PROS & CONS: Your Guide to Online Coaching & Personal Training

Since I branched out to start Poehlmann Fitness, I've consistently been asked what online coaching is and how it works.

"Adam, what the heck do you do now? I know you're in fitness, but.."
"So are you like, a personal trainer? Or..."
"So do you train people over Skype? That's what online training is, correct? You watch them workout on the computer, right?"

Since Poehlmann Fitness hit its one year mark this summer, those questions come up a little less often, but I still want to break things down. The purpose of this article is twofold. I want to:

1. Provide you clarity and insight on the major differences between online coaching and personal training. 

2. Help you understand which option will be best for you whenever you decide you want to hire a coach/trainer. 

Before I get into the details, I want you to read the following sentence closely:

I am BOTH an online coach as well as a personal trainer. I LOVE both, and this article is written from an unbiased point of view.

This article is made purely to inform and educate you, so you can find the best fit for your health.

Anyway, into personal training we go. 

Personal training is something that most everyone is familiar with. It's been around since most of us can remember. Most of you may be familiar with the general process but we'll run through it anyway. Here's how it works:

You're part of a local gym, and you decide that there is something you'd like to accomplish. With most other things in life, you may not need major assistance from another individual to achieve your goal. However, this goal that relates to your health requires knowledge and experience from an individual who is well-immersed in things like health, fitness, nutrition, etc. 

You seek out a trainer/coach and the gym and hire this individual. You begin training with them for the most amount of sessions per week that you can afford, because you're paying for their time, and that's it. Depending on the trainer/coach, he/she may have you also sign up for other things like a training program to do on your own, nutrition coaching, wellness coaching, etc. 

At each session, you get undivided attention (if you've hired a great coach) as well as professional eyes on everything that you're doing. On the flipside, this means they have no clue what you're doing outside of those 1-on-1 sessions. 

Once you and the trainer/coach reach your goal and/or run out of sessions, you discuss and assess your time with each other thus far and move forward if needed and desired. 

This is a very general and brief description of the process. There are other details that can change the process, such as training styles, experience, personality, etc.
Most of which come from the coach/trainer you hire. 

Now that we have a refresher on personal training, let's go over online coaching. 

Online coaching is a whole different animal. To get as much detail in this brief description as possible, let's go back to the beginning of the process.

You've decided that there is something you want to learn or achieve in your fitness journey. Whether it's improving general health, building muscle, losing fat, whatever it is, you want to accomplish something. This something - similar to the goal with personal training - requires the advice and attention of someone who is well-versed in that field. 

You get on the computer, and do some research on all of the online coaches that you can possibly find. You contact a few and apply to be coached by them. After narrowing it down and making a decision, you move forward with that one specific coach. Depending on the coach's systems and business structure, you pay a fee of some sort. For the sake of this scenario we'll just say that it's $200/mo. for their services (FYI, coaches range from ~ $200-500/mo.).

Unlike personal training, there are more services included for the fee that you are paying. Some of these services are nutrition coaching, custom training programs, weekly check-ins, 24/7 messaging support, etc. 

An online coach is more so a health (fitness, nutrition, wellness included) coach rather than just a personal trainer with an online platform. 

Depending on how the coach's services work, you'll be set up with a training program with exercise video demos, a nutrition protocol, and a platform that this is in. Poehlmann Fitness clients are set up on an app called Trainerize

As you go through the process, you check in with the coach on a regular basis and update them on how things are going.

Am I right?

Am I right?

Once you reach your goal or your membership/subscription expires, you and your coach discuss thoughts on moving forward. 

That's a quick summary of what online coaching entails.

Now that we've gone over both personal training and online coaching, it's time to examine the pros and cons of each. In order to do this more specifically, I'll break things down into different categories. Those will be:

1. Coach/Trainer Selection
2. Cost
3. Value
4. Accountability

1. Coach/Trainer Selection

Personal Training

Pros: Quality in-person training sessions require a trainer that can communicate well, carry great conversation, and make you laugh/entertain you. After all, you're with them for an hour. How awkward would it be if no words were exchanged?
Most big box gyms that I know of do some sort of introductory/complimentary session with a trainer. This face-to-face contact is a great opportunity to see what their personality is like. 

Cons: Gyms only have so many personal trainers. There might be situations where you might have to pick the best of the worst in regards to personality match, etc. 

Online Coaching

Pros: Online coaching gives you access to any coach in the world. You can research your tail of to make sure you find the best coach for you. You can learn about their credentials, experience, testimonials, cost, services, etc. in just a few clicks.

Cons: Everyone can call themselves an online coach or personal trainer nowadays. It's really easy to see through the BS in person. It's a little more difficult to do that on the internet. Everyone can make themselves look like a different version of themselves on the world wide web. Here's some advice on that. Ask to do some sort of phone or skype/facetime consultation before moving forward that way you can ensure transparency between the both of you.

