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Why I Don’t Do Online Training

A week rarely passes without someone asking if I create customized online training programs. In the past two weeks alone, I’ve received six requests for a customized program. Since starting my website in 2001, I’ve probably had over a thousand requests. Yet despite the interest and demand, I’ve declined each and every request for an online program.

Now before you write me off as crazy, I believe it is worth discussing my reasons for declining such requests. Yes, I could have earned plenty of cash, but doing so would have gone against many of my fundamental beliefs. When I started training athletes many years ago, I didn’t do so with hopes of making it rich and famous. The opposite was actually true. If anything, I didn’t know if I would be able to support myself. I knew that the road ahead would be difficult, but it was worth the risk based on how passionate I was to help fellow athletes.

Why I Don’t Offer Online Programming

As I begin this section, it is worth stating the obvious. My reasons for not training people online are based solely on my own circumstances, experiences, and beliefs. I am not here to knock everyone who accepts online clients. Perhaps there are trainers who provide a high level service without physical interaction. I honestly don’t know. Whether they exist or not however, there is no denying that several companies sell overpriced programs with little or no attention to the individual. Some are even computer generated. It is these bogus companies and services that I will direct this entry towards.

I will now discuss my reasons for not offering online programming.

I. Time

Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity of all. There are only so many hours each day. Time management therefore becomes a critical skill. Yet even those who have mastered the art of time management are still limited to a 24 hour day.

As a result, there is no way that I could invest enough time to create customized online training programs for clients. I am already busy in the gym training real athletes. The only way I’d be able to train people online with the necessary attention would be to drop some of the athletes I train in person. When I have a boxer preparing for a fight, I may be in the gym with him for several hours a day. When multiple fighters are preparing for bouts, an entire day can fly by without me even  finding time to check my email.

I’ve had many situations where we had to travel for sparring as high level sparring partners weren’t available in the local area. I’d find myself driving 90 minutes to Providence, then spending 2+ hours in the gym, and then driving another 90 minutes home. Just like that, five hours of daylight were burned to fulfill the sparring needs of a single boxer. I’d then head back to our gym as another fighter would be waiting for me.

There are many nights when I don’t get home until both of my kids are already asleep. When I walk through the doors late at night, I’m already thinking about what everyone will do the next day. There are also are nights when I’m up late watching film of a fighter that one of my guys will be boxing (or writing blog entries like this at 1AM). It’s not a 9 to 5 profession. The job always comes home with me.

The take home lesson therefore is simple. Most trainers who are busy training real athletes have limited time. If you find a trainer offering online services, you may wish to question who they actually train. Good trainers and coaches are busy in the gym. If they are offering online services, it could mean that they don’t actually train anyone or that they aren’t investing a lot of time into your (so-called) customized routine.

II. Daily Changes

Another reason that I’m against online programming is the simple fact that crystal balls don’t exist. It is impossible to know what the next day will bring. Why would I create a monthly plan in advance for an online client when I don’t do anything close to that with my own athletes? There are many times when I don’t know what the next day will bring.

Yes, I have ideas for each day, but there is much more to coaching than creating a daily routine and posting it to a chalk board. With my athletes, I’ll have a general plan in mind, but I almost always make daily changes based on what I see in front of me. For example, if a fighter looks fatigued from a sparring session the day before, I may back off what I originally planned. This type of daily interaction is vital to the success of any athlete and coach.

One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Dave Tate’s book Under the Bar.

In his words,

A program alone will not yield results. It’s the modifications that are made along the way that lead to the success of the program…

Now there are many coaches and trainers out there who will proclaim they have this ability and that their programs will work for anyone. I am here to tell you they are dead wrong! It is just not possible for one to see into the future. Training is a process that has to be taken day to day. Yes, you need to have a basic plan to work from, but there are so many variables that can change at different rates that you must be willing to adapt your plan accordingly… A prescribed training plan is a good idea, but is only that – an idea. The rest has to be pieced together as the session and workouts progress… You will make many changes to your plan along the way.

Be sure to reread the last sentence from the paragraph above. Truer words have not been spoken. As mentioned previously, there are times when I plan too much in my head. Once I’m in the gym with the athlete, I may need to cut some of the work that I scheduled. At other times, I may notice that the athlete is feeling particularly strong. If so, I may add more work to the original schedule.

Once again, these are real time modifications that must be made during the session.

III. Communication

Another reason that I’m against online training is the way in which I communicate with my athletes. Whether I’m holding the mitts inside the ring, running alongside an athlete in the morning, or pushing them through a series of exercises, you can be sure that my mouth is running at regular intervals. I don’t sit quietly on the sidelines. I say what needs to be said to get the athlete to do more than he otherwise would.

