In the world of online health and fitness, it is becoming more and more common for people to want to be online coaches straight out of the gate instead of coaching in person first. I may even do another episode on that issue all together and how I see it as entitlement and a desire for quick success vs. client servanthood and changing this industry. I digress…
So, for today’s episode – someone either graduated college with their exercise and sports science, kinesiology, biomechanics degree AND/OR, they get their certification and want the freedom of coaching online before they have significant experience coaching in person.
It’s a thing. I know because I receive DM’s about it all the time from young coaches wanting to build an online business.
And I never encourage a coach to work online without first having worked in person.
Just like I would never encourage someone to be an online client before having worked with a coach and received instruction IN PERSON.
It goes both ways in my opinion. There is too much value to be missed in the in person experience for both the client and the trainer when you jump straight to online training.
I believe there is invaluable experience when working with clients and other coaches in a real, face to face setting. Your certification or education is nothing without job force experience.
Do you know how to apply that knowledge to a human being?
Do you understand the different ways a person can squat?
Have you coached a human through the bench press or pull up?
Have you helped someone move around their injuries? Had hard conversations with clients who are hyper focused on their physical image?
Things I learned from working as an in person trainer, strength coach and performance coach in the private, college and physical therapy sector include, but are not limited to:
You get to see first hand different limitations people have, commonalities in the assessment process. You’ll find your go-to back up exercises and quick on the spot alterations to certain movement patterns. You weave creativity with efficient purposeful programming. So, you’re gaining experience actually writing the programming ahead of time, and then you get the on the spot trial and error + direct feedback from the client.
I’m also going to add grit to this conversation. In person schedule and online schedule are polar opposites. In person you’ll likely work a split shift, 5 or 6am start time to about 10 or 11am. Break from 11 or noon to 4pm. Get your lift in, some lunch and programming, then train clients until 8pm. Your hours will often be opposite of normal work hours. Now, this could be TOTALLY false depending on the sector you work in. Obviously this was my truth for seven years of coaching in person, but in college athletics it was 5:45am to 7pm with teams in and out of the weight room all day. And it was a different schedule depending on the day. At the physical therapy clinic it was a mixture of the two, with clients by appointment but all throughout the day.
My point here? The schedule is not ideal. It requires time management and grit. And if you’re under charging, or working somewhere you don’t have freedom, it will become old, REAL QUICK.
But again, that just shapes what you want for your future.
Essentially, over years of gaining the totality of on the floor experience, you’re molding your training and coaching philosophy.
When working with other coaches and in different facilities – and I hope you do – you’ll quickly find what sits well with you and what your nonnegotiables are.
Pretty much everything about my coaching experience at University of Portland was a go. They were science focused, knowledge forward, progressive and saw the athletes as humans before athletes. And of course I loved the training methods used and I still use a large portion of them today, with my clients.
On the other hand, I loathed another experience I had working as a performance coach in a physical therapy clinic. Hated the culture. Hated the approach. My advisor more or less ruined what could have been a great experience. I loved what one of the owners stood for, but that was not what my experience reflected. My advisor wanted me to coach exactly like him. And when I questioned why he was continuously having this kid squat to a box with the aggressive cue to sit back all the time, I’d get a beat around the bush answer, which never ACTUALLY answered my question.
THAT was not for me. At University of Portland we were encouraged to ask questions and the head coaches would ask us questions on the spot all the time. Most of which I got wrong or didn’t have an answer for. But I loved every second of it.
Based on those experiences, I know what would never happen on my watch and what I desired to do in this space.
I hope you’re grasping why coaching in person is so important before transitioning to the online space. Because it is REALLY important.
It translates more than you know to working with clients online.
When you’ve seen a squat done thousands of times, from difference angles by people with different limitations and limb lengths, you better believe you are WAY better at communicating and cueing via written word or video analysis than someone who hasn’t.
And communication is the key to a successful coach. If you didn’t know that, now you do. You’re welcome.
When you have seen thousands of shoulders, and someone mentions something weird going on; you can say “does it feel like _______?” Because you’ve seen or heard that first hand.
That’s the value of coaching in person.
Straight up hands on experience that will stick with you for years to come in the online space. I reference experiences with past in person clients and athletes all the time when working with my Built by Annie and 1:1 clients. Work in person, with 1:1 clients before you try to do this thing online.
Everything has to be conducted and communicated more efficiently. The client experience is even MORE important because they aren’t greeted in person and walked through a warm up and workout while holding your hand. You need to make it AS SMOOTH as possible for them online.
They need options, right? What happens if they need a modification? And you’re not right there, setting up a substitution for them?
Assessments! Not having that first assessment like you would in person is huge. And finding a way to make that happen is monumentally important for the rest of your time with this client. I personally have been a part of the Active Life coaching membership and finished their immersion course in 2019. I use their assessments, and before that I used the FMS. It was a version of the FMS I suppose. I edited it to what I thought was better and fit the needs of my programming and movement philosophy.
Anywho! Hopefully you get my point. I really wanted to make this clear and drive home the value of training people in person on SO MANY LEVELS.
From time management on and off the floor, programming and altering on the fly, the culture of a gym, developing your philosophy, assessing, correcting and cueing movements, client experience and more, the value of coaching in person before transitioning online is CLEAR. And it’s necessary.
Tell all your friends. Scream it from the mountain tops. As the online world takes over, the human experience of working in person will never be replaced.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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