK HERE¬†and let’s get going!

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