As for pushing the buttons that need to be pushed, I feed off the temperament and mentality of the athlete. I’m not training a group of strangers. I work with these athletes almost every day of the year. I’m not dealing with someone that I’ve only communicated with via email. These are real people who I know in and out of the gym. I know their families. I have been inside their homes. I know their life story, where they’ve been, who they are, what they wish to accomplish, and what may be standing in their way. I use this background information to more effectively communicate with them.

The communication that I have with my athletes could never be replicated through an online program. Human interaction is entirely different than typing an email to a client that lives on the other side of the globe. All of the technology in the world couldn’t deliver a message as effectively as a few well timed words that are spoken to the athlete as he’s struggling to push through fatigue.

With an online program, the athlete is largely on his own. He reads what is written and is left to his own interpretations and modifications. He’s essentially training himself with an expensive paper guideline.

IV. Uniqueness

Yet another reason that I’m not a fan of online programming is the fact that no two athletes are the same. Training is an individualized process. We all come with our own strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, schedules, and abilities. Successful training is not an automated process. Even athletes from the same sport will often require entirely different programs. Just because I train boxers does not mean that each fighter performs the same work. The work is catered to the specific needs of the athlete. For example, a tall, slick boxer who moves on the outside will have different needs than a short, powerful inside fighter who likes to bang against the ropes.

It is impossible to know exactly what an athlete needs without working with him in person. In addition, many athletes need improvement in areas that they may not be aware of. If a trainer is limited to online communication, he is limited to what the athlete has told him.

I couldn’t tell you how many emails I receive from athletes who describe themselves as Mike Tyson clones. These individuals actually believe they are replicas of Tyson and want to train exactly like him. I once had a teenage fighter asking for training advice to help him bulk up to the heavyweight division. He described himself as an aspiring prospect with a Tyson-like style. His only problem (in his mind) was that he wasn’t yet a heavyweight. I later found out that he was only 5’7″ and 135 pounds. He also had never even fought as an amateur. This individual was ready to pay for a program to bulk up over 80 pounds, despite the fact that he had never actually boxed. It would have been criminal to accept money from someone who was so misinformed about how to proceed as a boxer. Rather than creating an online program, I directed him to an amateur boxing club in his area. He has since begun competing and has forgotten all about bulking to heavyweight.

He didn’t need a customized program. He needed a coach who could help him in person.

Summary

It’s safe to say that I could rant all day about why I am against online programming. Rather than beating a dead horse however, I’ll wrap up the discussion with one last warning to those who are interested in paying for a customized online program. If that is the path you wish to travel, I simply advise you to put in your due diligence before purchasing a program. Find out about the person creating the plan. How much customization is actually included? How many online clients are they willing to accept? Find out how much interaction will be available. For example, do you have a direct line to ask questions as you would with an offline trainer?

Furthermore, do you actually need a customized program? Rather than paying for a program, perhaps your time would be better spent learning the how and why to program creation. Doing so will leave you self-sufficient, as opposed to always being dependent on others to think for you.

As a coach, I’ll be the first to say that training isn’t as complicated as many would like you to believe. The primary reason that I’m busy during the day is because I’m not just getting athletes in shape, but I also teach a sport. When people inquire to train with me, I usually talk them out of paying for my time if they aren’t competitive fighters. That either makes me a terrible business man, or perhaps just someone who is honest. No, you can’t teach yourself how to box, but it is entirely possible to get yourself in excellent physical condition without a fancy routine. Those who suggest otherwise are either misinformed or only interested in fattening their wallets.

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

+++++

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

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34 comments

34 Comments so far

  1. Isaac Ola January 14th, 2013 9:09 am

    See, this is why I have followed you for the last 10yrs. Honesty, integrity, rawness and an actual give a shit about people and what you do. It’s a shady business it seems but it’s also ice to know that it is a select group of men who walk it like they talk it. Great post as always.

  2. Ricky January 14th, 2013 9:21 am

    I just want to say that with all the resources on your website anyone can get into training.

    So IMO you are doing online training, albeit it is informal. Best of all, it is free for all to access.

    Thank you for that.

  3. admin January 14th, 2013 9:24 am

    Thanks Ricky, I’m all for teaching with an end goal of creating self-sufficient trainees. I’m against creating dependencies that force others to always rely on the knowledge or resources of others.

  4. beytzim January 14th, 2013 9:54 am

    Ross, those are profound words of wisdom. As a fellow family man I wonder how you balance your altruistic bahaviour to your family’s financial needs like college savings for your kids. Maybe you can find a happy balance?

