Answers to Questions about How to Virtually Train Clients During the Coronavirus Shutdown

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See Jake and Jane Train owner Michelle Blakely served as an expert on Club Industry's second town hall about how to deal with the coronavirus. You can watch the March 19 town hall, which is now available on-demand, by going here. Blakely responds below to questions asked on the town hall that were not able to be answered during the town hall due to time constraints. 

Also on the town hall were Casey Conrad of Communication Consultants, who answered questions about marketing during this time, and Dr. Rajesh Grover, Ph.D., who answered questions about the coronavirus. Grover's answers to coronavirus questions not answered during the town hall can be found here

Q: What has caught you most off guard about this situation? What have you done to tackle that challenge? 

A: I was quite prepared to help trainers and studio owners virtually. However, I am having a tougher time navigating the impact of paying attention to the rapid news updates and then updating my advice to my clients and community. At times, it has taken a conscious effort to reduce my stress level and bring my focus back to the items that are in line with my values and priorities. I do believe that will settle and am glad resilience is such a strong part of having been a business owner for nearly 20 years. Honoring the unique nature of what everyone is going through and connecting to our common humanity is a great touchstone as well.

Q: Recommendations for clubs with no online or video.

A: Find ways to stay connected with your members and offer your sincere support. This could include:

  • Phone calls on a weekly or daily basis checking in on their healthy living habits.
  • Personalized letters via snail mail.
  • Home workout ideas via snail mail.
  • Ideas on how to stay fit and healthy during the lockdown.
  • List of favorite resources to help stay healthy during the lockdown.
  • Workouts outdoors if allowed at safe distances strictly abiding the social distancing rules.
  • Motivational tips or healthy living insights via text messaging.

Q: What are the best alternatives to in-person sessions?

A: I suggest these three:

  • Virtual training. 
  • A hybrid of online training (digitally delivering written workout programs) and virtual training. 
  • Online training (digitally delivering written workout programs only)

Q: Given the current situation, our trainers do not have the luxury to go through a lot of virtual training. We need to get to them via online ASAP. Any suggestions?

A: I sincerely appreciate the urgency of the situation. I encourage you to thoughtfully move forward. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I don't want you to damage relationships or deliver a poorer quality service because the launch was too rushed or ill-prepared. I also want to assure you that you can move into virtual training within a few days. Laying out your plan, testing and practicing the actual training, offering an initial complimentary session and clearly communicating with everyone involved will be well worth the effort.

Q: Smart and quick ways to deploy online programming to keep current members engaged. Potentially promising ways to generate revenue from new or current members during the shutdown/uncertain period.

A: This is tricky. Virtual personal training or virtual homegroup exercise for existing members is at the top of the list without any reservation. There are other virtual revenue-generating options, but it is important to not appear tone deaf or as though you are soliciting new business during times of crisis. I would advise sticking to services you already provide that can be executed virtually. 

However, building out other virtual offerings while you have more time on your hands is a great idea. And depending on how long the lockdown goes, beta testing those with existing members at significantly reduced rates could be brilliant. This could mean learning more about e-books, online courses for clients, online surveys or educational experiences for clients, tips and tricks to successful social media groups to create community and as a value add to existing offerings, discovering what software could help your members and teams implement more behavioral psychology advice, etc. I also recommend cleaning up the business projects that have been sitting on the back burner and proactively preparing for recovery once you catch your breath. For now, give yourself a little time to decide your next steps and reach out for support from experts you trust.

Q: What site/app/video should I use for virtual classes? I’m using Zoom to attend my clients remotely now, but the basic plan only allows me to train up to three people at a time. Should I upgrade my Zoom account, or do you recommend something else?

A: Yes, I would upgrade to Zoom Pro. It is $14.99 per month and you can host up to 100 participants, record the class, upload it to the cloud or download it to your computer. Continue asking other experts, but this is my best recommendation to date for group hosting.

Q: Can you provide services (personal training, private yoga, etc.) online and charge the member/client through your company?

A: Yes, absolutely. To do so, you need to do the following:

  • Ensure you have liability coverage.
  • Confirm waivers for all participants.
  • Run payments through a digital banking service directly into your business banking account.

Q: How does the pricing of virtual personal training compare to in-person that you've seen? Is it the same or is it a lower price point service?

A: If you are maintaining a high level of professionalism and delivering the same great service, virtual personal training should remain at the same price point unless session duration needs to change. I do not recommend hour-long virtual training. Cut it to 30 or 25 minutes. If you want to keep your hour rate, offer two 30-minute virtual training sessions as the lockdown alternative.

Q: How do we price accordingly for virtual personal training coming from a face-to-face interaction to decrease profit loss?

A: Virtual personal training prices should be nearly the same as in-person personal training. Alterations should be made if the session duration is shortened.

Q: Are you paying staff for online virtual workouts to keep members motivated during facility closures?

A: Yes, of course. Staff needs to be paid for high-quality work. Management needs to outline expectations and lay out support and check-ins with staff. It is my opinion, the better a facility maintains service, connection and helpful, positive communication with its members through this pandemic, the easier the recovery will be and more likely the business will survive.

Q: How many members/clients have accepted online alternatives?

A: Statistically, as an industry I do not know yet. I will keep a lookout. My recommendation is only to transfer existing clients to virtual training. I suspect my studio owners and trainers will maintain about 70 percent of their client base or higher in the initial transition. We are going through that right now. I also suspect some of the roughly 30 percent that initially did not convert will come back if asked again one or two weeks later. Clients given an initial complimentary virtual training session are definitely more likely to convert. I am making that a standard protocol for all of my studio/trainer clients. People will not buy what they do not understand. Train your teams on how to successfully virtually train. Then, roll it out with a complimentary session for all existing clients.

Q: Can you post the link to your complimentary webinar please?

A: Certainly. Please sign up on the pop up on my home page:

You can reach out to Blakely if you have additional questions by emailing her here: [email protected]


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