Saturday 1 August 2020 11:34 am

How to pick a virtual personal trainer to see you through till offices reopen

I write a regular fitness column for City AM, covering everything from the best ways to work-out to how to stay on top mental form

Gyms finally reopened last week, which was great news not just for personal trainers like me but also the thousands of people desperate to get back to training.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over four months since the last person walked through the doors at No.1 Fitness, but we haven’t been sitting on our hands. In fact, the entire fitness industry has had to evolve, and a formally niche concept, the virtual PT, has gone mainstream.

It’s something that many of us would have laughed off a few months ago – who wants to be working out in their front room? But virtual classes and virtual personal training are here to stay. At No1 Fitness it gives us another service for our clients and most of our members have loved what these classes have done for their health.

Being at home cuts out many of the usual excuses for not training: transport delays, meetings, forgotten gym kit, late nights in the office, no childcare etcetera, etcetera. Working from home allowed our clients to get into a consistent routine.

Most people initially dipped their toes in the water with our virtual classes, but as the weeks went by we noticed a drop-off in favour of one-to-one PT sessions. One of the most amazing things about training with an online coach is that you can scan the world to find the best trainer for you. 

Read more: Easy ways to stay in shape amid Covid-19

Finding the right one is essential for getting results, and now you can’t simply rely on the stamp of quality provided by a big-name gym. So here’s are some things you should look out for when picking one out.

Firstly, a confident trainer will stand out a mile away. Screen or no screen, the best results still come down to human interaction and you will end up getting to know your trainer really well. 

So make the initial consultation on the phone or, even better, a Zoom call. You need to make sure you can strike up a connection with this person. During the consultation they should ask you lots of questions. Pay attention to see if they are listening and taking in your information. 

Personal Trainers will usually ask for your goals. Make sure your trainer digs a bit more than ‘tone up your arms’. They will ask why it’s important to achieve your results, how much sleep you get, what exercise have you done before, any injuries you might have and so on.

Once the consultation is complete, next comes the sell. Many online trainers have been on courses to learn the perfect sales pitch. Their questions are cleverly worded and can lead you into a sale that might not be right for you. 

Read more: Why HIIT is great and why you’re probably doing it wrong

To throw them off guard, ask them loads of questions back, almost as if you’re giving them a consultation. If this is a partnership, then it has to work both ways.

The first question you should ask is simple: what do they like about being a personal trainer? If their answer is about them, rather than their clients – “I get to train all the time”, “I do this on the side” – or if they don’t seem particularly enthusiastic, that should set alarm bells ringing. Having a realtionship with a PT can be intense – you might end up seeing them as much as youn do your loved ones – so you need to make sure they will be committed to you and your journey.

Next grill them on exactly what you will receive from them – will they make you a nutrition plan? Will they put together a spreadsheet with your progress? How will they measure that progress? You’ll end the conversation with a much better idea of who you are going to be working with and how much that might be worth.

Ideally your personal trainer should be able to work out a pretty clear roadmap for hitting your goals by a certain date, with steady increases in intensity throughout. If your virtual trainer doesn’t seem interested in forward planning, that should be a giant red flag. Making sessions up on the spot is not personal training. 

Ask if they can send you an example of some of the programming they have created for other clients? They should have this information ready to go.

Another important question is whether they think your goals and timeframe are realistic. It should be a straight answer. If they don’t think your goals are achievable, ask them to explain why. You want a trainer who will be honest with you.

Finally, while training at home requires less equipment, it usually requires some. Find out what the trainer wants you to purchase, especially if you have certain goals. If you want to put on muscle and they only give you body weight workouts, you’re going to fail.

Remember, you have the whole world at your disposal with virtual training, so make sure you get the right trainer for you.

Harry is co-founder of city gym No.1 Fitness, go to for more information.