  5. Steve January 14th, 2013 9:55 am

    So if I understand you correctly, there will be no RossTraining Inner Circle coming soon? ;)

    In all seriousness, can’t wait to see what you’ve got planned for 2013 Ross!

  6. Ryan Lee January 14th, 2013 10:52 am

    “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate.” -Vince Lombardi

  7. Jer January 14th, 2013 1:49 pm

    You are a testament to integrity. God bless you and your family. Oss!

  8. Eric January 14th, 2013 1:55 pm

    Respect for rejecting the temptation of further riches and being truly passionate about your art. I also like to add to the communication section (if you don’t mind) that, you need someone there to correct you of your mistakes, doesn’t matter if it is boxing, BJJ, weight lifting, bodybuilding and even running. As a beginner, you need someone to ensure you have the basics right, and that someone needs to be present physically to see if you are applying the right techniques to whatever craft you wish to master.

    Like you said, no one can learn to box on their own. To this day I still get corrected with my techniques and I appreciate all the REAL help I can get as opposed to watching someone post online videos… keep in mind you only see one angle in those videos.

  9. Sergio January 14th, 2013 2:28 pm

    I love the article Ross, but I’m not gonna lie. I’d still like to see you or your fighter’s daily training log. Just to see if I’m working as hard as you guys are, or what it takes to train like a pro, lol.

  10. Elizar January 14th, 2013 3:09 pm

    That is a good post.

  11. dan ashman January 14th, 2013 4:42 pm

    “Thanks Ricky, I’m all for teaching with an end goal of creating self-sufficient trainees. I’m against creating dependencies that force others to always rely on the knowledge or resources of others.”

    well said. had to quote this it deserves to be posted again : )

  12. Scotaidh January 14th, 2013 5:59 pm

    Great words of wisdom Ross.

  13. Danny Kavadlo January 14th, 2013 6:11 pm

    What a great post. So well said.

  14. John R January 14th, 2013 6:58 pm

    After being advised that at my age a body weight program would most likely be best for me, I found your site.I purchased Never Gymless & it has been the best investment that I have made in my fitness journey. You taught me how to design my own workouts and I have made more progress than I ever did in a commercial gym. I now use the book as a reference & continue to learn. Thank you !

  15. Eric January 14th, 2013 7:36 pm

    Agree with another poster about your integrity, honesty, and your no bullsheet approach. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to know there are still some people out there principled enough like yourself to not take some “suckers” for their hard earned cash. Personally with all the literature out there concerning fitness, I’ve never understood why anyone would need a personal trainer. Of course I’m just talking about someone working out to just get in shape and not a professional athlete or fighter. Even literature on the proper diet to get in shape is very easy to research and is mainly just common sense. Getting in shape isn’t complicated at all.

  16. Sean January 14th, 2013 8:14 pm

    Love your work Ross, this is why I buy your books, dvd’s and follow your blog – integrity and practical advice.
    I’ve been able to customise my own workout from all your material based on my own time constraints and goals. I can change it daily based on what I’m looking for, which is ideal.
    Keep up the great work.

  17. Lewis LaLanne January 14th, 2013 11:21 pm

    I love your approach here Ross. Especially this part of what you said, “He didn’t need a customized program. He needed a coach who could help him in person.”

    I believe that one of the fastest and most efficient ways to learn and evolve that is 10x better than any other method is to work directly with a master – 1 on 1 coaching with them getting direct mentoring feedback.

    And with boxing where your trainer needs to feel into your mind, your body and your spirit, there is no exception to being in the same room with your trainer.

    If you’re lucky, you’ll find a gifted master.

    In one of my treasured mentor’s experience he has found that one of the most rewarding things in the life of someone who’s an expert in a particular area is having students who learn from them and take what they learn use it to create incredible results for themselves and value for others.

    This is one of the most fulfilling things to an accomplished person.

    Joseph Campbell, the mythology expert, traveled studying the religions of the world and as he was on his journey he came to find that what one group said on one continent matched what this continent on the other side of the planet said and they hadn’t connected ever or for many thousands of years.

    And through these findings he put together what he called “The Hero’s Journey”. This is the universal archetypal universal story that underlies all enduring stories and mythologies.

    The Hero’s Journey plays out in the legendary film “Star Wars”. It turns out that George Lucas and Joseph Campbell were friends and George took The Hero’s Journey and made three movies in the 80’s that ended up being some of the most successful movies of all time.

