What Is Remote Coaching?

24 Jul

How is Remote Fitness Coaching Changing the Entire Fitness Industry?

Hundreds of years ago, people did fitness by living. People were hunter-gathers; they hunted for their food, they farmed their land, they built their fences and homes, they moved every day. A hundred years ago, there started to become feats of strength, primitive barbells, and the first versions of gyms. 50 years ago, people started, on a small scale, to train with personal trainers in their local gyms so that they could look and feel better because they were moving less. 30 years ago, more and higher level athletes began using fitness and trainers to reach their pinnacle and people began doing things such as step aerobics and jogging. 15 years ago, fitness absolutely exploded in popularity. One side of that popularity were people who were as stagnant as ever and needed to get in shape to stay healthy. The other side of the spectrum were people who wanted to be as fit as their body allowed. 

Interestingly enough, at the same time, the internet was exploding, and people were putting all kinds of products and services into web pages - and subsequently apps. Looking back is easy, but it’s pretty easy to see why something like online fitness coaching, aka remote fitness coaching, aka remote coaching, would explode in popularity. And, to that point, remote coaching isn’t going anywhere. But first, a quick what, why how…

What is Remote Coaching? How Does the Service Work?

I’ll define 3 types of remote coaching, and then I’ll zone into one specific version:

  1. Online Training Program or Blog
  2. Online Fitness Technology
  3. Individual Design Delivered Online Between one Coach And one Client

What Is An Online Training Program, aka An Online Training Template, aka An Online Training Blog?  

It’s One Training Program Distributed To Numerous People.

As the web and social media made community building easier for business owners, they saw the capability of scaling out group training online. An online training program template, aka the online training template, aka an online training blog, is just that, a group training workout delivered online. If you follow an online training program, you’d receive your daily training program from a website or an app either ongoing or for a set amount of time depending on what you sign up for, you’d execute your training at home or in your local gym, and you’d post your scores back into the website - if you took the time to post assuming your program had a place for results/feedback - where you and every other client received your program. The quality training templates would then engage your directly through their website or on social media so that you feel more like you’re a part of the community.

What Is Online Fitness Technology? 

This is the New “Hotness” of Peloton and Other Tech Companies Taking Online Fitness to the Masses.

Like most technology online, this idea simply couldn’t be done 10 year ago because internet connections, workout equipment technology, and video creation for the web wasn’t good enough. Now it is, and tech companies are sprinting to build market awareness around their products. I’ll use the Peloton example as the gold description, but you need to know that there are more and more companies doing both group and individual coaching arising every day that have the “answer” to fitness online.

Peloton originally created a workout bike that had a large TV screen attached to it, but instead of watching the news on the TV, Peloton decided to create live - and recorded - cycle classes for their at home riders to do. Since their bike, they have come out with a treadmill, and they are working to disrupt boot camp type classes as well as yoga classes. The key piece is that they are really content creators in the fitness space. If you are a Peloton user, you would jump on your bike, pick a class, and spin with other people around the world. 

What Is Individual Design Remote Coaching? 

It’s Personalized Fitness Delivered Online.

This is often what consumers think about when they think about being coached online. At its core, this version of remote coaching sees you, the client, working one to one with your coach through an online “platform.” That means that you will receive your daily training workouts and you’ll communicate with your coach online. You do your training at home or at your local gym, and then you post your results in the same website or app that you received it in. Quality coaches would then check your results, watch your videos, and comment back to you to help you improve. 

In the “Optimal Remote Coaching” section of this article, I’ll discuss what I believe to be the best version of individual design remote coaching.

What Will We Focus On In Our Remote Coaching Conversation?

While there is a large market for newer versions of online fitness, when people say “Remote Coaching” they almost always mean one to one coach to client fitness. While there are a number of people who would consider any program, individualized or not, to be Remote Coaching, we need to be on the same page for the rest of this article. For that reason, I’ll put the rest of my focus into describing Individual Design Remote Coaching. 

Our Big Dawgs Coaches are seeing more and more of their clients coming from other online fitness styles as opposed to group classes or personal training - although they still get many great clients from those avenues too. People often try out an online training program/blog or they try something like Peloton, but then they recognize that they want to achieve specific results and a one size fits all training program can’t get them all of the way there.

Why Do Individual Design Remote Coaching?

There are a few big reasons why people are choosing to venture online for their training:

  • They want access to the best trainers and coaches in the world, and they can’t train with them in person
  • They want more freedom to do their training where and when they want
  • They travel or train in multiple gyms but they don’t want to lose momentum in their training
  • They want a fully personalized fitness experience and it’s not offered well locally
  • They want training specific to them so they can optimally reach their fitness goals

Remote Coaching Gives You Access To The Best Coaches In The World

Because more of my experience is in and around the competitive CrossFit world, ill describe the coaching experience more from that CrossFit lens, but this idea exists in all fitness disciplines now.

