Man or woman? Which is right for you? The decision to hire a personal trainer in the first place may seem easy by comparison. All that requires is simply finding a professional who knows their way around a gym, who can save you time, and keep you safe by picking smart, effective exercises to whittle your waist and sculpt your bum. But will you get a better experience from being trained by someone of the same or opposite sex? And does it even matter?
A Fitness Industry Dirty Little Secret
Here’s the deal. The majority of health club memberships are sold to women (about 60%) and 55% of personal training clients are 45 years or older. This means there’s a volume of middle aged and older women who are primarily beginner and intermediate exercisers. They are interested in hiring someone who makes sure they’re doing the right things. (By the way, I did quite a bit of online research and couldn’t find any statistics for percentage of women that train with men.)
At least anecdotally it seems that these women prefer to hire men. I own a Pilates studio and I’ve seen it first hand. A great, talented female trainer will get passed over by a client for a not-as-well-trained male staff member. I’ve seen the same in health clubs too. The gym I previously had a relationship with shied away from hiring female trainers; they preferred hiring men because they “made more money” for the bottom line.
In my research I found a blog post by Jonathan Goodman, a trainer in Canada, who suggested that female trainers don’t do as well as their male counterparts because the women are primarily “cardio bunnies.” After my initial urge to leave a snotty comment abated, I took a deep breath and realized I agree with him, but only up to a certain point. I’d harbor a guess that a lot of female trainers consider their work more of a part-time gig while many male trainers think of this as their career. While I definitely view Pilates as my full-time career, I’d bet most of my instructors don’t. That said, we each have completed a 500-hour certification program, so that tends to weed out the casual attitudes. A personal trainer can get certified in a weekend.
I did get one response from a Facebook post that hadn’t occurred to me. One person preferred working with guys because they didn’t want a female trainer with a great body next to them. “It’s easier to compare your physique to a girl and come up short and frustrated,” she said. I literally did a face/palm moment. I’ve had people tell me over the years they like to train with me because I have a “real body” they can relate to. (Which I guess is a back-handed compliment … heh.)
Why are Male Personal Trainers Better?
Well the first thing is they’re not better, they’re just more popular. In a vanity industry like fitness a guy with a V cut is a lot easier to spot than a girl with six pack abs (for the most part, trainers are trapped in baggy golf shirts, it can be tough to tell). Also keep in mind there is a range of ideals for the feminine body. Some like to look very strong like the CrossFit folks and some prefer more svelte lines like a Pilates or Yoga body. Guys though, it’s pretty much a V cut and six pack abs, some guns peeping out from that golf shift and you’re ready to go.
I’m also going to be so bold as to say flirting counts. Yep, a compliment from a male trainer comes across differently than a compliment from a female trainer and honestly, quite a few of the clients like that. I’m not saying guys making crass comments to women, I’m not saying there’s anything inappropriate going on at ALL … but I do think getting a compliment from a guy can help with motivation and with client retention and the good male trainers learn that pretty quickly and use it to their advantage. Heck, I would if I was a guy.
Should You Hire a Male or Female Trainer?
Who should you hire to work with you? Well ask yourself the following questions. What is my ultimate fitness goal? What type of trainer will best help me get there? What are my weaknesses when it comes to sticking with an exercise plan? What type of trainer will keep me motivated to succeed? Write this all out and then look for someone with credentials that match your needs first, then when you get your trainers narrowed down to a handful of people see who appeals to you most and try that person.
Remember, hiring a trainer doesn’t have to be a long term commitment. Feel free to try a few people out and see who you work with best. You might be surprised at who you connect with.
Have you worked with personal trainers before? Have you worked better with a man or a woman? Do you think a bit of sexual tension is a good thing? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
photo credit: Maria Ly