Odds are if you’ve ever worked with a fitness coach it was in a group setting. But advances in technology and evolving preferences of both coaches and athletes* are changing that.
* “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” — Nike
Fitness Trends & Fragmentation
The broader personal training industry ($9 Billion/year in the US) is currently growing at a modest 1% as it competes with a never-ending list of fitness trends and alternatives that trade personalization for cost, time/location flexibility, and/or novelty:
- Do-it-yourself at commercial gyms (e.g.: 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym)
- Less expensive follow-along exercise methods (e.g.: BeachBody’s P90x, Sean T’s Insanity)
- Pricey but popular group training options (e.g.: CrossFit, Orange Theory)
- High-end home workout technologies (e.g.: Peloton, Mirror**)
Flexibility or Personalization. Pick both.
Incredibly, virtually every available option is either location-dependent, meaning the athlete and/or the coach have to be in a specific place (e.g.: gym, home), or time-dependent, meaning one party has to be available at a specific time (e.g.: when the class or session starts) — or both.
Meanwhile, a growing segment of fitness coaches are using technology to provide “remote coaching” to clients who want both flexibility (to workout whenever/wherever) and personalization (individualized training programs, feedback, and accountability).
At the same time, these entrepreneurial coaches recognize the benefits of their own flexibility — to work where and when they want. Some coaches are shifting their entire businesses online.
In-Person vs. Remote Coaching
For athletes for whom money, time, and location are not an issue, and who can find the right coach nearby, remote coaching may not be appealing or necessary.
Likewise, some coaches we’ve talked to say that because remote coaching doesn’t allow them to give the same kind of real-time feedback, they feel they can’t do their best work remotely — so they prefer to work with local clients.
To be clear, training one-on-one with a good coach in-person is definitely the way to get personalization, real-time feedback, accountability, and results. But for many athletes, the need for time or location flexibility is what tips the scales in favor of remote coaching.
Tech Accelerating the Trend
Technology has evolved to make remote coaching more effective and easier for both parties. Mobile devices give athletes the ability to work with the right coach for them, wherever they are, and gives both parties the ability to work together on their own schedules, whenever they want (asynchronously).
Just a few years ago “online trainers” used Skype, text messages, email, and spreadsheets to manage and deliver their athletes’ programs. Now, as apps like Future and Trainiac promise to bring lower-cost trainers to the masses, new tech like TrueCoach allow specialist fitness coaches to streamline the individualized experience with their athletes as well.
This all adds up to anyone from weekend warriors to elite athletes being able to access to bespoke, individualized training programs from anywhere — at the gym, at home, even on the road.
Remote Coaching for CrossFitters
Over the past several years, the number of coaches offering remote coaching — not to mention online programming (workouts without the coaching)— has exploded in the “functional fitness” space generically referred to as “CrossFit.”
The CrossFit training methodology truly took off when crossfit.com started posting their daily workouts online, which may be why coaches in this space are leaders in the development of remote coaching as a profession.
Most people come to WODwell looking for one-off workouts and a lot of them end up wanting more — like a program to follow or individualized coaching. But they don’t know how to go about finding a coach to provide that. And most coaches don’t have the brand recognition required to generate a regular flow of new clients.
About 25% of WODwell’s users are coaches — and a third of them offer remote coaching today. Most of the rest of our users are athletes at all levels from beginner to competitive — but many of them don’t have access to a coach.
Over the past few years, we have had countless athletes reach out asking us to refer them to coaches. Until now, we’ve pointed them to the CrossFit map and suggest they find a local box. But so many replied to explain that they travel too much, or are deployed abroad, or have to work out at home due to family obligations — a local coach isn’t always an option.
We believe we’re in a position to use WODwell’s workout platform to make it easier for more athletes to discover remote coaches and further accelerate the growth of remote coaching in the functional fitness space.
In Summer 2019 we ran a prototype that successfully tested our ability to match coaches and athletes. Shortly after we began building a “supply” of awesome coaches who offer remote coaching and/or programming (wodwell.com/coaches). It’s still invite-only, but if you’re a remote coach who wants to be a part of the solution, join our waitlist.
UPDATE: In September, 2020 we launched our “Find a Coach” tool to help athletes find the right remote coach for them.