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I worked out with a Virtual Personal Trainer… This is What Happened

Here’s what it’s like to work out with a personal trainer from the comfort of your own home without ever actually being in the same room.

Photo collage of a woman doing various strength exercises at home with dumb bells.
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Working from home during the pandemic led me to also start working out at home. I’ve previously shared my results from running four times a week, trying intermittent fasting for a month, and most recently what happened when I began doing HIIT workouts at home.

I had finally found a groove with working out in my bedroom, I was feeling strong, and was ready to take my training to the next level. I wanted to know: 

Is virtual personal training really worth the cost?
And can it give you similar results as an in-person session?

When given the opportunity to experience four workout sessions with a virtual personal trainer at home from Nielsen Fitness Premium Personal Training I jumped at the chance!

Frequently asked questions about virtual personal trainers:

What is a virtual personal trainer?

Virtual personal trainers are very similar to face-to-face personal trainers. Although a virtual personal trainer is not in the same space as you, they are physically present over video conferencing software when a person is exercising. They provide workout plans, nutrition plans, correct form and give virtual advice to help individuals meet their fitness goals.

Do virtual personal trainers need insurance?

I did some research and discovered Personal Training is an unregulated industry, and Virtual Trainers are not required to have insurance. And fortunately it gave me some peace of mind when I found out that all Nielsen Fitness trainers are Certified and insured.

What platforms is virtual personal training delivered on? (Zoom? Teams? Webex? Google Hangouts?)

Zoom, and google hangouts are the go-to solutions for delivering virtual personal training sessions.

How much is virtual personal training? per session? Monthly? packages?

Virtual personal training starts at $50/workout and can go up to $110 depending on the type of service (express, platinum, semi-private).

What makes Nielsen Fitness different?

Since 2006 Nielsen Fitness has been serving clients in the comfort of their own homes with in-home personal training in Toronto. Today they also provide Virtual personal training across Canada and the world. My experience working with Nielsen Fitness virtual personal trainers has been different than hiring a random independent trainer and even my experience working with a personal trainer at a large box fitness chain. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a welcome gift, and even more surprised to receive a call and email from Poul who owns and operates Nielsen Fitness, to ensure I was loving my experience and on track with my goals. Not once in the past experiences with personal training has anyone aside from the personal trainer checked in to see how I was enjoying my training.

What education and experience does a Nielsen Fitness personal trainer have?

Nielsen Fitness virtual personal trainers must have a pertinent health sciences degree or diploma in fitness and health promotion, kinesiology, or another related field. They need to go through diligent and practical interview and screening process before working with any clients.

How are Nielsen Fitness virtual personal trainers selected?

When the owner Poul called me, I asked him, and he shared with me that his company has a signature process on how they select and hire, and it’s worked for Nielsen Fitness since 2006. Nielsen Fitness has their own hiring development manager who oversees that all trainers are bringing the quality to the table that every client expects when they hire Nielsen Fitness. A lot of trainers select Nielsen Fitness because they’re familiar with their reputation and many were referred by previous trainers.

Virtual workout client on a Zoom call with her virtual personal trainer.

What to expect when starting with a virtual personal trainer

Truthfully I didn’t know what to expect when getting started, but the staff at Nielsen Fitness were great at communicating and providing me with step by step details. The first thing I did when beginning my sessions with Nielsen Fitness was complete a survey. The survey was about my current habits, my past history with fitness, my past injury history, my goals, what equipment I have available to me at home etc. I also completed a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (also known as a PAR-Q).

A few days later I had my first mini workout session and fitness assessment session with Audrey. Audrey was super nice and led me through a variety of movements.

Audrey looked at my posture, the active range of motion of certain muscles and joints, their functionality (can I confidently, safely, and pain-free go through certain motions), stability and balance, body shape goals.

Related: What do you need to start personal training?

A laptop in the foreground with a woman wearing black capris and a black t-shirt doing lunges in the background.

My virtual workouts with a personal trainer

After completing my fitness assessment and mini workout, I was matched up with Evian who is a Fitness & Health Promotion graduate as well as a certified personal trainer and Holistic Nutritionist.

Virtual personal trainer on a Zoom call with his virtual client.
Photo of Evian of Nielsen Fitness providing virtual personal training to me over Zoom.

When it was time for my first home training session, I logged onto the Zoom platform and my trainer, Evian, was waiting for me. We were able to see each other through our respective cameras and shared brief pleasantries. I was happy to find a kind and understanding voice on the other end of the screen.

