Choosing a Gym

Evaluating the Trainers
Trainers present yet another one of those good news/bad news deals. The well-trained, knowledgeable, concerned fitness expert is an invaluable asset in the gym. They can help motivate you, offer advice on everything from nutrition to stretching, and they'll help guide you through your workout. If you've got the will – and sometimes even if you don't – a good trainer has the way. The bad news, however, is that the staff at many fitness centers isn't always well-trained, informed, or concerned.

Depending on a trainer's qualifications, reputation, and demand, expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $100 an hour for a training session. (Introductory sessions are often available to new members.) Some trainers will trim the price if you work with a partner.

Keep in mind that anyone who walks and talks can call himself a "personal trainer," "exercise physiologist," or "fitness instructor." Scary as it sounds, in most states you need a license to cut hair, but not to be a personal trainer.

The better establishments will be staffed with trainers with graduate degrees in exercise physiology, biomechanics, or other health sciences. In others, the instructors may have no laurels to rest on other than their beefy pectoral muscles. In-house certifications offered by some of the big national chains are as tough to pass as basket weaving. Essentially, their requirements are minimal, and the certification is just a way to let the gym tell folks that its staff is certified.

It's a good idea to check with the salespeople about the staff's qualifications. There are scores of alphabet-soup certifications out there. The most respected is the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), though other organizations, such as The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and The American Council on Exercise (ACE) also have certification programs. Don't be impressed just because a trainer is "certified." Clubs often have their own certifications – usually just a gimmick to pump up the appearance of the staff's credentials. If you do opt to work with a trainer, even for a few sessions to help you get started, make sure that your trainer is not only qualified but insured as well. While we sincerely hope it never happens, if you are injured due to a trainer's neglect you'll want your trainer to have liability insurance.

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Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.


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