Health & Wellness

How Working with a Fitness Trainer Remotely Changed One Woman’s Life

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When Kelly Boston, 57, had her second hip replacement two years ago, she experienced so much stiffness and loss of mobility she was no longer able to walk her dog, even after three months of physical therapy.

Boston thought yoga might help, but she couldn’t get off the floor without positioning herself against a wall and leaning on it for support.

The trainer at her local gym wasn’t any help. “She had me doing things that were beyond my capacity at that point,” Boston says, “like perching on an exercise ball to do sit-ups. I tried to explain that I needed to strengthen my core before I could even balance on a fit ball, let alone do sit-ups.”

Today, Boston is back to her active life, taking long walks with a new puppy, hiking with friends, going for bike rides around her Kansas City neighborhood. Guiding her recovery was Sabrena Jo, a fitness trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise.

What made their relationship unusual is that, save for the first time they met at Boston’s home, they were never in the same room together.

Instead, they connected for their weekly 30-minute sessions using video chat. Boston would place her tablet on a bookshelf, positioned to allow Jo a view. The workouts incorporated elements of Boston’s home and a few inexpensive props: she would do squats holding on to a kitchen chair or countertop, wrap an elastic resistance band around a banister for one-armed rows.

As the workouts progressed, Boston moved on to lunges, 30-second weighted walks with dumbbells, and, eventually, planks. “Sabrena could see everything I was doing,” Boston says. “She’d say, ‘your elbow needs to be lower’ or ‘your shoulders should stay stacked over your hips.’”

Boston trained with Jo for just under a year. “I knew I’d hit an important milestone when I was able to get on and off a foot stool effortlessly to decorate the Christmas tree,” Boston says. “It was being able to do the daily things without a struggle that really made a difference in my life.”

For some people working with a trainer remotely can be a less intimidating, more convenient and more affordable alternative to private sessions at a gym. “The bottom line,” says Jo, “is there’s a method of coaching that works for everyone. You just have to find what fits for your personality and your goals.” Always be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Whether you’re working with a trainer remotely or in person, here are some tips from Jo on how to find one that’s right for you.

  1. Ask about certifications and qualifications. A trainer should have a certification from a well-known accrediting agency like the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Some trainers also have certification in working with a senior population.
  2. Does the trainer take a thorough health history and evaluate your injuries, limitations and capabilities? “Before you begin your first session,” Jo says, “a trainer should do a thorough assessment so the program can be adjusted to be safe and effective for you.”
  3. How do you feel at the end of a session? “Any workout that leaves you feeling super fatigued or beat down is too intense,” Jo says. “You want to feel energized and uplifted so you’ll have an incentive to keep going.”

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