Is dating your fitness instructor a bad idea?

Fitness instructor dating“I’m in a dark room, sweaty, euphoric, and potentially partially blinded by my own sweat. There’s an attractive person in front of me wearing clothing that could pass for shrink wrap,” says Gillian Casten. “Who’s to blame if things get weird?”

Casten, founder of fitness class and instructor review site Rateyourburn.com, is not talking about the dance floor at 1OAK. Fitness classes, also, can be pulsing with sexually-charged energy. And, unsurprisingly, lots of workout buffs fall for the room’s sweaty star—the instructor.

Need proof? At Barry’s Bootcamp, COO Joey Gonzalez met his husband in class, and popular instructor Noah Neiman met his girlfriend while teaching. SoulCycle star Stacey Griffith famously fell for a married client who left her husband to be with her. Flywheel’s Natalie Cohen is now engaged to a dude who pedaled in her class, and Speedball founder Steve Feinberg married a student, too.

So is hooking up with your chiseled trainer a strategy for ab-centric bliss or the first step down a path that leads to studios you never want to set foot in again? We asked a few fitness professionals to talk over the issues with us.

Your instructor is playing a role

Barry's Bootcamp Noah Neiman

Barry’s Bootcamp’s Noah Neiman. Umm…can you really blame those who fall hard while lifting?

The first thing you need to know is that during class, your instructor is in performance mode. “If you knew me outside of Flywheel and then took my class, you’d be like ‘You’re a different person on the bike!” Cohen says.

So, that pat on the back or wink from your instructor that, um, drove you a little crazy? It’s probably not super personal. While many fitness pros do actually like or care about you, they’re very much in the business of doing so.

It’s their job to engage, inspire, and motivate you. (And hey, maybe you’ll even work a little harder in class if you’re crushing on them.)

“In class, I have no problem flirting,” says Neiman. “I really let my guard down and open myself up; I think that’s what you have to do to connect with people and it makes you a better instructor. As long as you’re respectful and professional. If you’re intentionally trying to lead people on, then there’s something wrong.”

The question is: Will your endorphin-addled brain be able to tell the difference?

The power difference

The other sticky issue is that while trainers are not your college professors—they’re generally closer to your own age and aren’t handing out grades that will affect your future (high fives don’t count)—they are telling you what to do, and it’s possible that many of us look up to them and trust them in some way.

“These [romantic] opportunities present themselves on a daily basis when you’re a pseudo-celebrity in a position of power,” explains Casten. Instructors who are good people acknowledge this and are careful; those who are not can take advantage. (This problem presents itself in a much stickier fashion in the yoga world, where a guru mentality often prevails. That’s a whole other article, though.)

In the end, dating your fitness instructor could be viewed like dating your accountant or your doctor (although you probably don’t see them shirtless nearly as often), and it can likely play out in a couple of ways:

If it goes well, you’ll be spending your life with a healthy, motivating hottie who can continue to whip you into shape. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” says Cohen, who’ll marry her spin-class love this September. “I like my class more when he’s there. I give him lots of shout-outs.”

On the other hand, if it falls apart, well, there’s always running in the park. —Lisa Elaine Held

What do you think? Would you go out with your fitness instructor? Tell us in the Comments, below.

15 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. Speedball Steve
    June 11th, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    My advice:: casual is casual. Serious is serious. Gauge the difference slowly and carefully and KNOW what you’re up for, because if you’re looking for long term as your instructor is the casual type, or EVEN vice-versa, you will soon lose the comfort of attending your favorite workout! If you’re NOT sure, don’t risk it. TRUST the DJ:-)

  2. June 12th, 2013 at 10:36 am

    As long as the instructor isn’t just leading a specific trainee on deliberately I think it’s fine.

