It’s a thing: Women fall for their personal trainers and here’s why
Swedish Crown Princess Victoria married her personal trainer, Madonna had a child with her personal trainer and Katie Lee (Billy Joel’s ex-wife) had a post-divorce affair with her surfing instructor.
But what is it that really turns sweaty strength training sessions into steamy afternoon rendezvous? What makes trainers so alluring that even Scandinavian royalty and the Queen of Pop aren’t impervious to their charms?
Feelings towards your trainer... explained
According to new research presented at the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, there may be a scientific explanation for your less-than-professional feelings towards your trainer. The study found that exercise causes your body to release the chemical hormone oxytocin, the same hormone released when you begin to fall in love.
Oxytocin is a neurohypophysical hormone, often referred to as the "love hormone." It contributes to the maternal bonding that happens during and after childbirth and plays an important role in making adults like one another.
Exercise also facilitates the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that make you happy and relaxed. When a woman experiences these emotions, she often feels more inclined to accept sexual advances. In addition, exercise causes men to release chemicals from their armpits called pheromones. The release of pheromones can make a woman feel more physically attracted to a man by changing her perception of his face and features.
"Exercise makes you happy," says Danica Cohen, a frequent gym-goer who works out with a personal trainer. "If you always leave the gym feeling happy, it’s easy to associate that feeling with your trainer."
But the reason so many women fall for their trainers isn’t strictly chemical.
"Clients and trainers tend to develop fairly strong relationships," says Carl Martin, the personal training manager at Equinox-London. "When you’re working out with someone one-on-one, three times a week, you start to trust and open up to them. Usually this leads to opening up about other, non-fitness-related aspects of your life as well. A trainer can end up acting as a therapist, of sorts."
Relying on one’s trainer for both emotional and physical support can cause a woman to feel both vulnerable and dependant. Unlike mental health professionals, however, personal trainers aren’t trained psychologists and they aren’t forced to abide by the same romance-forbidding rules that real therapists are.
Why falling for your trainer may not be a good thing
This can be a dangerous combination for a woman, especially those in unsatisfying relationships.
"Personal trainers can play an intimate role in a woman’s life," says Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at Lancaster University. "The danger is, there is no code of conduct for trainers. They aren’t trained counselors, so although they may listen to your problems, the advice they offer may not be in your best interests.
"They are essentially there to offer positive encouragement and help you look and feel good. They give you attention and make you feel attractive. This can be very appealing, especially if you’re not getting that from your partner, or if you’re single. In some ways, they behave in the way you would want your ideal partner to."
However, clients beware.
"Every gym I’ve ever belonged to I’ve heard stories of trainers sleeping with their clients, and usually not just with one," says Cohen, who says she has been a member at an upwards of 10 gyms.
"At one gym I went to, a trainer was sleeping with five of his clients before they all found out. It’s easy to forget that it is a personal trainer’s job to encourage and act interested in you, but they do that for all of their clients, not just you."
Martin affirms, "Most trainers are aware of the effect they have on women."