I used an online fitness coach for six months - here’s my honest opinion

Are online fitness coaches worth it? I tried one to find out

Woman doing at-home workout
(Image credit: Getty)

Online fitness coaches are popping up left, right and centre. There’s been a lot of debate about whether they’re as good as an in-person coach and if they’re even qualified to do the job, or if a lot of them are just ‘fitness influencers’ — which, let’s be honest, these days can be anyone who looks good and takes pictures in activewear but has never done an ounce of exercise in their life.

It was during the Lockdowns that I signed up with my first online coach. Like many, I’d dabbled in the gym on the cardio equipment, throwing a few dumbbells around, but I never took it seriously. It wasn’t until all the gyms had to close that I decided to put my faith in someone who I’d never met in my life to create and maintain a workout plan for me.

My experience was far from a complete disaster, but it certainly wasn’t five-star, either, and there are definitely things you need to think about and consider if you decide to go with one.

 My experience with an online fitness coach 

So, how did I go about choosing an online coach? Luckily, a friend who went to my gym had been raving about one that she was with, who didn’t live too far from us, so I got in touch with her. I also did a bit of background research on her too, just to make sure she had some sort of suitable qualifications, which (thankfully) she did. I highly recommend doing this and not getting too caught up with what someone looks like. You can easily come across plenty of chiselled-looking people who may have won physique competitions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can ‘coach’.

Getting started was easy: I was asked to fill out an online form with the standard questions around weight, height, what my goals were, injuries and dietary requirements (as I’d asked for a diet plan too). It cost me around £80 for the month, and a day later, I was sent my shiny workout and diet plan in a PDF format. I was slightly sceptical about how quickly I’d received everything — surely, with my goals being personal to me and different to everyone else's, it would take a little more time to create a tailored plan?

Woman doing home workout

(Image credit: Getty)

 The workouts 

During the Lockdowns, we all know how hard it was to get our hands on equipment. Luckily, I had a pair of adjustable dumbbells, but a lot of my workouts actually consisted of beginner bodyweight exercises — like tricep dips, squats and glute bridges. Don’t be fooled into thinking these don’t do much, as they were HARD. Every week I was required to check in with my coach, send progress pictures, and let them know how I was getting on. Each week we saw slight changes in my physique, which I was thrilled about, and if I was stuck or experienced any issues, I knew my coach was only a WhatsApp message away. Ideal, right? Wrong.

I was only around three months in when the cracks began to show. When I’d complete my check-ins, I found my coach forgetting what workouts they’d scheduled me or how many calories they’d put me on. It wasn’t until gyms re-opened and I bumped into my friend again that I heard she’d been experiencing the same issues and, to make matters worse, when we compared plans, they were very similar.

Is an online fitness coach worth it?

I don’t want to sound like a completely negative Nelly because there were a lot of positive points to having a coach, and I always credit my first one for helping me get into great shape. Every week I’d dropped a few kilos, and by the end of the six months, I had lost a lot of body fat. (Although I’d say this was a lot more to do with eating correctly as opposed to the workouts.) 

You also have to consider the cost. I was paying £20 a week for my plan and ‘twenty-four-hour’ support - whereas a personal trainer could cost £35 per session. When my fitness coach told me the prices would be going up to £120 a month, that’s when I decided to call it quits, as I couldn’t justify that money a month for someone who kept forgetting who I was and what we were doing.

This makes you wonder how many clients exactly they are actually trying to juggle. Most of the time, it's a lot. Instead, I just carried on doing the same plan for a few more months. And if you’re thinking, ‘Well, why didn’t you just sign up for one month, then quit?’ — because I was signed into a minimum three-month contract, which you may find some coaches do to cover their backs, understandably.

Would I ever go with an online coach again? Yes, but you need to consider a few things first (check out my tips below). I’m with a new one as we speak, who’s the best coach I’ve had and significantly cheaper than my first. But he lives 20 minutes down the road from me, and we meet in person every few months, which makes a big difference. Instagram is full of ‘fitness coaches’, and I once paid someone £35 for a plan who looked good, but what I was given looked like a year six PowerPoint presentation.

Top tips for choosing an online fitness coach

Do your research

Don’t just go with the first person you see on Instagram. Have a look around, and speak to people if you can (I always prefer going off recommendation rather than with someone I don’t know). Think about what’s important to you; is it that they specialise in an area that you want to improve on, that they look good, or both? And always remember, just because someone may have an incredible figure or has won competitions doesn’t mean they can coach.

Think about the level of support you need

If you’re into your fitness or just want an at-home workout plan, then a coach could be good. But if you’re completely new to fitness, you may benefit more from in-person support so that you’re shown not only how to perform the exercises but with the correct form to prevent injury. 

Communication is key

This is vital so that you can get the most out of your coaching and achieve your goals. You want a coach who checks in with you regularly and supports you when you’re finding something difficult. If not, you’ll just feel unvalued and may struggle to make progress.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.