By Susan Koeppen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you’re trying to get fit in 2013, you may want to proceed with caution if you plan to hire a trainer.

Here’s the reality – anyone can call themselves a personal trainer.

Walk into any gym and you can find certified personal trainers, but that certification may not be worth the paper it’s printed on.

Susan Guthrie was looking to lose weight and get healthy when she hired a personal trainer.

“I felt confident that I was hiring someone who knew what they were doing,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said her workouts were too hard and pushed her over her limit.

“He kept encouraging me to get through it and I thought that’s what I had to do, that’s what thin people did,” Guthrie said.

It’s hard to believe, but those hardcore exercises put Guthrie in the hospital with kidney failure. She spent nine days on life support.

“The doctors surmised that it was from the workout. There was no other cause for it. I wasn’t in a car crash, I did have a heart attack. This was an overzealous personal trainer going too far,” Guthrie said.

Americans will spend millions on personal trainers, but there is no governing body or laws regulating who can be a trainer.

It’s not hard to find headlines of consumers suing trainers and blaming them for injuries.

Take the case of Dr. Barry Lesser. He suffered a stroke after an artery was severed during improper stretching by a personal trainer. As a result, Lesser can no longer practice medicine and has lost much of his ability to communicate.

The trainer he used had never been certified.

However, the word “certified” doesn’t necessarily mean much. KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen was able to get certified as a personal trainer in just 40 minutes online.

It cost just $69.95 and she was able to cheat on test by using Google.

Jason Ewing is in charge of personal trainers at the downtown YMCA where trainers need at least a Bachelor’s Degree in health sciences.

Ewing said when you hire a trainer, always ask about their education.

Look at their background, ask questions, be selective and hand-pick the person. Do not just take the person they give you when you walk in the door.

When it comes to certification, your trainer should be certified through organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

The company Koeppen used to get certified as a personal trainer also allows you to get certified in yoga, pilates, CPR and first aid.


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