Are fitness trainers on Instagram legit? I tried an online coaching plan!

are fitness influencers legit

Please note that I do not disclose the name of the trainer I am working with because I am still evaluating if her program aligns with my goals and values. I also do not list any daily caloric suggestions I’ve been given in the past or present. This is intentional. Your body has unique needs that should not be compared to someone else’s. Please consult with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or exercise routines.

Tips on Evaluating a Potential Trainer

evaluating fitness influencers

Point of view. You’re scrolling on Instagram and being bombarded with images of athletic women showing off their “toned” arms, six-pack abs, and sculpted glutes. For a price, they promise to share their secrets for getting and staying fit.

Are you tempted to take the bait? Are fitness trainers on Instagram even legit? Should you consider buying one of their pre-made workout plans or investing in online coaching? I decided to try out a customized training program!

For those of you who are new here, I’ve shared how I worked with a personal trainer in the past. Unfortunately, that experience led to some really unhealthy habits that still haunt me to this today.

But each day is a new opportunity to grow into the stronger, happier, and healthier woman I’m becoming! To support my journey, I wanted to find another trainer that understood my goals and history.

While I would still love to have a flatter belly, the ultimate goal is to give my body the best support I possibly can for the long-term. That means no more yo-yo dieting, all or nothing mindsets, or giving the number on the scale more importance than it deserves.

I want exercise to be fun and challenging, not miserable, and never something I do to “make-up” for eating. Working out should be celebrated for all the other benefits it provides other than just weight management. Especially as you enter your thirties, building and maintaining muscle becomes crucial for supporting your bones and internal organs.

Creating a healthy lifestyle should go beyond just basic diet and exercise evaluations. How’s your sleep, your menstrual cycle, your stress levels? Do you have a healthy relationship with food? These are all components I’m working on improving, especially in seeking greater food freedom.

To me, food freedom doesn’t equal getting to eat fast food or unlimited quantities of my favorite snacks and desserts. Food freedom means my body mainly craves minimally processed, nutritionally dense foods that nourish my cells and satisfy my natural hunger cues. It also includes occasionally enjoying treats with no guilt or fear because they feed my soul and are shared with love by friends and family. Anyone else with me here?

Therefore, I now avoid any plans that require extreme diet restrictions, such as cutting out entire food groups or drastically reducing calories. As I personally experienced, while some methods may work in the short term, they often aren’t sustainable for long and may do more harm than good.

My advice when evaluating a trainer online is that anything that sounds too good to be true is.

I personally stay away from anyone promising extreme results in a short period of time. Extreme results typically require extreme measures and whether those measures are healthy is highly debatable. Healthy habits and manageable lifelong changes can and should take time.

I’ve shared this concept before, but it’s worth repeating:

If you must do something unhealthy to be “healthy,” then are you truly being healthy?

You should also look for solid credentials. What training has this so-called fitness expert received? Do they have a history working with clients from all starting points with varying goals? In particular, I would not recommend following any meal plan from someone without a proper education in nutrition.

I think we’re all aware that in this online world of ours, there are a lot of people out there looking to make a quick buck. They will replicate whatever the latest trend is and shovel it out because it sells. They don’t know you or have true personal interest in your health and wellbeing.

Just because someone may have the body composition you want, it does not automatically make them an expert. Especially when it comes to what is best for your body.

you are the best expert on your body

Back when I was religiously following my calorie counting plan with my trainer, I thought I knew enough to make recommendations to others. What a brash error on my part! But sometimes you just don’t know until you learn things the hard way.

But if you can avoid the hard road when it comes to your health and mental wellbeing, please do. It’s a rocky path that’s difficult to navigate away from.

So, are all fitness influencers and online workout programs a scam?

Not necessarily. But to recap, I recommend keeping the following points in mind when considering a personal trainer or pre-made fitness program:

  • Avoid anything that boasts dramatic results in a short amount of time.
  • Look for a balanced meal plan that doesn’t require cutting out entire food groups or following caloric intakes not recommended by health professionals. Talk with your doctor before making any drastic changes.
  • Find someone with the credentials and expertise to back them up, especially if following a meal plan along with your exercises.
  • No matter how impressive someone else’s accolades are, no one is a better expert than you when it comes to what’s best for your body.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the program I decided to try by a fitness influencer I found on Instagram.

How I Found a Trainer on Instagram

woman looking online for trainer

A few months ago (before I uninstalled my social media apps), I started following an account that piqued my interest. The fact that this fitness influencer was lean and muscular wasn’t what caught my attention (okay – it was partially that, but honestly, there are many people with similar physiques).

