No matter how brilliant a coach is at designing a training program, creating a generic program for a group of clients with various skill sets, injury histories and experience levels, simply will never be as effective as individual program design.
Did I improve my fitness following a group training program when I started CrossFit 11 years ago? Absolutely I did.
But only to a point.
Eventually, there were new skills I wanted to learn and deficiencies I wanted to fix that just couldn’t be addressed with a generic group program, which led me to hire a coach.
Because I am not naturally a technician, I hired a local coach. I started meeting him once a week for one-on-one coaching. It worked incredibly well: It helped me finally qualify to the CrossFit Games after just one year of working with him.
While in today’s day-and-age of CrossFit, it goes without saying that competitors need individualized coaching. But what about lifestyle clients simply looking to be more fit for life?
I actually think it’s even more important for lifestylers and inexperienced gym-goers to follow an individual program, as opposed to being at the mercy of a group and relying on haphazardly scaling movements. (I can’t tell you how many times I have visited CrossFit affiliates during my travels and have watched people who have no business going overhead with a weight (in my opinion), let alone snatching, performing movements in a group class that just aren’t appropriate for them).
This brings up the concept of working with a remote coach. While I chose the in-person route, more and people are turning to remote coaching. And with good reason.
If you’re considering this approach, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of hiring a remote coach.
Pro: Provides Personalized Fitness
Working with a personal coach means you’ll likely go through an assessment process, designed to help the coach know exactly what should and shouldn’t be included in your program.
As a result, it means the movement selection, intensity prescriptions etc prescribed to are more likely to be appropriate for your individual wants, needs and limitations. The result is a better chance of keeping you injury-free and helping you achieve results.
Cons: But Is It Really Individualized?
Sometimes, you might think you’re following a program designed for you because you dropped $250 on it. Then you tell your friend about your new remote coach and she signs up to. Two weeks later, you realize you’re following the same program.
Do your due diligence before hiring a coach. If the coach doesn’t put you through an assessment phase at the start to really get to know your strengths and weaknesses I would advise to keep looking around.
Also, ask a lot of questions about your program, so you understand why each piece is included. If there doesn’t seem to be a purpose to the prescriptions, keep searching.
Pro: More Affordable than Personal Training
A personal trainer generally costs between $65 and $110 a session. If you go to the gym three days a week, you could easily spend between $1,000-$1500 a month.
Hiring a remote coach is generally much more affordable than this. Depending on the coach, you can expect to pay between $200 and $600 a month.
Con: You’re all Alone
If you’re someone who thrives on the presence of others to keep you accountable—workout buddies or an appointment with a coach—following an individual program with a remote coach might be a bit more challenging for you.
In short, it can be lonely to communicate virtually with someone via text or an app. So if you need in-person love, consider hiring a local coach like I did. I still followed an individual program most of the time, but we met up once a week for in-person feedback.
Pro: Better for Scheduling
Remote coaching gives you the freedom and flexibility to workout on your own time. It’s especially useful if you’re someone who travels a lot and enjoys working out on the road.
Con: Tough for Technical Coaching
While most remote coaches do provide after-the-fact video analysis of your movements, when it comes to more technical movements, such as snatches or muscle-ups, nothing beats in-the-moment, hands-on feedback.
If you’re a naturally technical athlete, this might be less of a concern for you, but if you’re someone who struggles with the finer details of the movements, you might be better off receiving in-person coaching, at least from time to time.
Pros: Helps You Find the Best Coach for You
Because you don’t need to live in the same city as your coach, remote coaching allows you to shop around and find the perfect coach for you.
Con: Harder to Build a Relationship
Most people don’t just need technical coaching. They need a relationship with someone they trust. And if online dating has taught me anything, it’s that connections are built in-person.
If you’re a high level CrossFit athlete, for example, you learn pretty quickly that the mental and emotional side of competing is as significant as your physical preparation, hence why so many athletes work with mental coaches. Although Zoom calls and text messages can be useful, it’s not the same as having a 3D human being in your corner to help you through the emotional challenges that come up.
Similarly, if you’re a lifestyle client, chances are you might also want help with your diet, your relationship with food, your stress levels and sleeping habits, for example. Digging into these topics might be hard and really emotional for you. Do you really want to be breaking down via Skype with someone you have never met before?
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.