For somebody who wants to improve their fitness in functional fitness, CrossFit, Spartan Races, etc, because they have full access to see which coaches are getting which athletes to the world championships, they want to train with those coaches. They want to enjoy credible training from credible coaches who have helped a lot of clients optimize their fitness levels, reach the highest levels, and win. 

Through remote coaching, a client in Iowa can train with a top coach in Arizona and incorporate their daily training right in their local gym in Iowa. 

Remote Coaching Gives You More Freedom To Do Your Training Where And When You Want

Many people choose not to do group training or personal training because they are forced into the gym’s or the personal trainer’s schedule. Your schedule is often brutal whether you are a coach, doctor, gym owner, mother, or web developer. All things equal, you want to build your schedule in the way that works the best for you, not the business you train with. Now, I’m all for building accountability and your coach can help you design a consistent schedule, but at the end of the day it’s your schedule, not somebody else’s that you are building.

Remote coaching allows you to look at your training, do your training, and post your training results to your coach when it works for you. That is a beautiful thing in today’s busy world. 

 Remote Coaching Maintains Your Workout Momentum Even When You Travel

This is a simple one, but it’s profound. When you have a program that is being delivered to you by a competent coach, and when that coach designs your entire fitness experience day by day, just because you’re out of town doesn’t mean you have to lose your progress in the gym. In that same light, if you have a great coach, they will sense if you need a little break - whether you’re at home or on the road - and they’ll give that break to you so that you always move toward the bigger goals without burning out.

Remote Coaching Gives You A Fully Personalized Fitness Experience Designed For You

There is a caveat to this as with most things. When I say personalized fitness experience, I define personalized as….personalized!  I don’t define personalized as a coach sending out the same training program to all of their clients and calling that personalized. Personalization requires your coach to do these things.

  • Assess you so that they know what movements and training methods you should do
  • Consult with you so that they build a relationship with you in order to know when you’re under or overreaching in your training
  • Design every rep, set, training day, and training phase for you individually
  • Look at your training results and adjust your training according to your results
  • Look at your training videos, give you feedback, and adjust your program according to how effectively you’re doing the exercises they are prescribing
  • Continuously compound your positive progress - Just because they assessed you one time doesn’t mean they shouldn’t re-assess you after each training phase. This process should recycle itself over and over, but your results should be consistent as well which would lead your training to compound as your results do

When you have a coach that is personalizing your experience like that, you will build great trust in your coach. That trust helps you lower your stress levels and believe in your training program which helps you improve. Great remote coaching enjoys that benefit.

When you can enjoy all of these benefits of remote coaching, you can see why this service is exploding in popularity.

Who Should Not Do Individual Design Remote Coaching?

Just like any service, there are people who are great fits for it, and there are people who are bad fits for it. Please take no offense if you’re a bad fit, I just want you to know that now so that you can make the best decision for yourself if this is a good service for you or not. Big Dawgs offers remote coaching, of course, but we would much rather have clients who we know are great fits for it because we’ll build far better relationships and results with those who fit it well.

There are a few big reasons why people may not be a great fit for remote coaching:

  • They “need” to be part of an in-person group
  • They struggle with or don’t like using technology
  • They don’t want to track their results
  • They don’t know why they want to improve
  • They don’t want to or can’t pay for the service

Remote Coaching Is Not An In-Person Group Setting

When you work one to one with a personal trainer or an online fitness coach, you are more focused on that relationship than you are on the relationship to the group. It doesn’t mean that you can’t workout with training partners wherever you execute your training program, but you’ll be doing different training than them (because it’s personalized for you). It is different than training with somebody doing the same workout. We have seen thousands of people who have no problem at all with this, but we have also seen some people who don’t mesh well without their group. If you are somebody that would prioritize the sweat of the group over your specific training program, remote coaching may not be for you

Remote Coaching Is Not For People Who Don’t Like Technology

This is pretty simple haha. If you don’t like or can’t use a website, an app, or your phone, remote coaching isn’t for you because you’ll have to use technology every day. Now, at this point, the complexity of these sites or apps is so simple that we don’t usually see this as a barrier, but nonetheless it’s worth mentioning.

Remote Coaching Doesn’t Work Well If You Don’t Track Your Results

The big upside for having an individual design remote coach is that they help you get better by working with you through the ups and downs in your fitness. If you don’t want to track your results and communicate those to your coach, the coach will have a very hard time helping you improve. We’re all human, so I understand missing here or there, but the goal for you is the ongoing trend of your results. If you don’t want to share them with your coach, or if you’re too lazy to input them, remote coaching may not be a great fit for you.

