Fitness Advice: Is an Online Fitness Coach Worth It?

Have you taken yourself as far as you can in your fitness journey? Maybe you want to uplevel where you’re at. There is no shortage of options out there. You have online fitness coaching, apps, in-person training, and workout videos everywhere you look.

Is an online fitness coach worth it? Thanks to the pandemic, online fitness coaching, and personal training took off.

Before COVID, about 14% of personal trainers had an online component. Post-COVID, that number stands at 83%.

It seems that online fitness coaching is here to stay. There are a lot of advantages of online fitness coaching from the perspective of an online fitness coach – it’s location independent, they can serve more people, and have more flexibility and freedom to create a lifestyle that they want.

What about you? What do you have to gain from having an online fitness coach? How does a coach compare to an app or in-person trainer?

The good news is that you’re in the right place to learn all about online fitness coaching. Read on to discover if online fitness coaching is worth it or not.  

What Does an Online Fitness Coach Do?

Online fitness coaching isn’t that new.

I started the online portion of my business in 2016. Everything was delivered in Excel spreadsheets and really long workout explanation videos (Fortunately, I learned a lot about the client experience since then.).

It has exploded to the point where personal trainers made online coaching part of their business model.

How does online fitness coaching work? It depends on the coach and how they deliver their programs.

Online fitness coaching starts with an assessment to see where you’re at and what your goals are. The coach reviews that data and will develop your program accordingly.

Most coaches deliver fitness programs through an app. They may use a workout template or deliver a fully customized workout program according to your goals and needs.

You download the app for free, and you’ll see a calendar with your workouts. There are videos that accompany each movement, so you know how to perform them correctly.

There are coaches that do one-on-one sessions online, just like a personal training session.

Coaches differ in their check-in procedures.  Many coaches opt for an online check-in form. You take a minute to fill that out and you’ll probably get messages from your coach through the app.

Other coaches (like myself) prefer to have an online call to check in, even if it’s for 15 minutes. That maintains the connection between coach and client and it helps keep the program on track. We address issues that hold the client back so they can keep moving towards their goals.

Fitness coaches may offer other services like nutrition coaching as well.

Online fitness coach activity tracker

Pros and Cons of Online Fitness Coaching

Just like anything, there are pros and cons of online fitness coaching.

The main advantage is that it’s convenient. You don’t have to go to a gym if you don’t want to. There are fitness coaches that go out of their way to build flexibility into the program.

You might get super busy on Monday and need to switch your workout to Tuesday. That’s usually fine as long as you get the workout done.

With in-person training, you could get busy and lose the session if you cancel or do a last-minute reschedule.

The second advantage is that it’s cost-effective. If you wanted to work out with a personal trainer three times a week, you’ll pay between $60 and $75 per session.

That comes out to $720 and $900 a month.

Online fitness coaching generally ranges between $200 and $400 a month. You’ll find programs that cost a little more and a little less, but this seems to be the average.

The third is the level of service you get from an online fitness coach. Now, this will depend on the coach and the type of program that you have.

In my experience, online fitness coaches can provide better service in-between sessions than an in-person trainer.

Here’s why. 

Trainers at the gym are focused on sales and getting as many clients as possible. A trainer in a big-box gym usually gets paid minimum wage (or meager wages).

They get paid a percentage of what you paid when they deliver a session. They don’t get paid a lot, so they’re always scrambling to find clients and worrying about their financials.

That leaves little bandwidth to help you if something comes up between sessions.

Online coaches can handle more clients and they set themselves up so they can be available (within reason) in-between check-ins.

personal trainer in session

Fitness Apps vs. Online Fitness Coaching vs. In-Person Training

There isn’t a shortage of fitness information and coaches out there. Just hop on Instagram and YouTube. You’ll find everything you need to get fit.

There are thousands of apps on Google Play and in the Apple App Store.

How do these things compare and which one is right for you?

Let’s start with a simple question. What’s the most important thing to you?

Do you value immediate feedback the most? In that case, then you’ll get the most benefit from in-person training.

Most trainers (Note that I didn’t say all. I’ll get to that later.) will watch your form and give you immediate feedback. This is valuable if you want to prevent injury and prevent yourself from developing bad habits.

