First let me start this off by defining the discussion I want to have. I understand that people will view this with their reality but I want to narrow things to one word.
When I hire my accountant he has knowledge that I do not have, in that way he possesses power over me that requires trust for the relationship to work.
I just wanted to define how power works in a simple way and much of the time it is used responsibly. There are rules and guidelines that govern these types of relationships in a lot of instances.
But what about personal trainers and nutrition coaches?
In every relationship within Eat To Perform there is more going on than the relationship between me and my accountant. Certainly some people come to us with a request for knowledge they do not have which is awesome, that is the core of what we have built for people.
But I also know that unlike accounting people bring a lot of emotion to the table when it relates to their appearance or lack of exercise skill. This is something I take very serious. It can be a very serious thing to navigate for a lot of people.
I started becoming fit about 13 years ago and Eat To Perform has existed for 7 of those years. In that time I have repeatedly seen abuses of this power dynamic.
Certainly the argument can be made that on a societal level this is not new but I would challenge that.
The reason why I would challenge that is because of the emotional element as it relates to why someone wants to get fit in the first place.
If these were one off’s I wouldn’t say anything but they aren’t. In those 13 years at the gyms that I have attended there have been WAY more than a handful of questionable situations where men have been fired for the way they handled themselves around female clients.
Furthermore there have been a handful of incidents with high profile online trainers.
What seems to be the trend here is that A LOT of people then come from every corner of the internet explaining how that one person was a jerk and everyone moves on.
I am here to say that the problem is MUCH bigger than this. In recent years more women are showing up in the weight rooms of gyms. It certainly makes sense that the trainers would be mostly men as the market adjusts and let me be clear, that doesn’t make them a predator. I am a man after all and I like to think I hold myself to a very high standard.
The disturbing trend that I am seeing is that there are gyms and online trainers with a very low cost for entry entering into the marketplace without a lot of standards and practices. The environment is rife for predatory behavior and it can put clients in a difficult position, here is a great example.
Female client joins a gym, befriends 10 other women in the gym, starts to make progress but starts getting unwanted advances from a male trainer. When she talks to the other women in the class they say “that’s just Bill being Bill” but what they don’t realize is that Bill is not pursuing them all equally.
This is the exact scenario without the details of how one trainer I know got fired after 3 clients left for another gym when the problem got to be real bad.
So why I am I bringing this up, why does this rise to the level of an article?
It’s my belief that the health and fitness industry has another element that makes us more susceptible to these kinds of behaviors and that’s the emotions related to why we all do this in the first place.
I walk into every single relationship at Eat To Perform knowing this dynamic but I don’t think clients are aware to the degree that they should be that they are potentially entering a relationship that requires some additional layers of understanding.
And I think it’s important that men stand up and explain this (as well as women) but what I am seeing is that women in this situation often feel overwhelmed by the power structure that exists.
Or they feel alone as if their concerns are strictly for a female audience and while I agree that awareness needs to happen I think there is another important thing that needs to happen.
Men need to be part of the change and we need to step up and be advocates for safe training environments for women and we need to change our businesses to address this new demand.
Eat To Perform as an example has only 3 male coaches (of about 50) and that was on purpose. In fact, we need more male coaches because we have pretty clearly developed a business model that is catering to our audience. So the men that sign up for Eat To Perform don’t tend to see a lot of men and sometimes that can swing too much the wrong way by accident.
The point being ultimately that there is a dynamic shift happening within the industry and the sports like powerlifting, body building or even Crossfit need to adjust.
But the last thing I want to say in this regard is that if you are a client and you are considering working with a health and fitness professional you should walk into that relationship without compromise.
You do not have to become part of an antiquated relic of the past to get strong, build muscle or dial in your nutrition.
Sadly I feel like this is becoming worse and not better and I am hoping to get other men in the industry to advocate for this change (along with the women that have been doing it for some time).
As the father of two daughters and a husband it feels like the guys on the right side of the issue need to step in and be a part of a major change because there is way too much silence and that feels wrong to me.