I consider myself a bit of a gym rat. Name a workout, and I’ve probably tried it. When gyms closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, I switched to home exercise. Then, when my gym reopened, I considered refreshing my routine with private personal training sessions, only to immediately wince at the price.
After some quick research, I found an alternative: virtual personal training. If the price of a single workout at your gym is getting in the way of your fitness goals, you might want to try one of the many personal training apps or digital platforms on the market. .
First, decide if a virtual personal trainer will work for you
People flocked to online workout classes and one-on-one workouts during the pandemic – for good reason. “Due to COVID-19, certain elements of health and wellness are suddenly paramount on everyone’s mind,” says Ebenezer Samuel, personal trainer on digital platform Flexit. “You have a lot more people exploring fitness.”
While companies like Peloton offer large online course video libraries, virtual personal training platforms are different as they typically offer one-on-one live sessions with a trainer.
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While virtual sessions don’t exactly replicate in-person training — where your trainer can observe you from all angles and fix errors in your form — they offer accountability at a lower price. (You can find online trainers charging $30 per session, while in-person training can cost up to $100.)
And sweat in front of a screen doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Even now, with fitness centers reopening, it can be useful for anyone who travels frequently, prefers to work out at home, or might be intimidated by the gym. If any of these appeal to you, we’ve picked out some of the most user-friendly virtual training platforms to make sure you never miss another step day.
When I tried virtual personal training, I signed up for a monthly plan with Coming, an app that connects you directly with a trainer. Josh Bonhotal, vice president of performance for the company, explains that the app aims to create the same kind of intimate, personalized relationship that elite athletes have with their coaches. And he would know he worked with basketball stars like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
With Future, you can communicate with your trainer through the app whenever you want, about fitness goals, exercise form, nutrition, or any other information that interests you. Each week, your coach will upload workouts for you, customizing them to your goals. Unlike other virtual personal training platforms, one downside to Future is that it doesn’t allow you to schedule traditional one-on-one sessions with your trainer.
With a subscription, you can rent an Apple Watch (for free) for the duration of your subscription to track your heart rate and other health data while you work out. Personally, I liked using Future, and spent about six months with it until I decided I had “graduated” and could design workouts myself.
Future is $149 per month on iOS.
flexible differs from Future in that it offers live one-on-one sessions with trainers on most digital devices, rather than just built-in workouts developed by a trainer. It also categorizes its trainers by specialty, so you can sign up to work with one that focuses on boxing, strength, pilates, physical therapy, post-natal fitness, and 10 other specialties.
The program is also quite portable: you can use Flexit on your computer or take it to the gym with you on your phone or tablet. “I can work with someone from California now, where before I couldn’t have that,” says Samuel, who is based in New York and has trained a variety of clients, including NFL players and firefighters.
[Related: Switching to a new fitness app? Here’s how to bring your data with you.]
If you’d rather work with a trainer who runs their own business online, you can find a plethora of freelance trainers with virtual programs by browsing Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Working with most independent trainers will probably cost you at least $50 per session.
I myself follow some of these coaches; you might want to check Kristen McParlanda certified nutrition and fitness trainer, who offers a one-on-one coaching program for $100 per month, or Robyn Warrenfounder of a fitness community called Strong Girl Geek, which offers an all-inclusive 12-session coaching package for $529. If you like specialized fitness classes, Alexa Idama offers private virtual pilates sessions for $85.
Although it’s a little more expensive than joining an app-based program, working with one of these trainers can get you a little more one-on-one attention.