Monday, May 21, 2007

Granny Gets A Six-Pack: Trainer to the Unlikely

Several readers have suggested that I start an online personal training service. This is an intriguing idea, since I can't go back to work at the gym until I have my hideous port removed and the damn hospital won't give me an appointment. But I'm not sure how the online training works.

I can see how the eating plan part works, but how does a trainer operate online when it comes to working out? Most of what I offered my flesh & blood clients as a certified personal trainer was real nitty gritty hands-on stuff: measuring bodyfat composition with a Futrex machine; visually evaluating their strength, flexibility, and range of motion; discovering their limitations and designing a plan that works around them; teaching them to lift with impeccably correct form; spotting them and showing them which muscles to fire; monitoring their progress and knowing when it's time to increase resistance; entertaining them with bad puns and stuff so they don't die of boredom during their sessions. All stuff that required me to be standing right there beside them.

For those of you who have engaged or researched online trainers, how the heck do they accomplish these things? Exactly what services do they offer? What sort of rates do they charge? How do you decide that they're a better choice than hiring a face-to-face trainer?

As many of you know, my personal motto is: I don't want to be skinny, I want to be STRONG! And this is the approach I take with clients as well. I believe the first step toward shedding unwanted fat is to increase your metabolism by adding beautiful sleek muscle tissue, and lots of it. No matter how old or young you are, it can be done. So I'm not the one to help a person whose goal is to become wispy, willowy, tiny and frail. I want my clients to grow strong and healthy and robust, full of energy and vitality. I don't believe in dieting, or starving, or depriving yourself of food pleasure. Life is way too short for that.

The author a year ago at age 52

Another of my personal mottos is: Maybe I can't eat everything I enjoy, but I can sure as hell enjoy everything I eat. I help clients design individualized eating plans that maximize muscle building, where every single calorie is nourishing and delicious. I spend time with my clients figuring out ways to avoid or eliminate mindless eating, those ubiquitous Pavlovian traps and triggers that cause them to gorge when they aren't even hungry, on stuff they don't really enjoy and that isn't the least bit good for them anyway. Everybody has different weak spots, and we work on finding them.

And I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I'm a total bust as a Nazi drill sergeant. Alas, I'm a big ol softie with my clients. When it comes to eating and working out, my approach comprises empathetic listening, paying close attention to details, offering exuberant cheerleading (or kind commiseration), and tons of positive reinforcement. I'm not a good choice for those who prefer a dominatrix in spandex. But I always got excellent results, and they came back for more.

So I don't know. Do y'all really think there's a market for this unconventional approach out there? Let me know if you have any ideas how this could possibly work. Thanks!


Blogger Linda J. said...

any way to correspond with you aside from this blog? I really don't want to make my physicality issues public.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

Let's see, try this: leroy23 at bellsouth dot net. I don't use that account often because it got too overrun by spam, but I'll check it today to see if anything gets through. Thanks!

4:43 PM  
Blogger Robert Brashear said...

I'm trying to remember the name of the online "training" CD system that Bob from the biggest loser is part of now. You get one new CD each month wherin "they" update the exercises and intensity (of cardio and strength) based on input provided by the subscriber.

I wish you were here (I'm not Robert as indicated, I'm his wife btw). I'm starting my first real personal training sessions in a couple of weeks. My hubby (the aforementioned Robert) just spent 6 months with him and it is my turn! I'm nervous!

I'd expect, from an online trainer, weekly correspondence updating how many times I exercised, how it felt intensity wise, and what my diet was like. I'd expect a suggestion for a good reference book on how to use the machines (the Power of Ten seems pretty good) and what it should FEEL like to use them.

You won't make as much online as you would in person. Probably about half and base the fee on one workout a week with the client. So if you charge $65 an hour you'd make about $100-120 a month with personalized online training?

just my 2 cents! :)

5:53 PM  
Blogger Beaweezil said...

Hi Liz, I am struggling with getting into shape but I prefer to work out at home, on my own or within my tai chi class. I AM struggling with food though, someone to help, answer questions be there for support via the 'puter might be just the thing for me. I would be interested for sure. B

6:01 PM  
Blogger Kek said...

I both HAVE an online trainer and AM an online trainer. It really appeals to certain people - often those who live in remote locations and who don't have access to a gym, or those who work odd hours so can't make it to regular PT sessions. It's also great for someone who needs a program to follow and the accountability of a trainer to report to, but who's motivated to train and doesn't need anyone actually showing them what to do.

