I consider myself somewhat of a gym rat. Name a workout, and I’ve probably tried it. When gyms closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, I transitioned to at-home exercise. Then when my gym reopened, I considered freshening up my routine with private personal training sessions—only to immediately wince at the price tag.
With some quick research, I found an alternative: virtual personal training. If the price of a single training session at your gym is keeping you from tackling your fitness goals, you might want to try out one of the many personal training apps or digital platforms on the market.
First, decide if a virtual personal trainer will work for you
People flocked to online workout classes and one-on-one training during the pandemic—for good reason. “Because of COVID-19, some element of health and wellness is suddenly paramount on everybody’s minds,” says Ebenezer Samuel, a personal trainer on the digital platform Flexit. “You have a lot more people exploring fitness.”
While companies like Peloton feature large video libraries of classes online, virtual personal training platforms are different because they usually offer live one-on-one time with a trainer.
[Related: Working out at home? Here’s how to keep your house from smelling like a gym.]
Although virtual sessions may not exactly replicate in-person training—where your trainer can watch you from all angles and fix any mistakes in your form—they do offer accountability with a lower price tag. (You can find trainers online charging $30 per session, while in-person training can cost up to $100.)
And sweating in front of a screen doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Even now, with fitness centers open again, it can be useful for anyone who travels frequently, prefers working out at home, or might be intimidated by the gym. If any of this appeals to you, we’ve selected a few of the most user-friendly virtual training platforms to make sure you never miss another leg day.
When I dabbled in virtual personal training, I signed up for a monthly plan with Future, an app that directly connects you with a trainer. Josh Bonhotal, the company’s vice president of performance, says the app aims to create the same type of intimate, personalized relationship that elite athletes have with their coaches. And he would know—he’s worked with basketball stars like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
With Future, you can communicate with your trainer through the app whenever you want—about fitness goals, exercise form, nutrition, or any other information you’re interested in. Each week, your coach will upload workouts for you, customizing them to your goals. Unlike other virtual personal training platforms, one of the downsides of Future is that it doesn’t allow you to schedule traditional one-on-one sessions with your trainer.
With a subscription, you can rent an Apple Watch (free of cost) for the duration of your membership to track your heart rate and other health data while you work out. I, personally, enjoyed using Future, and I spent about six months with it until I decided I had “graduated” and could design workouts myself.
Future is $149 per month on iOS.
Flexit differs from Future in that it offers one-on-one live sessions with trainers on most digital devices, rather than just in-app workouts developed by a trainer. It also categorizes its trainers by specialty, so you can sign up to work with one who focuses on boxing, strength, pilates, physical therapy, post-natal fitness, and 10 other specialties.
The program is quite portable, too: You can use Flexit on your computer, or bring it to the gym with you on your phone or tablet. “I can work with someone from California now, where before I couldn’t have that,” says Samuel, who’s based in New York and has trained a variety of clients, including NFL players and firefighters.
[Related: Switching to a new fitness app? Here’s how to bring your data with you.]
If you’d rather work with a trainer who runs their own online business, you can find a plethora of independent trainers with virtual programs by browsing Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Working with most independent trainers will likely cost you at least $50 per session.
I follow a few such trainers myself; you might want to check out Kristen McParland, a certified nutrition and fitness coach, who offers a one-on-one coaching program for $100 per month, or Robyn Warren, founder of a fitness community called Geek Girl Strong, who offers an all-inclusive, 12-session coaching package for $529. If you enjoy specialty fitness classes, Alexa Idama offers private virtual pilates sessions for $85.
Even if it’s a little more expensive than membership for an app-based program, working with one of these trainers may allow you to get a little more individual attention.