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How Safe Is Your Gym?

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5 tips for spotting unsafe practices at your gym.

You go to the gym to shape up and stay healthy, but your club may be undermining your efforts by sending you down the road to serious harm. Check for these five signs to make certain you're getting the best (and safest!) workout possible.

Danger: Your Yoga Teacher Speaks Another Language

Stay safe: It's not just frustrating when your yoga instructor uses terms you can't understand (such as describing moves in Sanskrit), it could actually put you at risk for injury by causing you to perform an exercise incorrectly. "Teachers should describe moves clearly and watch the class to correct students' form," says Julie Kleinman, a senior teacher/trainer at Yoga Works in Los Angeles. Don't be afraid to ask for more specific instructions.

Danger: Your Gym Isn't Clean

Stay safe: Since fungi and bacteria thrive in warm, moist places, wear flip-flops in the locker room, in the shower stalls, and near the pool to avoid athlete's foot, plantar warts, and other infections.

Danger: Your Trainer Isn't Certified

Stay safe: Find out just who is training at your gym: At a minimum, trainers should be certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), or another nationally recognized group. "Don't assume that just because someone talks the talk that they will provide the best -- and safest -- training for you. Always ask for credentials and references," advises Chris McGrath, master trainer at New York Sports Clubs.

Danger: No One Asks About Injuries

Stay safe: Speak up. Whether you're taking yoga, Pilates, or a sculpting class -- or just working out one-on-one with a personal trainer -- the instructor should always ask whether you're new to the activity or have any pain. "If so, you could exacerbate an injury or risk a new one," says Kleinman. If you have a preexisting condition, the trainer should be able to modify the moves to suit your needs.

Danger: Your Trainer Stops Working Out Too Abruptly

Stay safe: Take the time to cool down, even if she doesn't. Suddenly stopping a high-intensity activity can leave you lightheaded and dizzy, says McGrath. "If your teacher doesn't wind things down during the last few minutes of the workout, slow to a jog or walk until you're breathing normally," he says.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, December 2005.


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