Good Sweat

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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.

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