It doesn't work so well for those who have no weight training experience, for obvious reasons.

I also train local clients one-on-one, and I'd say the success rate, in terms of people achieving their goals, is about the same for both methods.

It's certainly not unconventional any more - I know of many trainers who now offer this service. Google online personal trainer or someting similar and you'll find plenty.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd hire you! Let me know :)

8:56 PM  
Blogger Gosling said...

Coincidentally, I just read an article in Prevention about such things as virtual trainers! Here's a link to the online version of the article:,5778,s1-2-67-0-7972-1,00.html?cm_re=HP-_-Whats%20New%20Today-_-Personal%20Training%20You%20Can%20Afford

10:17 PM  
Blogger Tsunami said...

What I need from an online coach is mostly knowledgeable reassurance and sanity checking. High school gym class traumatized me big time, to the point where I can't really purposefully exercise in front of anyone without getting anxiety attacks, and I have really low self confidence about exercise in general. When I experiment with weights, a major way I get stuck is in feeling unsure of whether the amount of weight and number of reps is good or not -- I start to worry that I'm not pushing myself enough and won't improve, or veer between feeling like I might be doing pretty well and thinking I'm kidding myself and the amounts of weight are pathetic.

Interestingly, I'm only dysfunctional like this around purposeful exercise -- when it comes to physical labor, or my general ability to handle myself physically, I feel pretty confident and competent.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Moira said...

Hi There !

Online training is a fantastic idea. I am sure you could find someone who would volunteer to get a website organized for you . I am sure you could rely on some of your blog friends to help publicize the site and get you going .

11:00 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

My biggest problem with a fitness program is staying on it after the first gung ho 5-6 months. That is where I can see the value of having someone to check in with weekly - someone who will hold me accountable to my exercise and food committments. I obviously need someone to tell me some bad puns so I won't die of boredom! might work as a tool for keeping track of food consumption and exercise activity - you can print all kinds of reports on there that could be sent to an online trainer. Here in Houston, we have a Bod Pod - it's a machine that you sit in and it measures body fat percentage pretty accurately. So perhaps that can be accomplished long distance as well.
I currently have a "Wellness Coach" and meet with him and a group of other motivated women every other week. He is one of those "Lifestyle Coach" people - have you heard of them? We work on fitness first - but also work on setting boundaries and getting rid of tolerations etc.. The goal being to decrease stress and therby increase energy. Works well! I know several coaches who do sessions on the phone and online.
I think you'd be great as an online or phone based trainer!

(if this feels too ADVICEY or Helpy-Helperton - please ignore!!)



12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When I experiment with weights, a major way I get stuck is in feeling unsure of whether the amount of weight and number of reps is good or not -- I start to worry that I'm not pushing myself enough and won't improve, or veer between feeling like I might be doing pretty well and thinking I'm kidding myself and the amounts of weight are pathetic."

This is me too! I can't see a barrier to an online trainer helping with this.

I don't have a personal trainer because frankly, I don't trust the average person who gets a job in the gym. For one thing, they very rarely take strength training for women seriously. Over the years I have had numerous appointments with 'trainers' and have had so many conflicting messages and wrong-headed advice it's unbelievable. However, you, I trust. I found you through Krista's site when you were writing as grannyvibe, and I love your attitude to training.

Even if your input was a once-a-month thing where I kept a detailed diary and you critiqued what I'd lifted/eaten and offered constructive criticism about how to alter lifts/diet to achieve desired results, I think it would be really valuable for me.

4:24 AM  
Blogger -L said...

Liz, I have been following you since your old blog even though I have never spoken up before now. I had a class for which I was signed up canceled due to low enrollment, and I have a small amount of money I hadn't planned on as a result. When I saw your post about PayPal a couple days ago, I knew immediately that I wanted to give some of that to you. (I am also self-employed doing what I love for minimal income, also without insurance, and also damn frustrated with "health care" in this country. I know that I could be in your situation in a heartbeat.)

I'm intrigued by the possibility of having Granny as my personal trainer. I already know how to eat healthy and lift weights (yes, I love my biceps!), but I just need moral support and suggestions for new challenges. Keep us all updated on what you decide to do with personal training. If I can afford you, I'd love to hire you! If I can't afford to hire you for more than a month or two, though, I'll settle for contributing to the Liz Fund on PayPal.