    In the hero’s journey, the hero first refuses the call to adventure, then sets out on the adventure, faces trials and tribulations, has friends and a mentor show up and help him, and eventually gets to the point where they need to make decision about their destiny and they realize that if they pursue their destiny and they claim it, life will never be the same ever again and they’ll live forever with what Joseph Campbell calls, “The Elixir” which is the knowledge or the learning that they bring back and offer to the world.

    Ethical experts like I believe you to be Ross would love to have students they can offer “The Elixir” to because that giving of their gift is what fulfills them most.

    We all learn at some point in our life that helping others in a meaningful way is more rewarding than pretty much anything we can do.

    Once we’ve got our survival needs met, our love/affection needs met, and we’ve got our comfort needs addressed, we look to see how we can contribute to others.

    The person you want to learn most from wants nothing more than to have a great student. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING.

    And I salute you Ross holding yourself to this high standard in the realm of training fighters and the guys you train are lucky to have you devoted to them.

  18. Richard W. January 15th, 2013 7:41 am

    I try to get this across to my personal training clients.You can’t work with me one time, have me design a program and truly expect to succeed with that one program. you must modify, adapt and be pushed by an outside force (in person) That is why my clients get results and the tredmil hamsters never change one bit day after day and year after year! Don’t worry soon they will not only have the online customized programs but an “exercise” pill to take and then everyone can be superstars!!!

  19. Matthew January 15th, 2013 7:53 am

    The every single day inspiration that I get from you Ross is way better than any “super on-line program “available. Reading your blog is my daily routine and actually the first thing I do when I turn on my computer. I’ve read all your articles so many times that I’ve almost learned them by heart. After all these years I can write once again that you’ve helped me to change my life and it all began with 51 second video. I renew my passion daily and I hope to do this till the last day of my life. I’ve translated your articles for my friends because I wouldn’t find any better words on the matters you’ve discussed. It would be a great honor for me to shake your hand and simply say Thank You Ross for doing what you are doing but since I’m from a different country I can only Thank you here. God bless you and your whole family!

  20. dan ashman January 15th, 2013 8:55 am

    eric, you said you don’t understand why an amaetur athlete should get a trainer and i have to say i highly disagree with your opinion. i also respect ross’s decision not to do online training but the fact is it is so hard to find a good trainer that a good trainer working online may be better than what a person can find locally.

    to respond to your point eric, i know many people who powerlift or play soccer for fun and are constantly getting injuring or with chronic pain because they don’t know to DL and squat heavy weights instead of just run intervals on the field, or because they are squatting too frequently and don’t do proper mobility work as indicated by FMS. also don’t forget that compliance is an issue. people work better when given a program by someone else, or when training in a group setting. there are many reasons why having a trainer is good, even for amaetur athletes. the hard part is finding the right trainer IMO.

  21. Mick January 15th, 2013 9:09 am

    Honest and integrity are rare anywhere, but even more so in the business world. Big ups to Ross for keeping it real and not selling out.

    @Dan, you mentioned compliance and said “people work better when given a program by someone else.” That sounds more like personal opinion.

    I train on my own in a garage, learning from resources such as Ross and a few others. I strongly disagree that better work is performed in a group setting. I’m pretty sure Ross has even mentioned training alone.

    To each his own. As for learning technique, Youtube is filled with tutorials. There’s no need to pay a trainer to show you how to squat or deadlift. And if someone is squatting too often, that’s a sign that they need to spend more time reading and learning. It doesn’t mean you need to rush over to the next online training program.

  22. Will January 15th, 2013 11:56 am

    I dont comment but as said by many all ready this is excatly y when i found this website 8 yrs ago my life started changing for the better ive never met you or spoke to u but u have taught me so much and shown me so much thank u for that but the most important to me is the fact you wont bend your morals u truly have integrity thanks alot ross

  23. dan ashman January 15th, 2013 4:40 pm

    Mick, you are wrong. You say that it’s not obvious people will be more complaint in their training when given a program. You disagree that better work is performed in a group setting.

    Why do people go to AA meetings to quit alcohol? Why do teams do preseason training together? Why does Ross like to encourage his fighters in person? Why do home teams have a huge advantage in sports?

    I mean come on, don’t be silly… a person can work alone in his basement and get stuff done, but it is easier and possible to accomplish much more working with others, getting encouragement, and expert guidance on the best exercises to do. And your idea that you can learn good form on exercises through youtube is really just silly, and dangerous if you are imposing that idea on others. I think you miss the entire point of Ross’s article. The reason he won’t train people online is because there is so much he can do in person that he cannot do online.

