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Fitness review: Is using an online personal trainer worth it? How to stay fit at home

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When the coronavirus lockdown was introduced last year, many Britons had to change their weight loss or fitness journeys. Traditional gym sessions, meeting personal trainers and group classes went out the window and many turned online to stay fit.

SIX3NINE, based in London, was among the gyms that began offering online personal training sessions.

So what is it like to get a personal training session at home?

Just minutes into my first session with SIX3NINE senior personal trainer Ed Loveday, I was exhausted.

The distance of not being in the same room as the PT wasn’t enough to stop us from having a tough session.

We decided to train virtually two days a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, for an hour each session.

After speaking about my goal, which was general fitness, Ed drew up a plan of what I would do for the following four weeks.

When trying to find the best plan for clients, Ed explained he will always consider the needs and targets of the individual.

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He said: “We have a client centric approach to training and try our best to design a workout schedule which is enjoyable, effective for the goals of the client and is easy to adhere to. We do this by discussing training history and what the client likes and dislikes and using the first few sessions to see how capable the client is.

“Using this information we then design a program that allows for progress to be made but that is flexible enough to be adapted to the ongoing needs of the client where necessary.”

How does it work?

I had a handful of equipment available – a couple of light dumbells and some resistance bands – but having equipment wasn’t essential.

When working with a PT at home, plans can be adapted to suit everyone, whether you have no equipment or a full home gym.

Ed explained: “Training people with limited equipment has been one of the trickier aspects of training during lockdown. Equipment gives different options and can make training more interesting and varied.

“That said we have a lot of experience in our team at SIX3NINE and have made an extensive library of bodyweight exercises that can be used to have an effective workout with limited space and equipment. This has formed the basis of our training of clients who have limited space and equipment.

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“We will usually recommend a few small purchases of equipment such as resistance bands and exercise mats to enable a little more variety.

“We were also able to loan out much of the equipment in our gyms to our clients which helped a lot as well as providing discounts with some of our equipment suppliers so that clients had the chance to purchase equipment that was increasingly hard to get hold of due to shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rather than focusing on specific muscle groups each session, both sessions were made up of a range of full body moves.

My plan included squats, deadlifts and bridges for the legs, and bent over rows, push ups and bicep curls for the upper body.

During every session, we tried adding more repetitions or new variations to make the workouts more challenging.

While our only communication was through the lens of a video call, Ed was still able to give me pointers and help perfect form on the various moves.

Using technology to communicate can be tricky and, while we had no issues, Ed detailed the possible drawbacks of a virtual session.

“Virtual training is not a panacea. People will by and large get the best results from working with a Personal Trainer when they are face-to-face and in a well equipped gym,” he stated.

“Good PTs will observe movements from all angles to improve technique and being with someone in-person allows a trainer to sense their clients’ mood and energy and make appropriate recommendations based on the observations.

“This is much more difficult to do via a screen with a dodgy wifi connection and a three second delay. Soft skills are essential to high quality modern personal training and many of them just don’t translate well through the screen. It’s like the difference between watching a concert on TV or being in the stadium. Superior equipment in gyms means more appropriate exercises for each client and more excitement through variation.

“Using a variety of equipment to orientate training towards clients’ goals will create more progress and mean clients are more likely to stick to a training regimen compared with a limited home gym.

“The modern living room is currently an office, a classroom and a gym so getting away from a screen for a while and getting back into an air conditioned gym with mood lighting and cool sound systems will likely provide a more motivating environment in which people can workout with purpose and reconnect with their health.”

What should you eat?

When training, what you put into your body is vital in fueling effective workouts.

With this in mind, nutrition is something Ed discussed early on.

The expert shared the importance of following a healthy diet plan when working out regularly.

“During a pandemic; health should be at the forefront of our minds,” he continued.

“Along with sensible training, good nutrition forms a large part of our health and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact that nutrition has. A sensible approach to nutrition will include enough calories to fuel your body in its daily activities and an awareness of what proteins, fats and carbohydrates can do for your body and how they can assist your health goals.

“Good training will count for very little towards people’s long term health without appropriate nutrition and recovery.”

Is it worth it?

There are lots of different resources available which offer a range of workouts at home, including many free options.

Using a personal trainer, however, is probably the closest I have been to a gym workout experience during lockdown.

The personalised and live approach is more interactive and ensures the workout is at the right level. Also, being watched – even if virtually – creates accountability which just isn’t there with many home workouts.

Speaking of the benefits of home training, Ed continued: “There are a plethora of positives to virtual training and it has helped many people maintain an exercise regime during the pandemic.

“With virtual training the client is already at home so there are less barriers to getting the workout done; saving money on travel and gym memberships can also make this a more cost effective choice. Limiting the spread of Covid has been a priority and vulnerable people are safer working out at home at times when the risk of infection is high.”

With many fitness enthusiasts now used to exercising at home, there are lots of benefits of continuing home workouts, even after lockdown restrictions have eased.

Ed concluded: “I think virtual training and working out from home will definitely play a role in the months to come. I think it suits those who either don’t enjoy the gym environment or whose schedule means that gym access is difficult.

“It is our job as personal trainers to adapt to this going forward and ensure that we continue to improve our practice both in house and online.”



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