Tricks of the Trade
How has fitness technology figured into your training approach or your program design?
Technology has revolutionized the way that I work with clients and create pro- grams. When I first started in the indus- try, I planned programs using good old pen and paper. This process now seems cumbersome and time intensive—not to mention distressing if paperwork is lost or accidentally damaged (talking from experience here!).
As technology developed and cli- ents gained greater access to computers, I started using simple software pro- grams. As my IT skills improved, I cre- ated more-advanced spreadsheets and documents to help me program and track clients’ progress. I saved copies in multiple places and even sent them to clients via the “new-fangled” system of email.
One of the best tech developments for me personally has been the availability and usability of tablet computers. These devices have opened up many programming options. I can easily send clients documents via email, accurately track progress and record sessions. It also puts clients’ documentation at my fingertips whenever I need it, allowing for a more dynamic approach to programming.
More recently, I have seen a wide range of online management and programming solutions developed for per- sonal trainers. In my business, we have made the leap away from a range of spreadsheets and Word documents to software that not only helps us develop programs but also assists us in managing the business as a whole. This tool also allows a degree of interaction between clients and trainers.
Although I do look back at the good old days, I think the advancements in technology have opened many doors for trainers, not only to improve the level of service we give our clients, but also to make our own lives easier!
Managing Director, Foresight Fitness Services
As a trainer, I’ve utilized various online platforms and applications to create training programs that can be used during one-on-one sessions to track clients’ exercises, sets, reps and weights. I can add notes and save them to client files or email them to clients so they have a record of what they have done and can see how they have improved from session to session. Many different programs allow you to interact with a client virtually, providing specific workouts without being in the same place.
Fitness professionals know the importance of daily physical activity, not just the exercise done in sessions. Clients with an activity tracker can be monitored outside of their one-on-one training to ensure they are sticking to a specific program—such as a weekly running program—or just incorporating more physical activity throughout their daily routine. Programs that help users track daily food intake— such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It and MyFoodDiary—can assist trainers who are qualified to tweak clients’ diets and make recommendations.
New technology is constantly being developed, and I try to get my hands on and test as much of it as possible. For example, I recently tested the PUSH band and Skulpt® AIM. The PUSH band attaches to your forearm and provides feedback in real time for each rep you complete; the information can be used to adjust exercise intensity for optimal results. The Skulpt AIM is a body-fat and muscle-quality analyzer that uses electrical impedance myography to test specific regions of the body; the results provide data not only on body fat but also on muscle weakness or imbalances.
Allowing clients to use these new “toys” gives them something to look forward to and makes the clients feel special. Technology can be used in cre- ative ways during one-on-one sessions or virtually to provide clientele with a fun, interactive experience that will increase overall compliance and results. Everyone gets motivated in different ways, however, so not all technology is right for everyone.
Personal Trainer and General Manager, Plus One Health Management Inc.
Cranford, New Jersey
After almost 30 years of coaching and training, I find that the technology avail- able now makes training much more efficient. Gathering information online is a huge timesaver. The comparison charts that are available make it easy to show clients their progress and what they need to improve to see results.
The multitude of programs you can purchase and apply to your business seems endless. For tracking nutrition, I suggest clients use MyFitnessPal to count calories and stay on top of what they’re eating throughout the day. For nutrition habit tracking and fitness training, clients have had success with Coachific, which is a very friendly and nurturing desktop application. Some of my clients use a Fitbit® to track their steps during the day and their sleep patterns, which is helpful but does not translate into my online program. Trainerize has also proven to be easy for clients to use. They can track fitness, cardio goals and habits. Evolution Nutrition® provides the perfect platform for all my clients’ nutrition needs.
My clients don’t mind filling out forms and providing information online as long as the program is user-friendly. Online training is part of our future in fitness, and it’s vital that we embrace technology. However, this does not mean we have to lose the personal touch with our clients.
HEYlifetraining Fitness & Wellness
Silver Spring, Maryland
Fitness technology innovations such as wearables, apps and online programs will be the savior of many people and the fitness industry itself if the technology doesn’t confuse us to death. It really comes down to the clients and what they have the ability and willingness to use. Some clients are high tech, some are no tech and some are in between; you need to figure out what helps each one to get fit. Giving people a tool they can’t use is the fastest way to get them to stop doing what they are already struggling to do in the first place.
The same thing applies to personal trainers. Tools are useful only if trainers can use them effectively. Unless you are into new technology and willing to grow with it, it’s best to wait until the tools grow into something you can and will use. However, the best part about tools is that we are always just 6 months away from the next upgrade—bringing the potential for us to offer better service and for everyone to get healthier.
Health and Wellness Coach/Trainer Author/Educator
Dallas/Fort Worth Area, Texas
Technology certainly figures into my career. I’ve found that more people are training online for convenience and cost. I now train groups in five countries. I can guide them through instructional videos and a Facebook page 7 days a week. Hands-on training is certainly better, but the trend is strong for virtual training.
I’m thankful for online clients. I’ve found that in-person clients show up late for their appointments and we have to rush to get them through or they cancel late and we don’t get paid. Summer comes and many clients disappear. Trainers struggle during summer and most holidays when people want to take time off. We are competing with leisure time.
When we work with clients online, they pay up-front for a program that runs 90 days. We can see who accesses the instructional videos and connect with people if they haven’t done so. We record weekly videos that answer specific questions raised in the group. We can support clients and be cheerleaders for their success every day; it’s very powerful for them to know we are there every step of the way. I can connect with my in-person clients only two to three times a week, and we are generally on task so we cannot always go as deep as we would like. However, we are able to stay connected with our online clients every day. One of our programs grew from 75 to 855 online participants.
Clients must be healthy enough to exercise to join an online group. With my medical exercise background, I can create very safe and progressive pro- grams with plenty of modifications for various fitness levels. Technology lets me train clients who need online training—such as people in rural areas who find it easier to train at home online, and people with crazy schedules who need to fit in exercise when they can. The big draw is the amazing community that gets created. The friends from the online programs are really supportive.
I still do one-on-one training for some clients but mainly for rehab purposes. Online technology lets me increase my outreach, triple my income and still offer a great service. Technology is changing industries rapidly, and I am trying to stay on the cusp of where it is going.
Owner, The I AM Project
Medical Exercise Program Director, Core Essentials PERC Med Fit Center
Nanaimo, British Columbia