Data Driven Coaching And The Online Personal Training Industry


The Greatest Profession In The World

What you do matters.

No, really.

Online personal training is packed with “dare to be great” opportunities as you help transform the lives of your clients.

And it’s ever-evolving with new and exciting methods to impact others.

So whether you’re learning about better workout delivery methods or how to influence behavior change, there’s an ocean of best practices to discover.

Health and fitness coaching changes so rapidly that one of the things we do for fun is learning better ways of performing our job!

Think about it,

The flight attendant at JetBlue isn’t sitting down right now to read an article on how to do her job better.

But you are.

Kudos to you!


As much as this can be exhilarating at times, unfortunately, it can also be a bit overwhelming.

I’ve written this article to cut to the chase of what I deem is the future for today’s top trainers and coaches.

The next 10 minutes will put you on the cutting edge of how to change more lives and get paid handsomely to do so. It will also enhance anything else you pursue as an online fitness coach.

The Evolution Of The Fitness Industry

But to know where we are going, we should make sure we can accurately assess and learn from where we have been.

Here are the broad strokes of the evolution of the fitness industry as I see it.

Note: Just because I mention a new phase doesn’t mean the previous ones are obsolete. Many are just more recent additions to where we are today.

The Golden Age Of Bodybuilding


The words “personal” and “training” had virtually never been used in the same sentence together.

Weider Magazine and legends like Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno gave rise to a group of high protein eating iron pumpers.

It didn’t take long before fellow gym-goers sought out this once weird and wacky subculture for tips on how to build muscle and lose fat.

The Advent Of The Aerobics

Jack Lalanne and Lucille Roberts health clubs were sprouting up all over the US and rocking a unitard with leggings was all the rage.

I’m actually a little uncomfortable even talking about it. But it had its day in the sun and therefore gets a brief mention.

Tell the truth, you miss the stepper and you know it!

Machine Mania

The traditional big box gym shelled out big bucks in search of the latest equipment made by companies like Nautilus or Hammer Strength.

The attempt to help gym-goers push more weight without needing to learn a single lick of proper exercise technique can still be found all over the globe.

(What program could be considered complete without the abductor/adductor machines?!?)

The holy grail of awkward gym moment makers

The Functional Training Revolution

If I had to identify which of these stages dawned the modern area of health and fitness, this would have to be it.

The mantra became “train movements not muscles” as free weights once again took center stage.

The world of athletic training bled into workout programs as squats and deadlifts reigned supreme.

Suddenly the classic sit-up became cancerous in the eyes of functional purists. Pioneers like Mike Boyle and Dan John taught us to push and pull and carry our way to optimum results.

The “Assess And Correct” Movement

The world of physical therapy had an ever-increasing influence on the way we trained our clients.

Buzz words like “corrective exercise”, “prehab”, “mobility” and “stability” became commonplace. Personal trainers flocked in droves to learn from Gray Cook from Functional Movement Systems.

We all tried to wrap our minds around concepts we saw in Eric Cressey’s blogs and quickly found out that “a stable scapula is a happy scapula.”

Wasn’t it freeing to learn that all of life’s problems fell into one of 3 categories?

  • Romance ????
  • Finance ????
  • Glute activation ????

(Does anyone else get mad when their iPhone tells you that “glutes” is misspelled?! It’s an important word Apple. Get it together!)

Nutrition And Behavior Coaching

I clearly don’t mean that this was the first time nutrition was addressed.

But there was a certain season where certain practices became more widely accepted.

Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition changed the way we viewed nutrition coaching in one fell swoop with his seminal presentation “The Compliance Solution” almost a decade ago and we won’t ever look back.

The implementation of Motivational Interviewing, conversational coaching, and a habit-based approach went from slightly obscure to commonplace among personal trainers and fitness coaches everywhere.

Online Personal Training

Living in a digital age opened the door for online personal training. Creating a Google Sheet program with some YouTube exercise demos for PT clients that moved too far away to train was bound to evolve.

