More people turning to online training and coaching sessions

Online fitness classes growing in popularity.

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DUBAI // As people become more health-conscious, active and educated about what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle, a growing number are looking to alternatives to traditional workout outlets like the gym, group classes and expensive personal training sessions. Online coaching and classes are stepping in to fill the gap.

Ljiljana Duff, a pilates teacher, is about to launch her site Lilyfit, using UAE-based teachers to offer online classes in everything from pilates to body toning and dance.

Members subscribe either monthly or annually to the service, which starts at Dh74, with rates dropping for annual contracts.

“The idea started around four or five years ago when I was managing the studio Exhale,” Ms Duff said. “People were leaving the UAE but still wanted to work with the instructors they’d been with all that time, or even if they were travelling.”

She conceded that nothing could replace the atmosphere of a group class, but participating at home has its benefits, not least for busy mothers or working women who cannot always make it to classes.

“We use three cameras so people doing the class can see all the angles and understand the movements, because the priority is safety,” Ms Duff said.

There will be about 60 to 70 classes to choose from on the site, which launches on February 1.

“For new mums, this gives them access to getting back into fitness gently while they get their routine back,” she said. “It’s also much more affordable than going to group classes,” she said, where the average class price is Dh80 to Dh100.

“Classes are quite expensive so with this you can even use it as a supplement to your classes.”

Ian Houghton, founder of Scandinavian Health and Performance in JLT, a clinic and private training facility, said online coaching was the future of fitness.

“It will differentiate the good trainers from the bad,” he said. “If you’re not seeing someone on a regular basis, you can’t get away with the ‘entertainment factor’ of a personal training session. You have to know how to do good programming and it’s very results-based when you have this distance.”

He emphasised the level of awareness a coach must have of factors in a client’s life, such as lifestyle and diet. He said a fitness-oriented population was also becoming more educated and experienced and so feel they can more easily manage being programmed remotely.

“They don’t have the expertise to go to the next level but want the assistance without going to a personal trainer,” he said.

Technology makes all this easier by collecting progress statistics and tracking diets with apps that allow for connections between coach and client. But this does require discipline and consistency from the client.

Grant Goes, co-founder of, an online fitness education and resource website for the UAE, said there were pros and cons to online coaching.

“Online fitness training platforms can be a great tool in many ways,” he said. “Their lower cost and flexibility mean those travelling a lot or with the need for flexibility can really benefit from them. The sophisticated tracking tools as part of these platforms are useful in keeping participants on track.

“However, the lack of human personal training does mean that one needs to have a sufficient amount of self-motivation and a training foundation. Participants don’t have a trainer on hand during a training session as they would during a PT session or at the gym, so the ability to ask questions on the spot or get feedback on technique is lost.

“Ideally this foundation should be there first before one is given a fitness programme to carry out on their own.”