For the time- and money-crunched, a virtual trainer can be the perfect solution.

By Charlotte Andersen
March 16, 2012

It's not hard to find a personal trainer; walk into any local gym and you'll likely have plenty of candidates. So why are so many people turning to the Internet for exercise guidance? And more importantly, is it as safe and effective as in-person training sessions?

"I believe the biggest advantage lies in both the affordability and flexibility," says Tina Reale, who runs the online personal training site Best Body Fitness. "Since the sessions aren't done in-person, the client can choose the best time to complete the workouts. Plus, clients can choose to do the workouts at home using the equipment they have available. The cost is typically significantly less too. For example, my online training programs cost less per month than most hour-long in-person sessions."

Yet there's one important thing that online trainers lack: physical contact. Can you really train someone-check form, provide motivation, and prevent injury-if you're not there with them? Franklin Antonin, personal trainer, author of The Fit Executive and founder of, says he has to make an extra effort to ensure his clients are getting the workout they want.

"At iBodyFit, each user gets several custom video workouts that they can do on their own time, including HD video and slow motion exercise samples." He adds that clients can reach their trainer day or night via "phone, text, IM, Facebook, Twitter, and more."

"I compensate through constant communication via email and phone calls," says Amanda Loudin, a running coach and blogger at "I write up a weekly schedule for each client and ask that they provide me feedback at the end of the week detailing how it went. The more feedback I get from them, the more effectively I can make up the following week's schedule for them," she says.

The million-dollar question: Are the results as good as what you would get from a real-life trainer? In terms of running, "I do think online training is as safe and effective as in person training," Loudin says. "Running doesn't require a lot of form instruction but rather pace and distance instruction."

Reale takes it one step further, saying online training can be even better in some circumstances. "The effectiveness relies a lot on how motivated the client is to achieve his or her goals-and that would still be a factor when working in-person. Online training can have some extra positive affect on motivation because I'm always just an email away for support and will regularly check in with clients or drop them a line with a motivating thought or quote for their day," she says.

As someone who has tried both in-person and online personal training, I think there are definite advantages to both. If you're a beginner or someone who enjoys face-to-face interaction and/or a set structure, in-person training is probably best for you. But if you just need a little nudge or some extra expertise, an online trainer is a great way to make your investment last a lot longer.

Have you tried online training? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!

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