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Finding a Great Fitness Instructor

The best fitness instructors give you a fun workout that's challenging without being too hard, and there are skilled instructors is all levels of classes, from strength training to Pilates.

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But how can you tell if an instructor is a good one before you've plunked down your three months' gym fees and gotten your towel? Check out these tips for evaluating potential fitness instructors.

  1. Is the instructor trained and certified in the course he or she is teaching? You should expect an established level of expertise, as you're paying for a course led by an expert. Your instructor may be a member of a professional fitness groups like the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA). Membership in and certification through a professional group means you can check instructors' training and credentials.  
  2.  Is the instructor trained in CPR and first aid? It's rare that a student has a life-threatening injury in a class, but when something does happen, the instructor is responsible for handling the emergency. CPR is simple to learn; conscientious instructors will take the training to stay up to date.  
  3. Does the instructor teach the class how to calculate their heart rates and perceived exertion for use during the workout? Exercise teachers should always be thinking about students' safety and health, and paying attention to heart rate is an important part of keeping students exercising within their fat-burning range and without over stressing their systems. Instructors in aerobic or cardio classes should teach students how to calculate their heart rate and help them understand where their optimal heart rate should be.  
  4. Does the instructor give you individual attention, first by learning about any injuries or health issues and then by correcting and advising you during the class? Fitness teachers should individualize instruction for the benefit of each student. Past injuries or current medical conditions are important. Instructors can modify a workout to suit a student's particular needs. When your teacher pays attention to what you need in class, you maximize the benefits of the work and minimize the chances of additional injury.  
  5. Is the instructor approachable and respectful? Fitness instructors should be available to answer questions both as they arise and after class. Teachers shouldn't bully or harass students (and students shouldn't bully or harass teachers, either!) If you have a problem with an instructor, speak to the management of the gym.  
  6. Does the instructor pay attention to students' fitness levels and tailor the class to fit the students? There's nothing worse than joining a beginning class and finding the instructor is working you much harder than you can work! Classes should either be geared to beginning, intermediate or advanced students, or the instructor should provide a range of exercises to fit all three levels. When levels are mixed in a class, the instructor should also frequently demonstrate the beginning levels and encourage students not to overdo it.  
  7. Does the instructor demonstrate the exercises and explain the best ways to do them? Your fitness teacher should show you how to do the exercises, repeating the instructions until most of the people in the class can understand and do them. Some exercises take a little time to learn, and the best instructors take the additional time to teach the class, slowly if necessary, the ways they should be done.  
  8. Is the instructor organized, encouraging and informative? Exercise classes can be a lot of fun! But you need to know what you're doing to gain confidence in yourself. A teacher who encourages you can set the tone for a really enjoyable class where you feel like you're accomplishing something. Class should start on time and flow smoothly through the workout. Getting the information you need is also key: when you ask a question, you should be able to get an answer.
Continue reading the next aerobics article on aerobics classes

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