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Inside Track on Gym Safety: Interview With a Gym Instructor

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 28 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
Gym Cardiovascular Weights First Aid

There’s plenty that can go wrong in a gym – the state of the art cardiovascular and weights machinery for a start. Then there are the members: some in a rude state of health but head strong; others struggling to take more than an inch or two from their waistlines to achieve the standards required of the expensive Lycra they’ve somehow shoehorned themselves into.

The vast majority of clients never notice any of these potential problems, simply because the management of the gym have the operation running as smoothly as one of those chrome-plated cross-trainers; to the extent that the only headache is the occasional dispute over whether Sky Sports News or Loose Women should be occupying the bank of ceiling-mounted widescreen TVs.

At the heart of a smooth operation is the issue of safety. It forms an integral part of the training programme that leads to the national standard required to become a personal trainer and entry in the Register of Exercise Professionals (REP). And the lessons learned are put into practice on the gym floor on an everyday basis, as personal trainer Clair Fox points out: “Whatever part of the gym you are working in, there is a set standard for health and safety - making sure all the equipment is working correctly and effectively, making sure everything is put away correctly, as well as other aspects such as the availability of water fountains, first aid kit, fire exits.”

Interaction with Clients

There are requirements, too, for individual trainers with regard to interaction with clients. They must, for example, be trained in first aid, and whether self-employed or on staff at a gym, they are responsible for obtaining public liability insurance. With regard to the safety of the client, there are a number of procedures that a trainer must undertake. “Before working with anyone on the gym floor, you first have to do a needs analysis, like a health screening form,” says Clair.

“So you investigate their past and present exercise regime to see what level they are at. Then when you actually get them on to the gym floor, there are two different ways that you can judge how they are doing. On cardiovascular, you can check a person’s heart rate, to see what is happening to them while they are working out; or more simply, people in the fitness industry use a scale of one to 10 of how the client is working: let’s say I had you on the treadmill and we had you walking or jogging for 10 minutes. I would say to you, ‘Ok, on a scale of one to 10, how are you finding it?’, one being very easy, at five what we would call comfortable, 10 [representing] maximum effort.”

Posture Alignment

Ensuring clients interact correctly with the machines is vital, too: “Any form of equipment that you show a member of the public, whether it is cardio or weights, every instructor should have a procedure where they would demonstrate first, taking the client through the correct posture alignment, exactly what weight, how many repetitions they would do. Then the instructor should get the client to demonstrate back to them [what they have learned].”

Clair believes it is possible to safely follow a regime outside of the gym, for example a running programme or using home-based machines. But this should really be an option for those with some level of experience. For the inexperienced or rookie, however, the gym is the best place to start: “It’s all about lifestyle and what motivates the individual, but if you are looking for more guidance, support and motivation the gym environment with a trainer is definitely the way to go because you get professional advice, someone to motivate you, monitor you and ensure you are doing the relevant exercise that gets you the results that you want.”

Ultimately, fitness is all about results, not least because success is the motivator to encourage an individual to strive for the next level. The gym fees may make a hole in the wallet, but the payback is professional tuition and a safe environment in which to achieve your fitness goals.

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