Physical vs. 100% Online Training


Thinking About Taking Your Training Business 100% Online..?


By now, you’ve certainly noticed how DIGITAL” our industry has become — especially post pandemic!


I know I sure have.  


In fact, I’ve contributed to it… a lot!


But, like all new things, there’s a LEARNING CURVE


And, just as in life, there’s a BALANCE


Observing the Landscape


Three years ago, I began to carefully observe all different sorts of health and fitness businesses, and their use of technology, including:


  • Fit Pros 
  • Health Coaches 
  • Lifestyle Consultants 
  • Big Box and Medium Size Health Clubs 
  • Boutique Studios
  • Specialty Coaches 


… along with sports teams, corporate wellness programs and medical professionals — 


And, then, long discussions with my fitness partners who are at various stages of integrating digital technology into their businesses.


I really wanted to know what’s working and what’s not.


This post will not answer all the questions.  But, it will add some clarity.


It’s Still Early


Even now, as it turns out, our industry is still in “early stages” of figuring out how to maximize digital technology. 


As such, there are all kinds of different configurations being deployed and different business models being tested. 


The Industry is Experimenting…


With a “broad brush” viewpoint, I see three (3) distinctly different models beginning to evolve — based on their use (or non-use) of technology — especially among boutique studios, trainers, health coaches and wellness consultants.


  • The 100% Online Model
  • The Hybrid Model
  • The Resurgence of the One-on-One Model


In this post, I’ll only focus on the 100% Online Model as that seems to generate the most curiosity among all health professionals.  


The Changing World of Online Health & Fitness


As expected, since the Covid 19 pandemic, the number of 100% Online Trainers is increasing.  But, with mixed results.


Some fit pros, health coaches and wellness consultants are enjoying great success with this model — while many others are experiencing nothing but “crickets.” 


Here’s why…


Choices, Choices and More Choices


There is a huge “learning curve” associated with the 100% online training model. 


Not the least of which is the technology, itself. 


It takes time and effort to learn, understand and decide which digital technology best fits your own particular business. 


It starts with what type of “home base” website you require.  Depending on your budget, skill sets and planned interactions, there’s a range of options. 


Health professionals can choose from DIY platforms like WordPress to pre-built template sites like Wix, Squarespace and Weebly to all-in-one sites like Kajabi and Kartra.


And, most recently, some fit pros have decided to forego traditional websites altogether in favor of dynamic landing pages like ClickFunnels and LeadPages. 


And, Then, Even More Options…



There are hundreds of different digital apps and web-based options to build-out all kinds of different training protocol in order to facilitate a 100% online training model


Some of the more popular SAAS (software as a service) platforms include:

  • FitSW
  • My PT Hub
  • PT Distinction
  • Trainerize
  • TrainHeroic
  • TotalCoaching
  • TrueCoach
  • WorkoutLabs


Each have different sets of functions and features along with different price points and levels of support. 


In addition, there are hundreds of less popular fitness platforms — as well as dozens of more highly specialized applications.   


And, not surprisingly, there are more players entering this space every day. 


Old Challenges Require New Tactics


Even after choosing the right combination of technology to create an online training service, most professionals still face the age-old challenge of attracting new clients.


So, for most, it means a “crash course” in learning how to become an “online marketer” using a sophisticated CRM web application such as:

  • InfusionSoft
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Drip
  • ConvertKit


And, online marketers must become proficient in multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Pinterest.



But, here, too, the world is shifting.   


Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms have significantly throttled the reach of even paid ads.  Organic reach is a joke. 


There’s even talk (rumor) of Facebook’s consideration of charging administrators a subscription fee for their “private groups” of loyal members. 


Facebook is rapidly becoming a “pay-to-play” platform. 


And, if it works…  other social media platforms will soon follow. 


Staying on Top


So, as you might expect, part of being a successful 100% online health professional is making it a priority to stay on top of the technology as well as the constantly changing social media landscape. 


Some professionals do all of asthis by themselves (DIYers) while others will outsource to a website developer along with a VA (virtual assistant) to handle outreach and marketing.   


And, still others, with a bigger budget, hand-off all of their technology to a digital marketing agency.


In all cases, 100% online professionals are required to make a time and/or financial commitment to stay on top of their game.  


A Surprising Fact


One of the more interesting marketing nuggets among the most successful 100% Online Trainers is their use of physical products.


While the majority of 100% online trainers and health coaches stay completely digital with apps, downloads, social media and video conferencing… the most successful make use of physical products as well. 


The “Realness” Factor


Sandy Brighton, a 100% online trainer, sends her new clients a physical “care package” including a 3-ring notebook with program information, a transformation journal, water bottle, coffee mug and a canvas shopping bag.   


Everything is branded with her logo.



Sandy says, “Physical materials and products make me more ‘real’ in the eyes of my clients.  They are tangible.  Something they can touch and feel, instead of some virtual entity a million miles away.” 


I hear these same comments from the most successful, top revenue-generating trainers and health coaches who are 100% online.


It’s not just health and fitness.   The world’s top internet marketers:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Neil Patel
  • Russell Brunson
  • Ryan Deiss
  • Jeff Walker
  • Tony Robbins
  • Dan Kennedy

…. and hundreds more, all use physical products to provide a tangible “realness” to their brands and online businesses


Online Training Vs. Online Business


I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up one important point about the 100% online world.


There is a difference between Online Training and building an Online Business.  


While they are both “ONLINE”.… there’s a huge difference.


Online Training, in general, is just that… training with a specific trainer who designs personalized programs (exercise and nutrition) and works with clients via laptop, tablet, mobile, etc. to help clients achieve their goals. 


On the other hand, an Online Fitness Business, in general, is an eCommerce Platform that markets and sells multiple services and products.  Instead of a “personal approach” they tend to be highly automated with a goal of scaling as large as possible.

*** Note – these are general definitions.  There are plenty of exceptions.


A couple of examples of Online Businesses can be found in: Michelle Bridges 12WBT and Nerd Fitness.


Of course, there is cross-over… Or, perhaps it’s a “mash-up.” 


There are plenty of 100% online trainers who take advantage of multiple online revenue streams including our own:


… as well as:


  • Affiliate Links
  • Memberships


On the flip-side, plenty of 100% online businesses operated by certified fitness professionals offer personalized up-sells including:

  • One-on-one coaching (via Zoom, Skype, etc.)
  • Weekend Camps / Retreats   


Fear Not!


Once again, it’s important to note the industry is still in “early stages.”


So, experimentation and determining exactly what configuration works for:

  • your particular business
  • your skill sets
  • your budget
  • your level of “online” commitment 


… are key to making it all work.


If it seems like a big puzzle, well… you’re right!  It is. 


But, not to worry. 


Going 100% Online is by no means a FOMO (fear of missing out) situation.   




There’s Plenty of Time!


As stated above, the 100% Online Model as it relates to the health and fitness industry is still in its infancy.


While it’s a fast growing segment, it is by no means the biggest segment.


A much larger segment is the HYBRID MODEL (combination of a brick and mortar location + online services and products)


My assessment is that THIS is where the large majority of our industry is at. 


And, I have a ton of empirical information to share about this segment.


Stay tuned for my upcoming post.


 Meanwhile… I hope you found this helpful.


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