Is it ever just a personal trainer?

Roberto Hued, a personal trainer in Manhattan, keeps busy with a combination of private training sessions and, three days a week, group yoga classes. He works with runners, swimmers and boxers, as well as people simply looking to improve their mobility or strength. But with 90 percent female customers, there’s another segment of their clientele worth mentioning: other male brides.

This, along with being single, straight, and broke, makes Mr. Hued is susceptible to a stereotype that he and other coaches can’t seem to shake. The idea that a male personal trainer can take another man’s girlfriend has put the occupation on the list of guys to be wary of in the dating world.

Mr. Hued recalled one woman who had enjoyed his group classes so much that she asked him about the private sessions. It wasn’t long before the woman’s boyfriend found out that she had switched to one-on-one training. And it was fine at first until Mr. Hued bumped into the customer and her boyfriend, who was finally able to put a face to a name.

That was the last time I saw her, Mr. Hued said. She later learned from a mutual friend that the woman’s boyfriend had expressed discomfort with her training with him, prompting her to quit.

The assumptions people make about the dangerous allure of the personal trainer have provided fodder for memes, TikTok videos and jokes that go beyond social media: A male personal trainer will use his job to get women. Her cunning will require you to monitor your girls’ sessions to quell your insecurities. He could improve your health i break your happy home. Do these stereotypes have any weight?

Mr Hued, 33, who has been coaching for more than five years, said he takes his job very seriously and the stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though he’s never dated a client, he’s still human.

A lot of times I can be in a situation where I’m like, Wow, this person is really attractive, but then I immediately remember my surroundings, he said. I’m not in a bar. I’m not at a networking event. I’m here to work, to keep things safe.

According to Jason Harrison, strength and conditioning coach at Present Tense Fitness, a studio he owns with his wife, there’s an almost intimate relationship that develops between a trainer and a client. After all, who else in your life can claim to have a vested interest in the tilt of your pelvis?

Asked about jealous boyfriends who monitor their girlfriends’ training sessions or ask for her opinion in selecting a potential trainer, Mr. Harrison, who works primarily with ballet and contemporary dancers, flipped the script on those insecure couples: the idea of ​​someone needing permission from a husband or boyfriend to do anything is toxic on its face alone.

Still, he acknowledges that the stereotype didn’t come out of nowhere: Many concerns are rooted in actual coach behaviors, such as what he calls unnecessary touching. If he has to touch a customer, he said, it’s a miscommunication.

Asking permission before each touch sets a climate of professionalism, he said, but almost a clinical thing, so the touch is not a warm touch is where I want your knee to go, or this is how I want your knee to slide scapula in your ribcage.

With people dressed in skin-tight clothes and sweats, the gym will be the place for encounters and unbridled flirting, between trainers and civilians alike. It is also the scene of many unwanted advances and accusations of harassment.

Steven Jezyk, who has been working as a trainer for more than 18 years and lives in Los Angeles, admits that he has dated a client before, but maintains that it was not his intention in the beginning. A woman he met at the gym in 2021 quickly caught his attention and not as a potential client, but after he learned he was a trainer, he hired his services. They worked together for almost a year before he came clean about his feelings.

I tried not to think about it, but it was so obvious that we had a lot in common, and she was also interested in my social life, said Mr Jezyk, 55. He tried to contain his feelings to a point. But after a year, he said, I figured, she’s still single, I’m still single, and at this point it wouldn’t matter if we started dating.

Mr. Jezyk said she had initially resisted his attraction because her work was more important than entering into a relationship that could ruin her reputation.

You are very close to someone, said Mr. Jezyk on the training experience. Sometimes you are giving them more attention than their boyfriends or husbands during that hour.

Jerry Hayes, a personal trainer in Denver, said he’s seen some awkward moments at the gym between two people, but also moments where it looks like they could get married.

She’s had at least one case where a husband didn’t want his wife to have a male trainer, which she said she could understand. When a woman asks for a same-sex coach, it’s usually so she can feel more comfortable in what can be a vulnerable environment, she said. He has met trainers who actually hit it off with their clients.

“It’s a very immature and careless thing, especially because it creates this stigma,” said Mr. Hayes, adding, “This can make a woman very uncomfortable and prevent her from going to the gym to begin with.”

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