What the heck is online fitness coaching? How does it work and what’s in it for me?


Online training is a relatively new – and quickly growing – phenomenon in the health and fitness industry. More and more people have experienced its benefits first hand, but many people still wonder how, exactly, it works.

The COVID-19 pandemic skyrocketed the popularity of online fitness training for two main reasons: gyms closed and personal trainers needed a way to continue working, and people all over the world needed effective workout options they could do from home.

In November 2017, I transitioned to a 100% online coaching business, working exclusively with vegans. (Here are my thoughts on my first year.) As many of my in-person clients were switching to online coaching, they asked a lot of questions like, “What is online coaching, exactly?”, “How does online training work?”, and “What’s in it for me?” I aim to answer all these questions for you here.

I’ve worked with clients in person since 2011, and online since 2013. In June 2018, my husband and I purchased a property 6 hours away from our hometown. Our respective businesses needed to be completely mobile and independent of location. (My husband is a web developer.) It goes without saying that online coaching can benefit the coach in this way – I didn't have to leave my clients behind, because location doesn't matter! – but let’s focus on what you, the client, can get out of it!

What, exactly, is online coaching?

Online coaching is the most flexible, cost-effective, kick-ass way to reach your fitness goals in the known universe (OK, so I might be a bit biased). If you want to work out where and when it's convenient for you – instead of relying on someone else's location and availability – at the fraction of the cost of in-person fitness training, online coaching could be for you. You can get fit even if your schedule is crazy and your budget is tight. Pretty sweet, right?

Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center and the Online Trainer Academy, puts it this way:

“Online training is a new and exciting way for me to offer my clients what they need, when they need it, without the limitations and expenses of the gym so that I can offer a better, and more cost effective, service than an in-person trainer.”

Every coach runs their online programs a bit differently, but every one of us is providing our clients with fitness and nutrition guidance, detailed workout plans tailored to your specific goals, ongoing support, and a virtual kick in the ass.

It can be as simple as e-mail-based coaching, or as in-depth as video coaching sessions coupled with a specialized app you use to access workouts, track progress, and report to your coach.

For an in-depth discussion on online coaching and how it can be far superior to in-person coaching, check out this podcast episode with my colleague Dawn Joseph.

So, what do I get with online coaching?

My programs are just one example of how online training can work. While I work only with vegans, the basic structure of my programs could apply to any type of online coaching. I’ll describe them here so you can get a sense of what to expect. With my coaching programs, you get customized workouts created specifically for you and your goals. Every client is different, so in 7 years of working with clients online, I’ve never given 2 clients the same workout program. I work with whatever each client prefers and has available, including their own homes, outdoors, or local fitness facilities.

You also get plant-based nutrition coaching where you'll make changes one small - but powerful - habit at a time. We make sure that your nutrition supports your fitness and physique goals, including pre- and post-workout nutrition and any food-related lifestyle habits a client needs to work on. Oh, and I’m the master of creating food prep “hacks”, so I teach my clients those, too! (Like how to prepare a week’s worth of vegan dinners in 60 minutes or less.)

I don't give clients prescribed meal plans for the simple reason that they don't work. A diet plan is not empowering; it takes you away from your own decision-making process - which you need for long-term success. Not to mention, fitness coaches are not within their scope of practice to provide meal plans, even though many do so anyway! Only registered dieticians are legally qualified to create specific meal plans for their clients. Instead of restrictive meal plans, I empower you to take charge of your own nutrition in a way that works for you - and get kick-ass results in the process.

With online coaching, you also get personal support from me throughout each month. The level of communication ranges from e-mail and in-app text messaging for my most basic plan, to unlimited voice messaging, texting, and video exercise form analysis for my most “high-ticket” plan.

So, you’re basically getting a friendly virtual kick in the ass, access to world-class individual coaching and support, plus all the know-how you need to nail your fitness goals – whatever they may be.

The nuts ‘n’ bolts of Karina’s online training

I’m not much of a “tech-y” person (and neither are many of my clients), so I aim to keep things as simple as possible while still delivering mind-blowing results. I use 3 apps in my online coaching: one each for fitness, nutrition, and communication. Scheduled coaching calls are done via phone or Zoom; whatever each client prefers.

Online fitness coaching involves ongoing and continuous support, not just scheduled sessions. If a client needs help, they can reach out at any time. I see details of every single workout my clients complete (and every one they miss!), and every single meal they eat.

Fitness coaching

For my fitness coaching, I use a robust app called Trainerize. My clients receive workouts, log them as they get done, and track their progress. I get automatic notifications whenever a client completes a workout (how’s that for accountability?!) and I can easily keep tabs on everyone’s progress. I also receive notifications when clients miss scheduled workouts! Clients also have the option of saving – or printing out – their workouts as PDFs if they like.

Trainerize app
Logging a workout.

Nutrition coaching

I use MyFitnessPal (with which most people are already familiar) for nutrition coaching. My clients log their food and I can automatically see their entries without them having to send me anything. Keeps things nice ‘n’ simple.

During the week I keep tabs on each client's daily food logs. Every Sunday, clients send me screenshots of their macro and calorie averages for the week.

Food logging in an app isn't for everyone. A few of my clients (like those with histories of disordered eating patterns, for example) choose to track their meals in other ways, like sending me photos of everything they eat.


For my most basic fitness coaching program, which clients can access after completing at least 3 months of one of my more intensive programs, clients get e-mail and text message (within the Trainerize app) support for questions they may have, progress check-ins, etc. For my other two more in-depth coaching programs, I use an app called Voxer for quick voice messaging and texting. My clients also use either Trainerize or Voxer to send video clips of their exercises so I can check their form.

