Online coaching and programming, as many of you may know, is a booming business. It allows you to connect and work with coaches and athletes that otherwise would be too far away from your physical location. Online coaching can be very beneficial for athletes who have become disenchanted with their gym’s current model of programming, athletes who train by themselves but have no real guidance, or just athletes that are looking for something new.
The downside to online coaching is, of course, the lack of a physical coach to work with you. This isn’t to say that it is ineffective, it just means that preemptive steps need to be taken, to ensure that both the athlete’s money isn’t being wasted, as well as that of the coach’s time. I have worked with 200+ athletes via our online coaching programs, and in this article, I will outline five different tools an athlete can utilize, in order to get the most out of their online coach.
1. Maintain Contact With Your Coach.
This one is first on my list, and it is one of those things that shouldn’t even need to be stated, meaning it, of course, HAS to be stated. When someone signs up for our programming, I make it clear that if you want the most out of the deal, YOU must put in the effort to remain in contact with your coach. If you were coached in person, would you just go without talking to your coach for two or three weeks at a time? Doubtful, so why do it with an online coach, where they don’t even get in-person coaching time with you?
Your online coach needs to be kept in the loop when it comes to your training; we want to know what felt good, what hurts, how hard the day way for you, etc. This feedback is doubly important when it comes to knowing what we should program for your next week or next month. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure your online coach will gladly accept your dollars, whether or not you maintain contact, but it can get very bothersome to talk to an athlete once a month, get zero feedback from them, while they request the next cycle of programming. If you want your program to be tailored to your needs, maintain contact with your coach, you paid for it. Otherwise, just save your money and download a free program, since you will most likely be receiving generic programming anyway.
2. Film Your Lifts.
“I couldn’t film my lifts because I lifted by myself.” Honestly, as a coach, this is one of the most pathetic excuses about filming your lifts, and one of the easiest remedied problems. I along with everyone in our crew, film 80+% of all of the lifts we post online. Believe it or not, you can actually film yourself when no one is around to do it for you. Lean your camera against a wall, set it upright in a shoe, by a 15 dollar tripod, etc. I let the filming issue slide for roughly two weeks, before I tell my clients that they will no longer receive programming from me until I see your lifts.
This brings us back to the first point of maintaining contact with your coach: we want to see what you are doing. Telling us: “my back hurts when I deadlift, what am I doing wrong?” when you have no video to show, severely limits our options of assisting you. You can also look at it from a financial point of view: NOT filming yourself is like throwing money down the toilet when working with an online coach. For my clients, we schedule one day each week to watch all of the week’s previous videos together, so they can get feedback while we both watch the lifts. Something that I find extremely helpful when asking my athletes to film themselves, is the angle of the camera. If you were to look at a clock, I would ideally like the camera to be positioned at either the 2 or the 10, this will allow me to see what is happening in the front, as well as part of the side angle. Filming directly from the side is usually inadvisable, since the plate will block most of the shot.
3. Have Concise Goals, Or Let Your Coach make Them For You.
If you want to reach a destination, you should probably have your path planned, or you will never get there. Newer athletes get a lot of leeway with me on this one, as it is simply something they may not have thought of. For example: “get stronger, lose bodyfat, increase my lifts” are of course good goals (Who doesn’t want these three things?), they aren’t incredibly helpful when trying to figure out the steps you take to get there. How much stronger? How much of a decrease in bodyfat? What lifts, how much weight? You can see what I mean when I say concise goals. I prefer when new athletes have goals that are specific, such as adding 80lbs to their squat in six months, a 4% decrease in bodyfat, etc. Having your goals written out and broken down will help you hold yourself more accountable to them, much like having a carrot dangled in front of a horse’s face while walking.
Keeping your specific goals in the front of your mind will help you to stay on track on those days when you may feel lazy. Six months is a finite amount of time, and keeping streamlined goals will help you to work towards it every day, instead of just wanting to “get stronger,” which is pretty relative. Technically, a 5lb PR means you have gotten stronger, but I don’t think it would be worth hiring an online coach for.
4. So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done.
Plain and simple, if you pay someone to write your programming, you should be following only that programming. I take it as a personal insult when clients pay me to spend hours every month writing their programming, only to find out that they are following their own gym’s programming at the same. Look at it this way; you are cheating on your online coach. When a coach designs a program, it is usually designed as a complete program, not a half-done program that you then must supplement with other lifts of your choice. If you want your coach to design a powerlifting program for you, don’t suddenly decide that you want to become more “explosive” by also following an Olympic lifting program. I have just given clients their money back in the past, because I do not want to waste my time with a client that can’t respect me enough to hold up their end of the bargain. We are there to help you progress, that is why you hired us: because you don’t know how to do it by yourself. And, because you don’t know how to program yourself, why would you suddenly decide to write your own programming? Don’t make this mistake, it is one of the worst offenses you can give to an online coach.
5. You Must Hold Yourself Accountable.
The more an athlete puts into the relationship I have with them as their online coach, the more I want to help them. We can write the world’s greatest programs, give you a stellar nutrition plan, and offer to assist you in any way that is feasible for us, but ultimately, the buck stops with you. I don’t think I am the only coach out there that receives blame from a client for their lack of progress, even though the client followed maybe 50% of what we have written for them. You could have the best person in the world working with you online, but if you don’t possess the willpower to achieve what you wanted in the first place, you won’t progress. If you ever just have “one of those days”, take a step back, remember your goals, and figure out what desire of yours is stronger: The desire to achieve change, or the desire to throw in the towel. Ultimately, all athletic careers can be boiled down to the sum of your desires. Your desire to change must be stronger than your desire to have an easy day.