Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Fri Jan 27 2006, 08:25PM

So you made your usual New Year's resolution to get in shape

So you made your usual New Year's resolution to get in shape. But studies show by late January most of us have already strayed. (We didn't need a fancy study to figure that out, did we?) Maybe what you need to do is outsource your willpower. My best work-out success has been with a personal trainer. But beware! The government doesn't regulate personal trainers, so anybody can become one."I am a personal trainer." Saying it is all you have to do to make it so. You don't need a degree. You don't need a certification. For that matter, the government doesn't regulate the organizations that provide certification. About fifteen different groups do so nationally, some respected, others not. Several organizations certify people as trainers after just one weekend of classes. Others require simply an open-book test. When I investigated personal trainers, I even found a group that was willing to certify me by mail if I sent a videotape of myself exercising!

Personal training costs $50 to $100 an hour and up, so it ought to be a weighty decision. If you get the wrong trainer, you'll lose money and you won't lose weight. You could also seriously injure yourself. Don't choose a trainer just because he or she has a great body. Choose somebody who can help you achieve your fitness goals. Finding a good trainer should wear you out a little bit –just like a good workout.

Try to find a personal trainer who has a college degree in a relevant field like kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology or health and fitness --plus a credible certification. The American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association are the most well respected certifying organizations. Knowing who trained the trainer really is the key.

1. If a trainer claims to be certified by a national agency, ask for the agency name, number and website so you can confirm.
2. Also check to see that the trainer keeps up with continuing education.
3. Many certifying organizations keep grievance records, so you can find out if the trainer's background is clean.
4. Some trainers carry liability insurance and that's another thing you may want to consider.
5. Check the trainer's references and make sure his or her fitness philosophy is a good match for you.
6. Make sure your trainer is capable of performing CPR.
7. Get the trainer's cancellation policy in writing before you start working out. (My trainer requires 24 hours notice or I have to pay. Sounds strict, but I actually like it because it motivates me to stick with my workouts unless I have a good reason.)
8. If a trainer suggests you use herbal supplements, resist. Personal trainers are not qualified to advise on supplements and many are risky.
9. If a trainer pushes you to do exercises that hurt or make you uncomfortable, say no until you can get a second opinion.