5 Steps to Effective Remote Individual Program Design

Coaching remote clients isn’t as simple as jettisoning a training program overnight.

If you have been a personal trainer or group class coach for a while, the thought of remote coaching sounds appealing.

For starters, in-person coaching can be pretty exhausting, especially if you’re spending 30-plus coaching hours on the floor. Alas, remote coaching seems a little less taxing on your energy levels and time. Not only that, but it provides flexibility in scheduling and gives you the opportunity to work from anywhere.

Factor in the ongoing worldwide pandemic, and we now are in a place where more and more coaches are becoming remote online coaches.

5 Steps to Effective Remote Coaching

Here’s the thing: Many of them have no experience with individual program design, let alone remote coaching.

Bottom line: If you want to attract and keep your remote clients for the long term, you can’t just chop together a program and call it a day.

We reached out to experienced remote coaches—coaches who have been in the individual design business for years—to hear their insights about what makes a great remote individual design coach.

Program Design

1. A Robust Assessment Process

Before building a program for a remote client (or in-person client, for that matter), it’s important to put them through a robust assessment process, explained Henry Torano, the owner of Aggressive Fitness in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and long-time OPEX Big Dawgs coach, who specializes in remote individual design.

He follows the assessment model he learned in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP), he explained, which assesses the client’s body composition, how well they move, their work capacity ability, and their “nutrition IQ,” he said.

Having a robust assessment process in place provides insights as to exactly where the person is physically, which is required for developing an effective individualized training program.

Ronel Velasquez, a coach who trains mostly remote clients from where he’s currently located in Colombia, takes a similar approach, although he warns that the assessment process needs to be somewhat individualized based on the person in front of you.

“I choose what of my tools make sense to use with any particular client. (Then) we come up with a set of initial priorities for the individual, which later become the initial design structure,” Velasquez said.

2. Intention and Goals

While it’s easy to come up with your own goals for the client based on their physical assessment, it’s important to truly take the time to get to know the person in front of you, so you have a better understanding of what they want and what they’re truly willing to do to achieve those results, Torano explained.

“In a nutshell, (you need to know) who this person in front of you is. Where has she been and where does she want to go? Where has she been successful or unsuccessful in the past?” he added.

From there, you can reverse engineer the situation to figure out the goal or endpoint, when they want to achieve this goal by, and whether it’s doable in that timespan. Doing this helps you figure out how to build your program and what “needs to be present in one month, two months, three months,” he said.

Velasquez agrees with Torano.

“I think the key is to have a great upfront conversation with the client—an initial consult—that gives you the opportunity to have a better understanding of who the person is,” he said.

“Because not everyone is goals or outcome-oriented necessarily. Some people just want to be healthy and enjoy the process and that is a priority for them,” he added.

3. True Personalization

“The sad reality is that remote coaching can take many different forms, and often it is nothing more than (the client being) automatically added to a series of pre-written emails,” Torano said.

This is not the approach he recommends if you’re looking for your clients to get real results and stick around.

“An effective coach will not only create personal training programs for you, but will take the time to communicate with you,” he said.

“The word coach really does imply personal relationship. If you have never talked to your coach, heard their voice or seen their face, they’re not a coach at all. Coaching is inherently personal.”

4. Robust Follow Up Procedures

A coach must have procedures in place to effectively track the client, both their physical progress and their lifestyle progress. They must also retest clients at systematic times to monitor their improvement, and tweak the program accordingly, Torano explained.

“If you don’t retest and revise, you’re going blind. You’ll realize that you missed dozens of little (mess) ups that have turned into a real big one,” he said.

Velasquez added: “Especially in a remote setting, it’s really important to keep the communication rate through the process, and explain to the client why we are doing all this stuff and make sure that they’re on the same page, that they understand and feel comfortable.”

The bigger your client book gets, the harder it gets to keep track of everyone, so it helps to have an efficient system in place, he explained.

OPEX’s CoachRx platform, for example, provides a place for coaches to house all their client data in one place, making it much easier for the coach to keep track of each client. Having a foolproof system such as the latter lets you keep your finger on the pulse on each client and prevents you from having blindspots as a coach.

5. Simple Delivery for the Client

Delivering your training program to your client must also be made easy. And while Google sheets can work, they can quickly start getting a little clumsy for both parties.

While there are many useful apps out there, I personally recommend TrueCoach: It’s a user friendly app that makes delivering training programs, sharing videos, and communicating incredibly simple for the client.