Online Coaching – What is it, do you need it, and what makes a good coach?

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As I write this at the end of February 2021, Britain and Ireland are still firmly locked down. We can only meet 1 other person for exercising outside, gyms and leisure facilities are closed, and both new and second-hand exercise equipment is increasingly difficult to come by.

This is very much the age of the home workout. Follow along videos by beautiful, coiffured, steely ab-ed heroes were a godsend to some, and pure poison to others.

PE with Joe Wicks

Love them or hate them, they served a purpose: to help us get up and keep moving our beautiful bodies.

Now some of the hugely self-motivated types will have continued to follow along with video workouts and online programmes no problem, but for the vast majority, this will have dwindled down to the sum total of ‘not much at all’.

How do I know? Because I am firmly rooted in this camp myself. I get seduced and excited by the novelty, the sense of shared experience, and attack it with gusto, fully motivated with the knowlege that this is ‘MY. NEW. THING’. I can already hear the Rocky soundtrack echoing between my ears.

Discipline is greater than Motivation

Motivation, excitement and willpower are all, sadly, finite. And the Rocky soundtrack only lasts 31:25. At some point, the ember that threatened to consume the entire world from the fire of my new badass-ery slowly diminishes into a pathetic puff of apathy.

And I’m straight back at the start.

One solution to this endless cycle is ‘accountability’. Just being accountable to another person, a group, or an ideal can be the thing that keeps us getting up and at it.

Another is ‘guidance’. Sure, you are getting info from the videos or programmes but at some point you’ll hit a plateau, or a problem that needs some attention. A pre-recorded video, or workout regime can’t fully help you here.


Enter the coach or personal trainer. A good coach will set you up with the appropriate workouts for your ability, answer you concerns, fix your form, keep you accountable, pick you up when you fall, and be your own personal cheerleader.

For many people the best option is in-person 1-1 or small group semi-private sessions, to get to the nitty-gritty of what you need to reach your goals.

Sadly, in our current state we are unable to avail of these services. But there is an alternative – Online Coaching. A virtual exchange with a real Personal Trainer or Coach.

Online Coaching – A Personal Trainer in Your Pocket


  • No Travel – You can do it from the comfort of your own home, in your underpants (or not). This also cuts down your time investment, just roll out of bed and get going.
  • Completely flexible timings – You are not dependant on an open slot in the trainers schedule, you train when it suits you.
  • Less intimidating – I love lifting heavy weights and I train a lot, but I can feel the intimidation of going into the weights room of a large Globo-gym and squeezing past all the sweaty, grunting ‘alpha-males’. The thought of approaching one of the muscular PTs for help is often enough to make you pack your kit and leave. (It shouldn’t be, they are all generally lovely, as are the other lifters.) Online coaching allows you to have this exchange in a less intimidating setting.
  • Accountability – Possibly the main reason to get a coach, other than the expert guidance. Your coach will check in with you at regular intervals to see if you are doing the work, and how you are progressing.
  • More affordable – Not necessarily cheap, but definitely more affordable. You are freeing up a little of the coaches time so it will cost you less than that of in-person training. Prices vary from very low to the other side of £2000 per month depending on who you go with and what you are looking for, so shop around and remember that you are looking for quality and dependability above all else.
  • Clarity – A good online coach will give you a detailed plan of which exercises / workouts to do, with clear demonstrations of each movement. So, when you go into the gym/garage/spare room, you should know exactly what to do. You’ll be that intimidating sweaty grunter. A good coach will also be able to point you in the direction of good food and lifestyle choices.
  • More choice – As you are not tied in to any specific locality you have much more choice, whether its cost, personability of the trainer, or training style.
  • More communication – The online coach is always there to answer any queries or concerns you have. Just drop them a message through whatever medium you are using and they’ll get back to you. Just remember that they have lives and families too, so be a little patient, we don’t have teams of call centre operators.
  • Skin in the game – This is a big one. When you pay a decent amount of money for something, you are far more likely to do it. You have financial incentive. No money = No value.


  • You can cheat the system – This is kind of ridiculous but I’ve seen it happen. People lie about doing the prescribed work or the food choices for example. The coach isn’t there so cannot know if the work was done. For a while at least. If they have designed a good programme, it will become apparent if you aren’t following the rules, because you haven’t achieved the desired outcome. If you cheat you will only be cheating yourself. Don’t be surprised if the coach won’t work with you again.
  • Some people need more initial hand-holding – This is particularly true for complete beginners. They just need a little more attention, a little more observation. If you have trained for more than 6 months I’d say you are good to go. If you are a true gym/training virgin then look for a coach who can cater for your personal level of ability.
  • More choice – Yes, I know this was on the benefits list, but sometimes there is too much choice. You end up staring at your screen wide eyed and dribbling with ‘analysis paralysis’. SEE HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD COACH IN TOMORROWS POST.
  • Delay in feedback – Unless you are working with a live video stream you will have to wait a while to get a critique or adjustment on your movement form. Not ideal and something that cannot compete with in-person training.
  • It can be difficult to build a good working relationship – If your coach is just some bloke on the other end of an email, it can be hard to build the trust and the personal relationship required for a good working environment. And you need this for your accountability to really mean something. It can be hard to part with the cash and bust a gut in the gym for some ethereal, faceless gym-rat.

My experience with online coaches

People are often surprised to find out that I have had and continue to make use of online coaches for my own training. “But surely you could write your own programme?” they say. This is true. And in theory, with the whole of history’s knowledge on health and fitness only a finger’s tap away, so could you. You could also fix your own car, mend the plumbing and generate your own power from cow manure. The point is it takes time and effort. At times, I prefer to delegate this to another coach to free up my time for working with my clients.

It also keeps me more accountable. I’ve paid my money, I’ve committed myself, and I have someone calling me out when I don’t produce the goods. The other thing an online coach is good for is making me work on my weaknesses. These often present as either the things I am bad at, or the things I hate. It is very easy to subconsciously (or consciously) ‘forget’ to add these in to a programme that I write for myself.

I’m lucky enough to have trained with some world class coaches from all over the planet and, not being the jet-setting type, I have done this via an online platform.

It has taken me a while, but I have managed to develop the habit of training consistently. When we have consistency we don’t have to rely on constant motivation, or ever fluctuating willpower. It’s just something that we do. It becomes weird if we don’t do it. And having the accountability of a coach has definitely been a game changer.

When I find myself at a plateau, where the subtle changes I make in my own programme aren’t bringing about the desired effect, a coach brings fresh new eyes, a different perspective.

There is always someone out there who is more learned than you, has more experience than you, or is coming at your dilemma from a direction you never even considered. This is why all good coaches have good coaches. And why you should consider it too.

Finding someone you trust to help you in your health journey is like finding someone who has a torch and a map as you travel along a dark path. You still get to your destination, only quicker, with less setbacks, and with company.

Tomorrow I will go into detail about what to look for in a good online coach so that you will be able to make a sound informed decision.

In the meantime, if you want to see what we offer as online coaching just hit the button below.

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