Training clients online is challenging on so many levels. Working with an injured client can make it even more challenging. It is our responsibility as certified fitness instructors and personal trainers to be certain our classes and personal training sessions are safe and modifiable. This may take extra thought and preparation on the part of the instructor/trainer.
Here are five things to consider when working in the virtual world with clients and participants:
1. Do a regular biomechanics check-in with your client.
Clients may have developed an injury or nagging pain during COVID that has possibly gone undiagnosed. Working from home means people are typically more sedentary. Posture is impacted with less mobility and can impact lower back, gluteus muscles, and spinal function. Help your clients tune into their own body by creating a check list every four to six weeks. If you are instructing group fitness, ask your group at the start of each class how everyone is physically feeling and take note of anyone who may have an injury.
A few questions to consider for your checklist:
- Are you experiencing any new stress in your body like tight muscles or aches and pains?
- Do you have an acute injury (fall, ankle roll, etc.,) or chronic injury (overtraining, lack of strength or mobility training)?
- Are you sitting or standing for extended periods of time?
- Do certain exercises cause you pain?
2. Include a longer warm-up and stretch at the beginning and end of your session/class.
Create cues in your warm-up and cool down stretches that help clients become more in tune with their body and help them to discover where there are some potential ailments. Stick to dynamic stretches or light cardiovascular exercises on warm-up and static stretches on cool-down. Watch your client as they perform the warm-up, cool down, and note any challenges they may be having.
A few warm-up/cool down stretches to consider:
- Alternating Knee Grabs
- Alternating Hip Circles
- High Knees (marching or running)
- Run-on-the Spot
- Squat to Alternating Heel Taps
- Forward Fold to Back Bend
- Standing Cat/Cow
- Alternating Side Bends
- Kneeling Wrists Stretch
- Child’s Pose
- Thread the Needle Stretch
- Lying Piriformis Stretch
- Lying IT Band Release
- Happy Baby Pose
- Lying Spinal Twist
3. Prepare your session or class with a modification for each exercise.
Come prepared to your session/class so you aren’t creating something on the spot. Consider clients with tight trapezius and wrists muscles from an increase in screen time, weak or tired lower backs from extended sitting, knee injuries from increased cardiovascular training in COVID, or stability issues from weak ankles or weakened leg muscles.
A few basic modifications to consider:
- Bodyweight conditioning
- Lighter weights/high reps
- Minimal overhead exercises
- Stationary position exercises (no pivoting or plyometrics)
- Hand and knees or seated position exercises
4. Encourage your clients to seek out the attention of other professionals.
It is always a great idea to have referrals ready to hand out to clients. Chiropractors, physiotherapists, and massage therapists are key in helping someone come back from a chronic or acute injury. Be sure to follow up with your client to see how that injury is progressing and to get a report back from the other professional via your client. You may need to skip a session or reconvene when your client is given the green light.
5. Consider changing up your client’s program for a season to focus on flexibility and mobility training.
Your client may need an entirely new plan for the next several weeks until their injury is recovered or improved. Rather than cancelling sessions or discouraging a client from attending class, create sessions that work around their injury.
Use a mat, foam roller, tension release ball, bands, stability balls and bodyweight, or light weights to condition your clients. Weave in more stretches or help your client discover a yoga practice. Create new classes like Core & Stretch or FLEX, which focus on mobility and lengthening of muscles. This is a fantastic opportunity to slow things down and bring back some important practices in your client’s regime.