Remote Coaching Is For People Who Want To Improve Their Fitness

Because you will work with a coach one to one, and because you’ll pay for that value, remote coaching works the best for people who know where they want to go; they know generally what they want to achieve. I want to be careful here because we have worked with thousands of people who have come in with one goal only to amend or change that goal as they evolve in their fitness lives. A great remote coach will help you get to where you want to go, but they will also help you grow, learn, and evolve your goals so that you continue to move forward perpetually in and out of the gym. However, if you don’t know why you’re training and or if you don’t feel any inspiration to train and you aren’t open or willing to look inwardly to understand those bigger goals, remote coaching may not be for you.

Remote Coaching Is A Valuable Service

I’ll define the exact service offering we believe remote coaching should offer below, but whenever you have one to one time with a coach, a wealth manager, a designer, a stylist, etc there must always be a fair exchange of value for that service. If the coach is designing you a personalized program, speaking directly to you often, checking and asking about your results and videos, and constantly helping you move forward, that service can’t be cheap. If you are somebody looking for the most inexpensive version of fitness - meaning you’d prioritize lower cost over better results or relationships - remote coaching may not be for you.

How Should Remote Coaching Be Delivered To You?

Transparently, I believe remote coaching should be delivered the way we deliver it at Big Dawgs haha. At any rate, what does that experience look like?

  1. You fill out a client intake form
  2. You have a coaching consultation
  3. You get assessed physically
  4. Your coach lays out your fitness training strategy
  5. Your coach delivers your weekly training program
  6. You execute your training
  7. You post your workout results and training videos
  8. Your coach analyzes your results and communicates coaching cues and advice
  9. You re-assess, re-consult, and re-train perpetually
  10. You reach goals, set new goals, reach them, and consistently progress forward

You Fill Out A Client Intake Form And History

Without a clear understanding of where you have been in your health and fitness, and without a basic idea of your goals and priorities, a remote coach can’t possibly understand where you should begin your training program. 

Your coach should have you fill out a helpful intake form that they then analyze prior to even speaking to you about your program.

You Have A Full Coaching Consultation

Like the intake form, how can your coach understand who you are, what you value, what fitness experiences you’ve had before - and liked or didn’t like - where you want to go, and how badly you want to get there without speaking to you.

Your coach should have, 60 minutes in our opinion, a full consultation not only to review your intake form but also to start to get to know you - and you them - to begin to build your coach to client relationship. That allows you both to start out on the right foot with the right expectations of how you’ll work the most effectively together

You Get Assessed To Find Movement And Physical Restrictions And Strengths

Just as important as your coach to client relationship is to your initial program, so to is your coach’s understanding of where you sit physically. Your coach must put you through physical assessments that they have data on so that they understand what restrictions and strengths you have in your movement and your ability to do work.

Imagine how differently your training would look if you every time you tried to squat you couldn’t go more than 2 inches down before one of your heels came off of the ground vs if you could sit into a full squat with your butt one inch off of the ground with your chest straight up and your heels right into the ground. Your training would be markedly different - well it should be markedly different.

Your coach should put you through a physical assessment that helps her/him understand if you are able to do what is physically needed in order for your to reach your goals that you laid out in your intake form and during your coaching consultation. After your coach does the assessment, they should explain to you what they saw and how that will affect your training program.

A note about a remote coaching assessment - now that technology is so good and simple for you to take video, your coach will likely ask for video of certain movements or workouts so that they can see how you move. That will help them assess you on an ongoing basis to make sure your training program is appropriate

Your Coach Lays Out Your Fitness Training Strategy

Now that your coach has a good idea of where you sit in and out of the gym via your coaching consultation and physical assessment, they should be prepared to layout your broad fitness strategy, or training plan. This should be broadly how you will get from where you want to be today to where you want to go into the future. If you want to compete in the world championships or CrossFit Games, for example, your coach should layout a broad plan built in reality of how long it will take to get there and the phases of training you’ll need to go through in order to get there.  I am all for a coach helping to inspire you, but if you don’t have the DNA, the desire, or the lifestyle to get to the CrossFit Games, your coach should help you recognize that so that you do not have poor expectations of your potential. You can always change your lifestyle and your inspiration will move up and down over time, but it’s a disservice for you for your coach to say “sure, let’s get you to the Games in a year” where there is no chance of that happening.

Your coach should discuss with you the broad strokes of the big  picture game plan to help you get to where you want to go, and they should re-confirm the expectations of what it’ll take for you to get there so that you and she/he are on the same page from day 1.

Your Coach Should Send You Your First Week Of Training

Only now should a coach feel able to send you a training program. It would be foolish to do this prior to knowing more about you via your consult and assessment, and it would also be foolish for that coach to send you a week of training without already having laid out your bigger picture training strategy.

