Friday, March 27, 2009

Does it Matter What Your Personal Trainer Looks Like?

March 28, 2009 1:59 am

Does it Matter What Your Personal Trainer Looks Like?

There are many good reasons to hire a personal trainer but are their looks one of them? Paul “PJ” James, a personal trainer in Australia, wants to find out by going from “hunk to chunk” and back again in an effort to empathize with his clients and answer this question for fitness professionals everywhere. The former underwear model is going from 180 pounds of chiseled muscle to 265 pounds of chub by the end of March.

It’s tough being a fitness professional. And I say that never having been one so you know if I, a lay person, think it’s hard then it must be. Because my opinion on things I have no personal experience with is never wrong. Ahem. On one hand, a buffed-out body makes you a walking recommendation for your services and shows you walk your talk. But on the other hand, a client might prefer a trainer who has trudged a mile in their EEE’s both for the sake of empathy and to rule out freaky model genetics. (I do, as a side note, have a personal trainer friend who subsists on nothing but pizza, beer and hot wings and still has 8-pack abs. I’d hate him except that he lets me beat him at trivial pursuit so I feel like the genetic gifts are evened out.)

Regardless of how the client looks at their trainer, like rock stars and actresses, every fitness professional I know understands that their body is part of their job. Dr. Stacey over at Every Woman has an Eating Disorder speculates that this leads to a higher incidence of disordered eating behavior in the fit pro crowd. Myself, I think the correlation begs serious examination - does working at a gym promote eating disorders or are eating-disordered people naturally attracted to the gym? (’Cause hey you know we’re there all the time anyhow - might as well get paid for it!) Probably both.

Whether Trainer PJ was eating disordered before his experiment isn’t stated, but he certainly seems to be now. In his quest to gain all that weight in just a few short months he’s “stopped exercising and taken to foods like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, pizza and a lot of heavy pasta like cream-based pastas. And he bought the deep-fryer, where he sticks chocolate bars among other typical diet no-nos.” Not exactly the healthiest way to gain weight. But then unhealth is actually what he is seeking. He hopes by going through process of gaining and then losing a substantial amount of weight he will learn how to better help his overweight and obese clients lose their weight.

My gut reaction to this story was “how sweet!” Anything that furthers better understanding between people is all good in my book. And it is great progress from those personal trainers who just tell their clients to do something because it worked for them. But I do worry that he is setting himself up for some health problems, at the very least. Not to mention it all feels a bit… publicity whore-ish. I’m conflicted.

What are your thoughts on this story? Do you personally look for a fit pro who looks the part? Or do you feel more comfortable with someone who appears to be more real?