18 Months of Remote Training: What Have We Learned?

It has been roughly 18 months since the beginning of Pandemic and since the state of California declared a shelter in place and began on again/ off again regulations, lock-downs etc.

I don't have a crystal ball, but as Adam Carolla has said I do have a crystal brain. The day after California shut down all non-essential businesses I turned to my wife and said "We're shutting down the studio. For good."

She trusts me and understood there was a reason I was saying this. When I formally announced this I had a lot of people telling me I was being too hasty and that this would be over in a few weeks. A month at the most.

From what I was seeing I didn't believe that to be the case and I thought it would be best to stay ahead of the problem.

In April of 2020 I shut down Average To Elite Performance in Palo Alto, CA. At that point I had been in business in Silicon Valley for fifteen years and A2E had been the number one rated private training studio on Yelp for a decade. It is worth noting that as of this blog post we still are. Despite being in Texas. Quite a hat trick.

I owe a debt of undying gratitude to my clients who all went online with me and trusted that I would not steer them wrong. For the past 18 months we have been going strong using the online format, getting better all the time and importantly not risking unnecessary exposure by being in a gym environment and not trying to work out in a mask, which (in my opinion) is not healthy.

"But how can that work?" You might ask.

I have and have always had a unique training style. There are two things about my method that made going online an easy transition.

  1. I don't put my hands on my clients. With the exception of some occasional palpation or soft tissue work I just don't need to. In fact, the entire Z-Health system is based upon people learning how to move their own bodies more effectively, so me trying to physically cue them all the time is not conducive to that.

  2. I mainly use bodyweight exercises, bands, TRX and kettlebells. These are all things that you can easily have in your home. I believe many trainers had to "adapt" their methods when pushing clients online and there could have been a perception on the part of the end user that they were losing some value. For my clients everything was exactly the same. Everyone already had these tools at home for their home workouts, so from the last day in the studio to the first day online there was zero change.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that moving online is a better training experience. Why?

  1. Some of my clients were traveling up to thirty minutes to work with me in Palo Alto, so that's an hour of drive time for each session. I had one gentleman driving forty five minutes each way.

  2. Fewer distractions. All of my clients perform some sort of vision or auditory training as part of their regimen. Even in the most controlled studio or gym environment there are going to be distractions that can make this challenging. In the privacy of your own home you are able to exert much more control over your surroundings. Depending on how many kids you have.

Setting up this experience was also crucial. I have found that using the Facebook Portal device paired with airpods is ideal and gives us excellent video and audio clarity.

So, what happened after we shut down the studio? Within a matter of months we were on the road and heading to our new home in Austin, Texas. Yes, yes I know every other Californian is moving to Texas, but to be fair I did it first. Just like how I got COVID first. Seriously, my wife and I had it in November of 2019.

I personally believe that online training is the way of the future. There are obvious exceptions with things like classes or Crossfit which rely on the in-person social component, but when it comes to the one-on-one experience I just think online is the way to go.

Throughout my journey as a personal trainer and business owner I have always relied on one constant to keep my focus steady: My integrity. I will be very candid in saying that this has also cost me a lot of money in my unwillingness to compromise my integrity in order to generate more revenue. However that is a bill I am willing to pay every time.

If I thought my client experience was suffering due to the online format I would be gradually working on going in-person again, but it does not. I believe that the perceived need to be standing in a room with someone to derive a benefit from their knowledge is old thinking, just like the idea that people need to be crammed into a building together from nine to five to perform a task that could easily be done from home.

Throughout my career I have considered myself an "early adopter". Everything from Kettlebells to Z-Health to nutrition. This is just one more example of that.

Below is just one client testimonial reviewing our experience switching to the online format.

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