Now, here is where we discuss technology. The better and more simple your technology experience with your remote coach, the better your initial training will be because you won’t be annoyed at your initial experience. 

  • Your intake form was likely a simple online survey that you’d type out your answers and submit it back to your coach
  • Your consultation was a video call so that you can be face to face with your coach
  • Your big training strategy would be laid into a programming platform such as TrueCoach
  • Now the daily training, your results, your videos, and your daily coach to client communication will also be through TrueCoach

Your coach will send your training program through an app such as TrueCoach so that you can do everything related to your training in that one place. In my opinion, you should always have a full week of training ready to go, and if you use a platform such as TrueCoach you’ll see each day of training the night before you execute your training so that you don’t get too focused on a workout that is 3 workouts away.

In your daily workouts, your coach should layout your warm up, your training to include reps, sets, rests, tempos, and the intent of your workouts so that you are clear on what you’re trying to accomplish and with what level of intensity you’re trying to accomplish it with. You should also have any of your questions answered and you should have access to any movement videos that you may not fully comprehend without a demonstration

You Execute Your Daily Training

Because you should have all of the information you need in your training program, you shouldn’t need to ask your coach questions, but if you do have questions you should have access enough to your coach so that you can ask them questions prior to having to do your training program. There is not much more annoying in training than doing a workout without a clear intent or understanding of what you’re supposed to do.

The beauty of remote coaching is that you can do your training anywhere you want (stay focused haha!), and you can take the time that’s required to effectively move through your training each day.

You Post Your Workout Results and Videos In The Platform

Once you’ve done your daily training, you should post your results back into that same platform - TrueCoach is brilliant with this - and you should post any training videos that will help your coach gain more clarity of how you’re doing (by no means do you need to post al videos haha).

If your coach has a weak platform of if they send you an email or a spreadsheet or something low-budget, it’s much harder to get them your workout results in a way that is ongoingly organized and clear. 

Your Coach Analyzes And Communicates With You About Your Workouts

Something very important for you to receive as an remote coaching client is communication from your coach about how your workouts went. You don’t need a lot of commentary by any means, but your coach should absolutely answer any questions you put into your results, and they should make any necessary comments on the results that they see or the videos that you post. This feedback loop helps keep your stress lower, and it helps you and your coach build a more trusting relationship that allows you both to communicate better with one another which will help you improve.

Your coach should communicate with you consistently throughout the week as you’re executing your training and posting your results

Your Coach Should Re-Consult, Re-Assess, And Re-”Train” You Monthly

Great remote coaching don’t just send you a training program. They communicate with you. We consistently find that it’s the coach to client relationship that is critically important to both short and long term training results. The more you trust your coach, the more belief you’ll have in the plan, the better you’ll execute your training, and the more success you’ll have.

Your coach should get on a short video call with you each month so that you can discuss your training and where you are going in the bigger picture, and your coach should re-assess you after specific training phases and milestones so that they can most effectively deliver your ongoing program to you with the most up to date data. If your coach isn’t communicating with you or isn’t seeing your physical progress, they can’t possibly optimize your program over the long-term.

Once they have that information, they should constantly adapt and improve your training program so that you are always doing things that are a half a step farther forward from where you sit today. That half a step will help you adapt and progress on a consistent basis. If you just do the same thing or totally random things all of the time, you can’t expect the highest probability of ongoing success.

You Should Improve

Simply stated, you should get better physically in your training. If your coach is following all of the above tactics, you should improve. In the case that they have done all of this and you aren’t getting better, that should lead your coach to ask even bigger questions of you. Is there something in your life that is getting in the way of training, is there potentially something wrong under the hood. If they continue to investigate in a fitness capacity, it’s possible that they may have to refer you to a specialist or a doctor to do some deeper investigation of something specific that may be holding you back. What is important, though, is that your coach should always be managing your fitness progress. They should always be investigating how they can help you improve, and you should improve over time with those tactics. 

The big caveat to this is that once you reach a certain age, and if you’ve been training for a number of years, you may find that you can’t get “better” anymore because your body has reached its limit of physical potential. It doesn’t mean that you’re done training, it just means that you will need to train differently and you’ll need to fight off “getting worse.” It’s a harsh truth, but if you know this, you can better setup your training plan to achieve realistic and powerful goals with your coach.

If your coach isn’t doing these 10 things, we don’t think they are actually remote coaching you. In those instances, they would more or less fall into the online training template category

Summing Up Remote Coaching

Remote coaching may be a wonderful service for you if you fit the traits of somebody this service works well for. If so, we’d love to speak to you about coaching you!  If not, no worries, perhaps you will be in a different place down the road. We’ll still be here!


CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. Big Dawgs' uses of the CROSSFIT® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and Big Dawgs is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.

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