Daniel  J. Green by Daniel J. Green

In this time of voluntary isolation, social distancing and sheltering in place, people crave a sense of connection. This point kept coming to the fore during ACE’s recent webinar, entitled “Expert Insights on How to Deliver an Online Exercise Session: One-to-One and Group,” with the three expert panelists reminding us that delivering a positive exercise experience is more important than ever in these trying times.

People can access plenty of high-quality and highly polished exercise content on demand these days. But what sets the live streaming experience apart is the ability of the health coach or exercise professional to connect on a personal level with individual clients or group participants.

Never assume that a connection is being made just because a client or participant signed up for a session or showed up for a livestream. You must work to make that connection. More so than ever, each person has his or her own unique set of challenges, priorities and distractions, including the stress and anxiety that so many of us are feeling. Early in each session, create a moment of mindfulness and quiet before jumping into the workout. Establishing a personal connection and offering a sense of joy and mindfulness can help clients and participants get a reprieve from their negative emotions and remind them that many people are in the same situation and feeling the same things, and that others truly care about how they’re doing.

If working one-to-one with a client, begin by greeting the client by name and asking how he or she is doing and what daily life has been like. It seems so simple, but it does something important. It will provide some insight into the client’s needs and goals—which have likely shifted since you last saw one another. Be sure to explicitly ask the client what he or she hopes to get out of your time together.

If working with a group, greet all participants by name and give them a few minutes to greet one another and make small talk about how they’re coping. This will build rapport within the group and remind everyone how much you care about them and their overall well-being, not just their fitness level or physical performance.

This unique time has provided a rare opportunity for many health coaches and exercise professionals to be invited into their clients’ homes, even if through a screen. If you have the chance, take a moment to comment on something in their home, whether it’s a beautiful living room rug or their kids gathered on the couch to watch the workout. That type of direct connection will do wonders for rapport and bring some normalcy to a decidedly abnormal situation.

Finally, it is important that you understand and value what you bring to the table. Remember, your clients have plenty of resources for free in-home workouts via the internet—what they’re paying for is you! So be yourself and have fun!

To learn more about creating a sense of community, we encourage you to view the 45-minute live panel—“Expert Insights on How to Deliver an Online Exercise Session: One-to-one and Group”—which featured the following experts: 

  • Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and owner of the LAB Performance and Sport Science in Fairfield, N.J.
  • Shana Verstegen, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Director of Supreme Health and Fitness in Madison, Wisc.
  • Anthony J. Wall, MS, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the American Council on Exercise

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