Spreadsheets gave way to software companies like Trainerize coming up with better ways to deliver workouts and organize client management. (For pennies on the dollar of what it would take you to develop your own custom app I might add.)

Jonathan Goodman did wonders for the online personal training industry by paving the way and sharing great content to fast track what is emerging as a titan among income-producing opportunities.

The Future Of Fitness Coaching As We See It

If you’re an online personal trainer, then you’re on the cutting edge of the industry.

I’m going to make sure you stay there.

It’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Drum-roll please…

The future of the health and fitness industry is “Data Driven Coaching (DDC).”

I will concede that DDC isn’t completely non-existent. But I will argue, based on our experience of working with some key players in the industry, that it is vastly underutilized.

Stay with me a little longer and I’ll explain what I mean by Data Driven Coaching, and why you should implement the principles outlined in this article.

I won’t leave you hanging either, I will guide you on how you can use data to, serve your clients better and get paid top dollar to do so.

6 Reasons Data-Driven Coaching Will Help Explode Your Business

1. It ensures you execute all the previous “evolutions” that are relevant to your business

 What gets measured gets managed.
-Peter Drucker

Do your clients have body composition goals? How closely are you monitoring their progress? How closely do you measure the execution of each component of their program?

Do you preach quality movement? Do you score their movement quality, administer a dosage of a corrective strategy and retest your progress?

Do you have your clients track macros? Can you tell me how many compliant weeks they had during the previous 6 months?

Better yet, do they know how many compliant weeks they had over the last 6 months?

It doesn’t matter what your style of training is, there is data that ensures you are delivering on your promises.

2. It helps identify limiting factors

Our clients may have a variety of goals, but they only hire us for one reason – they can’t do it without us!

Thoughtful coaches identify limiting factors and implement strategies to remove them.

Here is a critical takeaway:

The data doesn’t completely solve the mystery, but it does leave reliable clues that will lead you in the right direction.

Here is an example:

Jennie hits her macros 5 out of 7 days each week. It turns out she always goes over budget on Saturday and Sunday.

It still takes a conversation to uncover that she is so stressed during the week at her job, so she lets go on the weekend.

You could then unpack stress management strategies during the week or define some healthy ways she can decompress over the weekend. So the data doesn’t do away with the coaching…it drives it!

3. It gamifies your business

Having objective data to reflect your hard work makes it fun!

I remember how giddy I used to get looking at all the ways I was helping my clients reach their goals. There are few things that will fire you up more than tracking what matters for your clients. Period!

4. It tells you how effective your coaching initiatives really are

Do you think you’re hot stuff as an online personal trainer?

I’ve got news for you:

The numbers don’t lie.

if you’ve got the goods, the data will show it, and if you don’t, well…

Maybe it is time to do some continuing ed.

This also applies to any changes you make in your product delivery. Did you pilot a new challenge?

You’ll be able to identify what worked and what didn’t so you can change your plan of attack going forward.

5. It is the ultimate sales tool

Whip out a spreadsheet with some cool-looking charts on it and they will whip out their wallet on the spot. This happens for 3 reasons.

  1. Data is associated with high intellect (and people want to work with smart coaches.)
  2. It shows you really care about your clients. (The only someone who truly cares would go to such great lengths to keep meticulous data on the metrics that drive client results.)
  3. It proves that you get your clients results.

When I say “sales tool” I am also talking about retention. Being able to show a client all their effort and progress right in front of their face in black and white will hold on to a client like nothing else.

6. It will motivate the heck out of your clients

Are you interested in a golden nugget that will change the way you do business forever?

Here you go!

People play the game differently when they know you’re keeping score.

Try giving a video update or share your screen on a Zoom call with your online personal training clients and let them see your “scoreboard.”