Progress check-in with Karina Inkster

It may sound like a lot of tech, but it’s really not a huge time investment. After a short initial learning curve, my clients spend most of their time focused on their workouts, nutrition, and overall badassery, not spending hours glued to their phones or computer screens.

It takes 2 minutes after a workout to enter weights used and reps performed, and 5 minutes to create a food log for the day (less if you eat similar things every day.) That’s a pretty damn good investment of 7 minutes, if you ask me, especially because your coach can see all your info immediately.

Who can benefit from online coaching?

A huge variety of people can benefit from online fitness and nutrition training. I’m one of those people myself! (I think it’s important that all coaches have their own coaches.) You may be an especially good candidate for online coaching if one or more of the following describes you:

You’re looking for a coach with specific expertise or within a specific niche

Great coaches often have very specific types of clients they’re best suited to working with, given their qualifications and experience. As a client, you can seek out a coach who precisely suits your needs, even if they live in a different city – or on the other side of the planet.

I work exclusively with vegans who want to get super strong. (I do work with clients who aren’t currently vegan if they’re looking to make the transition and need support.) If you’re looking for a “quick fix” 90-day challenge, I’m not your gal. If you’re looking to compete in a physique competition, I’ll refer you to someone else. But if you’re looking to make weight lifting a priority in your life and want to show the world what plant-based strength is all about, let’s talk!

My online client Susi says:

“I was able to connect with a vegan personal trainer even though she lives in another part of the province. The vegan part was very important to me as I also follow a vegan diet and needed to work with someone who 'gets it'.”

With online coaching, you can work with a kick-ass coach who suits your needs from anywhere in the world!

You live in a remote location

People who otherwise wouldn’t have access to personal training can now have a coach! For example, one of my clients lives smack in the middle of Outback Australia, 1000 km away from Darwin. The tiny town gets their food delivered every 2 weeks on a giant truck. This is not someone who’d normally have access to an in-person trainer, but she now gets customized workouts, video coaching sessions, progress tracking, exercise form checks, nutrition coaching, and a friendly kick in the ass to take her fitness to the next level.

Another client lives on a tiny, boat-access-only island off Bermuda. No cars, and only 20 houses total. This client needs to work out at home for logistical reasons, so she has me create her workouts for her and keep her accountable.

You have a very full schedule

Scheduling is a non-issue with online coaching. Instead of being stuck with someone else’s schedule (i.e. a trainer at a gym), you work out when and where you want, but still get the benefit of a structured program and ongoing support from a coach.

We can also be much more flexible with your workout programs than a typical 60-minute gym session. Due to demanding work schedules, for example, many of my clients split their workouts into five 20-minute sessions per week. Others will do cardio in the morning and weight lifting in the evening. Still others will do most of their workouts for 45 minutes at the gym, but also have back-up 15-minute home “quickies” on hand for days they’re extra busy.

Sometimes a bit of experimentation is necessary (e.g. switching evening workouts to morning workouts to ensure they get done), but I create workouts to accommodate your schedule – no matter how full it might be.

My online client Katherine says:

“One of the main benefits of online coaching for me was the fact that I could work out in my neighbourhood at a time that worked well with my schedule. I also really liked being able to have accountability for every workout that I did, by inputting the weight and reps that I did for each exercise and sharing that with Karina through the fitness app. It was so easy and helpful!”

You travel a lot

Maintaining and improving your fitness can be challenging if you travel a lot. Having a plan of action and the support of a coach can certainly help! One of my clients travels so much that she gets a new set of 3 travel workouts every month (in addition to home and gym workouts).

I create challenging (and quick) body weight workouts for clients who won’t have access to any equipment while travelling. One of my clients is travelling for work this week, and wasn’t sure what equipment her hotel’s gym would have. I got her to send me a quick video clip of the gym when she arrived, and I then put together a workout she could do during her stay there.

You want to work out at home

You don't need to go to a gym, if you don't want to! Many of my clients train in their own homes for various reasons, like taking care of young children, living in remote locations with no gyms available, or just simple convenience.

You can skyrocket your fitness with the right set of body weight moves coupled with a few simple (and inexpensive) pieces of equipment. My clients’ home gyms range from a $20 set of resistance bands to a full garage gym with a squat rack and bench press.

You’re on a budget

Online coaching is cost effective. You're not paying a coach a high hourly rate (plus club overhead), so you can get better training at a fraction of the price. Rather than booking hour-long sessions at the gym each week, online coaches can provide ongoing (and better!) support as you work toward your goals.

What type of client might not do well with online coaching?

If you’re the type of person who needs an appointment with a trainer at a gym in order to work out, online coaching might not work for you. You're gonna need some level of self-motivation and self-discipline to get the most out of online coaching. You get structure, direction, support, and accountability of course, but it’s still up to you to get done what you’ve set out to do.

Online coaching is a great way of empowering yourself to take ownership of your own fitness and build bulletproof health habits. It could be what you need to level-up your fitness!


Ready to kick some [plant-based] butt?

If you're vegan (or wannabe vegan) and want to level-up your fitness and nutrition, apply to work with me in 2 easy steps! Fill out a quick 10-question application form, and you’ll automatically be taken to a booking page to schedule your free audition call where we can talk in more detail about your goals, how I can help, and your action plan.

Vegan fitness coach Karina Inkster

NEW: vegan nutrition coaching sessions! Calories, macros, meal planning, and more.

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