Once we were settled, he took me through a routine he had created just for my needs and goals. After a brief warm up, he guided me through a strength training workout that was incredibly challenging but doable. Throughout the workout, he offered words of encouragement and modified the exercises as needed. And when he had concerns about my form, he was able to give me effective verbal cues that helped keep me safe. Honestly, I don’t think the session would have been any more successful if we physically met in person. I got in a great workout, I didn’t feel any pain, and I didn’t check my phone or cheat once.

Following my first session, I received an email from Audrey checking in with me to ensure that I liked my trainer and the approach he was taking in my workouts. It was nice to have an outlet for feedback, which otherwise would be hard if I only had the personal trainer to provide feedback to.

Altogether I had four sessions with my virtual personal trainer that were personalized, and tailored for where I am right now, and designed to take me forward to where I want to be with my fitness.

After each session Evian sent me an email to check-in with me that also included a summary of my workout. It was nice to have that summary to look back on.

Screenshot of a post workout summary of the workout.
Screenshot of the workout provided to me after my virtual personal training session.

Is a virtual personal trainer worth it?

Yes!!! Although I only did four sessions, I found that working out with a virtual personal trainer very worth it for several reasons, including:

What are the pros of working out with a virtual personal trainer?

It kept me accountable

I felt like I couldn’t blow off my workout because I just didn’t feel like working out. There was a trainer that was going to phone me and hold me accountable if I didn’t show up.

The workout was customised to my goals

Unlike the YouTube workout videos that I love and the group fitness classes that I also love, the workouts provided by my virtual personal trainer were customised to my goals. From the fitness assessment we were able to uncover some imbalances and my workouts were designed in a manner to also address those issues.

The workouts were designed with my safety in mind

I have a reoccuring SI joint issue, so not only were the workouts designed to strengthen my core and back, but my virtual personal trainer was able to adjust the workout and provide alternative exercises for me to do if my back was sore. We also identified that one side of my body is stronger than the other, so we worked the weaker side first, then the stronger side. Another thing we identified is that I have a tendency to try and lift too much – Evian was able to see from my form that the weight was too heavy and advise me to use a lower weight to keep me safe and prevent injuries.

The workouts were fun

Evian kept me entertained and kept encouraging me. I like to be challenged, and Evian quickly picked up on that. He would encourage me to do more by betting me that I couldn’t. I can never resist trying to prove someone wrong, lol.

Related: What’s the difference between in-home and virtual personal training?

A laptop in the foreground with a woman wearing black capris and a black t-shirt doing squats with weights in the background.

What are the cons of working out with a virtual personal trainer?

The workouts were shorter than my usual workouts

Because the hour included a warmup, a cool down and a summary of how I felt after my previous workout session, the hard work portion of the workout was shorter than the workouts I was used to doing. In hindsight, it would be nice to be provided with warmup and cooldown videos to follow before and after the workout in order to get the most benefit of the hour. If you hire a virtual personal trainer, and you’re not a beginner, then I would suggest seeing if your personal trainer would be open to having you do a warmup before the call, and a cool down after the call as this will allow you to maximize the time with your trainer.

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There’s no “pause” when work calls

Being a remote worker comes with some cons. In the office, when I left my desk to go for a run at lunch, or to my group workout classes at the gym, there was no expectation of me being available to answer phone calls, emails etc. While there still isn’t that expectation during the lunch hour, I had gotten used to pressing pause on the YouTube workout videos to answer phone calls, Teams messages and emails, then going right back to the workout. When working out with a virtual personal trainer I had to ignore the bings, pings, and rings of my work phone while working out. I couldn’t press pause and I found that to be pretty stressful.

I was easily distracted

This is both a pro and a con. I’ve been working out to YouTube videos for a year, and had gotten quite used to a quiet workout with only the music and beeps of the trainer’s timer. I wasn’t used to being able to have a two way conversation while working out. I found it unusual at first when my trainer would encourage me, but I quickly adapted to it and found myself chatting WAY too much instead of focusing on what I was doing and my workout. It had been a long time since I had someone to talk to during my workout and I didn’t realize how much I had missed that part of working out with a trainer.

A laptop in the foreground with a woman wearing black capris and a black t-shirt doing a plank in the background.

Conclusion, will I ever workout with a virtual personal trainer again?

I would absolutely be happy to workout with a virtual personal trainer again. I have gotten great results from personal training in the past, and I really enjoyed working out with Nielsen Fitness. There are times when I struggle with motivation, and I feel that working out with a virtual personal trainer would really help me to get back into a routine, and would be helpful for periodic check-ins as well.

Thank you to Nielsen Fitness for working with me!

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