How to Make Online PT Safe For People Who Have Experienced COVID Symptoms

Apr 2, 2021

By Tim Saye

So far in this series, we've spent time outlining some of the things you need to be aware of as personal trainers when your clients have been unwell with COVID and want to make a return to their training. 

We've outlined the risks by looking at precisely what physically changes in the body when your client has had COVID, how to take the proper precautions and safeguard yourselves as professionals, and ease your clients back to exercise using face to face methods. Now we're going to break down how you can make exercise safe post-COVID for your online personal training clients. 

Working with a client online doesn't change anything about the guidelines issued by the proper medical authorities. Maybe even more than when training clients face to face, communication between yourself as the online trainer and your clients will be of the utmost importance. 

These are skills that need to be razor-sharp for online personal trainers anyway, but when your clients have experienced COVID symptoms, clear two-way communication will be indispensable. It may be the only indication that something could be wrong for the client, and you won't want to miss that.

Check with Your Insurance Provider

It may be worth having a chat with your current insurance provider to make sure they cover a client that's returning to physical exercise following COVID. If they do, they may expect specific procedures to be followed and adequately documented - such as clearance from the client's doctor before their first session back with you. 

They will be well placed to advise you on any up to date changes you need to be aware of from the relevant medical communities. Still, it's your responsibility to check with them before restarting your clients on their training.

Introduce COVID-Specific Assessments into Regular Check-Ins

Your online personal training clients will be used to performing regular check-ins with you. You might ask them questions like how they've felt about their performance, what's been a success and whether there's been anything they've struggled with and would like some more support. 

If you're like most online personal trainers, you could probably benefit from your clients being more compliant with their regular check-ins in general. However, for your clients recovering from COVID, these checks-ins take on another level of significance. 

You might even tell your clients that without a fully completed weekly questionnaire, you're not able to supply them with a programme ethically. Some of the data points you may want to include for your clients that are recovering from COVID could include:
- Subjective levels of fatigue
- Objective data around sleep quantity
- Resting heart rate
- Heart rate during workouts
- Respiratory rate
- Heart rate variability
- Body temperature
- Any symptoms during exercise (chest pressure or pain, breathing difficulty, heart rate, etc.)
- Symptoms when not exercising

This is not an extensive list, but it's likely to be a little more detailed than a "typical" check-in questionnaire. You may want to take the time to explain to your clients why you're asking for this additional information and how you plan to use it. 

Create A Conversation in Group Coaching About COVID

Inside the group coaching options inside PT Distinction's dashboard, you can send a message to everyone participating in your programme. This could be a great way to open a dialogue about the data you're tracking, changes to regional rules that your clients may be subject to, or even up to date information about returning to exercise. 

It can also be an effective way to normalise data tracking. Allowing everyone to see that this is standard procedure among your online personal training clients will hopefully help them learn together and create a culture of support and accountability among your clients. 

Include A Finger Oximeter in Your Onboarding Goodie Package

When new clients sign up for your personal training programme, it can be good practice to send them something physical in the post to welcome them as part of your onboarding process. This doesn't need to be expensive. A simple card that you've taken the time to handwrite and includes reference to their individual goals and ambitions could be plenty. 

If your clients have had COVID, though, one of the ways you could check their essential data is through a Finger Pulse Oximeter. You can buy these on Amazon for under £20 or in your local pharmacy. If you intend to ask clients to collect daily data points for your check-ins, this could be a thoughtful way to support their recovery from COVID. 

It also illustrates to your clients the level of importance you place on data collection. If you've already given them a finger pulse oximeter, there's no reason why this can't become part of their health monitoring routine. It's painless and will help your client understand how seriously you're taking managing their road back to full health after COVID.


If your client contracts COVID, it's clear that there will be a negative impact on their health. The virus affects the pulmonary system by sitting low in the lungs. It can cause many health complications, and these can have a knock-on effect on other biological systems. Any personal trainer's priority is not to train your client until a few weeks after they are free from COVID symptoms and have had permission from their doctor to resume physical exercise. 

As a personal trainer, your primary focus will naturally be on helping your client regain their health and fitness. But don't forget to go through the proper safeguarding procedures to make sure they're safe to train.

When your client has had permission from their doctor or cardiologist to recommence training, the guidance instructs that they return to exercise very gradually. All forms of exercise - aerobic, strength and endurance - should be slowly reintroduced with clear communication with your client at each stage.

For face to face and online personal trainers, clear communication will be essential. It may also be necessary to collect more data than usual to make sure the client remains sub-maximal. During this time, you can steer their focus onto challenges that are not related to strength and fitness directly, such as tracking healthy habits, focusing on consistency over intensity, and strategies to prioritise their sleep and recovery.