Tales From the Gym: “My Personal Trainer Was Killing Me”

Nobody expects to hire a personal trainer and be left in worse shape than when they started, and yet it happens. Most health clubs are careful to check for certifications, but not all do.

There was the Minneapolis trainer, for example, who encouraged his class members to jump three feet into the air. (One person shattered a tibia and another sprained an ankle.) And a New York City trainer swears she’ll “never forget” the loud popping sound she heard when a co-worker pushed his client’s torso too far forward in a seated straddle stretch.

“The woman tore muscles in both of her inner thighs,” the trainer recalled. “She needed surgery and spent nine months in recovery.”

To play it safe, Michele Stanten, fitness director at Prevention magazine, offers these tips to help you spend your time and money wisely and avoid injury-including an alternative solution to the traditional personal trainer:

• “Make sure the potential trainer takes classes to stay educated,” Stanten says. “Certifications from organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, or American Council on Exercise mean the instructor has invested in his or her career.”

• Share a trainer with a friend to save on fees that can run anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour, depending on where you live.

• Use home fitness DVDs. Choose a workout DVD that addresses your specific needs, follow the instructor’s advice and directions, and begin a home regimen.

With these concerns in mind, the experts at Prevention have created a DVD that delivers safe and dramatic results for far less than the price of a training session. The “Prevention Fitness Systems: Personal Training” DVD ($15), led by one of the nation’s top trainers, Chris Freytag, allows users to create their own personalized workout routine. They can also choose to work on specific goals such as losing weight, getting firm or flattening the belly.

The DVD suggests different routines for each day of the week, given your fitness goals.