You’ll be surprised how much less you have to “say” when you can “show” your clients how well they are doing.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

How To Implement Data-Driven Coaching In Your Business

Now that we know the “what” and the “why” behind DDC we need to talk briefly about the “how”, so you can grow a tribe of brand ambassadors by leaps and bounds.

Here is a 4-step action plan that will ensure you don’t get sidetracked by the day-to-day demands of your business. It will leverage Data-Driven Coaching and skyrocket your success – if you commit to it.

I have adopted these principles from “The 4 Disciplines Of Execution” by Jim Huling, Chris McChesney and Sean Covey.

Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important

All great achievements start out as a clearly defined goal. There’re 2 ways you can implement this in your business

  1. Have a wildly important goal for your business (revenue, amount of clients, total weight loss for the year from all your clients, etc).
  2. Have a wildly important goal for each client. (Hopefully, you defined this during their initial consult/coaching call.)

You’ll want to clearly define a measurable starting point, the desired outcome, and a deadline for the achievement. The most effective format for this is to use the formula “I will go from X to Y by Z.”

“I will help my clients’ total weight loss go from 50 lbs to 150 lbs by December 31st, 2021”

Discipline 2: Act on the lead measures

Unless you perform liposuction you can’t directly achieve your wildly important goal of total weight loss. Weight loss is a “lag” measure. It happens as a result of certain direct, controllable actions. Those direct actions are your “lead” measures.

Lead measures are things like:

  1. Workout intensity
  2. Workout consistency
  3. Macro execution
  4. Habit adherence
  5. Etc.

Putting the focus on these “behavior goals” leads you to your desired “outcome goal.”

You’ll want to meet with your clients or trainers and define what lead measures you’ll act upon and what “winning” looks like. (Ex: you’ll perform at least 2 strength training workouts and 2 cardio workouts of at least 45 minutes each week)

Warning: You can overdo this. Having clients focus on everything you can possibly measure makes the process way too complicated.

It is very helpful for you as their high capacity coach to monitor several metrics. But you’ll want to narrow their focus to a maximum of 2 or 3 behaviors.

Discipline 3: Keep a compelling scoreboard

Most likely you’ve been implementing the first 2 disciplines in some fashion. Here’s where it gets really fun and those goals will become reality.

Presenting your data in a clearly understood, easy-to-access “scoreboard” is the magic pill your clients have been searching for.

The ability to see a visual representation of your clearly defined lead measures is beyond powerful.

If you are an online trainer using Trainerize, much of your clients’ journeys are documented within the software.

However, it does have its limitations.

We have taken things a step further and created a custom spreadsheet that extracts all the key data from Trainerize and presents it in a “compelling scoreboard.”

Our “Online Training Tracker” informs, inspires, and motivates great coaching by letting you easily access just about every lead measure that Trainerize has the capacity to display.

It has charts and graphs that can show you the actions of each individual client or your entire roster all at once!

You can sort and filter by monthly workouts, habits completed, cardio events, and nutrition compliance. It also keeps lifetime tallies and can show you charts that display how well each client has done month after month.

Show a screenshot of this once a week to your clients and you will be amazed at the response.



Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability

If you have discipline 3 dialed in, this becomes a breeze.

You’ll conduct a short weekly accountability check-in where you review the progress of your lead measures. You’ll praise good execution, troubleshoot where things have gone wrong, and get a solid commitment on what the client will do to act on the lead measures in the week ahead.

Short and sweet gets the job done nicely here. Being consistent is the most important ingredient.

But without the meeting, video, or check-in messages your clients will likely go off track and stay that way.

You are a significant influence in their life and your accountability measures matter greatly.


Though the sea of information coming at us is vast, Data-Driven Coaching will help you make smart, intuitive decisions for your clients and sleep easier at night.

Prioritize your efforts at a glance and change more lives with less stress.

If you’d like to get your hands on our custom Trainerize Online Training Tracker, you can get more information here: Trainerize Online Training Tracker

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