Home help switched on to a healthy lifestyle

Personal fitness instructors are usually associated with the likes of Madonna or Beyoncé or with people who are preparing to undertake a charity challenge, such as climbing Kilimanjaro or trekking across the Sahara.

But Bingley-based fitness trainer, Jenny Craven, 33, believes personal fitness programmes are not just for the well-heeled or super-fit. She has spotted a window of opportunity and is now offering her regular gym clients the chance to have a work out by webcam.

Jenny is setting up the UK's first webcam personal training company and believes she will get a weighty response.

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She says: "I've been a personal trainer for eight years now and think that there is definitely a call for a 'virtual personal training' service. For one reason or another, lots of people don't want to join a gym; people who are overweight and embarrassed, for example, or people who don't want to pay a joining fee and commit for a year.

"We are aiming this at people who work away a lot, people who don't have the confidence to join a gym, or people who can't afford a regular personal training session."

Jenny, who has a degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Leeds University, also teaches pilates at a staff gym at Bradford Royal Infirmary, as well as various classes in Bingley and Leeds. She claims her virtual classes will be almost the same as her face-to-face personal fitness sessions.

"Basically, we do a training session via a web cam. It's exactly the same as a gym session would be so clients get the motivation, results and technique correction. The only difference is that we will not be standing in the same room as them. But it's almost like I'm in the same room as they'll still be able to see me and hear me and I'll be telling them exactly what to do so they'll find they get results."

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Before I can give it a go, I have to clear a space in my cluttered office. There's a bit of faffing about while I sort out my MSN and webcam, but on the whole it is very easy to get connected.

On the downside, it is a bit hard to keep an eye on Jenny in the small window on my computer screen while lying in a shoulder bridge on the floor.

A couple of times I have to stop and move the camera

so Jenny can still see me, but the fact that I can see myself on the webcam, too, is a bit like exercising in front of a mirror.

She compliments me on my flexibility and, flattering as this is, I wonder if she can really see what's going on. All in all though, the virtual exercise class is a great way to do an hour's training without having to travel to the gym.

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The recession has meant more gym members are throwing in the towel and looking for alternative ways to get fit.

Jenny hopes her new webcam business will appeal to those who would like a professional fitness class from the comfort of their own home, office or hotel room.

Just like a regular personal trainer, she will carry out posture analysis, flexibility and core strength tests,

as well as recording a person's weight and circumference.

Her virtual clients will just need a personal computer or lap top and a web cam, which can be bought for as little as 15.

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She says: "I'm only charging 15 per hour, or 20 for pilates, injury rehabilitation and pre-/post-natal training. It will be almost half the price of a regular training session so it will be more accessible to a lot of people."

The only other equipment will usually be a mat – especially important if you have hard floors – a Swiss ball and resistance bands.

"What we are trying to do here is keep it to a minimum cost. In total, I would say the equipment that we are suggesting people get would cost about 20."

While Jenny is fully qualified and insured, she admits that watching someone on a computer screen is not the same as being in the same room as them.

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To avoid the risk of injury, or even a heart attack, she sends out a health questionnaire for people to fill in before the session begins.

In the future, she hopes to set up a network of personal trainers across the country, which could include virtual yoga trainers too.

So now you can get virtually fit with no excuses. To find out more, see www.WebcamPersonalTrainer.co.uk

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