Virtual personal training isn’t new, but the business aspect is growing, thanks to increased demand and improved technology across the board. This is great news for personal trainers who embrace it, but how do assessments—a cornerstone of any good program design—translate to the online studio space?
Erin A. Mahoney, MA, founder, EMAC Certifications, Scottsdale, Arizona, is a virtual personal training expert and shares the following insider tips that will help streamline the translation from in-person to remote.
Adapt your offerings. The most important part of doing virtual assessments, according to Mahoney, is finding a way to adapt. “Fitness assessments are so important in coaching that you can’t ignore them completely,” she says. “Further, you can’t rely on the physical environment. You must commit to making this work with the flexibility and understanding that it will just look a little different.”
You might need to scale back. Think about the assessments you do in a traditional setting and how you use them in your program design. For example, most clients want to lose body fat and it’s also how they determine success. “So, you really can’t overlook this type of assessment,” says Mahoney. “On the other hand, you may do one-repetition (1-RM) maximum tests to determine a starting strength level. However, if you did the 1-RM but never factored it into your programming or gauged a client’s success from it, it might not be necessary.”
Create a system. If you’re assessing cardiovascular fitness, the 3-minute step test might not work, according to Mahoney. “The client may not have access to a step. Instead, opt for a different cardio assessment, like the 12-minute walk/run test. Similarly, if you use body fat calipers, don’t send your client elsewhere to get this measurement. Instead, make the sacrifice and use a circumference measurement calculation to get an estimate.”
Understand this is a different animal. When first conducting virtual personal training assessments, trainers might feel frustrated because the process differs. Therefore, it’s important to go into it with an open mind. Mahoney says that new trainers who don’t have extensive experience working in a traditional setting will have a faster learning curve for conducting virtual personal training assessments. “Some trainers struggle without the physical element,” Mahoney says. “They feel as though this is the basis for the entire profession. Therefore, they have to make a paradigm shift and recognize their value will start shifting into the coaching aspect of personal training, rather than the accuracy of perfect form and movement.”
Mahoney recommends having an open mind, practicing with a plan and being transparent with clients.
Preparation is paramount. Virtual personal training assessments should be planned down to 5-minute increments, according to Mahoney. This helps keep things on track and ensures that you are spending the right amount of time on different aspects. A good virtual trainer will have comprehensive client paperwork. Mahoney recommends sending the client clear communication about what to expect during the assessment. “If they’ll need to do movement assessments and you need to see them, make sure they’re wearing the right clothes and have access to good lighting,” says Mahoney. “Make sure the client knows how they’ll access the session and that they know everything they need on their end to partake in the assessment. Spend considerable time reviewing the client’s paperwork prior to the virtual assessment, and script targeted questions ahead of time.”
Finally, prepare for a paradigm shift. This style of training may be challenging for “highly movement-oriented or technical trainers,” says Mahoney, who suggests spending more time learning about motivational interviewing, communication strategies and accountability tactics.
Would you like to see more? Be sure to check out the session Glute Training: From Beginner to Advanced, presented by Greg Johnson, MS, at this year’s World Virtual event. Look for more information about how to access the archive.
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