2. Cost

Personal Training

Pros: I honestly can't think of one. Personal training is pricey but there are cases in which it's well worth it. Continue reading and I'll explain.

Cons: In-person training in big box gyms can cost anywhere from $60-$100/hr. depending on the experience and demand of the trainer. Let's that means you can be paying $240-$400/mo. if you have one session per week, and as much as $720-1200/mo. if you have three sessions per week. 

Online Coaching

Pros: Online coaching is inexpensive when compared to in-person training. I'll explain more of this as we move along.

Cons: No cons here. 

3. Value

Personal Training

Pros: When comparing online coaching and in-person training in terms of value, a lot of people look down in-person training but I find there are a few really big pros. One of these pros is face-to-face contact. When the trainer is right there with you, he/she can see and should correct any thing they see in how you are performing on the gym floor. Whether that means correcting your rowing form, or reminding you to breathe properly while performing a squat, your trainer can see everything.
In-person training is great for athletes, too. There are so many intricate movements when it comes to sports performance, and an online coach simply isn't there to see that. For example, I train all of my athletes in person because the tiniest correction in their running form could mean seconds shaved off their 90-yard dash that they run for the scouts. 

Cons: The pros are great for in-person training in regards to attention to detail during performance, but that's all that in-person training offers. The fee that you pay is for the hour that you are with the trainer and nothing more. There are some cases in which the trainer may give you things to do at home, but if he/she does, it may not be as detailed and customized as a full program from an online coach. Remember, the trainer is only getting paid for the time you're with them, so they may not give as much attention to your "other" workouts. It's not because they don't care, it's because they need to put food on the table, and filling their schedule clients is how they do it. 

Online Coaching

Pros: The value of online coaching is tremendous. Unlike in-person training, there is much more included in the monthly subscription that you have with your coach. With most coaches and subscription plans, services include a fully customized training program that is tailored to fit your history, goals, current state of health, and lifestyle. Not only is the training plan fully customized, but most coaches also include nutrition coaching in their subscription along with weekly check-ins, 24/7 email access, as well as access to a support group of other clients. Online coaches can also play a big role in listening, giving advice, and allowing health and fitness to play a role in your life that consists of a ton of other priorities. Online coaches aren't life coaches by any means, but it's much more inclusive than just in-person training. 

Cons: The coach isn't there to see what you're doing in the gym in regards to your movement. Although they can offer you a ton of services to benefit your health and save you money, it's not a great option if you are new to exercise and need someone there to make sure your form is on point. 

4. Accountability

Personal Training

Pros: Since you have a commitment made with another individual, it's a lot harder to skip a training session. Your trainer is waiting for you, and that makes it way easier to show up. Not only that, but it's a lot harder to slack off when the person you've hired to get you into shape is hovering over you. 

Cons: They're only there with you for the hour that you've paid for. During the rest of their time, they're training other individuals.

Online Coaching

Pros: They key with online coaching is utilizing what you've paid for. If your membership includes weekly check-ins and email support, abuse it. You've hired them to be at your fingertips whenever you need. Have a question about fitness when you're out with your friends? Email them right then and there. That's the plus of online coaching. Although I have training sessions in-person, most of my time is spent coaching my clients online and there is a lot of time in my daily schedule dedicated to supporting them and answering their questions. If you're completely honest and transparent with what you're doing each day, the accountability can't be matched with online coaching. He/she can see your food intake from sugar consumed to the greens in your delicious kale smoothie (barf). They're also able to see what you did in the gym including weights, sets, reps, and more. 

Cons: If you're dishonest or just don't record in any of your activity, your coach will be stripped of their ability to keep you accountable so it's important that you're as transparent and diligent as you can possibly be. 

The Takeaway

There is a lot of good in both in-person training as well as online coaching. Question is, what's right for you? Here's what I can say about that in a few sentences:

If you are a just beginning to make physical activity a part of your life, in-person training may be best. That way your trainer can show you proper form and etiquette on the gym floor. In-person training may also be best if you are an athlete seeking to improve your speed and agility which can require complex drills and extreme attention to detail.

If you have experience working out, you're comfortable in a gym, and you're confident in your form, online coaching may be a great way for you to get tailored plans to improve your heath, fitness, and nutrition without completely sacrificing your lifestyle. And remember, if you're ever unsure about your form or have questions regarding your plans, you can send in videos or questions about the movement and your coach can help you through it. The use of technology is a huge plus. 

If you're still stuck and don't know which path to take, or you know exactly what you need and want to talk to a professional about getting started, feel free to contact me via email at or send me a message on social media.

Thanks for reading!

Much love,