How Personal Training by Video Chat Keeps Me Fit

How Personal Training by Video Chat Keeps Me Fit

One fit mom talks about why virtual personal training is a great idea for busy moms.

By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

You might think that working at home three days a week would give me plenty of time to exercise. But between tackling assignments and trying to squeeze in laundry and chores while on the clock, even a 10-minute drive to the gym can seem overwhelming.

So it’s a huge relief that my personal trainer is only a couple of mouse clicks and one video call away! All I have to do is log into my video chat account. Seconds later, she pops up, ready to lead me through a customized workout -- just like she would in a gym.

While running with my jogging stroller is great -- and a good way to clock in time with my 2-year-old and infant -- strength-training via webcam has helped me work off 40 pounds of pregnancy weight in less than six months, while toning my arms, abs, and thighs in the comfort of my home office (which happens to double as my kids’ play room).

Why It Rocks (for Moms)
I met my personal trainer, Sharissa Reichert, about seven years ago when I lived in Brooklyn, long before video chat programs were a big deal.

Today, video chat is only getting more popular. A 2010 study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed 19 percent of Americans had tried video chat via their cell phone or laptop; a similar 2013 survey by the organization revealed that the number of cell phone owners who use video calling programs has tripled since 2011. While it’s hard to pinpoint specific statistics related to virtual personal training, it’s definitely on the rise: As a recent Boston Magazine piece noted, virtual training is less expensive than hiring a trainer to come to your home or meet you at the gym. And if your favorite trainer isn’t offering virtual sessions, several online companies offer personalized workouts for less than you’d pay for a live training session. Of course, I’m partial to my trainer because she’s worked with so many moms like me who need to schedule sessions during our toddlers’ nap times.

Virtual personal training is also convenient during weeks when it’s too cold to go for a jog. Or when my workload is such that I can’t afford even a 20-minute round trip to the gym, I can just schedule half-hour sessions. Unlike exercise videos, personal training is customized for your individual needs, too. So if I’m doing an exercise that hurts -- and plenty did after my second C-section in February -- I can tell my trainer and she’ll switch moves. Or if a series of moves is too easy and I’m bored, which happened recently, I can tell her to amp up my workout.

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How It Works
A typical virtual workout session with my trainer looks a little something like this: After I change into a workout bra, stretch pants, and running shoes -- the same outfit I’d wear to the gym -- I log in for our scheduled session. We establish a connection (she usually calls me) and get ourselves situated – sometimes one of us needs to adjust the volume or tilt a computer to get the best webcam angle. I start my session by jogging in place a few feet away from my laptop to ensure my trainer has a full view, top to bottom, of my body.

Five minutes after I warm up by jogging in place, we begin our session. I can see her clearly, as the main image on the screen, as well as a little icon of myself in the right-hand corner (so I can continually check my form as I go along). I usually keep two sets of dumbbells (3 and 5 pounds) and a set of resistance bands handy. Sharissa leads me through several moves that work specific muscle groups. Sometimes I have to readjust the camera or walk closer to the computer screen so she can get a good look at and critique my exercise form.

After 50 minutes and dozens of reps of exercises that leave me whipped, we spend five to 10 minutes stretching and breathing in yoga poses such as downward dog, which are important for maintaining flexibility.

While I’d recommend virtual training to anyone with mom-like time constraints, there is one big caveat: Don’t try this first if you’re a fitness newbie. I’m in great shape and have worked with my trainer in person before, so she knows my strengths, weaknesses, and overall fitness level. If you’re just getting started, a personal trainer will have an easier time doing a thorough fitness assessment (testing your endurance through cardio exercises) and getting a more accurate reading on your weight and strength in person.

As always, consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen to make sure it's right for you.

How do you make time for fitness or sneak in exercise as a busy mom?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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