What kind of workouts do you enjoy? If you want customized workouts you can do at home or at the gym using basic equipment, an online coach can create a program for you.

I strongly recommend in-person training if you’re doing heavy barbell work. Barbells aren’t as forgiving as other tools, such as kettlebells and suspension trainers.

Level of Experience

Your experience level is another consideration. In-person fitness training is the best option if you’re new to strength training. Beginners need that immediate feedback more than gym veterans.

It also helps with gym anxiety and intimidation. Let’s face it, it can be an overwhelming and uncomfortable experience at a new gym.

It’s nice to have a trainer walk you through the gym and allow you to get acquainted with the gym equipment.

There’s something about being with a trainer when the gym is really crowded. You’re able to get access to equipment that you would normally have to wait for or deal with the gym rats for space.

You might already have experience in the gym and want accountability. Online fitness coaching is perfect for this scenario.

Online fitness coaches can spot-check your form if you send them a recording. That lets you correct any inefficiencies in your training.

An online fitness coach often brings their values to the table, too. They do much more than count reps or give you a workout. They’ll encourage you to accept where you’re at and celebrate mistakes.

You’ll get real-world insights that you can use in various parts of your life.  

Classes and Apps

What about a class setting? Classes are great because you get the social and fitness aspects. It really depends on the quality of the gym and the staff.

I’ve seen and experienced classes where the main instructor checks out and spends more time on the phone than with clients. I’ve also seen classes where the instructor lets clients lift with bad form.

I’ve also seen classes that have several trainers on hand working with clients to deliver the very best class possible.

Fitness apps are another popular avenue to get fit. There were over 80 million fitness app installs in Europe alone during the first 3 months of the year.

Are fitness apps worth it? Apps will give you random workouts, which is fine if you just want to get some exercise in.

However, if you have specific goals in mind, random workouts won’t work. You’ll just get random results. You want to invest in a coach who will tailor a comprehensive program to your goals, needs, and abilities.

How to Hire an Online Fitness Coach

You know that you want to hire an online fitness coach, but there are so many options, that it’s hard to know where to start.

Begin with the end in mind. Think about what kind of goals you have. You might want to focus on getting stronger, have more energy, or have a better quality of life as you get older.

Take a look at your budget and see how much you can realistically afford. Keep in mind that if you hire an online fitness coach on the cheap, you’ll probably get what you pay for.

Think about how many other clients they need to get at that price to make a decent living. They’re running a volume-based business, which means that you’ll get minimum service.

Get Referrals

There’s probably someone you know that is working with an online fitness coach or knows one. Put a call out to your personal network and get the names of a few coaches to work with.

You’ll want to interview them and ask them about their processes, experience, and successes.

Find out what they specialize in. Coaches that work with women over 40 or stay-at-home moms will understand the unique challenges you face.

Most of all, you want to feel comfortable with them. This is the most important thing because you’re going to share personal information with your coach. Any sort of trust issues will get in the way of your progress and results.

That’s true for just about any service-based business, not just fitness.

Philosophy and Process

You might turn to Instagram or YouTube to find a fitness coach. There are people that you follow that you feel like you have a connection with them.

It’s important to remember that just because someone shows that they can flip a tire or lift heavy, it doesn’t mean that they’re a good coach.

In fact, many of those fitness influencers do more harm than good. They perpetuate the myths of what fitness is supposed to be instead of creating a caring, positive approach to fitness.

You need to ask them about their philosophy behind the coaching. You want to make sure that they’ll move you forward in a way that’s healthy and supportive.

Is an Online Fitness Coach Worth It?

Is an online fitness coach worth it? Of course, I’m going to say yes. I’m an online fitness and nutrition coach. I will follow that up by saying that online fitness coaching isn’t right for everyone.

An online fitness coach is great if you have specific goals and prior workout experience. A good amount of the population will fall into this category.

Beginners and heavy lifters should get in-person training because they can really benefit from immediate feedback.

Are you still curious about online coaching? Fill out an application for coaching and book a free consultation to learn if it’s the right path for you.


Heather McDaniel is the founder of Invincible Women Fitness Academy, and a nationally certified fitness and nutrition coach. She helps women over 40 all over the world train their bodies, hearts, and minds so that they can live with confidence and joy.

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest