Making the decision to hire a coach could be one of the great investments of one’s life. Sure, it’s not as finally expensive as buying a house or car, but its “cost” can be analyzed in time, convenience, and expectation. With the evolution of technology, one is no longer confined to coaches within their geological area. Now numerous options around the world exist, but with all these choices, how does one decide? This article aims to lay out important aspects to consider when shopping for a professional.

Qualities of an Effective Coach

Anyone can call themselves a coach, but true coaches delineate themselves by displaying a few key qualities and characteristics. Great coaches are natural born teachers as the art of coaching is just that; to facilitate some sort of learning or skill acquisition to all those under their wing.  Because of this, great coaches are effective communicators and listeners. They have the ability to adapt methodologies and instruction to help facilitate the learning and behavior change process through a variety of contexts. This flexibility and adaptability allows them to serve a multitude of clients and because of this, client success is typically high.  

Great coaches are not only educated, but they are life-long learners as they adopt an ever-evolving understanding of training, nutrition, and evidence-based principles surrounding health and fitness to best serve those under them.  The word “educated” can include exercise science-based degrees, certifications, but what is probably most overlooked is experience. Great coaches have been in the trenches, either themselves or with a variety of clients (or both), and have a deep understanding of how to bridge the gap between the academia and “the real world”. They have the skills and initutiativeness to guide people on their journey of change and self improvement.

Finally, great coaches display many of the admirable character traits one would want in any professional. They are compassionate, caring, assertive, motivating, trusting, respectful, positive, honorable, and authentic. Perhaps one of the most impactful characteristics is the genuine concern for their clients on every level. Great coaches care about their people from a humanistic realm: they aren’t just a number or statistic but rather a complex being that requires an approach that mimics just that. Great coaches stand out in a crowd for all of these reasons and some. 

Online Vs. In-Person Coaching Methods

There are a multitude of coaching styles and an understanding of which style best suits a client is critically important. Although we can talk about these styles in-depth, a better vantage point may be to consider the elusive “online vs. in-person coaching” question. With the growth of these two options available to most people, it’s important to understand the pros and cons surrounding each method as even the most well-intentioned, match-made-in-heaven relationship can be skewed when expectations and an understanding of these two modalities is overlooked. 

The traditional coaching route is often visualized as a coach working alongside the client as they complete the training session; however, the emergence of online training has turned this scenario on it’s head.  One can now be under the guidance of a coach halfway around the world and get feedback through modern-day technology.  Each modality has its own set of advantages and disadvantages; therefore, it is important to research and consider each type of method carefully so that one can best determine which style BEST suits their individual needs. 


In Person Coaching
Advantages Disadvantages
Coach can see all vantage points of lifter

Trainee can receive tactile feedback

Immediate feedback can be given

Humanistic relationship can be cultivated

Built in accountability

Dependent on schedule coordination

Typically more costly

Logistics may be an issue (distance, etc)


Online/Remote Coaching
Advantages Disadvantages
More cost effective generally

Flexible scheduling 

In some cases more comprehensive

Can create a lack of human connection

Doesn’t provide immediate/tactile feedback

Can be difficult to see the full scope of trainee

Requires a sense of autonomy


Although this list isn’t exhaustive it does bring to light some very important considerations to keep in mind when selecting a coach. Personally speaking from the experience of a coach who has worked with dozens of people and having been on the other side as a client, the most important consideration has to do with being radically honest with one’s needs and expectations. 

Do you need accountability to show up to sessions? Do you need a comprehensive approach where one is monitoring your progress day in and day out? Are you a self-starter? Do you have a basic understanding of the gym or a true rookie? Again, radical honesty with oneself should be practiced when determining the avenue in which one wants to receive coaching.

Selecting a Coach

Before making the decision here are a few key questions to ask:

What do you want out of the coaching relationship? 

Do you want to acquire the skills of life-long fitness and health?  Or do you just want a training plan and generic meal plan?  Do you want to cultivate and foster a relationship with your coach or remain more autonomous with a little bit of assistance/support? All of these questions are important, especially when it comes to determining if “in person” or “online” coaching is the choice for you.

What coaching style resonates with you?

Are you a client who can be pushed and responds well to blunt and direct tactics? Perhaps you need a more compassionate, soft-spoken tone? Maybe somewhere in the middle, direct yet easy going?  These are all considerations to be made when shopping for a coach, because at the end of the day it is the style in which you are signing up for. Having an understanding of personality types that resonate (and don’t) with you can save a ton of headache down the road.

One of many or one of a few?

This is probably one of the biggest questions to consider after determining the type of coaching you want to adopt when shopping for a coach. The rise of social media has cultivated an increase in the amount of coaches available. Some coaches are big names in the industry, while some are a little more “under the radar”, and some, unfortunately, are just genetically gifted “influencers” who believe they can coach because they themselves “look” the part.  Without going too in-depth, as it really could be an article on it’s own, one will want to consider this premise: as a client do you want to be one of many clients for this coach or do you want to be one of a very few? 

Insta-fame coaches have built a reputation around their name, brand and the following they have created. However, what many don’t talk about is the level of coaching that typically (not in all cases) occurs in this type of relationship. Cookie-cutter training plans, support given via some assistant or moderator in a Facebook group, and/or limited communication exchanged between client and coach. Individualization, feedback, and a humanistic relationship is the “expense” one pays for what is usually a much cheaper coaching option. Because of this, the client is just another number (or transformation photo). 

Shopping and selecting a coach can turn into a full time job, but having an understanding of the qualities and modalities you are looking for can make the process easier and ultimately more successful. At the end of the day, the person you choose to employ your fitness and health to will not only educate and guide you along your journey, but they will influence your development and love (or hate) for lifelong fitness and health. Do your due diligence and choose wisely!