- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2000

Americans can turn to the Internet to bid in an auction, find a mate, sell a car and shop for everything from groceries to furniture.
So, naturally, some fitness experts are cashing in on line. A growing number of personal trainers, once limited to as many well-paying clients as they could squeeze in during a day, are finding they can reach an exponentially larger audience by coaching clients on line.
However, the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of exercise and certifying fitness professionals, says cyber-training is most effective as a supplement not a replacement for a real, live trainer.
"The critical eye of the personal trainer is missing on line," says ACE Executive Director Ken Germano. "It is a great innovation, but a cyber-coach isn't the best choice for everyone, and it is certainly not a substitute for a hands-on trainer."
Mr. Germano says on-line training is most effective for experienced exercisers and those with specific goals, such as training for a marathon or triathlon.
Joni Hyde, an ACE-certified personal trainer in St. Petersburg, Fla., says she disagrees. Six months ago, she started the Web site Workoutsforwomen.com. Mrs. Hyde says even beginning exercisers can have a particular goal however small that she can help them reach.
Workoutsforwomen.com clients get downloadable photos and video clips that display proper form, and the clients do the workouts at home or in a gym. Clients enter their workout times and progress in an accountability log, and Mrs. Hyde contacts them to evaluate their progress. Clients must sign a legal and medical waiver and consult a physician, she says.
"Most women I work with have specific goals that are not competitive in nature," Mrs. Hyde says. "I have not had any problem working with beginners. My site offers a variety of easy-to-perform workouts with very descriptive and clear instructions."
Mrs. Hyde's clients pay about $20 a month about the going rate for on-line training for a personalized workout that is updated weekly. Training with a hands-on personal trainer can cost between $50 and $100 an hour.
Also, cyber-training can be more convenient. Clients can read e-mail and communicate with their trainers at their convenience, even while traveling. The Internet also has brought the basics of personal training to those who live in remote areas with little access to fitness experts.
Still, Mr. Germano says it is important to know with whom you are dealing.
"Don't be afraid to ask who the man behind the curtain is," he says. "Take the time to find out who will actually be training you."
Mr. Germano and ACE offer these tips for those seeking safe and effective workouts with an on-line trainer:
Check the qualifications of the staff that will be training you. Sites should provide background on trainers. A good trainer should have a college degree in an exercise-related field or be certified by such organizations as ACE, the American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Ask if the trainer has any special experience with your age group.
Make sure the site is easy to navigate.
Look for a sample workout plan. Make sure plans include details such as how much weight to lift, repetitions, intensity and incline and not just exercise names. Also, make sure graphics such as photos, videos or drawings are included. Text-only instructions are difficult to follow.
Make sure the site asks for a detailed health history. The evaluation should cover your goals, level of fitness and health concerns. Clients, in turn, should be honest with their answers and not lie about weight, age or experience level as that could reduce a program's effectiveness and possibly lead to injury.
Find out if workouts truly will be customized for you. Some sites use computer programs to provide preset plans based on your evaluation answers.
The trainer should be easy to contact, either by e-mail or by phone.

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