Are Online Training and Outdoor Workouts the New Normal?

The Big Fitness Industry Shakeup.

We all made a lot of life changes since restrictions began to be implemented back in March of 2020. Many people resorted to online training videos or attempting to put together their own workouts outdoors using minimal equipment or body weight exercises. The big question is: did we discover a new way of training that will revolutionize the fitness industry?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine annual survey it appears that we did. Never before have I seen such a shakeup of the top 10 fitness trends in the course of a year. Every year there are major surveys of fitness professionals that predicts the trends for the coming year and this year is exceptional in the deviation from years past.

Online Training Comes in at #1

Online training seems to have displaced group fitness classes at the top spot. This year group fitness  not only drops from the number one position but from the top 10 all together and for notable reasons. We think it’s going to be a while before we all feel comfortable checking into that crowded spin class again. Online training is a catch-all term that could include virtual training, video on demand and programs designed and delivered by personal trainers and fitness coaches. Let’s dive a little deeper into the different areas of online training.

Virtual Fitness Classes

Virtual online classes have really exploded onto the scene and are here to stay, especially since everyone has learned how to log onto Zoom now and participate in an interactive virtual call. You have two options when you join a live virtual workout, you can either stream it, where the instructor cannot see you but you can see them. Or you can, if the instructor has given you the option, participate interactively, where the instructor can see and hear you and you can see and hear them.

I’d say it’s 50/50 which live virtual streaming format people choose but as an instructor myself I prefer the interactive option. This allows us the ability to correct form when necessary and monitor the intensity of the workout. If you are not putting enough effort into it, we can see and offer some motivational words to encourage you to increase your intensity. I have asked many people why they choose the one-way streaming option when they could be interactive and they usually say that they enjoy popping online without worrying about how they look or how clean their space is, which is part of the convenience of virtual fitness classes.

Please see my full article on Virtual, Two Way Live Training for a more in depth take on this newest of fitness offerings.

Online Fitness Programs

The fitness industry in general isn’t good at defining particular terms, a good example of the incongruity within the industry lexicon is that none of us can agree to common names of our most basic function, exercises. So when it comes to emerging mediums and new digital tools, we can still be consistent in our inconsitency.

Most of the general public, I believe, think of online training as the collection of apps that utilize a simple AI (Artificial Intelligence) or fitness personality form to create a pseudo customized workout for the client. This is what the general public is looking for when the Google “Online Training”. However, most personal trainers and fitness coaches would have something else in mind. They would be thinking about something more like our own Personal Fit Plans.

There are many apps out there that will design a workout based on criteria you input.  However, unless you truly understand the nuance of each movement, they will be ineffective. You can’t just “do an exercise” and see the benefit. I often find myself instructing exercises as simple as a push-up, which I’m positive 90% of people are doing incorrectly. One of my favorite youtube rabbit holes is watching videos of people incorrectly demonstrating exercises from P90X. Their terrible form often gives me inspiration for new combination exercises. Personal Trainers are the first to recognize that they would even benefit from another Personal Trainer’s perspective, even when we know the movement perfectly. We can only see and evaluate so much in a mirror before it would be beneficial to get input from another pro.

I know it’s beginning to sound like I have a bias against apps but I don’t, I love the concept but like nutrition, even with some automation, it’s still a one-size-fits-all mentality and something as important as your fitness shouldn’t be left up to the results that a coder leads you to through a maze of questions that you may not even know how to answer.

A real Online Training program would be one delivered to you by a Personal Trainer. Historically he or she designs a workout after having a conversation with you about your goals, injuries and fitness level. This is where the apps struggle. Nobody knows their true fitness level. I always underestimate mine but many people overestimate their’s, which I’ve had to adjust to over the years. Coming from a military background, if you tell me you are “very fit” that is different than say somebody from a corporate background. I hike 5 miles 3+ times a week with 50lbs on my back with an elevation gain of 1000′ plus lead 4, 45 minute workouts, various personal training sessions and my own exercise and I consider myself moderately fit. I’ve seen people that could barely run a 5K convince themselves they are in good enough shape to do a triathlon. For this reason, at least when you are starting out and periodically while on your fitness journey, it’s good to consult with a Personal Trainer and dial in the plan that fits you and your goals best.

I really enjoy the new developments in online training taking place right now. There are an number of platforms that allow personal trainers to create a program and add video examples to each exercise. On the trainer’s side this can be time consuming but it eliminates a lot of questions about how to do one exercise or another in the long run. They have already done an evaluation with you and you are both on the same page with intensity and form so when they send you the workout, you are comfortable with the exercises and how you should perform them. 

I’ve taken this concept to the next level, which I feel will be the future of online training. We start with a virtual meeting online to go over the introctory questions, fill out forms such as the PAR-Q and any other questionnaires we feel are relevant to your situation and perform a functional movement screen. Once we have an overall understanding of how we are going to approach your custom program we design it in a spreadsheet and send it over to you as a PDF. We ask you to do the workout a couple times on your own, then we get on an interactive virtual session to answer any questions and evaluate your form and the inentsity at which you are performing the exercises. We record the session so that you can go back if you forgot any of the instruction. Every two weeks we progress you through the workout, developing it to accommodate any adaptations that may have occurred. 

Once trainers and clients have experienced this form of online programming, I don’t think they will be going back to any other way. It is efficient, cost effective for both the trainer and client, as well as it get’s clients dialed into their perfect exercise program quickly.


Outdoor Workouts

Most group fitness will continue to be held outside, especially in San Diego where we can do this year round. It turns out people like to be outside when they are working out so expect outdoor workouts to continue to trend at the top of the list. This is probably a catch-all phrase that includes many of the other categories of fitness that are usually at the top of the list. 

Bodyweight training has also surged to the top of the list at number 3. This may be for many reasons as there was a run on equipment when restrictions were first introduced. Kettlebells, dumbells and free weights were all in short supply come April, 2020. What people have discovered is that with a good trainer you don’t need a clunky collection of weights. Now, I personally think a small collection of kettlebells is appropriate, but I utilize Super Bands predominantly in most of my workouts. It is my opinion that if it’s good enough for the military then it is likely good enough for the regular fitness enthusiast and that bodyweight workouts are here to stay.

Exercise is medicine is a new entry in the top ten as well! I love this one personally. As many are discovering, those pre-existing conditions can’t be brushed aside any longer. Obesity, high-blood pressure and adult onset diabetes, all conditions that can be cured with diet and exercise, aren’t just problems of getting older. They can have an impact on your ability to live today. Many trainers already understand this and their goal isn’t to turn you into a fitness model but rather put you on course to a healthier you.