  24. John R January 15th, 2013 5:04 pm

    I mean come on, don’t be silly… a person can work alone in his basement and get stuff done, but it is easier and possible to accomplish much more working with others, getting encouragement, and expert guidance on the best exercises to do.
    This does not work well if you do not like People! I do not train for social reasons + I do not have to wait on some asshole sitting on equipment I need to move to texting!

  25. James D. January 15th, 2013 11:21 pm

    Hey Ross, this is James (aspiring fighter trainer) in DC. I want to thank you again for your advice per my question via email today.

    As far as this post …. I actually had an opportunity to train online, but stopped pursuing in similiar to reasons above.

    Peace!

  26. Nick Goodall January 16th, 2013 3:32 am

    you’ve restored a bit of faith in humanity for me here, bells for honesty, integrity and passion are ringing throughout this post, and you have my highest admiration.

    When training athletes like you, I can completely understand the need to fulfil those 4 criteria, and I salute you for doing that, I can imagine you posses some quite rare beliefs and moral values, ones that anyone should look for in a trainer.

    Although I do wonder when online training can come in, as I think it should be appropriate in some cases, although definitely not your athletic setting. If someone’s just running casually, or just trying to lose 2 pounds, I think they should be able to kind of do that on their own, and that’s where I think an online program could help. But again, like you believe, it can’t be some wishy-washy crap, and the trainer should definitely care about the individual, even if it’s over the internet.

    Again, Ross, awesome article, and I really respect your values, keep it up and stay diligent!

  27. beytzim January 16th, 2013 8:47 pm

    regarding the Chinese proverb stated above (sell a man a fish…) In this case it would be better to quote Karl Marx: “Sell a man a fish, and he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and you lose a great business opportunity.”
    Ross, there are ways for you to spread your gift of coaching and still profit from it (and still have integrity).

  28. Eric January 17th, 2013 3:54 pm

    I’ve trained with a couple of training partners, trained with one training partner and trained alone. I’ve done my best workouts all by my lonesome and for years now I’ve trained alone and prefer it that way. Sure training with others gets the old competition juices going but it can also cause someone to use bad form, excessive weight, socialize too much, lose focus, etc. Like another poster already mentioned, there is so much information out there that didn’t exist say 30-40 years ago, that anyone training just to get in shape has absolutely no need whatsoever with a personal trainer. When I first started training in the mid-Seventies, I hadn’t even heard of a bench press or a deadlift. I only knew of a few calisthenics I had done in gym class like pushups, pullups, situps, crab walks, wheel barrows, squat thrusts, etc, I didn’t even know what a parallel bar dip was for that matter, and yet even then I found enough info out there to get started and I’m still working out nearly 40 years later. I easily found books on anything I became interested in from using a Concept II rower, to using a Versa-Climber, countless info on weight trainging/weight lifting, etc., and this was long before youtube and internet with its countless instructional videos.

  29. Phil January 19th, 2013 4:53 am

    Thank you Ross, very cool article/post.

  30. Charles Knapp January 20th, 2013 12:29 am

    I completely agree Ross. I believe that a real coach, trainer, sensei, teacher, etc. can not only show you what you need to know, but they also need to have the ability to bring things out a person. Additionally, all the coaches I’ve had face-to-face interactions with have shared with me something I find extremely valuable, nuances. Minor details, slight exaggerations, tricks, tips, hints all of which can become very helpful. Practiced over time and adapted to you, can do all sorts of nasty and wonderful things to make you stand out and perform better, especially at full speed.

  31. Kevin February 3rd, 2013 4:58 am

    True that! As a trainer/coach myself I totally understand and agree with Ross’s excellent blog entry. Also, he is man who is the definition of integrity and work ethic.

  32. RossTraining.com Blog March 2nd, 2013 6:58 am

    [...] don’t have time for online arguments just as I don’t have time for online training. The world may be going digital but real sports are still played in the real world. I don’t [...]

  33. Rocky March 26th, 2013 12:40 pm

    I think how you have everything set up works, period. I remember emailing questions I had, you got back to me, I did what I needed too, and improved. I got some of the books and videos–and I liked a lot that I didn’t have to change my training, it was more of how I trained. You provided the tools I needed in order to progress, and to be effective.

    Excellent article though. I’m thankful for everything you do and share with the world. I’d personally feel selfish or greedy if I asked for more than what has already been given.

  34. NickF December 6th, 2013 4:59 pm

    I work with a personal trainer every week and you’re right the trsiner has to work and react to what they see in front of them. Also for me, I liked to be pushed hard by a trainer and feel I have acheived something. This cannot be be done online without meeting the trainer.

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