As a personal trainer in these challenging times, staying afloat financially and maintaining some sense of normalcy has been vitally important to me. There are many difficulties; whether that’s being up to speed with technology, having fast enough internet, working in a room with less than optimal lighting or simply having elderly clients with worse technology skills than me, one of the main challenges I’m finding is in the coaching. As a trainer/instructor there are three main ways to communicate: verbal, visual and kinesthetic. For today’s blog, I hope to help you with all of these challenges.

Some of the solutions I’ve found are all within my control. For example; lighting. My apartment is not very bright, definitely not bright enough to be seen clearly in Zoom classes or on FaceTime with my phone. I found reasonably priced ring-lights on Amazon and purchased a couple…problem solved! I now have a bright space to teach in. I’ve also found that wearing brightly colored tights and tops is very helpful, it makes you far more visible. This is especially important when working with elderly clients whose vision may be poor.

One of the first things I had to get up to speed with is technology. Finding a fix for using music while teaching Zoom classes, I had to experiment. The best solution is to wear Bluetooth earbuds, connect them to the computer, play the music from the laptop and share the sound. You do this by going to ‘Share’, then ‘Advanced’ then ‘Share Computer Sound’. With the volume low, the participants hear the music and you pretty clearly.

While there’s not a lot to be done about your internet connection on the fly while teaching zoom classes or courses I find it essential to make sure none of my other devices are connected to my wifi. One of the greater challenges I’ve found is not so much with my connection, but with my client’s. Just yesterday I was coaching one of my one-on-one clients on FaceTime and her internet was slow. I could see her, but she couldn’t see me. I had no way to visually coach her! Being that it was a virtual session there was also no hands-on coaching. Not ideal!

I want to discuss verbal coaching. I’ve found that this type of cueing tends to be done poorly or is undervalued. Typically, in group classes instructors rely almost entirely on visual teaching. A little less so in P.T., but none the less I still see trainers relying heavily on demonstration and hands-on correction. Yesterday, basically the only tools I had were verbal coaching and observation. I watched my client and had to coach and correct her verbally since she couldn’t see me. All too often we rely on simply counting reps and giving motivational cues. But online coaching requires some succinct and precise cues.

Instead of telling your clients where to ‘squeeze’, tell them how, when and where to move to and from. It’s more of an external focus, so rather than say “squeeze your glutes” when coaching a bridge, try instead to cue them to “drive your heels into the floor as you point your tailbone slightly towards the ceiling and press your hips upwards”. This gives them some precise direction on how and where to move to and from. Once you’ve given the ‘to and from’, coach the feeling. With the same example of a hip bridge, you after the external cues, you could then say, “As you continue this movement for a total of 15 repetitions, you’ll feel your glutes and hamstrings contracting. Can you feel that?”

While this might seem like a minor detail, try practicing it and what you’ll see is your client’s movement quality and precision improve. It not only provides clarity, but it’s a more intelligent and thoughtful way to coach. Try it in your next coaching session, I promise you’ll see a difference!

PS. Here’s the link to the lights I purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B081SVY2M4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Keli Roberts is the recipient of the 2003 IDEA International Fitness Instructor of the Year award, 2005 for Best Female Presenter and 2008 Lifetime Achievement OBOW Award and in 2007 Keli was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. Additionally, in 2012, Keli was also honored as Presenter of the Year as well as the 2016 Inspiration Award for Empower! Conventions. Keli is an ACSM CEP and holds certifications through, ACE as a GFI, HC and CPT. Furthermore Keli is an SCW Faculty Member, a BOSU Elite and a Schwinn Senior Master Trainer and a Ryka ambassador.