Gyms Being Replaced By Virtual Training


As the internet provides customers with access to “personal” training, often at a cheaper rate than they would pay to work with a qualified professional in person, the fitness industry is taking a hit.

Peg Hamlett, PhD, director of fitness and wellness at the University of Idaho, has witnessed exercisers engaging in virtual training on the gym floor.

She says this type of training is often disruptive to others—especially if it’s conducted live—because such exercisers tend to speak loudly so the online trainer can hear them. While this is a nuisance, it’s not her primary worry.

“Our biggest concern is safety,” Hamlett says. “We do not know the trainer’s qualifications or if the training is appropriate for [the member’s] health history or current fitness state.”

Hamlett’s concerns for her members’ safety are valid. Many highly qualified trainers work successfully with clients from a distance, but hordes of others try to do it with minimal education and experience.

Justin Powell, fitness manager and personal trainer at the La Jolla Sports Club in La Jolla, California, suggests that management should beef up the orientation process to help new members better understand the risks involved in online training.


Working with an online trainer generally costs less than training in person, which can make the online route far more attractive for budget-conscious customers. But it can take a toll on a gym’s ability to provide top-level services and amenities.

“We strive to pay our trainers a competitive wage,” Hamlett says. “We also inspect our equipment daily and replace or repair it continually to provide a safe, clean and up-to-date facility—which costs money. When participants ‘bring in’ other trainers, we lose out and need to find other ways to keep our facility top-notch.”

Most fitness facilities prevent non staff trainers from working with clients, or they require that these individuals pay a fee to use the space. Perhaps a similar tack can be taken with online training, Hamlett wonders.