Whether you are working with clients one-on-one or leading groups of any size, it’s essential that you understand the limitations and benefits of the technology you are using. In addition, always be mindful of not only your environment, but also that of your clients or group participants—and how that might affect your programming and the overall exercise experience.
Choosing a Video Platform
The most important things to consider when choosing a platform (e.g., Zoom, Facetime, Skype or WhatsApp) are the needs and desires of your clients or class participants. This is obviously much easier when working with a client one-on-one. In that situation, let the client take the lead. Adjust as necessary to make the client as comfortable as possible rather than asking a client to adjust to your preferences.
When working with groups, particularly larger groups, choose a platform that is free, easy to join and simple to use. Consider emailing all participants a day or two ahead of time with instructions on how to join the session, adjust their camera and set up their device (more on this below).
One aspect of leading a group session that is made more complex by the move from live to virtual sessions is cueing and providing feedback to participants. It can be very difficult to evaluate a participant’s form, especially when there are potentially dozens of tiny boxes on your laptop screen, each with a tiny exercising figure. For this reason, it is important that you know the capabilities of the video platform. For example, some platforms will let you enlarge each window to fill your screen and then scroll through the windows. This would allow you to quickly offer some feedback to participants as they perform an exercise sequence.
Choosing a Device
In ACE’s recent webinar, entitled “Expert Insights on How to Deliver an Online Exercise Session: One-to-One and Group,” the expert panelists agreed that using a smartphone is less than ideal, as the screen is simply too small. If clients or class participants back up far enough so that you can observe their exercise form, they will likely be too far away to see you on their phone screen. For this reason, a tablet or laptop is preferable to a smartphone.
Another consideration is the location of the camera on the device. For example, make sure everyone can see you clearly and at an angle that best illustrates your movement during a class. Similarly, ask clients or class participants to experiment with their own devices before attending the session so that you can see them as clearly as possible.
Be mindful of the types of exercises you will be demonstrating and asking clients or participants to perform. If your usual live session or group fitness class moves back and forth between standing and floor exercises, you may have to modify the sequence so that everyone involved does not have to keep adjusting their devices accordingly. Instead, start with 10 minutes of standing exercises, then allow a few minutes for everyone to have a sip of water and adjust their devices before transitioning to a floor-based exercise sequence.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Before your initial session, practice with a friend, family member or colleague. You want to fully understand your video platform and device and make sure everything is working before you charge people for your time. Of course, you will make mistakes and technology mishaps will occur. The important thing is to handle these situations with grace and humor. Remember, this is a brand-new experience for everyone involved, so clients will probably be pretty forgiving—at least at first! That said, your ultimate goal should be to provide a safe and effective session with the same level of professionalism and expertise to which your clients or class participants have grown accustomed.