  3. June 18th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    While it’s highly questionable as to whether Fitness Instructors can cross that line with a student, it really shouldn’t be done. Due to the imbalance of the power position, it is absolutely forbidden for a Yoga Instructor to become intimately involved with a yoga student. As a matter of fact, it was a part of the Yoga Teachers Oath I verbalized with raised right hand as well as signed to upon completion of my training in order to receive certification. Like any oath, I take this oath very seriously. The oath agreed upon states that IF you simply MUST be with a particular student, the student should leave the class with a 2 year period of time to pass before seeing each other again – outside of the yoga class. I would hope this is part of each yoga systems requirements. Fairly recently, on a national level, we’ve bore witness to the scandalous and disastrous effects of this line being crossed in the yoga world. For every “happy ending” at the tip of the iceberg, how many other hearts have been subjected to exploitation? At the VERY LEAST, it’s bad for business.

  4. August 4th, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Cupid can strike any where and gym could me one of those perfect places, where it is likely to strike with more frequency than any where else.

    I have seen quite a few couples emerging out of my gym also.

  5. August 8th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I agree with Vinnie. But then, though many will insist that we cannot force ourselves to like or dislike others, for me it’s a choice. You can feed the feelings when you know it’s alright but you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap when you know that it will lead to awkward circumstances.

  6. Lucy
    August 15th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    When I read, “And hey, maybe you’ll even work a little harder in class if you’re crushing on them.” I thought that is so true. When you are crushing on someone then you want to make yourself look great/cool.

  7. August 18th, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I am a fitness instructor and my current boyfriend does go to the same gym where I work, but exercises at a different time that I teach classes. We met outside of the gym, and he did take a pilates mat class of mine in the first few weeks of dating. Of course, we kept it professional for the hour I had to coach him in class. However, he prefers to let me do my job without any distractions but he does support my choice of profession. I have colleagues who have dated and even married each other. Exercise makes people feel good and as long as there is not any unprofessional distractions during the class, I think whatever happens off the mat, bike, treadmill or gym floor is not anyone’s business. Before I met my boyfriend, I almost dated a fellow fitness instructor, but we both realized we did not want to jeopardize our work friendship in the fitness industry. The charisma, charm, and shared passion of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to motivate others to move was defiantly attractive. The group fitness environment can be a healthy like-minded place to meet someone to date. But in terms of fitness instructor and class participant the best advice to share in this dating dynamic is to exercise with caution.

  8. August 22nd, 2013 at 11:13 am

    This can be a dangerous thing!

  9. August 26th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    My best friend met her husband in the gym so why not! Being healthy together is a great thing. it’s something you have in common. I have know a few people to hook up at the gym. Bring it on I say. Your own fitness instructor is very personal though but hey!

  10. October 22nd, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    will it work?????

  11. January 10th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I SO would!! I fear it is only a sweet dream…really really like the guy though. :(

  12. March 30th, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I would totally get with my fitness instructor and still might pursue that avenue however…
    enjoying a comfortable workout environment is also very enjoyable for me and making a move on her could make things very awkward, or worse get with her for a bit and than break up :O
    jeez I would NOT be able to return to that class LOL

  13. May 12th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I am really crushing on my instructor/pt and i do work harder to impress him. He’s lovely but i am too self conscious to make a move on him and i prefer to let it drag on and enjoy drooling over him.

  14. July 10th, 2014 at 9:54 am

    We just started dating recently with my instructor. It is true they are different outside the class. My big boy is all in control and professional in class but outside the gym he is very sensitive and lets me take charge. I am turned on by this contrast.

  15. October 6th, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I have a huge crush on my personal trainer and I believe he’s into me as well. He asks some personal questions and already asked me if I’m single or not, and he also gives me some lingering looks, but besides that he’s very professional, doesn’t flirt with me and doesn’t even touch me.

    Our training sessions end in 3 weeks time, so I’m not going to do anything and will wait till the sessions are over and see if he makes a move or not. In the meantime feeling what I am feeling towards him it is indeed a great motivator to work out harder and eat clean and I’m getting a great body out of it!

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