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Dear personal trainers: I know what I’m doing

18 Apr 2016

Let’s picture the gym like a bar or club. You enter the gym, and as you and your friend walk past the weight machines to head over to the treadmills, you see a wide variety of men in skin tight shirts with “Trainer” written on them, waiting for you to give them eye contact that signals “I need help”. It often feels no different to descending the stairs and having all eyes turn to you when you enter the breeding ground of a bar.

Except, the gym is meant to be a safe space where I can go in, do my workout, and not feel harassed by live advertisements, aka personal trainers, popping up in my face. Don’t get me wrong, I know personal trainers make all their money through their clients, but please stop targeting women purely because they are female.

In the span of one week of joining one gym, my friend and I had at least five jacked-up personal trainers interrupt us mid-workout, questioning if “we knew what we were doing.” Remember when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift mid-acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs? This is what such incessant, unwarranted intrusions from personal trainers feel like to me.

Because oh no, sorry, I was just running on this treadmill for banter. Those weights I lift, also for banter. Since I’m a woman, I apparently have no idea how to use weights, machines, or have an understanding of what they do for me, which must be why I go the gym; in hopes of falling head over heels for a patronizing personal trainer.

“Since I’m a woman, I apparently have no idea how to use weights, machines, or have an understanding of what they do for me.”

Not only is this something both my friends and I deal with on a regular basis, but many women. A friend of mine, who attends a different gym than myself, says sometimes these personal trainers would bother her while she was stretching. She would finish her workout, and as she winds down this is when they try to lure her in. I can say I’ve witnessed similar from a distance as well. 

Another example would be my own cousin, who today has a close friendship with one personal trainer. She gives me the insight from Gary (names changed for personal reasons), who works at a well-known fitness company. She recalls Gary telling her that “male personal trainers go for women because they normally come in confused”, and that most of them pursue female clients because they may look attractive, as is the case with my cousin and him. Once again, this displays an odd work ethic amongst personal trainers. It’s hard to tell whether they are approaching you because they think you need help, or whether it’s an excuse to hit on you.

It’s no surprise, then, that some women might display a hostile attitude towards even those with honest intentions who comment on their workout routines.  And for male personal trainers, who seem to have this ingrained idea that women are most in need of help in the gym, it isn’t necessarily their fault for thinking this way. They are trained to believe it is true.

On the majority of personal training websites I looked up, the idea of focusing on female clients is strategized, because women are supposedly more willing and gullible. In reality, women are more likely to question their abilities in a largely male environment when they shouldn’t. This is due to them being watched, as well as bothered, by male personal trainers who assume them to be clueless. It’s hard not to sound contradictory on when we need help and when we don’t, but we need to detach from the notion that women are fragile objects and don’t know anything about their bodies.

“The idea of focusing on female clients is strategized, because women are supposedly more willing and gullible.”

Websites such as the Personal Trainer Development Centre feel the need to tell trainers to treat all women equally, even if some aren’t as attractive as others. First off, who cares if your client is attractive or not? Once employed, personal trainers are there to train, not to judge a client’s looks. And for some reason, male personal trainers also need to be reminded to “keep their eyes to themselves” if they “happen to see a female performing some straight leg deadlifts in yoga pants or a low cut top… Yes it may be inappropriate for those to wear next to nothing.”

Your personal trainer is told not to stare; yet it’s your fault for making him look because you’re wearing “provocative” clothing. I don’t think any woman dresses a certain way for a personal trainer to notice her, and I sure as hell don’t believe women pay a monthly gym membership to have personal trainers make her feel as if she joined for the sake of wearing spandex and tight clothing. After all, why pay when you could simply take a walk down any given high street and receive the same leers and inappropriate comments?

I signed up to the gym to work out. It’s cool if you want to give me some tools and tips so I may become more knowledgeable and progress in the gym. But don’t belittle me if I’m not doing the routine you make your clients do; this is why they are your clients, and I am not.

A gym shouldn’t make me feel wary of when the next trainer is going to pop up around the corner while I’m running, only to ask if “I need help with anything.” You might as well tell me the green button on the treadmill stands for go.

It’s 2016. Women everywhere have been graced with the internet. Oh, and fitness magazines still exist, if you’re into that. Most of all, women have this magical thing called “common sense”. There are millions of websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, and better yet, YouTube. Not only at wider scale, but niche markets such as Instagram hold a variety of web based personal training methods. There rarely is the need of hiring a personal trainer, other than to check if your posture is set. Getting access to workouts, and techniques for a toner body is at a click of a finger for anyone, not only women.

All men may have a “love and aptitude for sports” (not true), but that doesn’t mean women don’t, or can’t learn, whether it be on their own or with the requested help of someone more experienced. So for the good graces of god, take your eyes, Instagram accounts and inability to take “no thanks” for an answer far away from me. If I need help, I’ll come to you.