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Go virtual! Finding an online personal trainer

You can think of two reasons why you can't hire a personal trainer: time and money. Your schedule and budget lack jiggle room.

You're afraid to be like the countless others who buy yearlong gym memberships and never actually use them.

Then again, it would be nice to slim down. So far, procrastination hasn't helped trim any pounds.

The solution could be waiting on the Web. Hire a personal trainer at a price you won't sweat by signing up for a personal trainer who coaches online.

The money savings can be substantial. Face-to-face workouts under the guidance of a personal trainer can cost between $50 and $80 per session, but online personal trainers can cost a fraction of those prices, sometimes between $20 and $40 per month.

Do you know your
exercise personality?

Finding the right trainer for you depends on your personal traits. Check your style on Page 3.

Even at those prices, you'll still get the healthy pressure that comes from working with a personal trainer. The experience is like working for a boss, says Charla McMillian, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who runs FitBoot, a fitness boot camp in Boston. Without having someone else to report to, most people wouldn't show up or work to their full potential. Bosses and trainers set the bar higher than you would yourself. "They kick you back to reality and remind you where your effort needs to be," she says.

Of course, price shouldn't be the only consideration when you're ready to work with a trainer. The trick comes in finding a legitimate trainer that fits your needs, motivation level and budget.

Are you a candidate for a virtual trainer?
Before you hire the first personal trainer that turns up in a Google search, get honest with yourself about your motivation level.

"At the end of the day, if you won't do your work without someone standing over you, don't think you'll succeed with an online trainer or other long-distance coach. You need in-person supervision," says McMillian, who teaches her clients both in group classes or long-distance through her FitbyFone program.

The effectiveness of either program depends on the individual. In person, the trainer can see what the client is doing and can critique right then and there, says McMillian. But, with long-distance clients, she must rely on their honesty about their workout performances.

"If a person has issues with time but is self-motivated, and just needs the proper guidance, that's OK, we can work long-distance," she says. "It's good for the budget, good on the time and they can train whenever they want."

On the other hand, consider how motivated you would be to work out if you had a rough day. "If someone has a bad day, and they didn't have me, they wouldn't go, they'd put off working out until next week," says Denise Tryner, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and NESTA certified nutritionist who trains her clients in person. "With me, they come because they already have the appointment."

Next: "... online training means you don't have to leave home."
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