Any in-person workout has a natural ebb and flow. Clients may push hard for a couple of sets, then pause to drink some water or pace for a minute to gather themselves before moving on to the next exercise. You may strategically incorporate some verbal coaching between sets or ask about a client’s perceived effort during a particular movement. All of these elements create a natural pace that is unique to each client and suits that client’s health and fitness levels.
Be mindful of the fact that these natural breaks might not happen so readily in a virtual session, and there may be a tendency—from either you or the client—to quickly jump from one exercise to the next. For that reason, recovery must be purposefully programmed into virtual sessions even more so than during in-person training or coaching. Be sure to pace the workout appropriately to avoid fatiguing or overwhelming your client with a workout that is simply too intense. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t allow the workout to move so slowly that the client isn’t getting the results he or she desires.
It’s also essential that you are prepared ahead of time in terms of understanding each client’s equipment availability, space considerations and technological limitations. The last thing you want is to design a program for one set of circumstances, only to be faced by another when the client appears on screen.
Reevaluate the Client’s Goals
You might be surprised by how some clients’ goals may be shifting during this time. Clients who were recently performance-driven and enjoyed high-intensity workouts may now be seeking a reprieve from the stresses of their new reality, a break from their newly sedentary lifestyle or even just a few minutes with a friendly face. Be sure to ask the client at the beginning of each session what his or her goals are for the day.
You may have to adjust your programming on the spot, but it’s important to meet each client where he or she are on that particular day, and that is truer now than ever. Everyone’s reality is changing by the minute, so you must be prepared to adjust accordingly.
Consider the Client’s Experience
Many clients will find that performing extended sets or longer-duration cardio work is tougher at home, as potential distractions abound. Consider breaking exercises into smaller chunks and creating combinations or supersets that will provide variation. Rather than having a client perform two or three sets of a particular exercise consecutively, you may want to have them rotate through a series of exercises, circuit training–style.
Remember, maintaining a client’s motivation can be tougher during virtual sessions, so it’s important that you are able to deliver a unique and positive experience. This may involve modifying your usual training format rather than trying to recreate what the client was doing in the gym before the pandemic forced the facility to close its doors.
The key here is to be prepared, but flexible. Incorporate household items into a strength-training exercise or ask the client’s children to join in for 60 seconds of running or jumping in place between sets. Anything that brings a sense of fun to the session is a great addition!
Refocus on the Fundamentals
This may be a great time to get back to basics, especially if a client does not have much exercise equipment at home. If it aligns with a client’s goals and needs, design a body-weight program that focuses on stability and mobility training and proper movement with good form. Many clients will appreciate the opportunity to change their focus and dial in and be specific with their movement.
The bottom line is that you should be prepared and develop a detailed program before each session, but be flexible and comfortable going with the flow of an experience that is likely new for both you and your clients.