What really intrigued me was how much she claimed to eat in a day. Like me, she has a healthy appetite. Also like me, she counted calories and did a lot of cardio in the past to stay fit. But those techniques weren’t what ultimately led to her body re-composition.

The secret to her transformation was doing what is called a bulk during her first pregnancy. Afraid that having a baby would mean kissing her fitness goals goodbye, she following a suggestion to significantly increase her caloric intake and focus on strength training while pregnant. The goal was to use the extra fuel to build muscle during the time she needed to eat more anyway to support her baby.

After giving birth, she naturally reduced her food intake to feed one instead of two. All the muscle she’d developed during the bulk was soon front and center as she leaned out faster than she ever imagined. In fact, she claims that she is now leaner and more muscular than before she had a baby.

And her results weren’t from dropping her calories extremely low or prioritizing intense cardio like running. Nowadays, she doesn’t count calories and enjoys more food freedom than ever before.

Sign me up for that please, right? I eventually did just that. While she offers several low-cost workout guides, I wanted a personalized plan. Customized online coaching is something she recently started offering and I was one of the first to apply.

Something I want to call out is that while she does have a BS in Physical Education, I cannot find any credentials in nutrition. Since I was mainly focused on getting a new workout plan to build muscle, I knew I would take any food suggestions with a grain of salt (pun intended).

Getting Started with Online Coaching

woman using online coaching app

It started with a short call phone with her assistant. We discussed my goals and my past experiences. I shared how I was nervous about restricting calories again and how I didn’t want to count calories at all.

We also talked about what my current fitness routine looked like and how much time I could devote. Back then, in addition to my strength training, I had been trying to run to lose weight. The assistant assured me this trainer wasn’t a big fan of running, which was fine by me since it’s not something I enjoy!

After completing registration and a questionnaire form, I downloaded the app and waited for the trainer to review my info and create my plan.

About two days after my call, I received my customized workout and meal guides. I also got a voice note from the trainer with the chat section of the app explaining why she selected this specific plan for me.


healthy meal guide

While I don’t have to count and log calories on the meal plan, there is a target number to aim for. Meals are categorized by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Within each category, I was given several recipes. As long as I picked from the suggested meals, I would be within calorie range.

Honestly, the meal plan made me a little uncomfortable. I’d been trying to eat intuitively ever since I stopped counting calories, so the thought of intentionally controlling my food intake again gave me anxiety. However, the trainer explained that she tried to pick meals that would really nourish and satiate me. She also said to let her go if I felt like I needed to eat more.

That comforted me enough to give it a try. I found a few new recipes that I ended up loving. One dinner recipe in particular is now part of my weekly rotation. It’s packed full of nutrients my body seems to like and it’s extremely filling.

But I fully admit that I follow the meal plan loosely. I try to keep in mind how much food I’m consuming daily, but it’s a rough estimate. I don’t want to get back into the rigid habit of logging food and being obsessed with calories. When I’m going out to eat with friends, I don’t go overboard but I enjoy myself. If I’m hungry in between meals, I’ll have a snack.

Snacks were one of the things I told my coach I needed more of. She added more snacks in the next month’s plan but kept my total calories the same. That meant my main meal portions were smaller. Again, I use the plan loosely, meaning if I feel I need more fuel, I eat more.


woman's guide to gym workout

Let’s discuss my favorite part of my plan – the workouts! Since my goal was to build muscle and lose some body fat, my plan incorporated both strength training and cardio. Because I tend to build muscle quickly in my thighs and glutes and I didn’t want to grow those areas further, she gave me slightly more upper body exercises and recommended selecting lighter weight for legs.

For months one and two, I had two strength training days and two days of cardio. Remember how she doesn’t advocate for crazy amounts of cardio to lose weight? Well, I haven’t found running or HIIT style workouts in my plans, but there is A LOT of walking.

In addition to twenty-five-minute walks she recommends taking every day, there are what she calls treadmill power walks. The first two months used the same treadmill workout for each cardio session. For forty-eight minutes, I sweated it out on the treadmill as I adjusted the incline and speed per the workout guidelines.

In total, I only had four workouts per week. It was very manageable. Some weeks, either because of schedule conflicts or because I was feeling sluggish, I would skip a workout and then need to combine two or three sessions in one day to get them all in. I don’t recommend trying to do three in one day. I’ve done this at least twice and it saps you the next day! (Not my best attempt to avoid extremes.)