And finally, as long as I am de-lurking--
I keep coming back here because you are fierce and bright and funny and human and brimming with love. You are one of the women whose words and wisdom give help me pick my way through this world. I have known who I am and where I am going for a while now, but you almost make me feel less alone on my path.

Thank you,

10:25 AM  
Blogger -L said...

Ha. Multitasking. Scratch that "almost."

10:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A friend of mine sent me the link to your blog. I run a company that handles online trainers, and I'm the author of "Fit Over 40." I may be able to help you if you want to get into the field -- and I'd love to profile you for my newsletter. It would help drive traffic to your site. jon [a t] fitover40 [d o t] com-- if you want to chat about it. Keep up the great work with the blog.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Mantelli said...

Gee, I dunno. I haven't been able to afford a gym for years, myself. My physical therapist has started me on lifting ONE POUND CANS today for my frozen shoulders, which is wimpier than the wimpiest wimp in the world. I'm sure that there are lots of folks out there who can benefit from your services, though.

8:09 PM  
Blogger jana said...

I'm thinking that you could start an online subscription service where you could write a weekly newsletter with some super-healthy recipes, simple routines specifically tailored for older women who are weight training, humor pieces, etc. I know of some similar services for meal-planning and clothes shopping (see and You could also offer personal online consultations for a higher, hourly, fee.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Keep me posted. I've just been in hospital with a deep vein thrombosis and getting back to health is going to be a long slog - I'll need all the help I can get!

8:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I do think there is a market for this kind of service! Brainstorming a few keywords/issues:

- non-judgmental, women-centric?
- "fat chick" friendly?
- tailored to non-traditional clients, i.e. remote living, no access to gym, don't want to go to gym for whatever reason, cancer survivors, post-pregnancy, etc?
- non-aerobic (i.e. why I should be more interested in gaining muscle, being strong than getting skinny)
- minimalist: for instance a workout of 1/2 hour 2-3 times a week. I don't want to be spending hours upon hours on an elliptical, nor do I want exercise/weightlifting to dominate my life
- back pain: not sure if you have read about the Kieser concept:
"A strong back knows no pain." There is certainly demand for this in today's sedentary office world. Also ties in with "minimalist" - Kieser recommends intensive weight training, 1-2 times a week. Not saying that you need to buy into the Kieser thing, but maybe you can adapt the concept. It certainly has appeal.
- minimum equipment recommendations: Let's say I have $100 to spend. I would love to know exactly what weights/equipment to buy, i.e. barbells/dumbells + weights of xxx. i.e. "weight training on a budget". I don't really want to buy a fancy workout system, so would like to get buy on as little as possible (= traditional exercises like squats, bicep curls, etc., not expensive home gym systems)
- custom workout: I would certainly pay for you to design me a custom weightlifting workout, i.e. "do x reps of exercises 1-XX, x times per week." Maybe you could offer an initial set-price 1-month package, which would include one half-hour phone consultation, a custom training program, weekly personal email updates, and then an evauluation at the end of the month for a set price ($100?), with an option of monthly "maintenance" email interaction thereafter for something like $XX per month?
- Provision of videos of how to do the exercises properly? Perhaps analysis of videos sent back from customers, i.e. what am I doing right/wrong? Could be part of a website where people pay a fee to become members. Analysis of pics via email: before/after?

I'd be happy to discuss any of these ideas via email: info _____ at _____ sprachzeit.xxxxx, where xxxxx is "de" (also remove the _____).

Kind regards from Germany,

9:50 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I'd like to be really strong and muscley. Now that I'm getting my wheelchair triceps back (and i think also rhomboids or something) I feel all inspired to have matching biceps. I've never lifted weights before!

- badgerbag

8:46 PM  
Blogger Keiko said...

I bet if you wrote a fitness article from your unusual perspective and then offered it to people like Jon Benson, Tom Venuto, Alwyn, Jeremy, etc. they would happily include it as free material on their site or as bonus stuff with their product and would help get your name 'out there'.

I have an online trainer. He gives me exercise ideas, badgers me about protein. I'm pretty low maintenance as a client,but it does help to know you're sending someone bikini pictures in two weeks =)

1:30 PM  
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