7 Tips for Training Athletes, Dancers, and Martial Artists Online
How to help your learners advance their physical training through online courses.
Covid-19 has placed many brick-and-mortar studios in a difficult position. Physical disciplines such as dance, martial arts, or other forms of athletic training aren’t compatible with social distancing guidelines. As such, instructors have had to close their doors for the health of students and staff alike.
Many small studios facing weeks of lost income are looking for ways to move their courses online as quickly as possible, but doing so for martial arts, dance, or yoga is a challenging proposition. In-person instruction with real-time feedback is an essential component of training. How can instructors deliver value to their learners without it?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, instructors have been training students remotely for decades. Think about the long history workout videos have had, and you’ll realize that this isn’t just doable—it’s popular.
You don’t need to learn to become a social media influencer or amass a large following overnight to run an online training program. Here’s how to get started.
1. Post regularly.
If you’ve never given much thought to your online presence, now is the time to kick things into gear. For training studios, Instagram and Facebook are a must, although if you have more time it would be worth your while to look in to Twitter and TikTok—wherever you think you and your students will be most comfortable.
Next, get ready to make daily posts. The easiest way is to share a short video or photo of your own routine. Make your posts about goal-setting and accountability. Be a reminder to your students that they need to keep their training up.
2. Set up a location for filming and photography.
Find a place in your home with good lighting and enough space to shoot your videos. In ideal circumstances, you could use your studio, which should have both. But for now, your learners will be training from home, so it might even be better for you if you’re offering advice in conditions that are the same as theirs.
3. Use objects that can be found within the home.
Speaking of exercising from home, avoid giving demonstrations that require special equipment. If you run a dance studio, your learners probably won’t have a barre, so show them what else to use for support instead—a countertop or the back of a chair. If you run a martial arts studio, your learners probably won’t have a punching bag in their home. See if you can find alternatives from household objects.
4. Create training drills for a range of needs.
Nothing kills motivation like not knowing what to do next. For many learners, the biggest challenge to getting their training in is not having a set routine. After all, this is what they came to you to learn in the first place.
That said, learners also have a range of needs for their routines. Some may already have a workout routine they do at home between classes, and are looking for a tight 15-minute practice drill they can do to maintain their skill while the studio is closed. Or, perhaps a 5 min workout.
Others may want something that focuses more on a certain aspect of the training routine. If you’re running a dance studio, you might share some choreography to practice for a piece of music, breaking down each movement. If you’re doing taekwondo, you might share videos for each form, taking time to show the details of arm movement and foot placement.
Once you get some basics out there, you can get more creative. Maybe share videos on how to train with kids, or how to train with a partner. Return to those household objects and find new ways to use them. Or dig into something special that you might not usually have time for in class. The more creative you are, the more value you have to offer your learners.
5. Add value through personal coaching.
While it’s not ideal, there’s a lot you can do with your learners over a one-on-one training session. To make the most of their time, give learners a warm-up routine to do before they start. Then have them do drills or exercises in front of the screen, where you can give them pointers on form.
Even in a studio, most learners don’t get a lot of direct, one-on-one time with the instructor—maybe only a few minutes per class. Personal coaching, even by video call, may be more direct coaching time than learners get in the studio, and that may be worthwhile to many of them.
6. Offer group training sessions.
Many students of dance, martial arts, yoga, etc. feel that the greatest benefit is the ability to train with others. Not only do many people feel it keeps them more accountable, it also adds a social element to their training. During the Covid-19 outbreak, many of your learners may be missing that activity and looking for a way to get in touch with their training partners.
Why not take a cue from Peloton and offer a live training session. You can run it like a webinar and have your students follow along, which may encourage them to get off the couch and get their workouts in.
7. Set group challenges for your learners.
Finally, make it competitive. Award streaks for the learners who log the most training sessions. Help your learners design goal charts and give out badges for the ones who hit their mark. Have your learners submit pictures or videos on social media and give them a hashtag to use so that everyone can follow their progress. Make staying fit a group effort.
Offer your main course content as a monthly subscription, and encourage your students to share.
With so many of us staying indoors right now, people are eager for ways to stay active, as well as to connect with others. Having online instruction with people they know and trust will be of greater value to them than learning from a stranger. And if they have a way to share that experience remotely with friends, it can be an additional benefit.
Look for ways to unite your online community of students around your online training program, and make it easy for them to introduce their friends and family as well. For this, a monthly subscription at a fraction of your usual in-person lessons might be more attractive. If you offer classes in a range of disciplines (ballet, jazz, tap, and modern for dance, or taekwondo, karate, judo, and aikido for martial arts), and open online membership a range of those courses, then your learners can try out some new techniques while they’re home.
And, while these times are tough, you may come out the other side with an online program that can continue adding value to your studio.