Combining a strength workout with a cardio workout is doable though. In fact, wanting to see faster results, I began doing a treadmill walk every day on my own volition a few weeks into the program, even on days I did a strength workout.

Why? Unless I am intentional, I do not get many steps naturally throughout the day. I’m looking at you – full-time desk job and and blogging on the side. This is why I tried to squeeze in more walks to increase my movement because I know my work lends itself to a sedentary life.

Doing a treadmill walk every day didn’t last for long though. I made sure to prioritize getting in my four designated workouts first and just add extra power walks when I could.

Each week, I receive a check-in alert to submit my feedback. I answer a series of questions to let my trainer know how the plan is going – what’s working, what’s not working, and anything else I want her to know. You have the option to upload progress pictures and share data such as current weight and body measurements. Since one of my goals is to say goodbye to the scale, I do not input this information.

My Progress

woman wearing workout pants

Have I made any progress on this training program? Since I don’t weigh myself, I can’t tell you if I’ve lost any weight. However, I pay close attention to how my clothes fit.

When I first started increasing my power walks, I tried on pants that were previously tight a few months back. They fit more comfortably, which excited me! However, the next two weeks I didn’t walk nearly as much and once again, my clothes started feeling tight.

I shared this feedback with my coach. She thinks I may be the type to build muscle quickly and hopefully the gains are just that – muscle. I can focus more on reducing body fat now if I want to lean out.

She gave me a few options for what we could adjust to focus on body fat reduction for month three. One option was dropping my calories by 100. She asked how I felt about that. I told her since I was already sometimes still hungry with my food intake, I didn’t want to go that route. Instead, I let her know I’d rather workout more than eat less if that was an option.

I was relieved by her response. There was absolutely no pressure to reconsider adjusting my calories. Instead, she thanked me for being honest and we decided on other adjustments.

My updated plan contains a different workout structure. I have an additional strength workout weekly which I’m really excited about. Each of the three lifts is immediately followed by a new treadmill power walk. These are shorter in length at twenty-eight minutes, but the intensity is dialed up. Since I started to see results when I increased my step count before, I think this arrangement will work well for me.

Workout number four is strictly cardio. It’s a forty-eight-minute power walk like my original one, but it’s more challenging in speed and incline levels.

For month three, I was also given new recipes to mix things up. I plan to try some of them out soon.

One other change I’ve noticed since starting this plan is my arm muscle definition, particularly my biceps. I’m convinced they’ve grown!

Overall, I’m feeling positive. Although I wish my clothes were fitting a bit looser by now, I’m reminding myself that my goal is no longer to be the tiniest size possible. I want to be strong, healthy, energetic, and enjoy more food freedom.

Pros and Cons to Online Coaching

In summary, I believe there are both pros and cons when working with a coach online instead of in person. For this program, the pros have outweighed the cons so far. Please keep in mind that most of this evaluation is specific to the trainer I found and how she approached my plan.


  • Plans are customized to your goals, body type, and schedule
  • No pressure to drop calories if you feel comfortable at your current caloric intake
  • Not required to log calories in an app
  • No pressure to weigh yourself or take body measurements
  • Weekly check-ins to share feedback and get support as needed
  • Trainer is positive, encouraging, and listens to your concerns and feedback
  • Each exercise has a video demonstration
  • The app allows you to log your workouts, weights, and rep counts to share with your trainer. It took me awhile to figure out all the app can do, so there could be other advantages I’m unaware of.


  • You don’t get your trainer by your side in the gym. Because I have prior training experience, I’m hopeful that I’m executing the exercises properly, but there’s always a chance I’m not. A remote trainer can’t correct these types of errors.
  • Communication is shared in an app, but there isn’t a way to call or video chat with your trainer. Some people may be perfectly fine with just texting and the occasional voice memo, but others might prefer more live interaction.
  • The customized coaching service is on the expensive side; however, the monthly cost is discounted with longer commitments. However, it’s much cheaper than what I paid for my in-person trainer.
  • If you want to change your meals or workouts, you won’t get an updated plan until the next month. Exceptions include if you don’t have access to the equipment needed for an exercise. I’ve had a few of my exercises swapped out to accommodate the machines available at my gym – so that’s a pro!

That’s my experience with a trainer I found on social media in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to seeing how month three goes!

Have you tried online coaching or purchased workout guides from any social media fitness influencers? I’d love to know if you found them helpful. Please share in the comments.

Here’s to the pursuit of “healthy” health and wellness. 🙂

women working out together

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